Jain World
Sub-Categories of Antiquity of Jainism
Meaning of Jainism
Tradition of Tirthankara
Historicity of the Jaina tradition
Jaina tradition and Buddhism
  Jaina tradition and Hinduism
  Jaina tradition & archaeological evidence
  Fundamental principles of Jainism
  Philosophy of Jainism
  Tattvas of Jainism
  Doctrines of Jainism
  Three-fold path of Salvation
  Prescription of Ethical Code
  Private distinctiveness of Jaina Ethics
  Importance assigned to five vratas
  Prominence given to Ahimsa
  Easy practicability of ethical code
  Commoness of ethical code
  Rise of sections in Jainism
  The Great Schism of Jainism
  The Digambara and Svetambara sects
  The Digambara sub-sects
  The Svetambara Sub-sects
  Jainism in East India
  Jainism in Northern India
  Jainism in Western India
  Jainism In South India
  Contribution of Jainism to Indian Culture
  Jainism and other religions
  Significance of Jainism
  Glossary of Jaina terms





There is evidence to show that apart from pillars the Jainas. especially from northern India, constructed a great number of beautiful towers dedicated to their Tirthankaras. There is such a tower which is still adorning Chittor in Mewar (Rajasthan) and it is considered as one of the best preserved monuments in India. This Jaina Tower at Chittor is a singularly elegant specimen of its class, about 75 feet in height and adorned with sculpture and moldings from the base to the summit. The Tower was constructed in the 12th century and was dedicated to Adinatha, the first of the Jaina Tirthankaras, and nude figures of them are repeated some hundreds of times on the face of the Tower.


The innumerable specimens of Jaina sculpture found in practically all parts of India show that the Jainas enlisted the services of sculptors from very ancient times. Their most common form of sculpture up to this day is modeling of images or statues of their Tirthankaras. But in giving shape to these figures no scope at all was given for the free play of imagination of individual sculptors as regular rules regarding the form and pose of statues of Tirthankara had been prescribed by the Jaina religion from the very beginning. Consequently, practically all Jaina images pertain to one class and therefore Jaina images from any part of the country cannot be distinguished from their style even though they belong to different ages altogether.

Further, it is significant to note that the Jaina images have been made of all sizes and substances and are almost always invariable in attitude, whether seated or standing. Small images are made of crystal, alabaster, soapstone, bloodstone, and various other precious and semiprecious materials, while the larger ones are carved from whatever kind of stone happens to be locally available.

Undoubtedly the most remarkable of the Jaina statues are the celebrated colossi of southern India, the largest free-standing statues in Asia which are three in number, situated in Karnataka State respectively at Sravana-Belgola in Hassan District (constructed in 981 A.D. and 56.5 feet in height), at Karkala in South Kannada District (constructed in 1432 A.D. and about 41 feet in height) and at Yenura or Venura in South Kanara District (Constructed in 1604 A.D. and 35 feet in height). All these three images of Lord Bahubali, the son of first Tirthankar Adinatha, being set of the top of eminence, are visible for miles around, and inspire of their formalism they command respectful attention by their enormous mass and expression of dignified serenity. That is why these three images are considered by authorities like Dr. James Fergusson and Dr. Vincent Smith as the most remarkable works of native art in south India.

Decorative Sculpture

Regarding the unrivaled progress of the Jainas in decorative sculpture, as distinguished from individual statuary, Dr. Vincent Smith remarks that "The Jainas encouraged the work of a high order of excellence and beauty, employed to adorn with the utmost possible magnificence and pillared chambers which were their favorite form of architecture. Nothing in the world can surpass for richness and delicacy of detail the marble columns and ceilings of the Mount Abu temples and it would be easy to fill to large volume with illustrations of more or less similar exquisite work in many localities."


Along with architecture and sculpture, the, Jainas have contributed in a large measure to the development of art of painting in India. The tradition of Jaina painting is as old as Buddhist painting and innumerable Jaina paintings of exquisite quality could be found on walls. palm-leaves, paper, cloth, wood, etc. It is significant to note that the Jainas possess a very extensive treasure of manuscript paintings drawn in the early Western Indian Style, sometimes called the 'Gujarat Style' or specifically the 'Jaina Style'.


