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Jainism (or the religion of Jina) is an ancient faith that was founded in East India in the 6th century B.C.

Jainism teaches the succession of the 24 Jinas (Jina means "conqueror" or "those who overcome") and Jains believe that the first of the 24 was a giant that lived over eight million years ago and the last was Mahavira, the founder of the religion.

Jainism emerged from a protest movement against some of the principles and rituals of Hinduism. Jainism rejects the caste system in particular.

Mahavira (the Great Hero) left behind a life of luxury to practice extreme asceticism. This lifestyle involved always sweeping the path where he walked in order not to disturb any living thing, begging for food, remaining naked in inclimate weather and not allowing himself to resist pain. According to Mahavira this sort of rigid asceticism was the only means by which to achieve enlightenment, attain Nirvana (salvation and liberation from reincarnation) and escape the punishing cycle of life and death.

When Mahavira eventually achieved Nirvana he formed a brotherhood of monks and all took vows of celibacy, nudity, self-mortification, and fasting.

These days Jains aren’t quite so radical with their practices. They believe that the path to salvation involves generosity, charity and the occasional monastic retreat.

Many Jains adhere to five principles of living:

-         Satya – always speaking the truth

-         Aparigraha – avoiding over-indulgence

-         Brahma-charya – remaining monogamous

-         Asteya – rejecting thievery

-         Ahimsa – embracing mental, verbal and physical non-violence