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Jainism : The World of Conquerors: 2.6 ► Spread of Jainism and Royal Patronage

Published: 19.11.2015

As spiritual progress was the goal of life for the Jains, history did not seem to them to be of much importance. However, records of royal patronage, existing inscriptions, art and architecture, literary and legendary sources have helped scholars to construct the history of Jainism. As India is a sub-continent with a history of many kingdoms, royal support was very important for disseminating the religion. Though extremely variable, royal patronage aided the Jain cause, and the fortunes of Jainism in India fluctuated over time dependent on the rise or decline of royal patronage.

Parsvanatha, the twenty-third tirthankara, was successful in popularising Jainism (the Nirgrantha religion) in different parts of the northern India. Literary records suggest that he visited Kausambi, Saketa, Kampilyapura, Malakappa, Mathura and Rajagraha (Chatterjee 1978: p.35). After his liberation at Sammetsikhar, his disciples continued the task of disseminating his teachings of the fourfold restraints, and before the birth of Mahavira the Nirgrantha religion was well established in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The parents of Mahavira and most probably the parents of Buddha were adherents of this religion.

Mahavira travelled to Bihar, some parts of Uttar Pradesh, eastern India and Vitibhaya, the capital of Sindhu-Sauvira in western India (Bhagvati 1921: p.2234). Literary records suggest that King Udayana of Sindhu-Sauvira became a Nirgrantha monk and the religion reached the western coast of India during Mahavira's time, and that Bengal accepted Jainism before Buddhism. (Chatterjee 1978: pp.36-37). After Mahavira's liberation his successors spread the religion throughout India and obtained a considerable royal support.

It is not easy to trace the history of the spread of Jainism, but careful study of the
Kalpa Sutra Theravali will give us some pointers towards the gradual spread of Jainism to different parts of India in the early period starting from the 4th century BCE. Among the four branches that originated with Godasa, a disciple of Bhadrabahu, and the three significant names: Tamraliptika, Kotvarsiya and Pundravardhamaniya were connected with the three well-known geographical units of Bengal (Chatterjee 1978: pp.37-38). Among the many branches that originated with Balisaha, a disciple of Mahagiri, Kausambika was prominent in the famous city of Kausambi, the capital of Udayana whose aunt Jayanti had become a Jain ascetic (Bhagavati 1921: p. 1987). Suhasti's disciple Rohana was responsible for the Udumbarika branch, whose members included the Audambara tribe of Punjab, suggesting that Jainism was firmly established in the Punjab in c. 250 BCE (Chatterjee 1978: p.38). The branches derived from the other disciples of Suhasti such as Bhadriyika (Bhadrika City), Kakandika (Kakandi Town), Sravastika (Sravasti City), Saurastrika (Saurastra region) and Madyamika (middle region) suggest that Jainism was well established in northern India, Gujarat and Rajasthan from the very early period. It is difficult to say when the Jainism reached the southern peninsula. Anuradhapura, the capital of King Pandugahhaya in Sri Lanka, had a temple and a monastery built for Nirgrantha devotees in the fourth century BCE (Ayyangar 1922: p.33). This evidence and Bhadrabahu's travel to the south suggest that Jainism reached southern India in its early period.

Eastern India

The eastern part of India includes provinces such as Bengal, Orissa and Bihar. When it came to gaining royal support, Mahavira's birth into a ruling family gave him many important connections. It is, therefore, not surprising that Jainism won royal support in the eastern part of the sub-continent. Even before Mahavira, Parsvanatha had travelled widely in the east spreading Jain teachings and creating many followers. Jain ascetics established a solid rapport with local rulers and the community with the result that, according to the Kalpa Sutra, Mahavira had over half a million followers in his lifetime.

The monarchs in Bihar such as Srenika (or Bimbisara), Kunika (or Ajatsatru), Udayan, the rulers of the Nanda, the Mauryan, and the Maitra dynasties were patrons of Jainism before the Common Era. However, periodic persecution caused the Jains to move out of Bihar to the south and west in two directions; the first route was through Kalinga (Orissa) and the other via Ayodhya, Mathura, Ujjain and Gujarat. In all these locations, early communities of followers and sympathisers of Jainism were strengthened by the influx of new arrivals.

