The word Jainism comes from the Sanskrit word for saint "jinah" which dreives from "Jayati" meaning "he conquers" - thus they are conquers of mortal bondage.

Along with Hinduism and Buddhism, Jainism is one of the three most ancient of India's religions still in existence. Although Jainism has [fewer] followers than Hinduism and Sikhism it has had an influence on Indian culture for over 2,500 years, making significant contributions in philosophy, logic, art and architecture, grammar, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, and literature.

Lord Mahavira is regarded as the last of a line of 24 holy and spiritually enlightened beings, the Tirthankaras. Mahavira was born in India in 599 BC. At the age of thirty he gave up his life as a wealthy prince and became a religious asceti. He was a reformer and propagator of the religion.

Jainism is a religion of love and compassion above all else. Jains believe that the universe is eternal. They believe in the eternity of the soul. There are thought to be multitudes of souls or life-modas, which are all independent and eternal.

Practicing the ideals of Jainism results in the souls getting lighter in color and rising to the that of a universal being. The goal of the Jains is to achieve liberation and then to float like a bubble to the ceiling of the universe. Present estimates of the number of Jains worldwide range as high as six million or more.

Jainism is a religion and philosophy of India, founded in about the 6th century BC by Vardhamana, who is known as Mahavira ("Great Hero")--the 24th of the Tirthankaras ("Ford-makers"), Jinas ("Conquerors"; whence the name Jainism), the great religious figures on whose example the religion is centred--in protest against the orthodox Vedic (early Hindu) ritualistic cult of the period; its earliest proponents may have belonged to a sect that rebelled against the idea and practice of taking life prevalent in the Vedic animal sacrifice.

Jainism, which does not espouse belief in a creator god, has as its ethical core the doctrine of ahimsa, or noninjury to all living creatures, and as its religious ideal the perfection of man's nature, to be achieved predominantly through the monastic and ascetic life.


According to Jains their faith is eternal and has been revealed through the successive ages of the world by the Tirthankaras, each of whom attained perfection and absolute freedom and then preached Jainism to the world. The first Tirthankara, Rsabha, is thus the traditional founder of Jainism, but though his name occurs in the Vedas and the Puranas very little else is known of him; nor is there historical evidence of the other Tirthankaras until Parsva, the 23rd in the line, who is thought to have died in the late 8th century BC.

The actual and historical founder of Jainism was Mahavira, who was born c. 599 BC near Patna in what is now Bihar state. His father was a ruling Kshatriya (the second of the four Hindu social classes), chief of the Nata clan. Mahavira was an elder contemporary of Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) and is referred to in Buddhist writings as Nataputra ("Son of the Nata").

When he was about 28 years of age he took up the life of an ascetic. After years of hardship and meditation he attained enlightenment; thereafter he preached Jainism for about 30 years and died at Pava (also in Bihar) in 527 BC. Pava has been, since then, one of the chief places of Jain pilgrimage; Dewali, the Hindu New Year festival, is a day of great pilgrimage for Mahavira.

Jainism has never been torn by philosophic dispute, but from the beginning it was subject to schismatic movements. In the 4th or 3rd century BC the Jains began to split into two sects on points of rules and regulations for monks, a rift which was complete at least by the end of the 1st century AD.

The Digambaras ("Sky-clad"; i.e., naked) hold that an adherent should own nothing, not even clothes. They also believe that salvation is not possible for women. The Svetambaras ("White-robed") differ from them on these points.


According to the Svetambaras, the sacred literature preserved orally since Mahavira was systematized and written down by a council convened about the end of the 4th century BC, but it is generally agreed that it was not given its present shape until some 800 years later (ad 454 or 467).

The Svetambara canon (agama) consists of 45 texts: 11 Angas ("Parts")--a 12th, the Drstivada, is not extant--12 Upangas (subsidiary texts), 4 Mula-sutras (basic texts), 6 Cheda-sutras (concerned with discipline), 2 Culika-sutras (appendix texts), and 10 Prakirnakas (mixed, assorted texts). Digambaras give canonical status to two principal works in Prakrit: the Karmaprabhrta ("Chapters on Karman") and the Kasayaprabhrta ("Chapters on Kasayas") and accord great respect to several other works and commentaries.


