Jainworld
Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions

INTRODUCTION

SPEECH
PREFACE
FOREWORD
SIGNIFICANT FEATURES
  DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGES
  RELIGIOUS SPLITS
  SOCIAL FISSIONS
  FLOURISHMENT AND DECLINE
  CURRENT FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES
  TABLES

FLOURISHMENT AND DECLINE

 

 

1. CULTURAL CONTRIBUTIONS

 

          Jainism is an ancient religion of India and right from hoary antiquity to the present day it has continued to flourish, along with other religions, in different parts of India. Jains, the followers of Jainism, are, therefore, found all over India since ancient times. The Jains are known everywhere for the strict observance of their religious practices in their daily lives. That is why Jainism could survive in India for the lust so many centuries. The Jains, in this way, succeeded in continuing to exist as devout followers of a distinct religion in India. But this is not the only distinguishing feature of Jains in India. In fact, the most outstanding characteristic of Jains in India is their impressive record of contributions to Indian culture. In comparison with the limited and small population of Jains, the achievements of Jains in enriching the aspects of Indian culture are really great.

 

Literature:

          Perhaps the most creditable achievement of Jains is in the field of literature. It is evident that right from the Vedic period two different currents of thought and ways of life known as Brahman culture and Shraman culture were prevalent in India. The Shraman culture is mainly represented by Jains and Buddhists and of them the Jains were the first to propagate that culture. That is why from ancient times we have the Shraman literature besides the Brahmanic literature. The authors of this Shraman literature have contributed their full share to religious, ethical, poetical and scientific literature of ancient India. A close examination of the vast religious literature of the Jains has been made by the great oriental scholar M. Winternitz in his �A History of Indian Literature.� �The Jains were foremost in composing various kinds of narrative literature like Puranas, Charitras, Kathas, Prabandhas, etc.          Besides a very extensive body of poetical narrative, the non-canonical literature of the Jains consists partly of an immense number of commentaries and partly of independent works on dogma, ethics and monastic discipline. They also compiled legends of saints and composed works on ecclesiastical history. Always fond of storytelling, the Jain writers were good story-tellers themselves and have preserved to us numerous Indian tales that otherwise would have been lost. Kavyas and Mahakavyas too of renowned merit have been composed by Jain poets. Lyrical and didactic poetry also are well represented in the literature of the Jains. Apart from these, the most valuable contributions have been made by the Jains to the Indian scientific and technical literature on various subjects like Logic, Philosophy, Poetics, Grammar, Lexicography, Astronomy, Astrology, Geography, Mathematics and Medicine. The Jain authors have paid special attention to the Arthashastra (or Politics) which is considered to be worldly science par excellence. Thus there is hardly any branch of science that has not been ably treated by Jain writers.�

 

          The literature of the Jains is also very important from the point of view of the history of Indian languages; for the Jain authors always took care that their writings were accessible to considerable masses of people. Hence the canonical writings and the earliest commentaries are written in Prakrit dialects and at a later period Sanskrit and various modern Indian languages were, used by the Jain authors. It is not an exaggeration when Wilson says that �every province of Hindustan can produce Jain composition, either in Sanskrit or its vernacular medium.� It is quite evident that the Jains have enriched various regional languages and especially Hindi, Guiarati, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu. Regarding the Jain contribution to Kannada literature; the great Kannada scholar R. Narasimhacharya has remarked as follows, �The earliest cultivators of the language were Jains. The oldest works of any extent and value that have come down to us are all from the pens of the Jains. The period of Jain predominance in the literary field may justly be called the Augustan Age of Kannada literature.� As the Jains have produced their vast literature in these languages since, very ancient times, the Jains have certainly played a very important. part in the development of the different languages of India. The medium of sacred writings and preachings of the Brahmins has all along been Sanskrit and of the Bauddhas Pali. But the Jains alone utilized the prevailing languages of the different places, besides Sanskrit, Prakrit and Apabhrarnsha, for their religious propaganda as well as for the preservation of knowledge. The Jains thus occupy an important position in the history of the literature and civilization of India.

