This table contains all the major events and key periods in the history of Jainism.

Main events and periods in Jainism



No historical evidence allowing dating

Lives of Jinas 1 to 22 – Ṛṣabha to Nemi

10th to 9th century BCE

Life of Pārśva, the 23rd Jina (circa 950850 BCE)
According to tradition, he lived 250 years before Mahāvīra

599—527 BCE

Śvetāmbara – traditional dating of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina

582—510 BCE

Digambara – traditional dating of Mahāvīra, reformer of Jainism

497—425 BCE

Modern scholarly dates of Mahāvīra, based on the dating of Buddha’s death as either 411 or 400 CE. Buddha’s traditional dates are 563–483 BCE
It is known that:

  • Mahāvīra and Buddha were contemporaries
  • Mahāvīra died before Buddha
  • Mahāvīra lived for 72 years.

Magadha – present-day Bihar – is the geographical heart of Jainism

527 BCE

515 BCE

Mahāvīra’s first disciple, Indrabhūti Gautama reaches final emancipation, 12 years after Mahāvīra

503 BCE

Mahāvīra’s last chief-disciple – gaṇadharaSudharman attains liberation 24 years after Mahāvīra, according to tradition
All Śvetāmbara monastic orders trace their origin back to him

463 BCE

According to tradition, Sudharman’s disciple Jambū, first ‘elder’ in the lineage of Mahāvīra, reaches final emancipation 64 years after the death of Mahāvīra

4th to 3rd century BCE

Probable beginning of discussions, perhaps centring on clothing and nudity, which progressively led to the ‘hardening of boundaries’ (Dundas 2002: 49) between Śvetāmbara and Digambara sects

367 BCE

According to tradition, the Maurya emperor, Candragupta, accompanies the Jain teacher Bhadrabāhu in his migration south, to present-day Karnataka

352 or 348 BCE

  • Śvetāmbarafirst recitation of scriptures in Pāṭaliputra under the supervision of Sthūlabhadra, 160 years after the death of Mahāvīra
  • Death of Bhadrabāhu:
    • Śvetāmbara – 175 years after Mahāvīra
    • Digambara – 162 years after Mahāvīra

3rd to 2nd century BCE

In Magadha, Emperor Aśoka converts to Buddhism. Jains start migrating from eastern India, centre of his power, to:

  • north-west, Delhi and Mathurā regions
  • south and west, Saurashtra and Gujarat
  • east coast, Kalinga – present-day Orissa
  • and south India.

3rd century BCE to 6th century CE

Inscriptions in Tamil language and Brāhmī script in caves and on rocks testify to the significant presence of Digambara Jain mendicants in the area corresponding to present Tamil Nadu.

2rd century BCE to 3rd century CE

Mathurā, in present-day Uttar Pradesh, emerges as a Jain centre, confirmed by inscriptions of mendicant lineages and images of Jinas wearing half-garments.

1st century BCE to 1st century CE

King Khāravela of Kalinga appears to have been a strong supporter of Jainism, judging from the famous Hāthīgumphā inscription at Udayagiri in Orissa.

2nd century CE

Digambara – the period when the main religious scriptures were written down

4th century CE

Śvetāmbara – collective recitation of scriptures took place in:

  • Mathurā under the leadership of Skandilācārya
  • Valabhī under the leadership of Nāgārjuna.

4th to 5th century CE

Possible dating for the Digambara thinker Kundakunda, although traditional dating puts him earlier, in the 2nd to 3rd centuries CE.

5th century CE


  • collective recitation of scriptures at Valabhī, led by Devarddhigaṇi Kṣamāśramaṇa
  • all the surviving scriptures were put in writing in 456 or 466 at Valabhī, forming the ‘canonical scriptures’, all written in Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit.

This marks the final split between the Śvetāmbara and Digambara sects.

