Jainism is one of four major religions originated in the Indian sub-continent. It is a contemporaneous religion with Buddhism dated back to 6th century BC. The main principle of this religion is ahimsa that denotes nonviolence. Thus, Jain followers are probably the most nonviolent people in the world.
Jainism believes that the universe and all its substances or entities are eternal. It has no beginning or end with respect to time. The universe runs on its own accord by its own cosmic laws. All the substances change or modify their forms continuously. Nothing can be destroyed or created in the universe. There is no need for someone to create or manage the affairs of the universe. Hence Jainism does not believe in God as a creator, survivor, and destroyer of the universe. Nevertheless, Jainism does believe in God, not as a creator, but as a perfect being. When a person destroys all his karmas, he becomes a liberated soul. He resides in a perfect blissful state in Moksha. He possesses infinite knowledge, infinite vision, infinite power, and infinite bliss. This living being is a God of the Jain religion.
Every living being has the potential to become God. Hence Jain Gods are innumerable and their number is continuously increasing as more living beings attain liberation.
Jains believe that since the beginning of the time every living being, because of its ignorance, is associated with karmas that vary in eight: delusion, knowledge, vision, natural qualities, the sensation of body, body, social standing and life span. The first four karmas are called Ghati karmas because they obscure the natural qualities of the soul. The last four karmas are known as Aghati karmas because they do not affect the qualities of the soul, but they are related to the physical body of the soul. The main purpose of the religion is to remove or destroy these karmas which are attached to the soul and become a liberated soul. Once a person destroys all his Ghati karmas, he will definitely destroy all of his Aghati karmas before his death. No fall back can occur after the destruction of Ghati karmas. While a person is out of Ghati karmas, he is known as Arihant and at the end of his life he also removes Aghati karmas then he becomes Siddha.
The word Jain derives from Jina that means a person who conquers his inner enemies like anger, greed, passion, ego, etc. One who achieves victory over this maliciousness, attains keval jyanan and becomed Ordinary kevali or Tirthankara. Mahavira was the twenty-fourth and last Tirthankara of Jain religion. According to Jain philosophy, all Tirthankaras were born as human beings but they have attained a state of perfection or enlightenment through meditation and self-realization. They are the Gods of Jains. Tirthankaras are also known as Arihants or Jinas.
Jainism existed before Mahavir, and his teachings were based on those of his predecessors. Thus, unlike Buddha, Mahavir was more of a reformer and propagator of an existing religious order than the founder of a new faith. He followed the well-established creed of his predecessor Tirthankara Parshvanath. However, Mahavir did reorganize the philosophical tenets of Jainism to correspond to his times. Mahavir preached five great vows while Parshva preached four great vows.
In the matters of spiritual advancement, as envisioned by Mahavir, both men and women are on an equal footing. The lure of renunciation and liberation attracted women as well. Many women followed Mahavir’s path and renounced the world in search of ultimate happiness.
Jain is divided into two different schools; Digambara (sky clad) and svetambara (white clad). Each of these schools is also divided into subgroups. Both groups accept the basic Jain philosophy and the five basic vows. Digambara is more austere and is closer in its ways to the Jains at the time of Mahavira. They live completely naked and They believe that women cannot achieve liberation without first being reborn as a man for the reason that women cannot live a truly ascetic life, because that they have to possess clothes since it is impractical for them to live naked. Svetambara has a right to wear simple white clothing. They possess a begging bowl, a brush to remove insects in their paths and book and writing materials.
According to the census report of 2011, only 0.36% of the total population of India represents Jain followers which is the 6th community to be designated as a national minority. A majority live in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, however, the influence of Jainism has been far greater on the Indian population than these numbers suggest. Jains can be found in 34 out of 35 states and union territories, with Lakshadweep being the only union territory without Jains.