No religion in the World has explained the principle of Ahiṃsā so deeply and systematically as is discussed with its applicability in every human life in Jainism. As and when the benevolent principle of Ahiṃsā or non-violence will be ascribed for practice by the people of the world to achieve their end of life in this world and beyond, Jainism is sure to have the uppermost status and Mahāvīra is sure to be respected as the greatest authority on Ahiṃsā.
Jainism and Hinduism influenced each other. Jain texts declare some of the Hindu gods as blood relatives of legendary tirthankara. Neminatha, the 22nd tirthankara for Example is presented as a cousin of Krishna in Jain Puranas and other texts. However, Jain scholars such as Haribhadra also wrote satires about Hindu gods, mocking them with novel outrageous stories where the gods misbehave and act unethically. The Hindu gods are presented by some Jain Writers as persecuting, tempting, afraid of, or serving a legendary Jina before he gains omniscience. In other stories, one or more Jinas easily defeat the Hindu deities such as Vishnu, or Rama and Sita who come to pay respect to a Jina at a major Jain pilgrimage site such as Mount Satrunjaya.
The British colonial government in India, as well as Indian princely states, passed laws that made monks roaming naked in streets a crime, one that led to arrest. This law particularly impacted the Digambara monks. The Akhil Bharatiya Jaina Samaj opposed this law, and argued that it interfered with the religious rights of Jains. Acharya Shantisagar entered Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1927, but was forced to cover his body. He then led an India-wide tour as the naked monk with his followers, to various Digambara sacred sites, and was welcomed by kings of the Maharashtra provinces. Shantisagar fasted to oppose the restrictions imposed on Digambara monks by the British Raj and prompted their discontinuance. The colonial era laws that banned naked monks remained effective through World War II, but they were abolished by independent India after it gained independence.
Some early colonial scholars stated that Jainism like Buddhism was, in part, a rejection of the caste system in Hinduism. Later scholars, such as Gombrich state that this notion is an error for which "mainly Western authors are responsible". A caste system has been a historic part of Jain society. According to Vilas Adinath Sangave, "caste system is a universal feature of the Jaina community", and the focus of Jainism has been the spiritual liberation of the individual rather than social reforms. According to Padamnath Jaini, the 8th-century Digambara scholar Jinasena stated that Jain king Bharata, the son of first tirthankara named Rishabhanatha, invented the caste system by performing the ahiṃsā (non-violence) test, with Jain Brahmins being those who followed the non-violence precept.
Outside contemporary India, Jain communities built temples in locations such as Nagarparkar, Sindh (Pakistan). However, according to a UNESCO tentative world heritage site application, Nagarparkar was not a "major religious centre or a place of pilgrimage" for Jainism, but it was once an important cultural landscape before "the last remaining Jain community left the area in 1947 at Partition".
In 1974, on the 2500th anniversary of the nirvana of Mahāvīra, the Jain community chose one image as an emblem to be the main identifying symbol for Jainism. The overall shape depicts the three loka ("realms of rebirth") of Jain cosmology i.e., heaven, human world and hell. The semi-circular topmost portion symbolizes Siddhashila, which is a zone beyond the three realms. The Jain swastika is present in the top portion, and the symbol of Ahiṃsā in the lower portion. At the bottom of the emblem is the Jain mantra, Parasparopagraho Jīvānām. According to Vilas Sangave, the mantra means "all life is bound together by mutual support and interdependence". According to Anne Vallely, this mantra is from sūtra 5.21 of Umaswati's Tattvarthasūtra, and it means "souls render Service to one another".
According to a Shaivite legend, an alleged massacre of 8,000 Jain monks happened in the 7th-century which is claimed for the first time in an 11th-century Tamil language text of Nambiyandar Nambi on Sampantar. This event is considered doubtful because it is not mentioned in texts of Campantar, nor any other Hindu or Jain texts for four centuries. K. A. Nilakanta Sastri states that the story is "little more than an unpleasant legend and cannot be treated as history". Lingayatism, a tradition championed by Basava, is alleged to have converted numerous Jains to their new movement and destroyed various Jain temples in north Karnataka.