  • The Tattvārtha-sūtra is written in Sanskrit by Umāsvātī / Umāsvāmin and is the main Jain book of fundamental thought recognised both by Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras
  • Traditional dating of the thinker Siddhasena Divākara, recognised by Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras

6th to 8th centuries

Period of intense intellectual life and production of writings, both in Prakrit and Sanskrit.
In particular, period of philosophical debates between Digambara Jain thinkers such as Akalaṅka and Samantabhadra and Buddhist thought represented by Dharmakīrti

7th to 8th century

  • Jainism in Tamil Nadu faces hard times confronted by resurgent Hinduism
  • possible dating of the Śvetāmbara monk and writer Haribhadra

9th to 10th century


  • Jainism revives in Tamil Nadu, demonstrated by epigraphy, carved rocks and temple complexes
  • Jains become prominent in Karnataka society under the Ganga dynasty
  • Jains erect the colossal statue of Bāhubali at Shravana Belgola in 981

11th to 12th century

  • Śvetāmbara Jains become prominent in Gujarat under the Caulukya royal dynasty, represented by King Jayasiṃha Siddharāja and King Kumārapāla. Examples include:
    • Jain monastic presence at the royal court through the Jain monk Hemacandra (1089–1172)
    • expansion of religious architecture and Jain holy sites, such as Mount Abu, Mount Shatrunjaya and Taranga
  • New Śvetāmbara monastic orders – gacchas – arise, such as Kharatara-gaccha and Tapā-gaccha.
  • Earliest available Jain manuscripts date back to this period, written on palm leaves

13th to 14th century

  • Complicated relations between Jains and the Muslim power in north India and Gujarat:
    • despoliations and desecrations of Jain temples and images, or reconversions of sites
    • Jain merchants and notables have influence at the Muslim courts
  • Paper becomes the usual material for Jain manuscripts written in western and northern India, although palm leaf continues to be used in the south

15th century

  • Digambara Jain communities play significant roles in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, especially Gwalior. The institution of the bhaṭṭārakas flourishes.
  • Loṅkā Śāh leads critical questioning of temple- and image-worship, eventually leading to the rise of the Loṅkā-gaccha.

16th century

  • Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjaka monks – Hīravijaya-sūri and Jinacandra-sūri are prominent at the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, and obtain privileges for the Jain communities
  • Digambara – several key figures such as Banārasīdās and Tāraṇ Svāmī favour meditation, mysticism and mental religious practice over a ritualistic approach, and question the institution of the bhaṭṭārakas.

17th century

  • First traces of the monastic order known as Sthānaka-vāsin, founded by monks who broke away from the Loṅkā-gaccha
  • Birth of the Digambara Terāpanthin monastic order in north India, which rejects the institution of the bhaṭṭārakas and certain temple rituals.

18th to 19th century

  • The Śvetāmbara Terāpanthin monastic order is founded by Ācārya Bhikṣu after splitting from the Sthānakvāsin order.
  • British officers in India, such as Colebrooke and Mackenzie, and other Westerners slowly discover the importance of Jains as a living faith and as one of the oldest Indian traditions

19th century

  • Digambara monastic orders decline sharply
  • Jain mystic and reformer Śrīmad Rājacandra (1867–1901)
  • Systematic search for manuscripts is undertaken in India and large numbers of Jain manuscripts from western India reach European libraries
  • Jainism is established as a tradition distinct both from Buddhism and Hinduism by the German scholar Hermann Jacobi in 1879
  • Jainism is first represented at World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 by Virchand Raghav Gandhi
  • Jain merchant communities migrate to east and southern Africa in search of new economic opportunities

20th century

  • Digambara – the tradition of naked monks slowly revives, but the institution of bhaṭṭārakas declines
  • Śvetāmbaramonastic communities expand
  • Both Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras establish organisations for lay communities as well as Jain educational institutions.
  • Terāpanthin leader Ācārya Tulsī founds the non-sectarian Aṇuvrat movement in 1949
  • In post-Independence India, Jainism is recognised as a distinct faith but has no special constitutional status

1970s to 1980s

  • Celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of Mahāvīra’s nirvāṇa in 1974
  • Restrictive racial policies in east Africa force Jain communities to emigrate to UK and USA, where they organise themselves:
    • Federation of Jain Associations in North America (JAINA) established in 1981
    • Institute of Jainology (IoJ) established in London in 1983
    • Jain Declaration on Nature, 1990

21st century

  • Celebration of the 26th birth centenary year of Mahāvīra in 2001 to 2002
  • Rising question of whether Jains should have the constitutional status of a religious minority in India:
    • this decision given to the individual states in 2005
    • New Delhi city government grants constitutional status in 2008
  • Celebration of the Great Anointing festival of Bāhubali at Shravana Belgola in 2006
  • one of the leading Jain Śvetāmbara mendicants, Muni Jambūvijaya, dies on 12 November 2009
  • the tenth leader of the Terāpanthin monastic order, Ācārya Mahāprajña, dies on 9 May 2010
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