Timeline of Jainism

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This article describes a Timeline of Jainism, a religion practiced mainly by about five million people in India.


The views regarding Origins of Jainism are disputed among various scholars. Jains believe their religion to be ever-existing, having no origin and end. It is occasionally forgotten by humans and revived by a succession of tirthankara.

The existence of Parshvanatha (c. 877 – c. 777 BCE), the twenty-third tirthankara, is the earliest Jain leader now accepted as a historical figure.[1][2][3][4]

The existence of Mahavira, the last tirthankara, is known because of his mention by Jaina and Buddhist scriptures. Mahavira was a reformer of Jain faith which was probably founded by Parshvanatha.[5] Neminatha was the predecessor of Parshvanatha and 22nd Tirthankara of the Jain tradition. In 1890-91, Kankali Tila (a mound) at Mathura was excavated by Dr. Fuhrer. After studying the findings of this excavation, Dr. Fuhrer was of the view that Neminatha was a historical figure.[6] The Bhagavata Purana, an ancient Hindu text, mentions Rishabha, the first Jain tirthankara. Various seals from Indus Valley Civilization bear resemblance to Rishabha and extensive use of the symbol of Bull might show the prevalence of Jainism in Indus Valley Civilization. The presence of Jainism in ancient India is supported by scholars like Dr. Radha Kumud Mookerji, Gustav Roth, Prof. A. Chakravarti, Prof. Ram Prasad Chanda, T. N. Ramchandran, I. Mahadevan and Kamta Prasad Jain.[7] Recently, Acharya Vidyanaji claimed the prevalence of Jainism in ancient India c. 3000 BCE through detailed research on various artifacts, seals and other relics from Indus Valley Civilization.[7] Another noted indologist, Hermann Jacobi writes:[8]

There is nothing to prove that Parshva was the founder of Jainism. Jain tradition is unanimous in making Rishabha the first tirthankara as its founder and there may be something historical in the tradition which makes him the first tirthankara.

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, scholar and second President of India, was of the opinion that Jainism was in existence long before the Vedas were composed.[9] Scholars like Dr. Radhakrishnan, Hiralal Jain, Zimmer, Jacobi, Vincent Smith and Major-General J.G.R. furlong have established that Jainism is, without doubt, an ancient religion of India which is not a sect or sub-sect of any other religion.[10]

Scholars like Dr. Vilas A. Sangave, Champat Rai Jain, Prof. Buhler, H. Jacobi, Dr. Hornell, Pt. Sukhalalji, Prof. Vidyalankara, and others believe that Jainism is the earliest known religious systems prevailing in India and was widespread in the Indus Valley. The relics found in Harrapan excavations like the standing nude male figures in Kayotsarga, idols in Padmasana and images with serpent-heads, and the Bull symbol of Rishabha, represent Jain culture.[11][12][13][14][15]

Regarding the antiquity of Jainism, Dr. Heinrich Zimmer noted:

There is truth in the Jaina idea that their religion goes back to a remote antiquity, the antiquity in question being that of the pre-Aryan so called Dravidian period, which has recently been dramatically illuminated by the discovery of a series of great late Stone Age cities in the Indus Valley, dating from the third and perhaps even fourth millennium B.C.[16]

Literary Sources

Jain scriptures are filled with mythology along with the historical facts. The Jaina accounts of their history is therefore not accepted by most historians. Glasenapp notes that Jains know the names of these tirthankara and have many stories about them, however, their validity is in question.[17] The depiction of nude male figures in standing meditative positions was prevalent in the Indus Valley Civilisation, showing connections with Jainism.[18][19]

Archeological Sources

Figures of nude male deities excavated at Indus Valley civilization are interpreted as Jain yogi.[20] The archeological evidences are, however, problematic. Shah writes that if one accepts these interpretations, then Jainism can be dated from c. 7th millennium BCE.[21]

Jain doctrine teaches that Jainism has always existed and will always exist,[22][23][24] although historians date the foundation of the organized or present form of Jainism to sometime between the 9th and the 6th century BC.[25][26] Some scholars claim Jainism has its roots in the Indus Valley Civilization, reflecting native spirituality prior to the Indo-Aryan migration into India.[27][28][29] Other scholars suggested the shramana traditions were separate and contemporaneous with Indo-Aryan religious practices of the historical Vedic religion.[30]

