Jainism is an ancient Indian religion. The name Jainism comes from jina meaning spiritual conqueror or liberator. Its most distinctive doctrine is its belief in ahimsa or non-violence to living things, which has influenced many non-Jains including Mahatma Gandhi.
Jainism does believe in God. When a living being destroys all his karmas, he possesses perfect knowledge, vision and bliss. He becomes omniscient and omnipotent. This living being is a god hence Jain religion believes in many gods. Every living being has a potential to become a god.
There is a four-fold religious 'order'. Monks and Nuns: they practice self control and have given up all desires and earthly possessions to become spiritual practitioners and teachers. Sravaks and Sravikas or lay followers are not required to renounce the world but are expected to discharge household duties by honest means and live a progressive pure life.
Fasting is very common although more often done by women than men. Fasting may take place at any time although most will fast at festivals and holy days.
The type of fasting depends on the individual and ranges from skipping meals to not eating for a day, to fasting for 3-8 full days. Even water drunk must be boiled and consumed in limited quantities between sunrise and sunset.
Worship and Prayers
Prayers are not God focussed instead they recall the great qualities of the Tirthankaras and remind the individual of various teachings.
Jains may worship (puja) at home shrines three times a day - before dawn, at sunset and at night. They may also worship in temples (mandirs) or where there is no temple will meet in homes and hall.
Every day Jains pray their universal prayer, the Navkar-mantra.
Festivals play an important part in Jain life. Parvushan Parv closes the Jain year. Divali the great Hindu festival is also celebrated by Jains as a day of Nirvana of Lord Mahavir (Death Anniversary). In addition Mahavir Jayanti (Birthday of Lord Mahavir) is celebrated.
Food and Diet
Meat, Fish, Eggs, Honey and Figs are forbidden. Strict Jains do not eat root vegetables e.g. potatoes because insects are killed in their harvest and the vegetable itself will have millions of bacteria. Also garlic and onions are forbidden because they increase sexual desires. Ascetics do not eat after sunset or before sunrise and some laity also observe these restrictions.
Dairy products such as milk, curd and ghee (clarified butter) are permitted.
Birth, Death and Marriage
The rites through which a Jain passes are the same as Hindus and it is often Hindu priests who perform these ceremonies. (see section on Hinduism)
Kalp Sutras and a collection of descriptions of gods (Tirthankars) of Jains.
Male and female Jains lead similar lives as their Hindu neighbours with some geographical/regional variations.