History of Hinduism

Image of sacred idol of Tirthankar Rushabhdev Bhagwan at the main temple of Palitana in Gujarat.. ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
700 BCE Jan 1



Jainism is a religion founded in ancient India. Jains trace their history through twenty-four tirthankara and revere Rishabhanatha as the first tirthankara (in the present time-cycle). Some artifacts found in the Indus Valley civilization have been suggested as a link to ancient Jain culture, but very little is known about the Indus Valley iconography and script. The last two tirthankara, the 23rd tirthankara Parshvanatha (c. 9th–8th century BCE) and the 24th tirthankara Mahavira (c. 599 – c. 527 BCE) are considered historical figures. Mahavira was a contemporary of the Buddha.

According to a 1925 proposal of Glasenapp, Jainism's origin can be traced to the 23rd Tirthankara Parshvanatha (c. 8th–7th century BCE), and he considers the first twenty-two Tirthankaras as legendary mythical figures.

The two main sects of Jainism, the Digambara and the Śvētāmbara sect, likely started forming about the 3rd century BCE and the schism was complete by about 5th century CE. These sects later subdivided into several sub-sects such as Sthānakavāsī and Terapanthis. Many of its historic temples that still exist today were built in 1st millennium CE. After the 12th-century, the temples, pilgrimage and naked (skyclad) ascetic tradition of Jainism suffered persecution during the Muslim rule, with the exception of Akbar whose religious tolerance and support for Jainism led to a temporary ban on animal killing during the Jain religious festival of Dasa Lakshana.

Last Updated: Sat Feb 18 2023

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