Though Jains represent less very less of the Indian population, the contribution of Jainism to Indian culture is considerable. As per the latest Sensus of India 2011, the total number of Jainism is 0.4 Percent of the Indian Population. However, their contribution is incredible. Contribution to Indian Culture includes Literature, Ahimsa, Theory of Karma, Jain Philosophy, Art, Social Reforms and various other contributions.
Contribution of Jainism to Indian Culture
Jain literature is quite extensive. Though the followers of Jainism in India is quite low as compared to other religion, their contribution to language and literature is significant. In fact, Jain writers wrote most of the early Kanada literature and many Tamil works.
Also, Jain scholars wrote some of the oldest books in Hindi and Gujarati. Banarasidasa, a Jain follower wrote Ardha-Kathanaka, which is the first autobiography in the Hindi language. Particularly all the known texts in the Apabharmsha languages are Jain works.
It is also worth mentioning that Hemachandra, Hari Bhadra, Banarasidasa, and Siddha Sena are the famous writers of Jain literature. The chief subjects of Jain writers are religion, philosophy, grammar and mathematic. Jain literature is very vast and full of knowledge. The vernaculars also flourished due to the composition of Jain literature in the dialects.
Non-violence has a very important position in Jain religion. Though the theory of non-violence has been prevalent in India from time immemorial. But it’s being a specific element of Jainism and has special significance. In Indian culture, fasting and non-violence have been momentous, but in Jainism, they reached a high point. Neither any insect, nor animal nor any human being should be injured or hurt either with thought, word or deed. In Jainism, speaking ill of others, false implication, dishonest behavior to others are also includes in violence. It was due to the principle of Ahimsa that with the Passage of time, the vogue of animal sacrifice in the Yajnas weakened and people began disliking animal sacrifice and bloodshed. Owing to the influence of Jainism, people stopped taking meat. Thus the theory of non-violence turned the people into vegetarians.
Theory of Karma
Another important contribution of Jainism to the people of India and its culture is the theory of Karma to Indian culture. The doctrine of Karma was recognized in India even in ancient times but the followers of Jainism made it so simple and scientific that everybody knew its intrinsic value. Good deeds and actions are the only sources of getting salvation from the cycle of births and deaths. The bad deeds of a person are causative factors in his relegation to the next lower birth. Hence, one should always perform good deeds (Sad-Karmas) in order to save oneself from sufferings in life to come. Jainism has also prescribed the right faith, right knowledge and right conduct for the spiritual advancement of an individual. In case, an individual acts on these three principles, he will certainly do good deeds and achieve salvation.
The Jain monks have therefore interpreted the lives and ideals of the Jain Tirthankaras in such a manner that they left a deep impression on Indian society and culture. The theory of Syadvada and the non-existence of God has entirely changed the outlook of society. In Jain philosophy, the living and the non-living come in close contact with each other. Reasoning in Indian philosophy is the contribution of Jainism.
Besides its contribution to religion and philosophy, Jainism has contributed a lot to the development of Art. In Jainism, they stress mush on the construction of temples, stone pillars, and Statues. Therefore, we find several Swetambara and Digambara Jain temples in the country which are fine specimens of architecture. The Jains erect Stupas in honor of their saints which were decorated nicely. Many of these have been excavated at Mathura. The statue of 17.36 m. high Gomateshwar in Sravanbelgola is the finest specimen of sculpture.
Jainism also contributed to the development of painting. The especially use golden and bright colors in their paintings. The Jains also took a keen interest in constructing other buildings, such as high towers, rest houses. Various specimens of Jain architecture were devastated by Muslim invaders but those still extents tell the story of the development of architecture during this period.
Jainism also made several social reforms, and thus contributed to the development of the social structure. The Jains had no faith in the caste system and by their liberal ideologies, they freed the society from orthodox rituals. The Jain Tirthankaras discouraged the masses from the desire of worldly pleasures. They stressed good moral character to achieve Moksha.
Thus, from the above description, it becomes quite clear that though Jainism is not one of the chief religions of India. It is an absolute fact that since the time of its inception, it has never been extinguished from the Indian soil. Thus, the contribution of Jainism to the Indian culture is of great merit.
Jains are among the wealthiest Indians. Also, they establish various hospitals, schools, and colleges. Also, Jain contributes about 24 percent of the total tax collected in India. As compared to their population, the tax contribution is incredible.
Jains encourages their monks to do research and obtain higher education. Due to this, there are many publications of research by Jain monks and nuns, particularly in Rajasthan.
As per the 2001 Religion in India census, Jains are the most literate community in entire India and they preserve various libraries like the libraries at Patan and Jaisalmer.
The Origin of Jainism
The origin of Jainism is very old. We find a reference to Jain Tirthankaras, such as Rishabha and Arishatanemi in Rigvedic mantras. It is believed that Jain religion is the outcome of the teachings of twenty-four Tirthankaras. The origin and teachings of the first twenty-two Tirthankaras are shrouded in obscurity but we have sufficient details about Parshvanath, the twenty-third Tirthankara of Jains.
About the last two Tirthankaras, viz., Parshvanath and Mahavira, we have ample records to prove their historicity. Prof. Jacobi writes that Parshavanath was the real founder of Jainism.
Parshavanath’s wife’s name is Prabhavati. He renounced the world at the age of thirty and become an ascetic. He achieved the highest knowledge (Kalvalya Gyana) after 84 days of meditation. After attaining the highest knowledge he preached Jainism for about seventy years and died at the age of hundred years at the top of the hill known as Parshvanath hill.
Teachings of Parshvanath
We come to know about the teachings of Parshvanath through the Jain literature. He was against performing Yajnas and worshipping Gods or Goddesses. Also, he was against the caste system and did not favor the animal sacrifice. He believed that every individual without any difference of caste or creed could achieve salvation. His main teachings were
The teachings of Parshvanath clearly indicate that Mahavira was not the founder of Jainism because Parshvanath had already given Jainism as an organized form. Also, the existence of Jain Sangha along with various rules for monks and nuns is an indication that Jainism was flourishing even before Lord Mahavira.
Vardhaman Mahavira (Lord Mahavira)
He was born in village Kundagrama of Vaishali (in modem Muzaffarpur district in Bihar) in 599 BC. in a rich Kshatriya family. The name of his father was Siddhartha who was the chief of Jnatrika clan. His mother Trisala was related to the royal families of Vaishali and Magadha. His wife’s name is Yashoda.
The parents of Vardhaman (Lord Mahavira) were the followers of Parshvanath. He was inspired by his parents. Then, after the death of his parents, with the permission of his elder brother, he has forsaken worldly life and became an ascetic and he starts to search for truth.
Attainment of Knowledge
Vardhaman travels from one place to another to attain true knowledge. In fact, he even went through self-mortification and meditation for around 13 years.
He receives true knowledge after 13 years of Self-Mortification near the Parshvanath Hills. After attaining knowledge, he became famous as Jina or Kevalin. Thus, after he had delved into the mysteries of life and death, prince Vardhaman came to be known as Mahavira Swami.
Mahavira Swami as a Religious Preacher
After achieving true knowledge, Mahavira Swami devoted himself to the task of propagating his religious knowledge and gospels. He travels widely from place to place and spread his new faith in various parts of Magadha, Videha and other surrounding regions. He preached his gospel for 30 years and died at the age of 72 at Pava, near Rajagriha.
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