Candragupta conquered the throne of Nanda. His political mentor Canakya, who was famous for his intellect, shrewdness and political acumen, guided him to conquer the Nanda dynasty, 155 years after Mahavira's liberation. At Canakya's instance he chose Jain teachers as his spiritual guides. Canakya served Candragupta as his minister and organised the coronation of his son, Bindusara, following Candragupta's initiation as an ascetic by Bhadrabahu. Candragupta left his kingdom and went to the south with his new mentor and ended his life by holy death (sallekhanaa). Historians are not agreed about whether it was Chandragupta Maurya or Chandragupta, the king of Avanti in the time of Bhadrabahu II, that became an ascetic and moved to the South along with the large number of ascetics in the 1st century BCE. Bhadrabahu (I), who was scriptural omniscient, died about 40 years before the beginning of the Mauryan dynasty. The Svetambar tradition believes that he went to Nepal. Bhadrabahu II, who was a prognostician (nimitta jnani) predicted the famine would last for 12 years, however, went to the south (Sangamitra 1979: p.74).

Ashoka ascended the throne after Bindusara and though he was symapathtic to Jainism, he was a staunch Buddhist in the later part of his life. Ashoka sent his son Kunala to Ujjayini to study the political arts. When Kunala was eight years old, his stepmother forged a letter from his father, the blessing for studies (adhiya) to (andhiya) the order to become blind. The innocent Kunal, not knowing the wicked trick of his stepmother, obeyed this extreme order of the king and made himself blind with a hot iron bar. His grandson Samprati succeeded Ashoka. Samprati was a staunch Jain and a powerful monarch. Inscriptions dating from the reign of Ashoka indicate that Jainism spread as far as Kashmir. The records of Ashoka's grandson, Samprati, indicate that he sent Jain missionaries to the south of India and even to foreign lands. His support for the building of many temples and monasteries, and for the distribution of images of the tirthankaras, suggests that Samprati was a zealous Jain. Samprati was the follower of Aacaarya Suhasti and his promotion of Jainism is remembered by Jains even today. Many district names in Bihar, such as Sinhbhumi, Veerbhumi, and the Parsvanatha hills, have Jain connections and remind us of its former influence in Bihar. The patronage of the ruling class was sustained until the 5th century CE, after which it declined.

As an ascetic, Mahavira travelled to Bengal. The Kalpa Sutra notes that he visited Lada and Vajrabhumi. The fact that one district bears the name of Vardhamana demonstrates the influence of Jainism in that area. Aacaarya Bhadrabahu hailed from Bengal. Many early administrators of Bengal favoured Jainism, but it declined there under the Pala and Sen kingdoms. However, the records of the Chinese traveller Yuan Chwang Tste Sung suggest that there was a strong influence of Jainism in Bengal up to the seventh century CE (Chatterjee 1978: p.112, note 8). The Palas patronised Buddhism, leading to a gradual decline in the fortunes of Jainism, but it maintained its existence until the 10th century CE.

Kalinga (Orissa) was a stronghold of Jainism, even before the days of Parsvanatha. It is said that the eighteenth tirthankara Aranatha received his first alms in Rajapur, the capital of Kalinga. Kalinga's most famous king Kharvel of the Meghavahana dynasty and his queen commissioned Jain inscriptions foe the Hathigumpha cave temple. The inscriptions make reference to a council of ascetics, the return of a Kalinga Jain image from Magadha and the construction of the monasteries. During the rule of the Meghavahana dynasty, Jainism was the principal religion of Orissa (Chatterjee 1978: p.88). Other kingdoms lent patronage to Jains in Kalinga, but this did not last, although we find that Udyot Kesari was a staunch supporter of Jainism in a later period. The present day Saraaka caste (estimated to be more than a million people) of Orissa and Bihar worship Parsvanatha and follow Jain practices. Many Jina images more than a 1,000 years old are found in Orissa. It is interesting to note that even the later Saiva kings patronised Jainism in Orissa. However, the spread of Vaisnavism and Jagannatha worship in Orissa forced Jainism into decline. It was in this period that Jainism became syncretistic and adopted many customs and practices of Hinduism, for example in iconography, to maintain its popular appeal. In later times, Orissa became a province ruled by the Rastrakuta dynasty and the influence of Jainism revived. The integration of numerous followers of the ajivikaa sects into Jainism helped to strengthen the position of Jainism in eastern India. (Ajivikaa sects first appeared around the sixth century BCE and survived until the fourteenth century CE). Historical records after this period are nonexistent but gradually the majority of Jains merged with the local population. Of course, still small groups of Jains and many beautiful temples still exist in the Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

Northern India

The northern areas of Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir and Rajasthan have been associated with Jainism since the days of the first tirthankara Risabhdeva, who was born in Ayodhya. Many tirthankaras were born in northern India, the last being Parsvanatha, born in Varanasi.

