In about 300 BC, the first Jain council was held where differences among the Jains arose. As a result, Jains were divided into two groups: Svetambara and Digambara.
Division of Jainism: Svetambara and Digambara
This sect of Jainism was led by Sthulabhadra who was based in Magadha. The Shvetambaras wore white cloth and covered their mouth with a small white cloth to avoid the killing of the smallest germ which may enter their nose while breathing. They fasted but did not believe in extreme penance and austerity.
The sect was led by Bhadrabahu. They did not believe in covering their body as living without clothes show detachment from worldly pleasures. They were the orthodox followers of Mahavira and kept fasts and lived an extremely austere life.
Impact of Jainism
- Jains did not build any political empire of their own.
- It encouraged equality among the people as the Jains rejected the caste system and rituals.
- Important contributions were made in literature by the Jain monks. Jain literature included 12 upangas, 10 prakiranas, sutras, and mulasutras. Purvas contained the teachings of Mahavira. These texts are also important sources of the period from the 6th to 4th century BC.
- Many monasteries and temples were constructed by the Jains. They had constructed many dharamshalas, homes for orphans, and supported charitable organizations. The structures of the Bahubali at Shravanabelagola, Dilwara temples at Mt Abu, and Jain Tower at Chittor are some fine specimens of Jain architecture.
Decline of Jainism
Jainism declined because of the following reasons:
- Some principles of Jainism were extremely difficult to follow. The theory on non-violence extended even to the insects and germs which was not possible for every person to follow. Similarly, the theory of ahimsa extended even to the wearing of clothes.
- Jainism did not spread to foreign countries.
- Later, even in India, because of the patronage given to Buddhism by Ashoka, Harsha, and Kanishka, the spread of Jainism was restricted.
- The revival of Hinduism in the Gupta Period led to a further decline in Jainism, and it was restricted to only a few parts of the country.