Geographical spread and influence

It is generally accepted that Jainism started spreading in south India from the 3rd century BCE. i.e. since the time when Badrabahu, a preacher of this religion and the head of the monks' community, came to Karnataka from Bihar.[31]

Kalinga (modern Orissa) was home to many Jains in the past. Rishabha, the first Tirthankar, was revered and worshiped in the ancient city Pithunda, capital of Kalinga. This was destroyed by Mahapadma Nanda when he conquered Kalinga and brought the statue of Rishabha to his capital in Magadh. Rishabha is revered as the Kalinga Jina. Ashoka's invasion and his Buddhist policy also subjugated Jains greatly in Kalinga. However, in the first century BCE Emperor Kharvela conquered Magadha and brought Rishabha's statue back and installed it in Udaygiri, near his capital, Shishupalgadh. The Khandagiri and Udaygiri caves near Bhubaneswar are the only surviving stone Jain monuments in Orissa. Earlier buildings were made of wood and were destroyed.[citation needed]

Deciphering of the Brahmi script by James Prinsep in 1788 enabled the reading of ancient inscriptions in India and established the antiquity of Jainism. The discovery of Jain manuscripts has added significantly to retracing Jain history. Archaeologists have encountered Jain remains and artifacts at Maurya, Shunga, Kishan, Gupta, Kalachuries, Rashtrakut, Chalukya, Chandel and Rajput as well as later sites. Several Western and Indian scholars have contributed to the reconstruction of Jain history. Western historians like Bühler, Jacobi, and Indian scholars like Iravatham Mahadevan, worked on Tamil Brahmi inscriptions.[citation needed]

Double-sided Leaf from a Chandana Malayaqiri Varta Series ascribed to the artists Karam and Mahata Chandji - 1745. This painting was made for a practitioner of the Jain religion. The image illustrates a Jain text and includes a small shrine with an icon of a Jain savior, known as a Jina or Tirthankara, on the right. The icon sits cross-legged in a meditative posture, and the temple has two white towers of the classic North Indian form. A small pool in front of the temple reflects the surrounding architecture.
Doorway detail of a Dilwara Temple.
Jain temple in Antwerp, Belgium

This pervasive influence of Jain culture and philosophy in ancient Bihar gave rise to Buddhism. The Buddhists have always maintained that during the time of Buddha and Mahavira (who, according to the Pali canon, were contemporaries), Jainism was already an ancient, deeply entrenched faith and culture there. Over several thousand years, Jain influence on Hindu rituals has been observed and similarly the concept of non-violence has been incorporated into Hinduism. Certain Vedic Hindu holy books contain narrations about various Jain Tirthankaras (e.g. Lord Rushabdev). In the history of mankind, there have been no wars fought in the name of Jainism.[citation needed]

With 5.5 million followers,[32] Jainism is among the smallest of the major world religions, but in India its influence is much greater than these numbers would suggest. Jains live throughout India. Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat have the largest Jain populations among Indian states. Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Bundelkhand and Madhya Pradesh have relatively large Jain populations. There is a large following in Punjab, especially in Ludhiana and Patiala, and there used to be many Jains in Lahore (Punjab's historic capital) and other cities before the Partition of 1947, after which many fled to India. There are many Jain communities in different parts of India and around the world. They may speak local languages or follow different rituals but essentially they follow the same principles.[citation needed]

Outside India, the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda) have large Jain communities. The first Jain temple to be built outside India was constructed and consecrated in the 1960s in Mombasa, Kenya by the local Gujarati Jain community, although Jainism in the West mostly came about after the Oswal and Jain diaspora spread to the West in the late 1970s and 1980s. Jainism is presently a strong faith in the United States, and several dozen Jain temples have been built there, primarily by the Gujarati community. American Jainism accommodates all the sects. Smaller Jain communities exist in Nepal, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Fiji, and Suriname. In Belgium, the very successful Indian diamond community in Antwerp, almost all of whom are Jain, opened the largest Jain temple outside India in 2010, to strengthen Jain values in and across Western Europe.[citation needed]


Before common era (BCE)

Common era (CE)

