Ahimsa in Jainism is a fundamental principle forming the cornerstone of its ethics and doctrine. The term "ahimsa" means “non-violence”, “non-injury” or absence of desire to harm any life forms. Vegetarianism and other non-violent practices and rituals of Jains flow from the principle of Ahiṃsā. According to Adian Rankin, the concept of Ahimsa is so much intertwined with Jainism that it conjures up images of ascetics who cover their mouths and sweep the ground before them with small brushes to avoid injuring the most minuscule forms of life and Jain-owned animal sanctuaries where even the sickest, most deformed birds and beasts are protected and cherished. These overt manifestations of an ancient faith challenge the comfortable - and near-universal - assumption of human precedence over other creatures.

The Jain concept of Ahiṃsā is quite different from the concept of non-violence found in other philosophies. In other religious traditions, violence is usually associated with causing harm to others. On the other hand, in Jainism, violence refers primarily to injuring one's own self – behavior which inhibits the souls own ability to attain mokṣa or liberation. At the same time it also means violence to others because it is this tendency to harm others that ultimately harms ones own soul. Furthermore, the Jains have extended the concept of Ahiṃsā not only to humans but to all animals, plants, micro-organisms and all beings having life or life potential. All life is sacred and everyone has a right to live fearlessly to its maximum potential. The living beings do not have any fear from those who have taken the vow of Ahiṃsā. According to Jainism, protection of life, also known as abhayadānam, is the supreme charity that a person can make.

Ahimsa does not merely indicate absence of physical violence, but also indicates absence of desire to indulge in any sort of violence. This Jain ideal of Ahiṃsā profoundly influenced Mahatma Gandhi, through his friendship with the Jain scholar Shrimad Rajchandra that it formed a basis of his satyagraha (truth struggle) against colonial rule and caused him to rethink many aspects of contemporary Hindu practices.While Jainism is not a proselytizing religion and as such has no organised system of advocating its doctrine, Jains have been forefront in strongly advocating vegetarianism and non-violence through ages. Ahiṃsā being central to the Jain philosophy, Jain Ācāryas have produced, through ages, quite elaborate and detailed doctrinal materials concerning its various aspects.

Jain vegetarianism

Jain vegetarianism is the diet of the Jains, the followers of Jainism. It is the most strict form of religiously-motivated diet regulation in the Indian subcontinent. The diet not only excludes meat, fish and eggs, but also does not include potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots and other roots and tubers.

Jain objections to the eating of meat and fish are based on the principle of nonviolence (ahimsa, literally "non-injuring"). Every act by which a person directly or indirectly supports killing or injury is seen as violence (himsa), which creates harmful karma. The aim of ahimsa is to prevent the accumulation of such karma. The extent to which this intention is put into effect varies greatly among Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. Jains consider nonviolence to be the most essential religious duty for everyone (ahinsā paramo dharmaḥ, a statement often inscribed on Jain temples). It is an indispensable condition for liberation from the cycle of reincarnation, which is the ultimate goal of all Jain activities.

Jains share this goal with Hindus and Buddhists, but their approach is particularly rigorous and comprehensive. Their scrupulous and thorough way of applying nonviolence to everyday activities, and especially to food, shapes their entire lives and is the most significant hallmark of Jain identity.A side effect of this strict discipline is the exercise of asceticism, which is strongly encouraged in Jainism for lay people as well as for monks and nuns.

Specific Rules for Jain vegetarianism

  • Night Meals are forbidden because of the many creatures that come out at night and which may be accidentally killed due to poor lighting or attraction to fire.

  • Freshness: Food must be prepared fresh daily. Keeping cooked food overnight is forbidden. Ground spices have an expiry of 3 days during rain, 5 days in summer and 7 days in winter.

  • Vegetarianism: Traditionally Jains have been lacto-vegetarians, but modern dairy farming methods, particularly what happens to the male calves (the veal market) has caused many to pursue a vegan diet eating no animal products.

  • Water is filtered through three layers of cotton cloth before use for cooking or drinking. Water should be boiled and cooled before drinking to avoid illness caused by micro-organisms. Illness is thought to engender intolerance.

  • Root Vegetables: (potatoes, carrots, turnips) are forbidden because uprooting a plant kills it (non-violence) and because many tiny creatures may inhabit roots.

  • Beansprouts are prohibited because they are living and eating them kills the whole plant.

  • Cereal Grains are permitted.

  • Fruits: Most are permitted but fruits that bleed milky sap when cut, Jackfruit, for instance, are forbidden. Many Jains avoid fruits that have a red meat-like appearance (tomatoes, watermelon).

  • Vegetable Greens are considered marginal because plucking them involves pain to the plant. Most Jains consider greens acceptable but cabbages and other greens where the whole top is cut and the plant thus killed are forbidden.

  • Mushrooms, Fungus and Yeasts are forbidden because they are parasites, grow in non-hygienic environments and may harbor other life forms.

  • Honey is forbidden as the excrement of bees.

  • Eggs are forbidden as progeny of five-sensed beings.

  • Cheese and Yogurt are permissible (for non vegan Jains) but must be freshly prepared on the day they are eaten and no animal rennet may be used to make them. Vegetable and Microbial rennet is acceptable but in strict practice only acid coagulated fresh cheese will fit the same day rule. The previous day's yogurt may not be use as a starter the next day.

  • Vinegar is forbidden, it's a product of fermentation (yeast to alcohol then bacterial to vinegar).

