Around the same time as the Buddha was teaching his dharma, another religious tradition was being established in the same region. Vardhamana, better known by his title Mahavira (great hero), was an elder contemporary of the Buddha. The two had much in common: both were kshatriyas of royal descent and went through prolonged and rigorous discipline after renouncing the worldly life ; both rejected caste barriers and questioned the sacredness of the Vedas.
Jainism Teaches The Theme of Self-Conquest
The very word jaina is derived from jina or conqueror.
Carrying the idea of self-conquest to its extreme, Jainism has become the world's most rigorously ascetic faith. God has no place in this system. The popular gods of Hinduism are accepted, but they are placed lower than the jinas, who are regarded as truly deserving worship.
Mahavira Swami- The Preacher of Jainism
Mahavira, though usually accepted as the founder of the faith in the context of history, is said to be the last of a line of 24 jinas. All of them are said to have attained perfect wisdom (kaivalya) by vanquishing their desires and breaking their bonds with the material world. The jinas are also referred to as the Tirthankaras (fordmakers or crossing-makers). The crossing refers to the passage from the material to the spiritual realm, from bondage to freedom.
Jainism not only rejects the notion of a Personal God which is assumed by most religions, but also the ideas of a single impersonal Absolute Reality. It regards each living being as an independent jiva (soul). In its mundane condition, the soul is permeated by material particles through the working of karma.
To attain liberation, a double process is necessary: the incursion of new karma particles must be stopped, and those that have already tainted the soul must be expelled. This is possible only through right faith, right knowledgeand right conduct: the tri-ratna (three jewels) of Jainism.
Right conduct implies the rejection of falsehood, theft, lust, greed and violence. of these five sins, violence is the most heinous. The highest virtue is the total abjuration of any thought or action which can hurt a living being. Ahimsa paramo dharma ; non-violence is the supreme religion - this Jain motto was adopted by Mahatma Gandhi in the modern age to lead the non-violent struggle for independence.
Digambaras and Svetambaras -- Categories of Jainism
Jainism is divided into two sects; the Digambaras (sky clad) and the Svetambaras (white clad).
The Digambaras believe that Jains should be naked, or sky clad, to emulate Mahaviras way of life, that is, complete abandonment of material wealth and to exercise absolute non violence.
However, but this dictum is sometimes carried to extreme limits by Digambaras, who are often seen with their nose and mouth covered by a fine cloth mask to ensure that they do not involuntarily kill germs while breathing.
The Svetambaras, on the other hand, wear white clothes and are moderate in their approach to Jainism.
The greatest glory of Jain religious art lies in temple architecture, particularly at Ranakpur and Mount Abu in Rajasthan.
The birthday of Vardhmana Mahavira is celebrated without any pomp or ceremony in quiet prayer.
This festival marks the liberation of Mahavira from the cycle of life and death. Celebrated 10 days after the Hindu festival of Diwali, Deep Diwali too is a festival of lights which are used to illumnate the world after the passing of the 'light of the world' (that is, Mahavira). The display at Mount Girnar near Junagadh is quite splendid.
Anointing of Gomateshwara
A 57m tall statue of Gomateshwara, son of the first Tirthankara, Rishabha, stands in Shravana Belgola in Karnataka. The Mastakabhisheka festival (anointment ceremony) is held every 15 years when the statue is bathed in 16 traditional precious substances which include milk, saffron and ghee (clarified butter), silver, gold and gems.