 

Art and Architecture

          Along with literature the Jains have always taken their due share in the development of the arts in the country. The Jains have contributed. their mite to enhance the glory of India in several branches of art, and architecture. Compared with their number their contribution appears to be imposing. It must be remembered that Jainism did not create a special architecture of its own, for wherever the Jains went they adopted the local building tradition. While in Northern India they followed the Vaishnava cult in building, in Southern India they adhered to the Dravidian type. Even though the Jains have not evolved a distinct Jain style of architecture, yet it must be said to their credit that they have produced numerous and finest specimens of architecture in different parts of the country. More than any other sect in India the Jains have displayed their intense love of the picturesque white selecting the sites for the construction, of their sacred buildings like temples, temple-cities, cave temples, stapes, pillars and towers. The Jains have erected their temples either on lovely hill tops or in deep and secluded valleys. As the Jain religion Considers construction of temples as a, meritorious act, the Jains have constructed an unusually large number of temples throughout India. Nearly 90 percent of Jain temples are the gifts of single wealthy individuals and as such the Jain temples are distinguished for elaborate detail and exquisite finish. Further the grouping together of their temples into what may be called �Cities of Temples� is a peculiarity which the Jains have practised to a greater extent than the followers of any other religion in India. Such notable temple-cities are found, among other places, at Shatrunjaya or Palatine and Girnar in Gujarat, at Sammeda Shikhar in Bihar, at Sonagiri in Madhya Pradesh, at Muktagiri in Maharashtra, and at Shravanbelgola and Mudabidri in Karnataka.

 

Philosophy

          As Jainism is an original system, quite distinct and. independent from all others, the Jains have developed a separate philosophy which is regarded as a valuable contribution to the Indian Philosophy. In philosophy the Jains occupy a distinct position between the Brahmanic and Buddhist philosophical systems. This has been shown very clearly by H. Jacobi in his paper on �The Metaphysics and Ethics of the Jains.� The Jains call their theory the theory of multiple viewpoints (Anekantavada) in contradistinction to the theory of permanency (Nityavada) of the Vedantins, and to the theory of transitoriness (Vinashvada) of the Buddhists.

 

Ethical Code

          As the Jams have evolved a philosophy of their own, they follow a distinct ethical code based on their philosophy. The Jain ethics stands as a class by itself in the sense that it is the only system which is founded on the main principle of Ahinsa. It is quite clear that the principle of Ahinsa forms the basis of various rules of conduct prescribed for both the Jain laymen and ascetics. Thus one of the significant contributions of the Jains is the Ahinsa culture. If the Jains are known for anything it is for the evolution of Ahinsa culture and it must be said to the credit of the Jains that they practised and propagated that culture since ancient times.      The antiquity and continuity of Ahinsa culture is mainly due to the incessant efforts of the Jain Acharyas. Naturally wherever the Jains were in great numbers and wielded some influence they tried to spread Ahinsa culture among the masses. That is why we find that the areas of Karnataka and Gujarat, which are the strongholds of Jains from the beginning, are mainly vegetarian. In fact it is admitted that as a result of the activities of the Jains for the last so many centuries Ahinsa still forms the substratum of Indian character as a whole.

 

Political Life

          The Jains also distinguished themselves in giving their unstinted support for the improvement of political and economic life in the country. The Jains, 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 conditions of the people. Not only the ordinary Jains but their saints or Acharyas also aided materially to create the proper political environment necessary for the resuscitation of life in the country. It is considered that due to the keen. interest taken by the Jain saints in political affairs of the country, Jainism occupies an important place in the secular affairs in general. So far as Karnataka was concerned, Jainism, through its course of one thousand years, was the example of a. religion which showed that religious tenets were practised 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 Jain Acharyas were not merely exponents of dogmas, but turned themselves into creators of Kingdoms. It is well known that the Jain Acharyas were virtually responsible for the founding of the Ganga Kingdom in the 2nd century A.D. and of the Hoyosala Kingdom in the 11th  century A.D.