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By The Assam Tribune
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LakshyaforIAS, Guwahati, [email protected]


In sixth century BC, India witnessed the rise of two new religions – Jainism and Buddhism. The primary reason for the rise of these religions was the religious unrest at that time in the country. This unrest was attributed to the rituals and sacrifices advocated by the later Vedic period which were not understood by a large section of people.


• The Jain tradition had a succession of tirthankaras (religious leaders).

• The first tirthankar was Rishabha Dev.

• The 23rd tirthankar was Parshavanath who founded Jainism.

Vardhamana Mahavira (539-467 BC)

• Vardhamana Mahavira was the 24th tirthankar of the Jain tradition. He is considered the last tirthankar.

• He was born at Kundagrama near Vaishali in about 546 BC.

• He renounced the world at the age of 30 to become an ascetic and wandered for 12 years. He also practised self-mortification for those years.

• In the 13th year of his penance, he attained the highest spiritual knowledge by triumphing over himself. This knowledge is called kevala jnan. Thereafter, he was called Mahavira, Jina, and Kevalin.

• He died at the age of 72 at Pava near Rajagriha (Patna).

Teachings of Mahavira

• Jainism rejects the authority of Vedas and Vedic rituals.

• It discards the belief in god. Therefore, Jains don’t worship god, but instead, worship their tirthankars.

• Mahavira considered all objects, both animate and inanimate, to have souls and different degrees of consciousness. He considered all objects to possess life and feel pain when they are injured.

• He considered the practice of agriculture as sinful because it causes injury to the earth and animals.

• The doctrine of asceticism and renunciation was considered the shortest path to salvation by going to extreme lengths for the practice of starvation, nudity and other forms of self-torture.

• The three principles of Jainism, also known as tri ratnas (three gems) are – right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct.

Spread of Jainism:

• Mahavira had organised the sangha to spread his teachings.

• The rapid rise of Jainism has been attributed to the dedicated work of the sangha members who spread Jainism in Western India and Karnataka.

• Jainism was patronised by rulers like Chandragupta Maurya, Kharavela of Kalinga, and the royal dynasties of South India like the Gangas, the Kadambas, the Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas.

Division of Jainism:

• The division in Jainism happened by the end of the fourth century BC.

• A serious famine occurred in the Ganga Valley. Various Jain monks, led by Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta Maurya, went to Sravanabelagola in Karnataka. These came to be known as digambars (sky-clad or naked). They strictly follow the tenets of religion.

• The monks who stayed back in North India were led by Sthulabhadra, who changed the code of conduct for the monks. This sect became more liberal and started wearing white clothes. Hence, they came to be known as swetambars (white-clad).

Jain councils:

• In the third century BC, the first Jain council was convened at Pataliputra headed by Sthulabhadra.

• In fifth century AD, the second Jain council was held at Vallabhi in Gujarat under Devardhigani. Here, the compilation of Jain literature called 12 Angas was completed.



Life of Gautam Buddha

• The founder of Buddhism was Gautam Buddha.

• He was born as Siddhartha in 566 BC at Lumbini (Nepal) in the Sakya clan of Kshatriya. That is why Buddha is also known as ‘Sakyamuni’.

• He left home and became an ascetic at the age of 29 in search of truth and end of sorrow. This event in Buddha’s life is known as “Mahabhishkramana”.

• At the age of 35, Siddhartha got enlightenment at Uruvela while meditating on the bank of River Niranjana under a Banyan tree. This tree is called the Bodhi tree. The place is known as Bodh Gaya.

• He then gave his first sermon at Sarnath (Varanasi). This historic event in Buddha’s life is known as “Dhammachakra Pravartan”.

• Buddha passed away in 486 BC under a sal tree in Kushinagar.

Teachings of Buddha

• There are four noble truths (Arya satyas) of Buddhism.

• The world is full of sorrow (dukha).

• Desire is the cause of sorrow (dukha samudya).

• If desire is conquered, all sorrow is won over (dukha nirodha).

• Desire can be conquered by following the eightfold path (ashtangirka marg).

• The eight-fold path involves right understanding, right resolve, right speech, right action, right living, right effort, right mindfulness/thought, and right self-concentration.

Tri ratnas in Buddhism

• The tri ratnas are Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha.

• Buddha means the highest spiritual potential in every human being.

Dhamma refers to the teachings of Buddha.

Sangha is the organisation of the monks practising Buddhism.

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