Jainism in India
Jainism is an ancient belief which existed before the arrival of Mahavira. Jains pursue their history through a series of twenty-four teachers and revivers of the Jain path known as Tirthankaras. Lord Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, is a contemporary of Lord Buddha, the patron of Buddhism and despite the Buddhist texts called Lord Mahavira an enlightened being. He merely introduced certain reforms in Jainism.
The term “Jain” originates from the Sanskrit word Jina (conqueror). A human being who has conquered all personal passions like attachment, greed, desire, pride, Deceitfulness, anger, etc. is named Jina. Followers of the path prepared and preached by the jinas are admitted as Jains.
The three most important principles of Jainism are Ahimsa (non-violence), Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) and Anekantavada (non-absolutism). Followers of Jainism take five main vows: Satya (not lying), Ahimsa (non-violence), brahmacharya (chastity), Asteya (not stealing), and Aparigraha (non-attachment). Jain monks and nuns observe these vows entirely devoted to Jina whereas householders find them within their reasonable limitations. Self-discipline and asceticism are thus primary focuses of Jainism. Reputably, Mahatma Gandhi was greatly influenced by Jainism and embraced many Jain principles in his life.
Parasparopagraho Jivanam (“the purpose of souls is to help one another”) is the watchword of Jainism.
The Jains ascribe life to plants, stone, and water, and the concept of Jiva (soul) and Ajiva (matter) is entirely different from any other religions in India. In Jainism, although they acknowledge the presence of Jinas or Kevalins, who are larger than human beings in status but subjected to change and evolution. Unlike the Bodhisattvas, the Kevalins are rather indifferent to the prayers and problems and remain unaffected. The Jainas practice uncompromising asceticism and self-mortification. Mahavira himself practiced tremendous physical difficulties to realize the Truth.
The Jains practice an extreme form of Ahimsa, kindness, and non-violence not only towards humans but all living beings. For this reason, vegetarianism is a sign of Jain identity, with the majority of Jains following Lacto vegetarianism. If there is violence against animals during the production of dairy products, veganism is encouraged. They ascribe life to inanimate objects like wood, stone, etc. Jainism seeks to neutralize the evil effects of Karma by severe penance, self-mortification, and non-violence.
In the current period, this commenced with Rishabhdeva and inferred with Mahavira. Jains believe that Jainism is eternal and while it may be forgotten, it will be revived from time to time.
Mahavir Jayanti, the birth of Mahavīra, the last Tirthankara of this period, is usually celebrated based on the lunar calendar in late March or early April. Diwali is a festival that marks the anniversary of Mahavira’s attainment of moksha. The Hindu festival “Kartika Amavasya” or Diwali is also celebrated on the same date and is celebrated in an atmosphere of austerity, serenity, simplicity, equity, charity, calmness, and environmental consciousness. Jain temples, offices, homes, and shops are decorated with diyas (small oil lamps) and lights. The lights are symbolic of removal of ignorance and knowledge. Sweets are often distributed. On Diwali morning, Nirvan Ladoo is offered after praying to Mahavīra in all Jain temples all over the world. Some other festivals celebrated by Jains are Raksha Bandhan and Akshaya Tritiya. Jains believe that the new Jain year starts right after Diwali.