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Scholars trace the beginning of Jainism to the 6th century B.C.E. in northern India, one of several shramanic movements there that arose in response to Vedism. Insiders to the tradition, however, consider it to be eternal.


Jainism is a renunciant movement that developed in reaction to the Vedic ritualism of pre-6th century B.C.E. India. This turn toward meditative asceticism is seen also in the Hindu Upanishads and in the development of Buddhism, both contemporaries of Jainism.


Twenty-four identical tirthankaras (ford-crossers), or jinas (victors), have taught and will continue to teach Jain dharma for all eternity. Though often mistakenly considered a founder by outsiders, Mahavira is rather the most recent of the series of twenty-four.

Sacred Texts

Two extensive canons exist, as the Digambara and Svetambara sects each developed their own scriptures. Scriptures are not understood to be divinely revealed but rather eternally existent truths that individual souls may access through correct viewpoint, knowledge, and conduct.

Historical Perspectives

Traditional studies of Jain karma theory, meditation, cosmology, and scripture have expanded in recent years to include scholarship on lay devotion, Jain political identity in relation to the Hindu majority in India, and the maintenance and adaptation of Jain values in diaspora.