Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions - ASPECTS OF JAINA RELIGION

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Since Jainism spread all over India in ancient times, the Jainas possess a long and continuous history of their own. It is, therefore, worthwhile to see the status or high position enjoyed by Jainism in relation to other religions and the important Jaina political personali�ties like rulers, ministers, generals, etc. in different parts of India during the ancient and medieval times.


(A) In Bihar

In the political history of India in ancient times, East India figured more prominently than any other part of India. From the middle of the seventh century B.C. the kingdom of Magadha, the modern south Bihar, had assumed the position of the recognised political centre of India. As Lord Mahavira happened to belong to this part of the country, we find that many kings, chiefs and masses gave theft full support to Jainism.

(i) The gaisunaga Dynasty

King Chetaka, the most eminent amongst the Lichchhavi princes and the ruler of Vaisa7i, the capital of Videha, was a great patron of Jainism. He gave his sister, princess Trisala, in marriage to Siddhartha, to whom Lord Mahavira was born. As king Chetaka was related to lord Mahavira and as Lichchhavis are often mentioned in the Jaina literature, it is supposed that practically all Lichchhavis were the followers of Jaina religion.

In the Saisunaga dynasty (642-413 B.C.), Bimbisara or Srenika and Ajatasatru or Knnika were the two important kings who extended their full support to the Jaina religion. Both Bimbisara and his son Ajatasatru were the near relatives of Lord Mahavira, in whose contact they frequently came, and hence the Jainas believe that they did belong to the Jaina religion for a considerable period in their life-time.

(ii) The Nanda Dynasty

The Nandas (413-322 B.C.) who were the successors of Saisunagas in 1Vlagadha, were, according to the inscriptions of king Kharavela of Kaliriga, the followers of the Jaina faith because the inscriptions speak of king Nanda I who led a conquering expedition into ICaliriga and carried off an idol of Adi-Jina, that is, the first Jaina Tirthankara Lord Adinatha or Rsabhanatha. Dr. Vincent Smith in his `Early History of India� also mentions that the Nandas were Jainas.

(iii) The Maurya Dynasty

The Jaina tradition, which is ancient in origin and is referred to in subsequent ages down to the present day as well-known and authentic, asserts that Emperor Chandragupta Maurya (322-298 B.C.), the founder of the Maurya dynasty, turned Jaina and that he abdicated the throne, joined the Jaina migration led by Acharya Bhadrabahu to the South, became the chief disciple of Bhadrabahu, by entering the ascetic order of Jaina monks and died in a Jaina way (i.e. by observing the vow sallekhana or peaceful death) at ghravana-belagola after leading a life of Jaina ascetic for twelve years. This tradition is now accepted as true by famous historians B.L. Rice and Vincent Smith. Regarding the early faith of Emperor Ashoka (273-236 B.C.) it is maintained by some historians that he professed Jainism before his conversion to Buddhism. The famous edicts of Ashoka are said to reveal this fact. Further, according to Ain-i-Akbari, Emperor Ashoka was responsible for introducing Jainism into Kashmir and this is confirmed by the Rajatararigini, the famous work depicting the history of Kashmir. Many other reasons are also given in support of this contention.

Emperor. Samprati, the grand son and successor of Ashoka, is regarded the Jaina Ashoka for his eminent patronage, and efforts in spreading Jaina religion in east India

(B) In Orissa

Like Magadha, the kingdom of Kalinga or Orissa had been a Jaina stronghold from the very beginning. It is asserted that Jainism made its way to south India through Kaliriga only. Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara, visited Kaliriga and preached Jainism to the people, who already belonged to the Jaina Sangha, as organised by Parsvanatha, the 23rd Tirthankara. It is worth mention, that in the second century B.C. Kaliriga was the centre of a powerful empire ruled over by Kharavela and that he was one of the greatest royal patrons of Jaina faith. It is further contended that even after Jainism lost the royal patronage it continued for a long time as a dominant religion and that this is testified by the famous Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang (629 A.D.) when he says that in Kaliriga �among the un-believers the most numerous are the Nirgranthas (i.e., Jainas).�

(C) In Bengal

Jainism had its influence in Bengal also. Hiuen Tsang states that in Pundravardhana and Samatata, that is, in western and eastern Bengal, the naked ascetics called nirgranthas are most numerous. Even now Jaina relics, inscriptions, idols, etc., are found in different parts of Bengal. Even the name `Vardhamana� is given to one district in Bengal. In this connection it has been pointed out that the indigenous people of western Bengal known as `Saraka� are the Hinduised remnants of the early Jaina people. Again, in some parts of Bengal Jaina idols are worshipped as the idols of Hindu deity Bhairava: In short, the influence of Jaina religion on the customs, manners and religions of Bengal is very much visible even at present.


(A) In Karnataka

It is now an undisputed fact that Jainism entered into Karnataka and south India during the days of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya when Bhadrabahu, the distinguished leader of Jainas and the last of the Jaina saints known as Scruta-kevalis, after predicting twelve years famine in the north India, led the migration of the Jaina Saitgha to the South. Thus it is stated that the Jaina history in the South commences from the 3rd Century B.C. as according to all Jaina authors the death of Acharya Bhadrabahu took place in 297 B.C. at Shravanabelago)a. But in this connection it is strongly asserted from further ~ historical researches that this Bhadrabahu tradition is the starting point of a revival and not the commencement of the Jaina activities in south India and hence regard that Bhardrabahu was in fact the rejuvenator of Jainism in south India. In this regard it is argued that if south India would have been void of Jainas before Bhadrabahu reached there. it is least conceivable that an Acharya of Bhadrabahu�s status would have led the Jaina sangha to such a country and for the mere sake of dharma-raksa, that is, protection of religion. Again, in this relation various archaeological, epigraphic and literary evidence are brought forward to prove the antiquity of the Jainas in south India and it is asserted that Jainism had reached south India long before Srutakevali Bhadrabahu.

In any case Jainism prevailed in south India in 3rd Century B.C and it continued as a popular faith for more than one thousand years of the Christian Era and it is significant to note that upto the 14th century A.D. Jainism played an important role in the history of south India

(i) The Kadamba Rulers

The Kadamba rulers of Banavasi (from the 3rd to the 6th Century A.D.) were essentially Brahmanical in religion. Yet the royal Kadamba family gave a few monarchs who were devout Jainas, and who were responsible for the gradual progress of Jaina religion in Karnataka Eventually Jaina religion became a popular religion in the Kadamba Empire

(ii) The Gariga Rulers

The Ganga Rulers (350 to 999 A.D.) of Talakada in Karnataka patronised Jaina religion to a great extent. In fact the Gariga kingdom itself was a virtual creation of the famous Jaina saint Acharya Simhanandi and naturally practically all Gariga monarchs championed the cause of Jainism.

(iii) The Chalukya Rulers

During the regin of Chalukya Rulers of Badami in Karnataka (500 to 757 A.D.): the Jaina religion was more prominent and manv Jaina Acharyas were patronised by Chalukya kings including Pudakesi II.

(iv) The Rastrakuta Rulers

Many of the Rastrakuta emperors and their feudatories and officers were staunch Jainas and hence the period of Ras.trakutas of Malakheda in Karnataka (757 to 973 A.D.) is considered as the most glorious and flourishing period in the history of Jainism in the Deccan.

(v) The Western Chalukya Rulers

From the 10th to the 12th century A.D. the Western Chalukya rulers of Kalyan in Karnataka regained their ascendancy after the fall of the Rastrakutas and preferred to show the same liberal attitude to Jainism which the Kadambas, the Garigas and the Rastrakutas had shown.