Historically, the north has been divided into many kingdoms, large and small, ruled by various clans and dynasties, some of which patronised Jainism. It is difficult to give a full account of Jainism in different parts of Northern India after the Maureen period. Epigraphic evidences are very few and hence the history is dependent on literary sources, archaeological evidence and discovery of early Jain images. The Jain literary sources suggest the existence of Jain temples in almost all the principle cities of India, but practically none of them have survived. Archaeological and some epigraphic sources denote the state of Jainism in Mathura, Kausambi, Sravasti, Rajgraha, Ahichhatra, Taksasila and Simhapura.

The earliest Jain inscription found in Mathura is from the period of 150 BCE. It developed as a centre of Jainism under the varied patronage of many rulers stretching over centuries. It receded after the Nanda dynasty, but later revived by Jain ascetics with the support mainly from common people, some Ksatriyas, a few women from the aristocratic families and the business community. Although Mathura was a stronghold of the Bhagvata cult, both Buddhism and Jainism flourished there. The evidence from epigraphic inscriptions and the literary sources suggest a strong Jain presence up to the 14th century CE (Chatterjee 1978: pp. 46-72).

Varanasi, the birth place of Parsvanatha, the twenty-third tirthankara, Kausambi, the birth-place of Padmaprabha, the sixth tirthankara, and Sravasti the birth-place of Sambhavanatha, the third tirthankara, were great Jain centres from earliest times and had royal patronage. Ahicchatra (Ramanagar UP), the ancient capital of Pancala had Jain temples dedicated to Parsvanatha and Neminatha. The inscriptions from Ahicchatra disclose the names of Jain lay devotees suggesting the popularity of Jainism in earlier times. A number of Jain inscriptions of the Kusana and Gupta period and several nude images of Jinas show the names of the gana (group), kula (lineage) and sakha (branch) mentioned in the Svetambar Theravali. Kampilya was another great centre of Jainism which is mentioned in the Bhagavati (1921: p. 2348) and the Uttaraadhyayana Sutra (Law 1940: 140) referring to King Sanjaya who was a Jain devotee. Sankasya, mentioned in the Ramayana, the capital of Kusadhavaja Janaka, where Sita's parental uncle had a Sankasiya branch of the Carana gana established in the third century BCE, shows its connection with Jainism (Chatterjee 1978: p.95).

Jainism penetrated into northwest India quite early. The ancient city of Kapisi, visited by Yuan Chwang in the seventh century CE and been identified as Opian in Afghanistan by Cunningham, had a sizeable Jain population (Chatterjee 1978: p.97). The Jain literary tradition associates Taksasila with Bahubali, a son of Risabha. Sir John Marshal has observed a large number of Jain edifices in Taksasila suggesting that it was a great Jain centre (Archaeological survey of India 1914-15: p.2). Sinhapura, identified by Stein (1890, vol. 4, p. 80) and Cunningham with the modern Ketas in the Salt Range (Punjab, Pakistan), was visited by Yuan Chwang, where he saw Svetambar Jains (Chwang's Diary.1, date n.a:.p.248).

Although the Digambars claim a great antiquity for their sect, it is a fact that no Digambar record before 300 CE has so far been discovered (Chatterjee 1978: p. 99). Parsvanatha allowed the monks a lower and upper garment, while Mahavira did not bother whether the monks wore the garments or discarded the clothes following his example. From the earliest times, Jain monks indulged in both kinds of practices, wearing clothes (sthavira kalpa) and going naked (Jina kalpa). It is interesting to note that Parsvanatha never went naked, while Mahavira went naked, but he practised this 13 months after he became an ascetic. Vimala's Paumcariyam written 530 years after Mahvira's liberation shows no acquaintance with the Digambars, suggesting that there was no separation of Jainism at that time. The epigraphic evidence and dates of the original Digambar canon suggest that the Jains separated as Svetambar and Digambar around 150 CE.

