Jainism UPSC

Jainism UPSC Introduction

Jainism UPSC preparation has to be done in a systematic and strategic manner as it is an infrequently represented topic as far as UPSC preparation is concerned. The Jainism UPSC questions are mostly found in the preliminary exam and that too not every year. Rather Buddhism finds a regular representation in prelims as well as mains. In the Mains part of the Jainism UPSC section, questions may be asked in the Art and culture section. A few illustrations of the Jainism UPSC questions can be found at the end of this article. Having said this, let us now deep dive into some salient aspects of Jainism.

Jainism UPSC

Jainism belongs to the three nastika schools which continued to develop from 600 B.C to 500 B.C., the other two being – Charvaka and Buddhism. There is a considerable variation regarding the origin of Jainism between historians and Jaina traditions. According to modern historians Jainism originated due to similar reasons and conditions in which Buddhism originated. But according to Jaina traditions it is considered to be an eternal dharma with the tirthankaras guiding every time cycle of the cosmology. Even the Pasupati Mahadev statue found in the Indus Valley civilization is of Jaina origin according to Jains.

Jainism traces its spiritual ideas and history through a succession of gurus, whom they call Tirthankaras. It is believed that in the present time cycle Jainism is shaped by 24 Tirthankaras starting with Rishabh and ending with Mahavir. Jaina texts claim Rishabh lived millions of years ago. The tirthankar preceding Mahavir i.e. Parsavnath is believed to have lived in the 9th century B.C. Historians hold a diametrically opposite view for there are no corroborative evidences for the 23 tirthankaras who preceded Mahavir.

Life of Mahavira

Jainism UPSC


  • Born in 540 BC at Kundagrama near Vaisali.
  • Siddhartha was his father ; Trisala his mother, Yashoda  his wife and Jameli was the daughter.
  • Attained Kaivalya at Jrimbhikagrama in eastern India at the age of 42.
  • Died at the age of 72 in 468 BC or 527 BC at Pavapuri near Rajagriha.
  • He was called Jina or Jitendriya, Nirgrantha  and Mahavira.

Jainism in the Past

  • The name of two Jaina Tirthankaras, Rishabha and Arishtanemi are found in the Rig Veda.
  • The Vishnu Purana and the Bhagavat Purana describe Rishaba as an incarnation of Narayana.
  • According to Jaina beliefs, the male nude torso discovered from the Indus Valley culture has something to do with the Tirthankaras.
  • There were twenty-four Tirthankaras, all were Kshatriyas and belonged to the royal families. Parsavanath was the 23rd tirthankara.

Way to Nirvana (Three Ratnas)

  • Right Faith ( Samyak vishwas) : belief in the validity of the Jain vision.
  • Right knowledge ( Samyak gyan) : is the understanding of the actual nature of the soul and reality.
  • Right conduct ( Samyak karma) : is acting faithfully on the first two. This includes a respect for all living things and the natural world.

Jains believe in deep respect for nature and the lives of all animate and inanimate beings and aspects of life. Nirvana or Kaivalya is achieved in 14 steps. In the 14th step one is freed from all karmic debt and experiences. The moksha is attained by complete understanding of reality, wisdom, and total freedom from bondage. The soul is freed once and for all and will never be incarnated again on the earthly plane to experience suffering and death. The tirthankaras reached the 14th stage much before their death and guided their followers to reach that stage through the three Ratnas.

The Principles of Jainism as Preached by Mahavira

  • Rejected the authority of the Vedas and the Vedic rituals.
  • Did not believe in the existence of God.
  • Believed in Karma and the transmigration of soul.
  • Laid great emphasis on equality.

Five Main Teachings

  • Non-injury ( ahimsa )
  • Non-lying ( saryai )
  • Non-stealing ( asateya )
  • Non-possession ( aparigraha )
  • Observe continence ( Brahmacharya )

( The first four principles are of Parshvanath and the fifth Bramacharya was included by Mahavira).