File:Acharya KundaKunda.jpg
Sculpture depicting Acharya Kundkund

Middle Ages

British India


  • 1970s: significant presence of Jainism in the United States
  • 1975: Monolithic statue of Bahubali is installed at Dharmasthala, Karnataka, India under the auspices of D. Rathnavarma Heggade and Mathrushree D. Rathnamma Heggade, members of Dharmasthala's Jaina lineage who also manage the local Shivaite temple. Carving work began in 1966 under the sculptor Rejala Gopalkrishna Shenoy of Karkala.
  • 1976: In Arya Samaj Education Trust, Delhi & Others v. The Director of Education, Delhi Administration, Delhi & Others (AIR 1976 Delhi 207), the Court referred to Heinrich Zimmer's Philosophies of India describing Jainism as "a heterodox Indian religion" and J. N. Farquhar's Modern Religious Movements in India describing Jainism as "a rival of Hinduism."
  • 1981: First Jain convention in Los Angeles
  • 1983: Formal organization of JAINA (Jain Associations in North America)
  • 1990: Temple Pratishtha, The Jain Sangh Cherry Hill, New Jersey
  • 1990: Temple Pratishtha, Jain Society of Metropolitan Washington
  • 1991: Founding of Siddhachalam, the Jain tirtha
  • 1991: Death of Jain Acharya Shri Ramchandra Surishwarji
  • 1993: Temple Pratishtha, Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago
  • 1995: Temple Pratishtha, Jain Center of Cincinnati and Dayton
  • 1998: Temple Pratishtha, Jain Society of Greater Detroit
  • 2000: Temple Pratishtha, Jain Center of Northern California (JCNC)
  • 2000: Jain Vishwa Bharati Orlando
  • 2005: the Supreme Court of India declined to grant Jains the status of a religious minority throughout India, leaving it to the respective states to decide on the minority status of Jainis.
  • 2006: the Supreme Court opined that "Jain Religion is indisputably not a part of the Hindu religion" (Para 25, Committee of Management Kanya Junior High School Bal Vidya Mandir, Etah, U.P. v. Sachiv, U.P. Basic Shiksha Parishad, Allahabad, U.P. and Ors., Per Dalveer Bhandari J., Civil Appeal No. 9595 of 2003, decided On: 21.08.2006, Supreme Court of India.)
  • 2008: Delhi city government declares Jain community as a minority as per the Supreme Court Orders.
  • 2014: Jain community is notified as minority at national level.[46]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Charpentier, Jarl (1922), "The History of the Jains", The Cambridge History of India, 1, Cambridge, p. 153<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ghatage, A.M. (1951), "Jainism", in Majumdar, R.C. and A.D. Pusalker (ed.), The Age of Imperial Unity, Bombay, pp. 411–412<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Deo 1956, pp. 59–60
  4. Fisher 1997, p. 115
  5. Jain 1991, p. 5
  6. Sangave 2001, p. 20-11.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Sangave 2001, p. 109
  8. Sangave 2001, p. 131
  9. Shah 2004a, p. 7
  10. Shah 2004a, p. 8
  11. Sangave 2001, p. 24-25.
  12. Puruṣottama Bilimoria; Joseph Prabhu; Renuka M. Sharma (2007), Indian Ethics: Classical traditions and contemporary challenges, Volume 1 of Indian Ethics, Ashgate Publishing Ltd, p. 315, ISBN 9780754633013<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Institute of Indic Studies, Kurukshetra University (1982), Prāci-jyotī: digest of Indological studies, Volumes 14-15, Kurukshetra University, pp. 247–249<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Robert P. Scharlemann (1985), Naming God God, the contemporary discussion series, Paragon House, pp. 106–109, ISBN 9780913757222 line feed character in |title= at position 11 (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Vishwanath Pandey (1976), The Orient: the world of Jainism : Jaina history, art, literature, philosophy and religion, Pandey, pp. 46–60, ISBN 9780913757222<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Zimmer 1952, p. 59.
  17. Glasenapp 1999, p. 15
  18. Rankin 2010, p. 44
  19. Sangave 2001, pp. 107–108
  20. Shah 2004a, p. 9
  21. Shah 2004a, p. 10
  22. Helmuth von Glasenapp,Shridhar B. Shrotri. 1999. Jainism: an Indian religion of salvation. P.15 "Jainas consider that religion is eternal and imperishable. It is without beginning and it will never cease to exist. The darkness of error enveloping the truth in certain, periodically occurring aeons clears up again and again so that the brightness of the Jaina-faith can sparkle again anew."
