History of Jainism concerns a religion founded in Ancient India. Jains trace their history through twenty-four tirthankara and revere Rishabhanatha as the first tirthankara (in the present time-cycle). The last two tirthankara, the 23rd tirthankara Parshvanatha (c. 872 – c. 772 BCE) and the 24th tirthankara Mahavira (c. 599 – c. 527 BCE)[4] are considered historical figures, though many historians date them both about a century later because the Mahavira is widely accepted as a contemporary of the Buddha, and significantly more historical evidence is available for the Buddha. According to Jain texts, the 22nd Tirthankara Arshth-nemi lived about 85,000 years ago and was the cousin of Hindu god Krishna. Jains consider their religion to be eternal.

The two main sects of Jainism, the Digambara and the Śvētāmbara sect, likely started forming about the 3rd century BCE and the schism was complete by about 5th century CE. These sects later subdivided into several sub-sects such as Sthānakavāsī and Terapanthis. Jainism co-existed with Buddhism and Hinduism in ancient and medieval India. Many of its historic temples were built near the Buddhist and Hindu temples in 1st millennium CE. After the 12th-century, the temples, pilgrimage and naked ascetic tradition of Jainism suffered persecution during the Muslim rule, with the exception of Akbar whose religious tolerance and support for Jainism led to a temporary ban on animal killing during the Jain religious festival of Paryusan.

The origins of Jainism are obscure. The Jains claim their religion to be eternal, and consider Rishabhanatha to be the founder in the present time-cycle, and someone who lived for 8,400,000 purva years. Rishabhanatha is the first tirthankar among the 24 Tirthankaras who are considered to be mythical figure by historians.
Birth of  Mahavira

Different scholars have had different views on the origin. Some artifacts found in the Indus Valley civilization have been suggested as a link to ancient Jain culture, but this is highly speculative. According to a 1925 proposal of Glasenapp, Jainism's origin can be traced to the 23rd Tirthankara Parshvanatha, and he considers the first twenty-two tirthankaras as legendary mythical figures. According to another proposal by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the first vice president of India, Jainism was in existence long before the Vedas were composed.
Jain texts and tradition believes in 24 Tirthankaras, only the last two are generally acknowledged by historians to be based on historical figures who lived in the 1st millennium BCE. In Buddhist sources, Mahavira is not mentioned as a founder of new tradition, but as part of an ascetic Nirgranthas (without knot) tradition. This has led scholars to conclude that Mahavira was not the founder, but a reformer of tradition already established by his predecessor Parsvanatha.

24th Tirthankara
Vardhamana Mahavira

Mahavira, also known as Vardhamāna, was the twenty-fourth Tirthankara (ford-maker) of Jainism. In the Jain tradition, it is believed that Mahavira was born in the early part of the 6th century BC into a royal kshatriya family in what is now Bihar, India. At the age of 30 he abandoned all worldly possessions and left home in pursuit of spiritual awakening, eventually becoming an ascetic. For the next 12 years, Mahavira practiced intense meditation and severe austerities, after which he is believed to have attained Kevala Jnana (omniscience). He preached for 30 years and is believed by Jains to have died in the 6th century BC, though the year varies by the Jain sect. Scholars such as Karl Potter consider his biographical details as uncertain, with some suggesting he lived in the 5th century BC contemporaneously with the Buddha. Mahavira attained nirvana at the age of 72 and his remains were cremated.

After he gained Kevala Jnana, Mahavira taught that observing the vows ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (chastity), and aparigraha (non-attachment) is the basic necessity for spiritual liberation. He gave the principle of Anekantavada (many-sided reality), Syadvada and Nayavada. The teachings of Mahavira were compiled by Indrabhuti Gautama (his chief disciple) and were called Jain Agamas. These texts were transmitted through oral tradition by Jain monks, but are believed to have been largely lost by about the 1st century when they were first written down. The surviving versions of the Agamas taught by Mahavira are some of the foundational texts of Jainism.

Mahavira is usually depicted in a sitting or standing meditative posture with the symbol of a lion beneath him. The earliest iconography for Mahavira is from archaeological sites in the north Indian city of Mathura. These are variously dated from the 1st century BC to the 2nd century AD. The day he was born is celebrated as Mahavir Janma-Kalyanak (popularly known as Mahavir Jayanti) and the day of his nirvana is observed by Jains as Diwali.

Though it is universally accepted by scholars of Jainism that Mahavira was an actual person who lived in ancient India, the details of his biography and the year of his birth are uncertain, and continue to be a subject of considerable debate among scholars. Digambara text, Uttarapurāna mention that Mahavira was born at Kundpur kingdom of Videh. and Svetambara text, Kalpasūtra use the name Kundagrama. It is said to be located in present-day Bihar, India. This is assumed to be the modern town of Basu Kund, which is about 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of Patna, the capital of Bihar. However, it is unclear if the ancient Kundagrama is the same as the current assumed location, and the birthplace remains a subject of dispute. Mahavira renounced all his material wealth and left his home when he was twenty-eight by some accounts, or thirty by others, then lived an ascetic life and performed severe austerities for twelve years, and thereafter preached Jainism for a period of thirty years. The location where he preached has been a subject of historic disagreement between the two major sub-traditions of Jainism – the Svetambaras and the Digambaras.

The Jain Śvētāmbara tradition believes he was born in 599 BC and died in 527 BC, while the Digambara tradition believes 510 BC was the year he died. The scholarly controversy arises from efforts to date him and the Buddha, because both are believed to be contemporaries according to Buddhist and Jain texts, and because, unlike for Jain literature, there is extensive ancient Buddhist literature that has survived. Almost all Indologists and historians, state Dundas and others, accordingly date Mahavira's birth to about 497 BC and his death to about 425 BC. However, the Vira era tradition that started in 527 BC and places Mahavira in the 6th century BC is a firmly established part of the Jain community tradition.

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