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August 5, 2013

Jainism - Rise, growth Impact and Decline in India

Jainism (The Peaceful Liberators) - Jainism is a moral code in the modem sense and takes a pragmatic approach.
  • The Jain tradition traces Jainism to a succession of tirthankars (meaning "great religious leader" or ones who lead to the other shore), of whom the first was Rishabha  Deva, and the last was Parsavanath.
  • According to historians it was Parsavanath who founded Jainism.
  • In Jain thought time is infinite and made up of a series of upward and downward movements that last for millions of years.
  • During each movement, tirthankars appear in succession to teach the way of release of the soul from its entanglement of material existence.
  •  Parsavnatha, the 23 rd tirthankara lived in Varanasi around 800 BC. He, along with Mahavir, is the most popular object of Jain devotion.
 Life and Teachings of Vardhamana Mahavira:
  • Vardhamana Mahavira (meaning the Great Hero) was the 24th and the last tirthankara.
  • He was born about 546 B.C. at Vaisali in North Bihar.
  • His father was a chief of a Kshatriya clan and his mother was the sister of the Lichhavi ruler. Mahavira received good education and lived the life of a normal family man till 30 when he renounced the world and left his home.
  • Mahavir roamed as a naked ascetic in several kingdoms in eastern India and practised severe self-mortification for 12 years.
  • In the thirteenth year of his penance he triumphed over himself and was called Jina (the Conqueror) and his followers were known as Jains.
  • He had attained the highest spiritual knowledge called Kevale Jnana. He was now a Kevalin (omniscient).
  • From this time onwards till his death at the age of 72 at Pawa in Patna district circa 527 B.C. he spread his religion in Magadha, Anga, Mithila and Kosala.
  • His religion received support and patronage from kings and princes. Among these were Chandragupta Maurya, Asoka and his grandson, Samprati and King Kharavela of Kalinga.
  • During the early centuries of the Christian era, Mathura in the North and Sravana Belgola in the Deccan became great centres of Jain activities.
  • During the 5th century many dynasties in the south: Kadamba, Ganga, Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas patronised Jainism. About 1100 A.D. Jainism flourished in Gujarat.
Symbol of peace
jainism symbol ahimsa word appsc study material



The Jain religion adopted an open palm as its symbol in 1975, the 2500th anniversary of Mahavira's enlightenment. The palm usually has the word 'ahimsa' written on it.





Write about division of Jainism into Digambaras and Svetambara in 300BC?
Digambaras and Svetambaras
About the year 300 B.C. Jainism was split into two sects :
 a. Digambaras (sky-clad or naked) :
They are the followers of Mahavira.
They believe that all possessions, including clothing are a hindrance to liberation.
According to Digambaras, living without clothes signifies detachment from sexual feelings and notions of modesty, and that one can avoid killing life-forms by not washing clothes.
Alexander the Great encountered Digambaras when he arrived in North India in 326 B .C. and called them gymnosophists or "naked philosophers".
Though Digambaras took to wearing robes in public, the division still persists.
b. Svetambaras (meaning clad in white):
They are the followers of Parsavanath.
They claim that detachment is in the mind, and that equal destruction of life may occur without wearing clothes if, for example, fires are lit to keep one warm.

What are the main Teachings of Jainism?
1. Jainism does not accept the authority of the Vedas or believe in God. The Jains do not worship god but worship tirthankaras whose souls have attained salvation.
2. In order to make the soul pure and free from all evils, Jainism lays down five great principles to be observed : take a vow to
  • preach ahimsa,
  • speak the truth,
  • not to steal,
  • observe Brahmacharya,
  • not to desire anything.

3. Jains believe in the immortality of the spirit and soul which experiences both sorrows as well as joys.
4. The karma theory finds a place in Jain philosophy. Jains believe that rewards and punishment are decided on the basis of a person's actions in his previous birth.
5. It does not attach any importance to the performance of sacrifices.
6. The Jains believe that every object, even the smallest, including inanimate objects, is endowed with various degrees of consciousness. Hence they lay greatest stress on Ahimsa (or non-injury) in thought, word and deed.
7. They believe in penance and fasting, even to the point of death. Fasting and penance provide rigorous discipline which gives strength to the soul and helps to subdue man's lower nature.
8.  Life of renunciation is the shortest way to salvation.
9. The goal of life is to attain moksha. The way to this lies through the triratna.

What are Triratna (Three Jewel) of Jainism?
The main purpose of Mahavira's teachings was the attainment of salvation. To attain this he recommended the Principle of Triratna, namely :
1. Right Faith : Firm belief in Jinas - in the tirthankaras.
2. Right Knowledge : Belief in salvation of, and life in all existing things.
3. Right Conduct: It consists of strict observance of charity, chastity, renunciation of all wordly interests, honourable conduct like not stealing, not uttering falsehood, and ahimsa (non-injury) to life and also positive kindness to all creation.