  • Alcohol is forbidden because it may destroy the power of discrimination, create delusions and result in ill health. Also alcoholic beverages are considered non-vegetarian because of FDA allowed additives, some of which are of animal origin.

  • Onions, Garlic, Scallions, Chives and Leeks fall under the category of "roots" the pulling of which kills the whole plant so they are forbidden.

  • Silver Foils common in India as decoration on sweets are banned because the foils are pounded out between layers of bull intestine and are therefor not vegetarian.


In Jainism, a Tirthankar : “Fordmaker or Propagator“; also Tirthankara or Jina) is a human being who achieves enlightenment (perfect knowledge) through asceticism and who then becomes a role-model teacher for those seeking spiritual guidance.

A Tirthankar is a special sort arihant, who establishes the fourfold religious order consisting of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen after achieving omniscience. After achieving enlightenment, a Tirthankar shows others the path to enlightenment. At the end of his human life- span, a Tirthankar achieves liberation (‘moksh’ or nirvan’), ending the cycle of infinite births and deaths. Jains believe that exactly twenty four Tirthankars are born in each half cycle of time in this part of the universe.

As Tirthankars direct us to enlightenment, their statues are worshipped in Jain temples by Jains aspiring to achieve enlightenment. Tirthankars are not God or gods. Jainism does not believe in the existence of God in the sense of a creator, but in godss as beings, superior to humans but, nevertheless, not fully enlightened. Twenty-one of the Tirthakaras are said to have attained Moksha in the Kayotsarga (standing mediation) posture; Rishabha, Nemi; and Mahavira on the padmasana (lotus throne poisture).

The 24 Tirthankaraswho achieved liberation (‘moksha’ or nirvana’), ending the cycle of infinite births and deaths, are considered to be the creator of Jain religion. They are divine elements of Jainism. They have attained all the achievement of ultimate nature including the ultimate knowledge after making vigirous efforts.

Tirthankar Heaven Birthplace Parents Symbol
Rishabha (Adinath) Sarvartha-siddha Vinittanagari;
Asthapad Mt.
& Marudevi
Bull or Ox (Bell)
Ajitnath Vijaya-vimana Ayodhya; Sammed Shikharji Jitashatru
& Vijaya devi
Elephant (Haathi)
Sambhavnath Uvari-magraiveka Shravasti; Sammed Shikhari Jitari
& Susena mata
Horse (Ghoda)
Abhinandannath Jayanta-vimana Ayodhya; Sammed Shikharji Samvar raja
& Siddhartha devi
Monkey (Bandar)
Sumatinath Jayanta-vimana Ayodhya; Sammed Shikharji Meghaprabha
& Sumangala
Curlew or
Red Goose (kronch pakshi)
Padmaprabhu Uvari-magraiveka Kaushambi; Sammed Shikharji Dharan
& Sushima devi
Lotus (Kamal)
Suparshvanath Madhya-magraiveka Varanasi; Sammed Shikharji Pratishthasen
& Pruthvi devi
Chandraprabhu Vijayanta Chandrapura; Sammed Shikharji Mahasena raja
& Sulakshana
Moon (Chandrama)
Pushpadanta Anata-devaloka Kakandi-nagari; Sammed Shikharji Sugriva raja
& Rama rani
Croc-odile (Magar Macch)
Sheetalnath Achyuta-devaloka Bhadrapura or Bhadilapura; Sammed Shikharji Dridharatha-raja
& Sunanda
Kalpa-vriksha or ficus religiosa
Shreyansnath Achyuta-devaloka Simhapuri; Sammed Shikharji Vishnu raja
& Venu devi
Rhino-ceros (Genda)
Vasupujya Pranata-devaloka Champapuri; Sammed Shikharji Vasupujya
& Vijaya
female buffalo (Bhaisa)
Vimalnath Mahasara-devaloka Kampilyapura; Sammed Shikharji Kritavarma raja
& Suramya devi
Anantnath Pranata-devaloka Ayodhya; Sammed Shikharji Simhasena
& Suyasah
or Sujasa
Falcon ( Baaj)
Dharmanath Vijaya-vimana Ratnapuri;
Sammed Shikharji
Bhanu raja
& Suvrita
Vajra (Thunderbolt)
Shantinath Sarvartha-siddha Gajapura or Hastinapuri; Sammed Shikharji Visvasena
& Achira
Deer (Hiran)
Kunthunath Sarvartha-siddha Gajapura or Hastinapuri;
Sammed Shikharji
& Srirani
He-Goat (Bakra)
Arahnath Sarvartha-siddha Gajapura or Hastinapuri;
Sammed Shikharji
& Mitrasena Devi
Fish (Machali)
Mallinath Jayanta-devaloka Mithila; Sammed Shikharji Kumbharaja
& Prabhavati
Jar (Kalash)
Munisuvrata Aparajita-devaloka Rajgriha; Sammed Shikharji Sumitra raja
& Padmavati
Tortoise (Kachua)
Naminath Pranata-devaloka Mithila; Sammed Shikharji Vijaya raja
& Vipra rani
Blue Water Lily or Blue Lotus (Hara Kamal)
Neminath Aparajita Sauryapura;
Mount Girnar (Girnarji)
Samudra vijaya
& Shiva devi
Conch (Shankh)
Parshvanath Pranata-devaloka Varanasi; Sammed Shikharji Asvasena
& Vamadevi
Snake (Naag)
Mahaveera Pranata-devaloka Kundalpur or Chitrakuta;
Siddhartha (Sreyansa or
& Trishala (Vidchadinna
or Priyakarini)
Lion (Sih)