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Jainism: Symbol and significances of one of the oldest religion



One of the oldest religion of the world is Jainism. The history talks about 24 teachers and the later revivers of the belief known as Tirthankars. Rishabh is believed to be the first one while Mahavir is the last one. Jainism is derived from the word Jina (conqueror) referring to a human being who has conquered inner enemies like attachment, desire, anger, pride, greed, etc. and possesses infinite knowledge (Kevala Gyana).


It is to be noted that there are certain symbols that are frequently associated with the belief of Jainism. In this article, we will discuss about these symbols in detail. It's a relatively new symbol but unanimously chosen as the emblem of Jainism. In 1974, on the auspicious 2500th anniversary of the nirvana of the last Jain Tirthankara, Mahavira, the Jain community at large collectively chose one image as an emblem to be the main identifying symbol for Jainism. The Jain emblem is composed of many sub-symbols. The outline of the image represents the universe as described in Jain Agamas consisting of 3 Lokas. The upper portion indicates heaven, the middle portion indicates the material world and the lower portion indicates hell.


To be noted that these are eight auspicious symbols Swastika, Shrivasta (an auspicious sign on the chest), Nandhyavarta (complex swastika), Vardhamanaka, Bhadrasana (a holy seat), Kalasha (Holy pitcher), Minyugala (Fish-couple) and Darpana (Mirror). They have been auspicious since time immemorial and have been depicted in the Kalpasutra. According to the scriptures every Jain has to draw them with pure un-broken rice-grains before the icon of the Tirthankar. Some have reduced this custom to the drawing of a swastika, along with three heaps of rice-grain symbolising knowledge, vision and character.