  23. Dundas, Paul. 2002. The Jains. P.12 "Jainism is believed by its followers to be everlasting, without beginning or end..."
  24. Varni, Jinendra; Ed. Prof. Sagarmal Jain, Translated Justice T.K. Tukol and Dr. Narendra Bhandari. Samaṇ Suttaṁ. New Delhi: Bhagwan Mahavir memorial Samiti. “The Historians have so far fully recognized the truth that Tirthankara Mahavira was not the founder of the religion. He was preceded by many tirthankaras. He merely reiterated and rejuvenated that religion. It is correct that history has not been able to trace the origin of the Jaina religion; but historical evidence now available and the result of dispassionate researches in literature have established that Jainism is undoubtedly an ancient religion.” Pp. xii – xiii of introduction by Justice T.K.Tutkol and Dr. K.K. Dixit.
  25. Helmuth von Glasenapp,Shridhar B. Shrotri. 1999. Jainism: an Indian religion of salvation. P.24. "Thus not only nothing, from the philosophical and the historical point of view, comes in the way of the supposition that Jainism was established by Parsva around 800 BC, but it is rather confirmed in everything that we know of the spiritual life of that period."
  26. Dundas, Paul. 2002. The Jains. P.17. "Jainism, then, was in origin merely one component of a north Indian ascetic culture that flourished in the Ganges basin from around the eighth or seventh centuries BC."
  27. Larson, Gerald James (1995) India’s Agony over religion SUNY Press ISBN 0-7914-2412-X. “There is some evidence that Jain traditions may be even older than the Buddhist traditions, possibly dating from the Indus valley civilization, and that Vardhamana rather than being a “founder” per se was, rather, simply a primary spokesman for much older tradition. Page 27”
  28. Joel Diederik Beversluis (2000) In: Sourcebook of the World's Religions: An Interfaith Guide to Religion and Spirituality, New World Library : Novato, CA ISBN 1-57731-121-3 Originating on the Indian sub-continent, Jainism is one of the oldest religion of its homeland and indeed the world, having pre-historic origins before 3000 BC and the propagation of Indo-Aryan culture.... p. 81
  29. Jainism by Mrs. N.R. Guseva p.44
  30. Long, Jeffrey D. (2009). Jainism: An Introduction. New York: I.B. Tauris. pp. 45–56. ISBN 978-1-84511-626-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Jainism by Mrs. N.R. Guseva, p.51
  32. "Wolfram Alpha: Jainism : country, population, types, central figure, ..." Wolfram Alpha. Retrieved 23 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. "NamiNatha Bhagwan". http://jainmuseum.com. External link in |website= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. "About Tonks Of 24 Jain Tirthankaras On Parasnath Hills Information-Topchanchi". http://www.hoparoundindia.com. External link in |website= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. Zimmer 1953, p. 226.
  36. Jinasena, Acharya; Jain (Sahityacharya), Dr. Pannalal (2008). Harivamsapurana [Harivamsapurana]. Bhartiya Jnanpith (18, Institutional Area, Lodhi Road, New Delhi - 110003). ISBN 978-81-263-1548-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. Fisher, Mary Pat (1997). Living Religions: An Encyclopedia of the World's Faiths. London: I.B.Tauris. ISBN 1-86064-148-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> p. 115
  38. "Parshvanatha". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2007. Retrieved 22 October 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  39. Bowker, John (2000). "Parsva". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 22 October 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  40. Deo, Shantaram Bhalchandra (1956). History of Jaina monachism from inscriptions and literature. Poona [Pune, India]: Deccan College Post-graduate and Research Institute. pp. 59–60.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  41. "Mahavira." Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2006. Answers.com 28 Nov. 2009. http://www.answers.com/topic/mahavira
  42. Rapson, "Catalogue of the Indian coins of the British Museum. Andhras etc...", p XVII.
  43. Full text of the Hathigumpha Inscription in English
  44. Cort 2009, p. 39-41.
  45. 45.0 45.1 Kerkar & TNN 2014.
  46. Government notification- minority


External links