Jainism originated in India, sometime between 7th-5th century BCE. After Mahavira broke the bonds of karma and achieved moksha, his senior disciples took over leadership of the movement, which then numbered in several hundred thousand. By 5th century CE, Jains were an influential force in India. But by the 12th century CE, Jainism was beginning to decline, as the rise of other religions, particularly Hinduism and Islam, led to Jains being mainly concentrated in northwestern India, where Mahavira had taught. However, in 3rd century BCE, a prolonged famine in what is now Bihar in northeast India drove twelve thousand monks to Southern India. After twelve years, they returned to Northern India, where they found that major changes had been introduced to the tradition by the monks who had remained in the area. The disagreements between the two groups led to a split- the religion now remains in both Northern and Southern India. The influence of Jainism was later overshadowed by the growing popularity of devotional bhakti ways in India, but the tradition never died out. More than 98% of the 8 million Jains in the world today live in India, mainly in the provinces of Gujarat and Maharashtra.

The centers of Jainism in India today, where Jains constitute 2-7% of the population.


Gujarat, India


Maharashtra, India

Until recently, little has been known about Jainism outside of India. Even within India, it is practiced by a small minority. Early descriptions of Jainism by Westerners were extremely negative, accusing the religion of having an “empty heart,” as it has no personal savior or Creator God. But now, interest in Jainism has revived as a complete and fruitful path to enlightenment, gaining more influence within our global community. The two largest Jain communities outside of India are in the United Kingdom and the United States, due in part to immigration and the rise of social media, which have promoted the spread of the religion. Approximately 150,00 Jains live in the United States, to date, with the remaining 30,00 living in the United Kingdom. Regional Jain Congregations in the United States are shown in the map below. sp9

Map of Jain Congregations in the United States

I found an article on “Huffington Post”that highlights the lives of young Jains in America: how they practice their religion and live in modern-day society. I thought it was interesting to see the faith presented, outside of India, in the context of Western culture. Click the link below to check it out!

Photo citations:

Jain Congregations in the United States. Photograph.

Centers of Jainism Today. Photograph.

Maharashtra. Photograph.

Gujarat. Photograph.



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