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Jains are divided into two major sects; the Digambara (meaning "sky clad") sect and the Svetambara (meaning "white clad") sect. Each of these sects is also divided into subgroups.


  Jainism Caste System...

Two major sects

The two sects agree on the basics of Jainism, but disagree on:

  • details of the life of Mahavira,
  • the spiritual status of women,
  • whether monks should wear clothes,
  • rituals,
  • which texts should be accepted as scripture.

The Digambara sect is more austere, and is closer in its ways to the Jains at the time of Mahavira.

* Basic differences

Both groups accept the basic Jain philosophy and the five basic vows. The philosophical differences between the groups mostly affect monks and nuns, or the very pious.

* Scripture:

Digambaras and Svetambaras disagree as to which books constitute Jain scripture.

* Women:

Digambaras believe that women cannot achieve liberation without first being reborn as a man.
This is because:

  • women cannot live a truly ascetic life, because they have to possess clothes since it is impractical for them to live naked
  • women are intrinsically harmful

* Jinas:

Digambaras believe that the Jinas:

  • have no bodily functions
  • live without food
  • do not act in the world

* Dress and possessons:

Digambara monks live completely naked. This is because Digambaras believe that one can only lead the life of a true monk:

  • by having no worldly possessions
  • by demonstrating indifference to earthly emotions such as shame
    Svetambara monks are allowed to wear simple white clothes.
    Nuns of both groups are clothed
    Digambara monks are not allowed any possessions, not even begging bowls and so can only receive gifts in their cupped hands.
    Svetambara monks can have a few possessions, e.g.
  • simple white clothing
  • a begging bowl
  • a brush to remove insects from their path
  • books and writing materials

* Images:

Digambara images of tirthankaras have downcast eyes.
Svetambara images have prominent staring eyes.
Digambara images are plain (and always carved as naked figures)
Svetambara images are richly decorated .

* Worship :

Terapanth Digambara worship is simpler than Svetambara worship

* The origin of the two sects

Some writers say Jainism split in the first century CE, but others say the division happened in the third century BCE. There are several stories about what actually happened, but the root causes included:
  • disputes over which of the teachings attributed to Mahavira were the true ones (as the teachings were not written down for centuries after his death there was no definitive text to refer to)
  • disagreements as to how the teachings which were accepted as genuine should be interpreted
  • different cultural conditions in different areas, which led to geographical differences in the philosophy
  • different interpretations of Jainism by local religious



Is Jainism an offshoot of Hinduism ?
The answer will be an emphatic NO. Nevertheless, we Jains imitate and adopt ideas, customs


The name Digambara means literally 'clothed in the quarters of the sky' and they are called 'atmosphere-clad' or 'sky-clad'

Two major sects

Jains are divided into two sects the Digambara and Svetambara.

Women-Jain Traditions

Liberation of women and gender equality is not the bedrock of Jainism.