Jain metaphysics is a dualistic system dividing the universe into two ultimate and independent categories: soul or living substance (jiva), which permeates natural forces such as wind and fire as well as plants, animals, and human beings; and non-soul, or inanimate substance (ajiva), which includes space, time, and matter.

The next most important concept is that of karma, which, in contrast to the more abstract Hindu-Buddhist conception of the principle, is regarded in Jainism as a substance, subtle and invisible, yet material, which flows into and clogs the jiva, causing the bondage of life and transmigration.

This inflow can be stopped by many lives of penance and disciplined conduct, resulting in the final moksha, or liberation, the ultimate goal of human endeavour. Souls are divided into those that have attained perfection and those still in bondage.


The Jain ethic is a direct consequence of the philosophy of soul and karma. Since the individual's primary duty is the evolution and perfection of his soul and that of his fellow creatures, ahimsa, or the refraining from harming any living being, is the cardinal principle. Jains build asylums and rest houses for old and diseased animals, where they are kept and fed until they die a natural death. The three ideals of samyagdarsana ("right belief"), samyagjnana ("right knowledge"), and samyakcarita ("right conduct") are known as the three jewels, or ratnatraya.

Mythology and Cosmology

Lesser gods are classified into four main groups: bhavanavasis (gods of the house), vyantaras (intermediaries), jyotiskas (luminaries), and vaimanikas (astral gods). These are each subdivided into several groups. Besides these, certain other gods and goddesses are mentioned in various Jaina texts, including several that suggest Hindu influence or borrowing from some common ancient Indian heritage. All these deities are assigned a position subordinate to the Tirthankaras and other liberated souls.

Time is Conceived as Eternal and Formless

The world is infinite and was never created. Space (akasa), all-pervasive and formless, provides accommodation to all objects of the universe and is divided into the space of the universe (lokakasa) and that of the non-universe (a-lokakasa), the latter having no substance in it. Through the centre of the universe runs the region of mobile souls in which all living beings, including men, animals, gods, and devils, live. Above the central region is the upper world of two parts; below it lies the lower world subdivided into seven tiers. The Jains have erected monumental stupas in honour of their saints, and the richness and quality of their architecture and carving in stone have few equals.

Jaina temples generally contain a number of metal images of various types and metal plaques depicting auspicious symbols. Jainism preaches universal tolerance, and its attitude toward other forms of religion is that of noncriticism. It is not competitive and has never cared for the spread of its faith. Among its followers are the traders and merchants of Gujarat and Maharashtra states.


Jiva, according to the Jaina philosophy of India, "living substance," or "souls," as opposed to ajiva (ajiva), or "nonliving substance." Souls are eternal and infinite in number and are not the same as the bodies that they inhabit. In a pure state (mukta-jiva), souls rise to the top of the universe, where they reside with other perfected beings and are never again reborn. Most souls are, however, samsarin, that is, covered with a thin veil of good or bad karma (the effects of past deeds), which is conceived as a kind of matter, accumulated by the emotions in the same way that oil accumulates dust particles.

Jivas are divided according to the number of sense organs that they possess. Men, gods, and demons possess the five sense organs plus reason. Even the four elements (earth, air, water, fire) are inhabited by minute clusters of invisible souls, called nigodas. They belong to the lowest class of jiva, possess only the sense of touch, share common functions such as respiration and nutrition, and experience intense pain. The whole space of the world is said to be packed with nigodas. They are the source of souls to take the place of the infinitesimally small number that have until now been able to attain moksha (moksa), or release from the cycle of rebirths.

Jainism Simplified

Navkar Mantra The most fundamental Jain prayer.
Nav Tattvas Jainism's fundamental concepts.
Jiva The concept of the soul.
GatiState of existence of life.
KalchakraJain time cycle.
Punya and PapGood and bad consequences.
Karma Theory of karma.
Ghati KarmasDestructive karmas.
Aghati Karmas Non-destructive karmas.
LeshyaStates of mind.
BhavnasReflections or meditations.
Asrav Inflow of karma.
SamvarBlocking of the inflow of karma.
NirjaraShedding of karma.
PratikramanJain rituals.
Antiquity of Jainism
Yakshas and YakshiniesLesser Jain deities.