As Jainism is an original system, quite distinct and independent from all others, the Jainas have developed a separate philosophy which is regarded as a valuable contribution to Indian philosophy.

In philosophy the Jainas occupy a distinct position between the Brahmanic and Buddhist philosophical systems. This has been shown very clearly by Dr. Hermann Jacobi in his paper on 'The Metaphysics and Ethics of the Jainas'. Regarding the problem of Being the three-hold different opinions. The Vadantins consider that underlying and up-holding from within all things there is one absolute permanent Being' without change and with none other like it. On the contrary the Buddhists hold that all things are transitory. The Jainas, however, contend that Being' is joined to production. continuation and destruction and that they call their theory of multiple view points (i.e. Anekantavada). in contra-distinction to the theory of permanency (i.e. Nityavada) of the Vedantins, and to the theory of Transitoriness (i.e. Ksanika-vada) of the Buddhists.

The Jainas think that the existing things are permanent only as regards their substance, but their accidents or qualities originate and perish. To emphasize once again here the significance of this Jaina theory of 'Being' comes out more clearly when it is regarded in relation to the doctrines of Syadvada and of Nayavada. According to the doctrine of Syadvada any proposition about an existing thing must, somehow, reflect the many-sidedness of Being.' i.e.. any metaphysical proposition is right from one point of view, and, the contrary proposition is also right from another point of view. The Nayas are ways of expressing the nature of things; all these ways of judgment are, according to the Jainas, one-sided, and they contain but a part of truth. The doctrine of the Nayas is thus, the logical complement to the Syadvada which is the outcome of the theory of the many-sidedness of �Being' From this Dr. H. Jacobi affirms that the Jaina theory of Being is an indication of the commonsense view.


As the Jainas have evolved a philosophy of their own, they follow a distinct ethical code based on their philosophy. The Jaina ethics stands as a class by itself in the sense that it is the only system which is founded, on the main principle of ahimsa. It has already been noted how the principle of ahimsa forms the basis of various rules of conduct prescribed for both the Jaina laymen and ascetics.

Thus one of the significant contributions of the Jainas is the ahimsa culture. If the Jainas are known for anything it is for the evolution of ahimsa culture and it must be said to the credit of the Jainas that they practiced and propagated that culture from ancient times. In fact the antiquity and continuity of ahimsa culture is mainly due to the incessant efforts of the Jaina ascetics and householders. Naturally wherever the Jainas were in great numbers and wielded some influence they tried to spread ahimsa culture among the masses. That is why we find that the States of Gujarat and Karnataka, which are the strongholds of Jainas from the beginning, are mainly vegetarian.

In fact it is admitted that as a result of the activities of the Jainas for the last so many centuries, ahimsa still forms the substratum of Indian character as a whole.


The Jainas also distinguished themselves in giving their unstinted support for the improvement of political and economic life in the country. The Jainas, especially in southern and western India, produced a large number of eminent and efficient monarchs, ministers, and generals and thereby contributed to maintain and improve the political importance of the people. Not only the ordinary Jainas but their acharyas, i.e., saints. also aided materially to create the proper political environment based on ahimsa culture necessary for the resuscitation of the life in the country.

It is considered that due to the keen interest taken by the Jaina Acharyas, i.e.. saints. in political affairs of the country, Jainism occupies an important place in the history of India. The Jaina ascetics were never indifferent towards the secular affairs in general. We know from the account of Megasthenes that, in the 4th century B.C., the Sramanas of Jaina ascetics who lived in the woods were frequently consulted by the kings through their messengers, regarding the cause of things. So far as Karnataka is concerned Jainism, throughout its course of more than one thousand years, was an example of a religion which showed that religious tenets were practiced without sacrificing the political exigencies when the question of rejuvenating life in the country was at stake. That is why in Karnataka we find that the Jaina acharyas ceased to be merely exponents of dogmas and turned themselves into creators of kingdoms. It has already been noted that the Jaina saints were virtually responsible for the founding of the Ganga kingdom in the 2nd century A.D. and the Hoyasala kingdom in the 11th century A.D.