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The life of Mahavir, the most recent of twenty-four tirthankaras or jinas, is traditionally located between 599 and 527 B.C.E. in northern India and marks the historical beginning of the tradition. By 310 B.C.E., two distinct sects had emerged.
Schisms and Sects
Two primary sects, the Digambara (sky clad), and Svetembara (white clad), have held differing positions on the nature of attachment and violence, and have composed their own scriptures from the time of their split in the 4th century B.C.E.
Missions and Expansion
Jainism is not a missionary tradition. From its beginnings in northern India the tradition spread to what is now Karnataka in the south of India in the 4th century B.C.E. More recently the development of a Jain diaspora has entailed various adaptations.
Exploration and Conquest
The principle of non-violence entails that Jainism has been a religion of neither conquest nor exploration. Jains, however, have been persecuted by those around them. In particular, the Digambar sect's nudity has not always been properly understood nor well received.
There are now approximately eight million Jains worldwide, mostly in India. A concern over political identity in relation to the Hindu majority has spurred a bid for Minority Status with the Supreme Court. The growing Jain diaspora reveals various adaptations in practice and philosophy.
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