This article provides information about history and origin of Jainism in India.

Jainism in India

Jainism is one of the most ancient religions in India and is the sixth-largest religion practiced in the country. This religion is an independent one and is revealed to have been in existence in every cyclic period of the universe. Jain Prophets, also known as 'Teerthankaras' spread the teachings of Jainism and Lord Mahavir was the last of the 24 Teerthankaras who existed in India. Historians claim that the invasion of Muslim rulers in India led to the decline of Jainism to a major extent. However, Jains were allowed to pursue their religion under Hindu and British rulers. Today, only a small minority in India follows Jainism and some Jains among them also practice Hinduism. Jainism teaches the path of self-liberation through the elimination of bad 'karma'. This religion is so unique that it continues to inspire many and will therefore, exist till the end of time. To know more about Jainism in India, read on.

Origin of Jainism
According to historians, Jainism originated during 3000 to 3500 B.C., as many ancient idols identified as Lord Rishabha and other saints were discovered at Harappa and Mohenjodaro. There are evidences that prove that, the people of the Indus Valley civilization worshipped the idols of Yogis. Certain figures that were discovered featured the 'Kayotsarga' posture, which is acknowledged as a Jain posture for meditation. Even the 'swastika' signs have been found engraved in several seals, indicating that Jainism existed in the pre-Aryan period as well. There are facts to prove that the religion made its way to the Vedic period as Vedic scriptures such as 'Rig-veda', 'Yajur-veda' and 'Atharva-veda'. These scriptures have made references to the 'Teerthankaras' or Jain Prophets including Lord Rishabhdev, Lord Aristanemi and Lord Ajitanath.

Buddhist literature also contains references about Jainism as an ancient religion and also mentions the names of several Teerthankaras. Moreover, experts revealed that Gautama Buddha himself practiced the Jain way of penance, before he established Buddhism. Over the centuries, 24 Teerthankaras spread the teachings of Jainism and the explained the ways to achieve 'moksha' or liberation. The last Teertankara was Lord Mahavir who reformed Jainism to a large extent.

Background of Jainism
Nearly 600 years after Lord Mahavir's liberation, the Jains were divided into two distinct groups, 'Digambaras' and 'Shwetambaras'. The philosophy for both groups, remain the same, but one among the differences between both groups is that Digambaras were stark naked, and Shwetambaras dressed themselves in white. Various sects among the two groups developed as years passed. Jain saints followed strict rules and even killing living beings such as insects was a sin. Jainism is based on right faith, right knowledge and right conduct.

Evolution of Jainism
Jainism as a religion declined considerably after India was invaded by Islam rulers and various Jain temples and scriptures were destroyed. Hindu rulers, on the other hand, promoted Jainism and even when India was ruled by the British, Jain followers were allowed to practice their religion. Gradually, the number of Jain communities lowered over a period of time, as many Jains began to practice Hinduism. The development of warm devotion towards a God led many to move away from Jainism.

Jainism In India
Jainism lost its popularity and became a minority religion mainly because of its strict requirements. Today, there are Jains living in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Karanataka who practice Jainism. However, Jains also attend the ceremonies of other religions as well, without over-looking their fundamental principles. In the world, there are Jains that accept the severities of an ascetic life, but are absorbed in their material lives and there are only a minority of Jains who are monks. The people following this religion do not choose professions that involve any harm to any living thing.

Jainism is the practice of an ethic way of life and has been in existence since the ancient times. At present, only a small population belongs to the Jain religion in India. They observe Mahavir Jayanti with simplicity and with minimal rituals as this is an important day, which celebrates the birth of Lord Mahavir.