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Jainism is one of the four major religions originated from India, the other three being Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism.



Jainism is an Indian religion with a heavy focus on non-violence. Unlike many religions, Jainism rejects the idea that there's a god that created the universe. Instead, they believe that the universe has always existed, always will exist, and that the world is stuck in a never-ending cycle of time. Each half-cycle is said to have 6 eras, with the 1st era being the greatest and the 6th era being the worst. Jainism says that the 3rd and 4th eras will have a collective total of 24 special people called the Tirthankara, who introduce Jainism to the people when the religion has been forgotten. The last Tirthankara was Mahavira, who lived around 6th century BCE. While the ultimate goal of Jainism is to escape an endless cycle of reincarnation and ascend to a state of infinite joy, but Jains think that this isn't currently possible because we are said to live in the 5th era. Instead, the goal is to at least ensure that they get a good reincarnation.

There are several sects of Jainism, but the two main sects are the Śvetāmbara (white-clad) and the Digambara (sky-clad). There are several theological differences between them, but the most notable difference between them are the choice of clothing made by the ascetics, which is where their names come from. Śvetāmbara ascetics wear all-white clothing, while Digambara ascetics walk around naked. They also have their own different scriptures, which tend to heavily disagree with each other.


The origins of Jainism are obscure, but the first historical Tirthankara was Parshvanatha, who was active in the 8th century BCE and believed by Jains to be the 23rd Tirthankara of this half-cycle. After a period of slow growth, the religion began to enjoy royal patronage and flourished for several centuries. However, the religion would later start to decline in Medieval times and is now a fairly obscure religion in India.


Map of Jainism
  • 1 Bhubaneswar — capital of Odisha, with Jain caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri.
  • 2 Deogarh Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh on Wikipedia — fortified town at the Betwa River, known for the cluster of Jain temples.
  • 3 Hastinapur — ancient town of Mahabharata fame, with Jain shrines
  • 5 Parasnath Parasnath on Wikipedia — an ancient mountain peak in Jharkhand and a Jain pilgrimage site. The hill is named after Parshvanatha, the 23rd Jain Tirthankara who got salvation here.
  • 6 Ranakpur — home to the Ranakpur Temple, one of the most famous Jain temples.

See and do[edit]

Eat and drink[edit]

The Jains practise a strict form of vegetarianism based on the principles of non-violence and peaceful co-operative co-existence. Jains usually do not consume root vegetables such as potatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, radishes, cassava, sweet potatoes and turnips, as the plant needs to be killed prior to its end of normal life cycle, in the process of accessing these.


A Jain idol with a swastika

Jains often draw a swastika while praying, which is considered a holy symbol of peace in their religion. While this can be disconcerting to Westerners, you should not get upset or take offense to what Jains see as a holy symbol.

Stay safe[edit]

Many Jains have ascetic practices, which can sometimes include extreme fasting and self-deprivation. At its most extreme, some Jains stop eating altogether and allow themselves to die in a process called Sallekhana, which is illegal in many countries. Before undertaking any sort of fast, you should consult with a doctor to make sure that it's safe and stop when you start to notice negative effects on your health.

See also[edit]

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