How is Lord Mahavir the founder of Jainism despite being the 24th Tirthankara?!

A very fair question and Jainism is thus eternal. Mahavir Swami is the 24th Tirthankara of the present time-cycle, which begins with Lord Rishabh Dev as the first Tirthankara.

How is Lord Mahavir the founder of Jainism despite being the 24th Tirthankara

Existence of Jainism

When Mahavir Swami took initiation, the followers of Lord Parshvanatha (23rd Tirthankara) including Jain monks and nuns were very numerous, indicating that Jainism had not faded away and was in existence. (In case of some of the earlier Tirthankaras the time gap between the two Tirthankaras was too long and Jainism faded in between; this was especially so after the 9th Tirthankara, but the time gap between Lord Parshvanath and Lord Mahavir Swami It was around 250 years and therefore Jainism was in existence when Mahavir Swami took initiation.)

In one of the Jain scriptures (Antagada Sutras) the term ‘Adikaranan’ (meaning one who begins) is used for Mahavira Swami, implying that he was the founder of Jainism.

How is he called the founder of Jainism when Jainism existed before him?

The answer to the question is very simple. The word founder is used because he re-established Jainism. Each Tirthankara is said to be the founder of Jainism; Not because they establish a new religion (Jainism), but because they re-establish Jainism according to the need of the hour keeping the basic principles the same.

conversion to jainism

At the time of Lord Parshvanath, Jainism was Chaturyam Dharma with four Mahavratas (Satya, Ahimsa, Acharya and Aparigraha). Mahavir Swami made it ‘Panch-Mahavrat Dharma’ by adding celibacy to the four Mahavratas told by Lord Parshvanath. But there was no change in the basic principles. Earlier celibacy was a part of Aparigraha Vrat because woman was also considered as Parigraha. To lay greater emphasis on celibacy, it was added as a separate vow by Mahavir Swami. This is just one example. Similarly, other changes were introduced in the practice of Jainism. (Such changes are always made due to the changing scenario)

In this way, Mahavir Swami re-established or re-introduced Jainism by making some changes according to the need of the time. Therefore, he (like all other Tirthankaras) is called the founder of Jainism.


Hello friends, I am “Swati Jain” and i'm graduated in journalism from Mumbai University. I like to write essays and articles on Indian history, accomplishments and achievements. You will see all my articles are about curiosity around India.

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