Essay on the Influence of Jainism in India

The influence of Jainism gradually spread to the western parts of India. Under the leader­ship of Bhadrabahu a number of monks also went to the south owing to ad­verse conditions caused by famine in the north. Possibly it was the subsequent differences in ascetic practices which led to a split in the Church, dividing it into its two main sections, the Digambaras and the Svetambara. This division affected both the monks and laity.

The Power of Influence |

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The basic religious principles remained the same for both, but they differed among themselves on minor dogmas, mytho­logical details, and ascetic practices. However, the fundamental philosophical doctrines of Jainism have remained the same, unlike those of Buddhism which went on changing from school to school.

The ruling classes and the mercantile community were often attracted by the rigorous asceticism and religious life of the Jaina monks and adopted the Jaina way of life. In the south, during the early medieval period, royal dynas­ties such as the Ganges, Kadambas, Chalukyas, and Rashtrakutas patronized Jainism.


Some of the Rashtrakuta kings were zealous Jainas, and they heralded an Augustan age in the south, in literature, art, and architecture, to which the Jaina contributions have been of classical significance.

In Gujarat patronage came from wealthy merchants rather than from the rulers. Under the Chaulukya King Kumarapala (1142-73), however, Jainism saw glorious days in Gujarat. A new era of literary activity started under the leadership of the Jaina scholar Hemachandra and other teachers and scholars. Ministers such as Vastupala constructed magnificent temples in marble.

Later, Akbar highly honoured the Jaina teacher, Hlravijaya; and some of the Mughal rulers issued fireman’s prohibiting the slaughter of animals during the Jaina festival of Pajjusana in all those places where the Jainas lived. Prominent Jaina families in Delhi and Ahmedabad built excellent Jaina temples and had influence in the Mughal Court.

Jaina laymen also played an important part in the political activities of Rajastmin during the Mughal period. Even during the period of the East India Company Jaina families like the Jagatseths and Singhls acted as state bankers, and naturally wielded great influence in society.


Jainism has all along instilled a religious zeal among its votaries, the con­crete expression of which is seen all over the country in works of art and architecture: statues, free-standing pillars (mdnastambha), caves, and temples.

The 57-foot-high statue of Gommatesvara at Sravana Belgola in Mysore, erected in about 983 or 984 by the Ganga minister Chamundaraya, is a marvel of its kind; and it is imitated in many places even to this day. The temples at Mount Abu and those at Palithana in Gujarat and Moundbird and Karkal in the south make a rich contribution to the Indian heritage.

Language is just a means to an end which, according to Jainism, is one’s own spiritual advancement coupled with the welfare of humanity. Obviously, therefore, Jainism has not invested any particular language with religious sanctity. Mahavira preached in ArdhamagadhI, possibly a mixed contem­porary Prakrit dialect: and hence the language of the Jaina canonical texts is designated by that name.

Jaina authors used Sanskrit for polemic and literary works, according to the need of the times. Besides these two, Jaina contribu­tions to the literature in Prakrit including Apabhramsa, Old Hindi, Old Gujarat!, etc. are quite striking. Jaina authors were among the pioneers in cultivating Tamil and Kannada and in enriching the early literature in these languages. Jaina literature is not only religious but also embraces many secular branches of learning including mathematics and astronomy.

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