Reference: Premchand B. Gada

Yakshas and Yakahinies

Jains worship idols of Jinas, Tirthankars, who are reverend as supreme beings but as the time passed by Jains also started worshipping many other deities, Yaksas and Yaksinis, in Jain temples.

They are not same as Jina, Arihant, or Tirthankars who have conquered the inner passions while these deities (Yaksas and Yaksinis) are full of passions and are wandering through the cycles of births and death just like us. They are also called shashandevtas, gaurdian deities. They are heavenly beings of Vyantar group who have supernatural powers including changing capabilities of their form and size.

Jains believe that these Yaksas and Yaksinis were appointed by Indra to look after the well beings of Tirthankaras. Therefore, they were always found around Jinas and that has reflected their presence in Jain temples also around the idols of Jinas. They are found in pair of a male (yaksha) and a female (yakshini ). Yaksa usually found on the right side of the Jina idol while yaksini on left side. In the earlier period they were regarded mainly as devotees of Jina but as the time passed by, people started to worship them too.

Not all Yaksa are benevolent, because some can be malevolent. Just as some Yaksa paid homage to Lord mahavira and protected him from some sufferings, Yaksa Sulpani troubled Lord Mahavira in his mediation and inflicted much suffering and similar stories are available where yaksa troubled others too. The residential place (bhavana) of Yaksa is also known as chaitya or ayatana. It could be anywhere, outside the city, on the hill or a mountain, on the tree, by the water reservoir, at the gate of a city, or within a city in a house or a palace. The famous Yaksa Angulimala was living on the tree in the forest and when reformed for a better he had a place at the city gate.

The humans are opportunistic and since Jinas would not reward no matter how sincerely one may worshiop them, Jains looked at yaksas and yaksanis for the immediate returns, and to self serve Jains gave them the places in their temples. Some Yaksa were and are known for bestowing fertility and wealth upon their devotes. Therefore, they had become very popular and their idols had been placed in Jain temples and Jains worship them. Jains offer them different things in favor of boons for children, wealth or freedom from fear, illness or disease.

The earlier scriptures like the Sthanagansutra, Utradhyayansutra, Bhagwatisutra, Tattvarthsutra, Antagadasasaosutra, and Paumacariya have frequent references to the Yaksa. Their reference as Shasandevatas in the Harivamsapurana (783 A.D.) made the beginning of this concept. Among all the yakshas, Manibhadra and Purnabadra yakshas and Bahuputrika yakshini have been the most favored one. Manibhadra and Purnabadra yakshas are mentioned a chief of demigods, Manibhadra of Northern horde and Purnabadra of Southern horde. Bahuputrika (having many sons) is named as one of the queen of Manibhadra. Harivamsapurana also describes the capability of yakshas and yakshnins to pacify the harmful power of rogas, grahas, raksasas, bhutas and pisachas.

The people also believed that they bestow favors to those who worship them and because of that became more popular then Jinas for some. Therefore, the people started worshipping them for materialstic desires which could not be fulfilled by the worship of Vitaraga Jina. Due to this, between tenth and thirteenth centuries A. D.2 yaksha Saarvanubhuti, or Sarvahna and yakshini Cakreshvari, Ambika, Padmavati, and Jvalamalini became so popular that independent cults developed around them. Various temples were erected just to worship them and you can see that even now.

The Jaina works from c. sixth to the tenth century A. D. mention only some of the iconographic features of Yaksharaja (Sarvahna or Sarvanubhuti) and Dharanendra Yaksha and Cakreshvari, Ambika, Padmavati, Yakshi.

The list of twenty-four Yaksa-Yaksi pairs was finalized in about eight-ninth century A. D. as found in Kahavali, Tiloyapannatti (4.934-39), and Pravacanasaroddhara (375-78) while their independent iconographic forms were standarized in c.11th - 12th century A. D. as mentioned in the Nirvankalika, the Trisastisalakapurusacaritra, the Pratisthasara-samgraha, Pratisthasaroddhara, the Pratisthatilaka and acaradinakara and a number of other texts. However, we find much difference between Svetambara and Digambara traditions as to the names and iconographic features of Yaksas and Yaksis. The names and the iconographic features of the majority of the Yaksas and Yaksis bear the influence of the Brahminical and Buddhist gods and goddesses. The Jainas seem to have adopted either the names or the distinct iconographic features, sometimes both, in such cases two.

