Generally, in various books, magazines articles etc (not only in India where Mahavir Swami and Gautama Buddha preached in 6th century BCE, but in other countries too) it is said that Mahavir Swami and Gautama Buddha were contemporary and Gautama Buddha started Buddhism whereas Jainism was started by Mahavir Swami. It is not true.
Buddhism was started by Gautama Buddha but Jainism was not started by Mahavir Swami. Rather Mahavir Swami was the 24th Teerthankar (Prophet) of Jainism The founder the 1st Teerthankar of Jainism was Rishabh Dev known as Adinath too. Adinath was king and one of his son Muni Bahubali is famous due to his 20 ft idol at Shravanbelgola in Hassan District of Karnataka, India where every 12 years ‘Maha-mastakabhishek’ (head ablution) takes place with great fanfare.
There is one fundamental difference between Rishabh Dev and Mahavir Swami. Rishabh Dev was king but Mahavir Swami renounced kingdom. Other Jain Teerthankars also renounced kingdom (including 22nd Teerthankar Nemi Nath said to be contemporary and cousin of Lord Krishna of Hinduism) but contemporary Jains, who remember Mahavir Swami the most due to closest historicity, understand Jainism through Him in which worldly power (kingship) was given-up for the sake of religion. Other very important aspect of Jainism is ‘Upsarg’ (most horrible persecution & harassment by evil forces / persons) which was faced by 23rd Teerthankar Parshwa Nath which is known to Jains as ‘Kamath ka Upsarg’ (Upsarg by Kamath).
The most important element of Jainism is ‘Ahimsa by Man, Vachan, Karm’ (non-violence by thought, speech and action) but its most effective practice is physical non-violence. Another element of Jainism is more or less similar to Hinduism and this is based on theory of ‘Karma’ (roughly translated as action). Though in Jainism Karma is treated differently than in Hinduism but for this purpose it may be taken same. The concept of Moksha / Nirvana (liberation) and rebirth (immortality of soul) are also there in Jainism as in Hinduism.
One important thing to know about Jainism is that it was started by ‘Kshatriyas’ (warrior class) the Kings as is the case with Buddhism (Gautama Buddha was also a prince) hence its main purpose was to keep the people non-violent in order to maintain peace in the kingdom. The Jains were kings and as late as 2rd century BCE a Jain King Kharwela ruled and conquered about half of India and nearby smaller countries (as given at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kharavela ).
Presently there are less than 1 % Jains in India which as some Jain believe is due to the reason that Mahavir Swami renounced kingdom of earth and embraced kingdom of God which in time drastically reduced the following of Jainism. But it is not true because this kingdom of God was precisely the message of Lord Jesus Christ, followed by billions. I consider Lord Jesus Christ the 25th Teerthankar of Jainism (as Gautam Buddha is consider another avatar of Lord Vishnu in Hinduism) This is for two reasons. First, Lord Jesus Christ furthered the religion of non-violence of Jainism. Second and most important Lord Jesus Christ can complement Jainism by adding the element of compassion born out of love, to it.
Though Jains have been talking about non-violence but they, like Hindus, did not show compassion towards so-called lower castes of Hindu order (especially to so-called untouchables as they were called earlier) and all along Jains have treated these people badly and inhumanly. On the contrary due to this extremely important element of Christianity, the compassion, we find democracy with universal adult franchise in western world (where voting rights have been given also to women, earlier slaves, blacks etc). This is the reason that Christianity is being followed by billions of people, the largest religious following of the world.
Jainism should understand the immense power of compassion born out of love. This is evident from the fact that the hopes of billions of Christians rest on a Person (Lord Jesus Christ) Whose message was rejected in His life time and was left alone (even crowed did not want Him to be freed in place of another sentenced, Barabbas) and Who was crucified on cross as a criminal in the most brutal and humiliating manner (Upsarg as defined in Jainism). This huge Christian following is all the more surprising because Prophets of all other religions were powerful persons like Kings, conquerors etc. But ultimately Christianity has shown that the Kingdom of God (as preached by Lord Jesus Christ on the basis of compassion born out of love) is much more powerful than the kingdom of earth.
When it comes to non-violence there is one very serious deficiency in Christianity. Unlike Jainism it does not believe in physical non-violence which has caused immense unnecessary violence (including mass scale killing of innocent people in civil wars, world wars, other wars, holocaust etc). This is the main reason that Christianity has not been able to spread across the world as it should have been. If Jainism assimilate the most important element of Christianity, the compassion born out love, in it and if Jainism further assimilate the Christian Philosophy (as more or less propounded by Philosopher Emmanuel Kant) then it can take the baton forward in order to bring happiness, peace and prosperity to the mankind through Jainism.
Jainism needs to understand the most important aspect of Christianity that is it suits democracy the most. Lord Jesus Christ was living in Israel / Palestine during Roman empire and he preached Kingdom of God to the people by not confronting the empire but by respecting its authority hence He said that “Give unto Caesar what is owed to Caesar” This is what democracy essentially is where people are supreme through kingdom of God but at the same time respectful of the authority of the State. Unless Western Christian world led by USA understands this fundamental aspect of Christianity (namely State run by people committed to kingdom of God) and unless it does the needful as mentioned below, the central message of Lord Jesus Christ will not reach across the world.
In my coming book which I am writing with title “Lord Jesus Christ the 25 th Teerthankar of Jainism” I will elaborate that how Christianity is impossible without 11 elements namely human rights, democracy, rule of law, physical non-violence, gender equality, anti-usury, dignity of labor, secularism, income parity, meritocracy and responsibility - which all these were preached by Lord Jesus Christ. These suggestions for Christianity should be emulated by Jainism too which will benefit not only Jainism but also the Christianity which I consider to be the most important partner of Jainism in ushering the mankind into non-violent & compassionate society.
In this age of globalization when entire mankind expects to be benefitted by the compassionate message of Lord Jesus Christ it is hoped that Christianity will do the needful as mentioned above and Jainism will also do the same by assimilating in Jainism the message of compassion born out of love, given by Lord Jesus Christ.