Jainism stresses that – ‘as one thinks, so will one do‘. Thus, these five vows direct one’s thoughts and behavior. According to Jainism doctrines, it is not enough to simply abstain from violence or lying or stealing but also one must not even think of such things. If one adheres to this discipline, one will escape the cycle of birth and rebirth (samsara) and achieve Kaivalya (liberation).

Jainism vis a vis Hinduism and Buddhism

The fundamental difference between Jainism and Hinduism and Buddhism is that, Jainism believes that Karma is a natural function of the soul’s interaction with reality whereas according to Hinduism and Buddhism it is understood as action that either encourages liberation or ties one more closely to samsara (world). Jainism emphasizes on the limitations of perspective of humans and, thus, the inability of anyone to state an objective truth completely. For this the 5 blind men and the elephant analogy is used. Just like the 5 blind men are bound by their limited perspective, similarly every individual is bound by his subjective values, ignorance, and illusion. This must be accounted for in the Jainism UPSC preparation.

Sacred Literature Of Jainism – Jainism UPSC

        The sacred literature of the Svetambaras is written in a form of Prakrit called Ardhamagadhi, but after the 1st century A.D. Sanskrit became more popular with Jains. The sacred literature may be classified as follows:

  • The twelve Angas
  • The twelve Upangas
  • The ten Parikarnas
  • The six Chheda Sutras
  • The four Mulasutras

Many followers of Jainism consider their primary scripture to be the Tattvartha Sutra, or Book of Realities, written over eighteen centuries ago by the monk-scholar Umasvati (also known as Umasvami).

Apart from the sacred literature, canons and commentaries, the Svetambara and Digambara traditions have produced a large body of secular literature written in various fields in several languages. These include the areas of drama, poetry, philosophy, grammar, mathematics, music, astrology, astronomy, medicine and architecture. Important works of early post classical Tamil literature,like the epics Cilappatikaram and Jivikacintamani, were written from a Jain perspective. A common poet Pampa wrote the Adipurana, which is the earliest extant piece of mahakavya (“high poetic”) Kannada literature. Jainas were also influential in the Prakrit languages, Apabhramsa, Old Gujarati, and, later Sanskrit.

Jain Symbol – Jainism UPSC

Jain Symbol

The Jaina symbol does not have a specific name and is a combination of many symbols. This is not an ancient symbol and was incorporated into Jainism in 1974 by the Jain scholars to commemorate the 2500th anniversary of Mahavir. It is an image of the urn-shaped form with one dot at the top, three beneath, the swastika, and the hamsa (upraised palm of the hand) with the mandala in the center and the inscription.

Each of these have a specific meaning:

  • The urn-shaped image represents the universe,
  • The dot at the top mean liberation from bondage,
  • The three dots beneath represent the Three Ratnas or Jewels,
  • The swastika symbolizes the four states of existence: heavenly spirits, humans, demonic spirits, and subhuman spirits such as plants and insects, all on the wheel of samsara. It also represents the true character of the soul: boundless energy, boundless happiness, boundless knowledge, and boundless perception and insight.
  • The hamsa-image symbolizes the courage and commitment of non-violence.
  • The inscription in the palm of the hand is translated as “Souls provide service to one another” or “Life is joined by mutual support and interdependence”

24 Tirthankaras – Jainism UPSC

24 Tirthankars

Jainism shares many commonalities in terms of beliefs and values with Hinduism and Buddhism. But  Jainism has its own spiritual leaders and teachers. Jains honor 24 Jinas, or Tirthankaras, the following list gives all the 24 Tirthankaras along with their symbols.

