Listing Glossary Terms 1 to 20 (out of 58)


There are three worlds in traditional Jain cosmology. The middle world is where human beings and animals live, and sits between the upper and the lower worlds.


In Jain cosmology, one of the Lands of Action or karma-bhūmi in the first continent, Jambū-dvīpa, in the middle world of humans. Mahā-videha consists of 32 provinces between the Niṣadha and the Nīla mountain ranges. Thanks to the repetitive nature of Jain cosmology, there are also two Mahā-videhas on each of the continents of Dhātakīkhaṇḍa and Puṣkara-dvīpa.


The five vows taken by ascetics. Monks and nuns must follow these ‘absolute’ vows of:

  • non-violence – ahiṃsā
  • truth – satya
  • taking only what is given – asteya
  • celibacy – brahmacarya
  • non-attachment or non-possession – aparigraha.

The 24th Jina Mahāvīra added a fifth vow to his predecessor Pārśva's four, making the vow of celibacy not just implicit but a separate vow.


One of the major works of Indian literature, this epic poem revolves around a legendary battle between two camps within the same family, the Pāṇḍavas and the Kauravas. Fusing Jain values into the story, Jain versions of the Mahābhārata also include biographies of the 22nd Jina Neminātha or Lord Nemi and his cousin Kṛṣṇa, who is identified with the Hindu god. The Jain Mahābhāratas cast the leading figure of Kṛṣṇa and other characters in the tale as some of the 'great men' of Jain Universal History.


The spectacular Digambara ritual in which an enormous statue of Bāhubali is anointed at the head with a number of substances symbolising his spiritual progress towards omniscience. This takes place roughly every 12 years, with the largest, most famous ceremony at Śravaṇa Beḷgoḷa in Karnataka.


Bordering on the Arabian Sea, Māhārāṣṭra in central India is the third-largest and the richest state in India. Its capital is Mumbai and the official language is Marathi.

Māhārāṣṭrī Prākrit

A dialect of the Prākrit language used in some Jain writings.

Mahattarā Yākinī

A legendary woman who is said to have been the muse of the eighth-century teacher and scholar Haribhadra.

Mahāvīr Jayantī

Birth anniversary of Mahāvīra, which usually takes place in March or April. A significant event in the Jain religious calendar, it is the only Jain festival officially recognised by the Indian government.


The 24th Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is yellow and his emblem the lion. Mahāvīra or 'the great hero' is his title. His birth name was Vardhamāna, meaning 'ever increasing'. His existence is historically documented but the two main sects of Digambara and Śvetāmbara Jains have slight differences in their accounts of his life.


The mas’ or three types of food and drink forbidden to a Jain:

  • madhu or honey
  • madya or alcohol
  • māṃsa or meat.
Makkhali Gośāla

An enemy of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. The Śvetāmbaras claim Gośāla was Mahāvīra's disciple, who later joined the Ājīvka mendicants and battled with Mahāvīra. The Digambaras say he was a follower of Pārśva, the 23rd Jina, who wanted to become Mahāvīra's chief disciple. When he was rejected he set up his own mendicant community spreading the teachings of the Ājīvka movement.


The 19th Jina of the present age. There is no historical evidence of his existence.

Śvetāmbara Jains believe Mallī was a woman – the only female Jina – and often spell her name with ī, indicating feminine gender. However, Digambaras hold that Malli was a man, like all the other Jinas.

For Śvetāmbaras, her symbolic colour is dark blue whereas for Digambara Jains it is golden. Both sects believe Mallinatha's emblem is the water pot – kalaśa.


'Pride pillar'. A type of free-standing monolithic pillar typically found alone or at the entrance of Jain temples, especially Digambara temples.


Telepathy. The fourth of the five types of knowledge - jñāna - by which one has direct access to others’ minds. Humans in advanced states of spiritual development gain this kind of knowledge.


From the Sanskrit for 'circle', a maṇḍala is a geometric design that symbolises the spiritual universe. It is used in religious rituals and to help meditation.


The hall of a Jain temple. Creating an approach to the inner shrine, the temple hall usually has columns and ritual equipment. It may display idols if the temple belongs to a murti-pujaka sect. The hall is where the congregation gathers for rituals of worship, to hear sermons and readings of sacred texts and to sing hymns and perform dances.


A disciple of Mahāvīra and a member of his gaṇadhara, he came from a brahmin family.


A Sanskrit word for anything that brings good luck or well-being in any way. It can be an object or a phrase.


A sacred sound, syllable, word or phrase that is believed to produce spiritual change if recited correctly. A mantra can be recited aloud or silently, and is often repeated. Mantras are closely associated with religions that originated in India, such as Hinduism and Buddhism as well as Jainism. The chief Jain mantra is the Namaskāra-mantra, which is recited daily, while another mantra very popular in Indian culture generally is Auṃ.

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