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Jainism - Origin

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Intuitionist logic to KabbalahJainism - Origin, Canonical Texts, Doctrine, Contemporary Jainism, Bibliography

Origin

Jainism first emerged into historical visibility in the sixth century B.C.E. when it was one among many religious movements of the period that stressed world renunciation and rejected the religious culture and ritualism of the Brahman priestly class. Western scholars often single out Mahavira (who lived, according to Shvetambara tradition, from c. 599–527 B.C.E.) as Jainism's founder. The Jains, however, maintain that Jainism's teachings are eternal and uncreated, and consider Mahavira to have been only the most recent of an infinite series of great Jain teachers. In fact, although Jainism's roots predate Mahavira, he played a key role in defining doctrines and practices that became central to Jainism as it evolved. Viable monastic communities with lay followings formed and grew after Mahavira's death. Patronized mainly by newly emerging urban classes (especially merchants) Jainism spread in two directions from its region of origin in the Ganges River basin: down India's eastern coast into the south and westward in the direction of Mathura. The division between the Svetambaras and Digambaras crystallized in the fifth century C.E. The south ultimately became the heartland of the Digambaras; there they flourished and found royal patronage, especially in Karnataka. The Shvetambaras became prominent in the west, especially in what is now Gujarat and Rajasthan.

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