4Abhiaandam SwamyMonkey
6PadamprabhuRed Lotus
8Chandraji prabhuMoon
19MallinathWater pot
21NaminathBlue Lotus
22NeminathConch Shell
List of Tirthankaras

Philosophy Of Jainism – Jainism UPSC

  • Syadvada : All our Judgements are necessarily relative , conditional and limited. According to Syadvada ( the theory of may be) seven modes of predication ( saptabhangi) are possible. Absolute affirmation and absolute negation both are wrong. All judgements are conditional.
  • Anekantavada : The Jaina metaphysics is a realistic and relativistic pluralism. It is called Anekantavada or the doctrine of the ‘manyness or reality’. Matter ( pudgala) and Spirit ( Jiva) are regarded as separate and independent realities.
  • Instruments of Knowledge –
  • Matijnana : Perception through activity of sense organs , including the mind.
  • Srutajnana : Knowledge revealed by scriptures.
  • Avadhi Jnana : Clairvoyant perception.
  • Manahparyayajnana : Telepathic Knowledge.
  • Kevala Jnana : Temporal knowledge or  Omniscience.

Jaina Councils – Jainism UPSC

Jainism UPSC

By the end of fourth century BC , there was a serious famine in the Gangas valley leading to a great exodus of many Jaina (Shravanabelagola) along with Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta Maurya. They returned to the Gangetic valley after 12 years. The leader of the group , which stayed back at Magadha was Sthalabahu. The changes that took place in the code of conduct of the followers of Sthulabahu led to the division of the Jainas into Digambaras (skyclad or naked) and Svetambaras ( white-clad ). Jainism happens to be one of the world’s oldest religions in practice to this day.

  • First council   was held at Pataliputra by Sthulabahu in the beginning of the third century BC and resulted in the compilation of 12 Angas to replace the lost 14 Purvas.
  • The Second Council was held at Valabhi in the 5th century AD under the leadership of Devaradhi Kshamasramana and resulted in the final compilation of 12 Angas and 12 Upangas.


Five Categories of Siddhas – Jainism UPSC

  • Tirthankara, who has attained salvation.
  • Arhant, who is about the attain Nirvana.
  • Acharya , the head of the ascetic group.
  • Upadhyaya , teacher or saint and
  • Sadhu , which includes the rest.

Spread of Jainism – Jainism UPSC

      Jainism received patronage from the kings of the time , including Chandragupta Maurya. In the south , royal dynasties such as the Gangas, Kadambas, Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas patronized Jainism. In Gujarat, patronage came from wealthy merchants. The  concrete expression of Jainism’s religious zeal is seen all over the country in works of art and architecture. The 57-foot high statue of Gomateshvara at Shravanabelagola in Mysore, erected in 983 or 984 AD is a marvel of its kind. The temples at Mount Abu and those at Palitana in Gujarat and Moodbidri and Karkala in the south make a rich contribution to the Indian heritage.

See Also

Buddhism UPSC – Simplified | Evolution, Philosophy, Scriptures, Impact And Decline

Jainism UPSC PYQs (Prelims)

1. Anekantavada is a core theory and philosophy of which one of the following?
(a) Buddhism
(b) Jainism
(c) Sikhism
(d) Vaishnavism

Correct Answer is B

2. With reference to ancient history of India, which of the following was/were common to Buddhism and Jainism?
1) Avoidance of extremities of penance and enjoyment
2) Indifference to the authority of the Vedas
3) Denial of efficacy of rituals
Select the correct answer using the codes given below:
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Correct answer is D

Jainism UPSC FAQs

What are the main beliefs of Jainism?

1. Right Faith ( Samyak vishwas)
2. Right knowledge ( Samyak gyan)
3. Right conduct ( Samyak karma)

Who is God for Jainism?

Being a non-theistic religion Jainism as such does not believe in the concept of god. It rather stresses on a path to salvation through a right conduct. Nevertheless the Jains do consider their Tirthankars as gods. They are venerated in the form of Arihants and Siddhas.

Our Videos On Jainism

Follow the given links of our You Tube Channel ‘Ask Rahul Sir’ to know more about Jainism

Video 1


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