book review

A Multicultural Book about Gandhi, Jainism and more!

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Do you know who influenced and inspired Mahatma Gandhi into using nonviolence when dealing with the fight for India’s freedom from British rule ?

Did you know that Gandhi inspired Martin Luther King Jr. in using non-violence in bringing equal rights for African-Americans?

Can you imagine bringing justice, equality, and peace to the world without using violence?

Today I’m sharing a book which shares such a message. Mahavira: The Hero of Nonviolence by Manoj Jain and illustrated by Demi tells the remarkable story of a young prince who renounced his wealth and power to become a wandering monk and leader of the Jain religion.


Mahavira imagined a world where no one gets hurt, a world where no one is teased or bullied, a world where there is no fear or anger.

Today, more than 2,500 years later, over 10 million Jains follow Mahavira’s example.

Mahavira: The Hero of Nonviolence is brought to life in exquisite detail by award-winning illustrator Demi.  I especially love Demi’s details and her use of color and gold. Simply stunning.

Though I had heard of Jainism throughout my travels until I read Mahavira I didn’t know any details about the religion or what they believed in. Mahavira: The Hero of Nonviolence is a perfect beginning book into the world of the Jains. The front section of the book tells the story of Mahavira himself. The story then moves seamlessly and simply into what Jains believe. The word usage and difficulty is appropriate for the age group which is for ages 6 and up. This is a beautiful and captivating book which is a brilliant introduction to one of the worlds oldest religions.

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This money goes towards postage and supplies to keep books and ideas in the hands of young readers!

Something To Do


What do the Jains believe ?

There is no supreme creator god in Jainism. Instead Jains believe as do the Buddhists and Hindus in a cycle of birth and rebirth. This cycle is influenced by the effects of good and bad deeds and ones attitudes. This is accomplished by following ‘The Jewels’ of Jain belief and ethics.

The Jewels of Belief are:

  • The first belief is nonviolence or love. It is not to cause harm to any living being. It is to have love and compassion for all living things. Avoiding anger and practicing forgiveness are essential.
  • The second belief is non-absolutism. One is to tolerate and accept another person’s view, to keep an open mind.
  • The third belief is non-possessiveness or detachment. It is to separate true needs from false desires. Avoid greediness and be generous and charitable.

Did You Know….

  • Jainism is one of the world’s oldest religions, with its original roots in India?
  • Mahavira lived at the same time as the Buddha during the 6th century?
  • There are 10 million Jains in the world?
  • There are 125,000 Jains in the United States?
  • Jains who are inspired by the example of Mahavira, live a life of compassion and forgiveness?
  • Jains are vegetarian?
  • Green !!! That’s right, Jains practice a sustainability and are custodians of the earth?


Discussion Questions:

1. Have you come across any of these rules in other religions or cultures you’ve studied ? Which ones ? Where are they located on the planet?

2. Remember or imagine a difficult situation such as bullying, hitting, grabbing a toy, stealing, unkindness, cheating etc. Write a short paragraph or two about a non-violent solution to this problem. Share your solution with others such as classmates, friends, or family.

3. It is important to Jains to avoid violence in the work place. List 3 professions a Jain could choose that would be good for them and their Jain practices. List 3 professions which wouldn’t be good for a Jain to choose and why.

Snakes and Ladders

Did you know the game of Snakes and Ladders originated in India? There are HIndu, Muslim, and Jain versions of the game. The Jains call their version of the game “Gyanbaji” which means “Game of Knowledge’.

Look at the photo of Snakes and Ladders. It is made up of 84 numbered squares. Each square represents a steps and progress in one’s life. The words on each square point out good and bad traits and conduct along with the consequences for them.

Snakes and Ladders Jain Version

The ladders are linked to good behavior and the snakes are linked to bad.

1. Count the snakes and then the ladders. Why do you think there are more snakes than ladders ?

The pavilion at the top of the game represents the heavens. Jains believe all people should aspire or work to go to heaven.

Below is a template for you to make up your own version of Snakes and Ladders.

  • Using ‘Jain’ rules, think of five actions which would cause a player to ascend a ladder and eight actions that would cause a player to go down a snake.
  • You can also design a Snakes and Ladders game using study habits, school rules, house rules, chores and rewards, society rules and morales, your own religious values and beliefs.
  • Or you can simply use the numbers, dice and some markers such as paperclips or coins.

Rules to Snakes and Ladders

  • Decide which player is going first.
  • Roll the dice.
  • Move the counter or marker
  • If you land on a snake you go down it and if you land on a ladder you go up it.
  • When you get to the top you’re the winner.

snakesandladders template

A Little Celebration

On the day of Mahavira’s death, Jains celebrate the festival of Diwali eating tasty sweets and singing religious songs. They also visit family and friends and exchange gifts. For a further look at the celebration of Diwali, have a look here.

Don’t forget to grab your FREE copy of my Read Your World Multicultural Booklists and Activities for Kids.

Read Your World Multicultural Booklist and Activities for Kids

4 thoughts on “A Multicultural Book about Gandhi, Jainism and more!

  1. I had NO idea this book existed!! I am Jain!!
    You have no idea what it means for me to see this book. So many of our stories are told in this old folktale books which are so dry and preachy. I am buying this book now! I can’t wait to show this to the teachers at Patshala (Sunday school) at our local temple.

  2. I want to learn more about Jainism. I will have to get my hands on a copy of this book! Thanks for sharing at the Multicultural Children’s Book Day Linky!

  3. Wow.. I have played this game when I was a kid. Thanks for the nostalgia, your post gave. The book looks wonderful. I need to check for my kids.

    1. It’s such a beautiful book and I really like that a game I played in childhood has taken on new meaning. Hope you enjoy it !!

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