The original Agamas do not mention about the Jina idol and idol worship, even then for last 2500 years Jains have constructed thousands of excellent temples at tremendous cost and have installed idols to respect the Tithankars. Therefore the idea of idol and idol worship, even that of the Jinas, was anathema to the very spirit and words of the Jinas. But now by erecting and worshipping Yaksas and Yaksinis, and asking for materialistic gains from them, Jains are distracted from spiritual path and digging their own graveyard to false belief (Mithyatva). Jain's aim is to be free from materialistic attachment.

For a moment even if we look at the materialistic gain by their worship then everybody who worships should get it but that does not happen. Therefore, one lives in mithyatva. One should not forget that if at all materialistic gain is attained then that is from maturation of one's own shubh (good karmas). Somadeva might have felt that these sasana-devatas may replace ratherr than being complementary to the Jinas as the object of worship cautioned; anyone who worship them equal to Jina is heading downwards. Asadhara declares that a person with true insight would never worship Yaksas even when beset with great calamities. Because Jains believe that our calamities are our own doing and we should bare down such calamities with calmness to stop the whirlpool of reaction which would do nothing but will bring more calamities. In conclusion in Jainism, the guidlines are set which tell us what is right and wrong, but it is upto every individual to decide which idles to bow down (worship) to and which ones we should just admire.

Some of the Prominent Yakshas and Yakshanis

Chakreshware Devi
She is the dedicated attendant deity of lord Adinath (Rishabhadev). She is also called by another name i.e. Apratichakra. The color of this goddess is golden. Her Vehicle is the eagle. She has eight arms. In her four right hands she holds the blessing mudra, arrow, rope and wheel. In her four left hands she holds the rein, the bow, the protective weapon of Indra and the wheel.

Ambika Devi
She is the dedicated deity of Lord Neminath the 22nd Tirthankara. She is also called Ambai Amba and Amra Kushmandini. Her color is golden and the lion is her vehicle. She has four arms. In her two right hands she carries a mango and in the other a branch of a mango tree. In her one left hand she carries a rein and in the other she hasher two sons.

Padmavati Devi
She is the dedicated deity of Lord Parshvanath, the 23rd Tirthankara. Her color is golden and her vehicle is the snake with a cock's head. She has four arms and her two right hands hold a lotus and a rosary. The two left hands hold a fruit and a rein.

Saraswati Devi
Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, is considered to be the source of all learning. This divine energy is the source of spiritual light, remover of all ignorance and promoter of all knowledge. She is respected and adored by all faiths, worldly persons and saints. She has four arms, one holding a book, the other a rosary and two hands holding a musical instrument Veena. Her seat is a lotus and the peacock is her vehicle representing equanimity in prosperity. In some places it is mentioned that the swan is her vehicle.

Lakshmi Devi
Goddess Lakshmi represents wealth. People worship her as the goddess of wealth, power, money etc. In the upper two hands, she is holding a lotus with an elephant, in the lower right hand a rosary and in the lower left hand a pot.

Manibhadra Dev
Shri Manibhadra is originally a yaksha, worshipped by Indian masses from very old times and his introduction in Jainworship is only a later adaptation. It is an image of six armed yaksha with an elephant as his vehicle.

Ghantakarna Veer
This deity is worshipped for protection and for driving away the evil influence created by lower types of negative energy. His arrow indicates penetration of evil forces. The bow gives forceful momentum to the arrow. His symbol is the bell that resounds to create auspicious sounds in the atmosphere. Sometimes people who are not aware of the facts call him by mistake Ghantakarna Mahavira that creates confusion between Lord Mahavira and Ghantakarna Veer. He is not connected to Lord Mahavir in any way.

Nakoda Bhairava
This is the tutelary deity of Bhairava. This deity is usually found near the entrance of the temple. People from far and near, visit the shrine and make offerings to the deity on fulfillment of their material desires. It is the positive force around the temple.

This deity is in the shape of a mountain. It is the natural positive energy of the mountain Sametshikharji. This energy inspires and guides the believer and the traveler.

Reference: Pramodaben Chitrabhanu