Jain Philosophy:
According to Jainism, the world consists of two eternal, uncreated, co-existing but independent categories, namely the conscious (jiva) and the unconscious (ajiva).
  • The jiva corresponds to the soul.
  • It knows and feels. It acts and is acted upon.
  • It suffers by its contact with matter and is born again and again only to suffer. Its highest endeavour is to free itself from this bondage.
  • This is salvation which could be attained by higher knowledge and meditation upon the great truth.
  • The ajiva or the unconscious includes matter which is given the name'pugdala', and it also includes such things as space and time, virtue and vice etc.
  • According to Jain philosophy, man's salvation from suffering does not depend upon the mercy of any god or creator. Man is the architect of his own destiny. A life of renunciation is the shortest way to salvation.
 Ascendency of Jainism
  • It appears that in the early stages, the success of Jainism was more remarkable than Buddhism.
  • The use of common dialect in place of Sanskrit adopted by Mahavira and his preaching monks, the simple and moral precepts instead of subtle doctrines of God and soul, the five ministrations of spiritual truth to the masses, the activities of the monks and royal patronage were the forces which helped in the spread of Jainism.
  • The great Mauryan emperor Chandragupta was a devout patron of Jainism. In the Kushan period, Jainism flourished at Mathura and was dominant in eastern India at the time of Harsha.
  • During the early centuries of Christian era, Mathura in the North and Sravana Belgola in the Deccan, were great centres of Jain activities as is evidenced by a large number of inscriptions, images and other monuments discovered at both places.
  • From the 5th century many royal dynasties of the South, such as the Gangas, the Kadambaras, the Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas patronised Jainism.
  • During the Muslim period, Jainsim continued to flourish without much molestation from the Muslim rulers of the country owing to the peaceful ways of the Jains.
  • The Jains received some patronage under the benign Moghul ruler, Akbar and the Jains increased in the states of Rajputana where they occupied many important offices of the state (includ­ing generalmanship and ministerships). But the period that fol­lowed was of a steady decline.
What are the causes for Decline of Jainism in India?
Jainism did not spread outside India, but it still remains the religion of a wealthy community mostly engaged in commerce. Its followers, numbering over 2.6 million, are found mainly in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Mumbai.
There are several causes for the decline of Jainism :
 1.The common people found it difficult to undertake severe penances and rigid fasts propagated by Jainism. Also, the theory of ahimsa preached was too rigid to be followed.
 2.The religion could not spread to foreign countries due to lack of missionary effort.
3. Jainism failed to get royal patronage from contemporary rulers.
 4.The revival of Brahmanism proved to be a setback for both, Jainism and Buddhism. ,Vaishnava and Shaiva also an important reason for the decline of Jainism .
5. Present day Jainism is similar to Hinduism with Statue worshiping and pomp and show. True spirit of Jainism is now confined to saints and Munis only.
6. Internal battles among jain dynasties particularly in south India.

Write about the impact / Influence of Jainism in India?
 1.The widespread practice of vegetarianism in India is mainly due to the influence of Jainism.
2.Jainism has made a significant contribution to vernacular literature, particularly Kannada and Gujarati literature and in the fields of poetry, drama, grammar and mathematics. Jainism used Sankrit and Pali as the medium of its sacred writings. Mahavir himself preached in Ardha Magadhi. In Tamil Seevaka Shinthamani by Thiruthakka Thevar, Nannool, a Tamil grammar by Pavanandhi Munivar are rich literary works by the Jains.
3. The followers of Jainism created artistic monuments, the best of which are the temples of Dilwara at Mt. Abu in Rajasthan. They built many big statues, the most famous being the colossal rock-cut statue 21.3 metres high of the saint Gomatesvara at Sravana Belgola in Karnataka.
The Jain Caves at Udaigiri and Ellora and the Jain Tower at Chitor in Rajasthan are excellent examples of architecture and sculpture of the period.
4.The followers of Jainism were prohibited from pursuing certain trades and occupations such as agriculture and warfare because of strict adherence to Ahimsa (non-injury). Therefore, they concentrated on trade and commerce and as a result they became very prosperous.
5.Hemachandra was probably the greatest Jain historian. He wrote A History of Gujarat. He compiled two lexicons (dictionaries) and wrote his famous Prakrit grammar. He also wrote the Yoga Sutra.
6.The Holy books of Jains are Angas and Purvas.
7.The contribution of the Jain to art and architecture are note worthy. The Jain temple, called Dilwara temple, at Mount Abu in Rajasthan is famous for its art and architecture. The Jam temples at Khajuraho, Chittor and Ranakpur are also famous for their architecture. Ranakpur is one of the main holy places of the Jains. The carvings at Udayagiri, Hathigumpha, Ellora and Girnar are good examples of Jam Art. The huge Gomateswara statue at Sravana Belgola near Mysore is another Jain monument.

Jain Arts in India:
  •  Jainism has a rich artistic tradition. Although painting was forbidden to monks and nuns, the commissioning of illuminated manuscripts and votive paintings such as the one shown below, were a means by which a lay patron could gain religious merit.
  •  Jains do not worship gods, they contemplate tirthankaras. However, in practice, many Jains pray to Hindu deities, and idols of Hindu gods and goddesses adorn many Jain temples.
  • Among the most popular goddess is Sarasvati. Above, she stands carved in marble. The five seated figures around her are tirthankaras.
  • The beautifully carved temples in Mt. Abu are among the finest in India. The workmanship is so intricate that they appear to have been cawed out of ivory, rather than marble.
  • Many experts consider them superior to the Taj Mahal.
 Present day Jainism:
The present day population of the Jains is distributed all over the country and are predominantly found in Rajputana, Gujarat, parts of Central and South India.
They are rich and prosperous traders and have founded and maintained many charitable institutions in the country. Now their focus is the following :
1.       To introduce reforms in their society
2.       Spread education
3.       Revival of their faith
4.       Construction and repairs of the Jain temples and shrines
5.       Publication of ancient Jain literature that has for centuries remained locked up in many manuscript stores at different places in Jain temples all over the country

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Very well written.

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