Mahāvīra and Buddha are generally accepted as contemporaries (circa 5th century BCE). The interaction between Jainism and Buddhism began with the Buddha. Buddhist texts refer to Mahāvīra as Nigantha Nataputta.
Followers of the path practised by the Jinas are known as Jains. The majority of Jains currently reside in India. With four to five million followers worldwide, Jainism is relatively small compared to major world religions. Jains form 0.37% of India's population. Most of them are concentrated in the states of Maharashtra (1.4 million in 2011, 31.46% of Indian Jains), Rajasthan (13.97%), Gujarat (13.02%) and Madhya Pradesh (12.74%). Karnataka (9.89%), Uttar Pradesh (4.79%), Delhi (3.73%) and Tamil Nadu (2.01%) also have significant Jain populations. Outside India, Jain communities can be found in Europe, the United States, Canada and Kenya.
A large number of ayagapata, votive tablets for offerings and the worship of tīrthankara, were excavated from Kankali Tila, Mathura. These sculptures date from the 2nd century BCE to the 12th century CE.
Royal patronage has been a key factor in the growth as well as the decline of Jainism. The Pallava King Mahendravarman I (600–630 CE) converted from Jainism to Shaivism under the influence of Appar. His work Mattavilasa Prahasana ridicules certain Shaiva sects and the Buddhists and also expresses contempt towards Jain Ascetics. Sambandar converted the contemporary Pandya king to Shaivism. During the 11th century, Basava, a minister to the Jain King Bijjala, succeeded in converting numerous Jains to the Lingayat Shaivite sect. The Lingayats destroyed various temples belonging to Jains and adapted them to their use. The Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana (c. 1108–1152 CE) became a follower of the Vaishnava sect under the influence of Ramanuja, after which Vaishnavism grew rapidly in what is now Karnataka.
In Jainism, jnāna ("knowledge") is said to be of five kinds—Kevala Jnana ("Omniscience"), Śrutu Jñāna ("Scriptural Knowledge"), Mati Jñāna ("Sensory Knowledge"), Avadhi Jñāna ("Clairvoyance"), and Manah prayāya Jñāna ("Telepathy"). According to the Jain text Tattvartha sūtra, the first two are indirect knowledge and the remaining three are direct knowledge.
According to the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS-4) conducted in 2015-16, Jains form the wealthiest community in India. Jains have the highest literacy rate (87%) in India, in the 7-years to oldest age group, according to its 2011 census. The Jaina community also has the highest number of college graduates. Excluding the retired senior citizens, Jain literacy rate in India exceeded 97%. The female to male child sex ratio in the 0-6 year age was second lowest for Jains (870 girls per 1,000 boys), higher than Sikhs in India. Further, Jain males have the highest work participation rates, while Jain females have the lowest work participation rates in India.
According to the Jain tradition, an araha ("worthy one") speaks meaning that is then converted into sūtra (sutta) by his disciples, and from such sūtras emerge the doctrine. The creation and transmission of the Agama is the work of disciples in Jainism. These texts, historically for Jains, have represented the truths uttered by their tirthankaras, particularly the Mahāvīra. In every cycle of Jain cosmology, twenty-four tirthankaras appear and so do the Jain scriptures for that ara. The spoken scriptural language is believed to be Ardhamagadhi by the Śvētāmbara Jains, and a form of sonic resonance by the Digambara Jains. These then become coded into duvala samgagani pidaga (twelve limbed baskets by disciples), but transmitted orally. In the 980th year after Mahāvīra's death (~5th century CE), the texts were written down for the first time by the Council of Valabhi.
Digambar tradition has two main monastic orders Mula Sangh and the Kashtha Sangh, both led by Bhattarakas. Other notable monastic orders include the Digambara Terapanth which emerged in the 17th century. Śvētāmbaras have their own sanghs, but unlike Digambaras which have had predominantly sadhu sanghs (male monastic organizations), they have major sadhu and sadhvi sanghs (monks and nuns).