UPSC History Notes: Jainism

Jainism and Buddhism, both grew rapidly in the 6th century BC as the Brahmanical dominance in Vedic religion deprived a large section of the society of religious gratification.
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Reason for rise of Jainism and Buddhism
1. Dominance of Brahmans resisted by Kshatrias who were more powerful
2. With growth of trade Vaishyas became richer but had no means to satiate spiritual cravings due to casteism
3. Prevalence of rituals and sacrifices and donations to Brahmins meant practising religion became costly
4. Sanskrit language was not known to man and scriptures were not for the common people to read
5. Rise of materialism with advent of iron-age was detested by many who wanted revival of asceticism of early Vedic period
  • 24th Tirthankara after Parshvnath (Varanasi born), born in Vaishali to Siddhartha and Trishala. Had family connections with Bimbisara
  • At age 30 became ascetic. At 42 he attained Kaivalya and beame Jina (conqueror)
  • Spread his words in Koshala, Magadha, Mithila and Champa.
  • Death in Rajgir. Disputed chronology
  • No violence, no stealing, no lie, no accumulation of wealth, practice continence (brahmacharya, added by Mahavira)
  • Parshvanath asked to wear white clothes, Mahavira asked to shun clothes altogether. Later divided into Shvetambaras and Digambaras respectively
  • Killing of any being was prohibited, even agriculture so mostly they became traders
  • Caste system was recognized as result of virtues or sins acquired in previous birth
  • By pure and meritorious life one could attain liberation irrespective of caste
  • Gods were not discarded but considered lower to jina
  • Right Knowledge, Right Faith and Right Action were Ratnatraya of Jainism
Spread of Jainism
  • Not as much royal patronage as Buddhism but Chandragupta Maurya in later life accepted Jainism and moved to south India
  • Use of Prakrit language made it popular among masses and people irrespective of caste barrier
  • Later spread to Gujarat and Rajasthan as the brahmanical dominance was less there
  • King Kharavela patronized it in Orissa in 1st Century AD who defeated Magadha and Andhra
  • Monasteries called basadis developed in Karnataka. Also spread down south to Tamil Nadu
  • Promoted spread of Prakrit language. Jain literatures had dramas, plays, poems, epics and Puranas.
  • Ardhamagadhi language used by Jaina texts gave rise to Marathi language
  • Apabhragnsha grammer was constituted
  • Jaina literature in Kannada promoted the language
  • By accepting all castes, Jainism promoted egalitarianism in society and brought back the idea of simple living
  • Valabhi in Gujarat, final Jain texts compiled in 6th century AD. Some sanskrit Jain literature also there
  • Later when Jainas adopted idol wrship, mahavira idols were constructed contrubuting to stone sculpture art

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