Services (Prelims) Examination Special
Quick Revision Notes
About India : (Indian
The parents of Mahavira were Siddhartha, a Janatrika chief of
Kundapura, and Trishala, a Kshatriya lady related to the ruling families of
Vaishali and Magadha.
Mahavira married a princess named Yashoda.
Mahavira forsookthe world at the age of thirty and roamed as a naked ascetic
in several parts of eastern India and practiced severe penance for 12 years.
Half of this time was spent with a mendicant (beggar) friar (brother) named Goshala
who subsequently left him and became the leader of the Ajivika ect.
In the 13th year of penance,
Mahavira attained the highest spiritual knowledge called Kevala-jnana, on
the northern bank of river Rijupalika, outside Jrimbhikagrama,
a little known locality in eastern India. He was now known as a Kevalin (omniscient),
a Jina (conqueror) and Mahavira (the great hero).
Mahavira became the head of a sect called Nigranthas (free from
Fretters), known in later times as Jains or followers of Jina
Mahavira died at Pava in south Bihar, after wandering for 35 years as
a religious teacher, at the age of 72.
The Jains believe that Mahavira was not the founder of a new
religious system, but the last of a long succession of 24 Tirthankars
or â€œford-makers across the stream of existenceâ€.
The 23rd teacher, Parsav, the immediate predecessor of Mahavira, was
a prince of Benaras and enjoined on his disciples the great four vows of
non-injury, truthfulness, abstention from stealing and
non-attachment. Mahavira added the vow of Brahamcharya
or continence to this.
Jainism was atheistic in
nature, the existence of God being
irrelevant to its doctrine. It
believes that universe functions
according to an eternal law and is
continually passing through a series
of cosmic waves of progress and
decline. Everything in the universe,
material or otherwise, has a soul.
The purification of the soul is
the purpose of living, for the pure
soul is released from the body and
then resides in bliss.
Jains believe that by following
the three-fold path of
right Belief, right Knowledge and
right Conduct, souls will be released
from transmigration and reach
the pure and blissful abode or Siddha
Jainism spread rapidly among the
trading community. The emphasis on
non-violence prevented agriculturists
from being Jainas, since cultivation
involved killing insects and
According to the tradition of the Svetambara
Jains, the original doctrine taught
by Mahavira was contained in fourteen
old texts styled Purvas.
Close to 4th century B.C., due to
a famine in south Bihar, important
sections of Jains, headed by
Bhadrabahu, fled to Mysore.
To revive the knowledge of sacred
texts, which was passing into oblivion
following the famine in south
Bihar and fleeing of majority of
Jains, a council was convoked by those
who were left behind in Pataliputra,
which resulted in compilation of
the 12 Angas which are
regarded as the most important part
of the Jain canon. Another
council was held at Valabhi in
Gujarat in 5th or 6th century A.D.
which made a final collection of the
scriptures and reduced them to
The followers of Bhadrabahu, on
their return to the north, refused to
acknowledge the Angas and came
to be known as Svetambaras
(clad in white) as they
wore white garments notwithstanding
the injunctions of Mahavira. The
original followers came to be
called Digambaras (sky-clad
Gautama Buddha was born as Siddhartha
to Suddhodana, a Raja or
noble of Kapilvastu (in the Nepal
Terai to the north of Basti district
of Uttar Pradesh) and Maya, a
princess of Devadaha, a small town in
the Sakya territory. Maya died while
giving birth to Siddhartha and
he was brought up by his aunt
and step-mother Prajapati