Unlike Rajasthan and Gujarat where Svetambars predominated, Digambars had their strongholds in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharastra and southern India. Madhya Pradesh had several influential Jain centres from earliest times. The ruling dynasties of this region favoured the brahmanical religion, however, Jainism was held in esteem by individual kings of different dynasties. Epigraphic evidence of the seventh century, discovered in the Sonagiri temples, proves their antiquity. Chandella kings patronised Jainism and the epigraphic inscriptions during the period of kings Dhanga, Kirtivarman and Madanavarman suggest that many temples including the famous Khajuraho and Deogarh temples were built during their reign. The literary sources provide extensive information regarding the state of Jainism in Madhya Pradesh, which include a temple dedicated to Parsvanatha at Dhara, which was later destroyed by the Muslims along with the Hindu temples. The Parmar kings Harsa Siyaka, Vakpati Munja, and Bhoja supported literary activities and were patrons of Jainism. Gwalior was connected with Jainism from earliest times and the fifteenth century was the golden age of Jainism, and it was largely due to the under the Tomara kings. (Chatterjee 1984: p.177)

Jainism was very popular in Rajasthan from the very early period: literary evidence from the Kuvalayamala shows that Bhinamala was a place of Jain pilgrimage in the 6th century CE. The Jain ascetics of Mathura, who used to visit Gujarat in the early centuries, had to pass through Rajasthan and they preached the Nirgrantha religion during their travels. The kings of the Capa dynasty were patrons of Jainism. That Jainism flourished in Rajasthan during the days of king Vatsaraja is further shown by an inscription (Bhandarkar, list no. 72) discovered from Osia and dated 956 CE. Several epigraphic inscriptions suggest that during the Rastrakuta dynasty and other kings Jainism was very popular in most centres of Rajasthan and had royal patronage (Chatterjee 1978: pp. 154-157). During the period of the various families of the Cauhan, Parmar and Gohil dynasties Jainism prospered and many temples were built between the 11th and 14th century CE (Chatterjee 1984: pp 39-54). From the 15th century onwards Rajasthan has remained one of the main centres of Jainism due to the patronage of the kings such as those of Jesalmir, Bikaner, Dungarpur and Mewar and the Marwari business community. It has famous centres of pilgrimage such as the Delwara temples at Mount Abu, Ranakpur and Jesalmir.

Thus all the available evidence indicate that Jainism was a pan-Indian religion, by the beginning of the 4th century CE. In northern India the Svetambars and in southern India Digambars were prominent. The Gupta dynasty, though inclined towards Brahmanism, patronised Jain scholars. Although Jainism never received the large-scale royal patronage of its early career, it appealed directly to the masses and gradually became popular throughout India. It has had a convoluted history, occasional persecution and severe competition from Brahmanism and Buddhism, but it never declined completely, as northern rulers were generally sympathetic to it. Even in the Muslim period, many rulers were influenced by Jain ascetics and were sympathetic to the cause of Jains.

Western India

Royal patronage of Jainism has a long history in Gujarat. By the third century BCE Jainism had become a popular religion, which once formed part of the fabric of the kingdom of Samprati. In the Gupta period Gujarat was the chief centre of Jainism in India. This is indirectly shown by the fact that the Svetambar canon was finally redacted at Valabhi 980 (or 993) years after Mahavira's liberation. An earlier council of ascetics under Nagarjuna also met at Valabhi in the 4th century CE, which coincided with the Mathura council. Literary evidences also suggest that Valabhi was the main centre of Jainism in Gujarat until its destruction by the Muslims in 787 CE (Chatterjee 1978: pp.108-109).

It was a Jain ascetic, Silagunsuri, who was instrumental in the establishment of the Patan kingdom in the 9th century CE. Almost all subsequent kings patronised Jainism, regardless of their personal allegiance. The golden age of royal patronage in Gujarat was during the kingdom of Siddharaj and Kumarpal, when not only were temples and upashrayas were built, but Jainism permeated the whole culture of Gujarat, an influence that continues to the present day.

Gujarat has always been associated with the Tirthankara Neminatha and other leading figures of Jain history such as the Digambar ascetic scholar Dharasena, and the Svetambar ascetic scholar Hemcandra. The great places of pilgrimage, Satrunjay (Palitana) and Girnar and Valabhi, where two councils of ascetics were held, are in Gujarat. Even Muslim rulers and their representatives sought the co-operation and support of Jains. The long history of royal patronage owes much to the honesty and integrity of a large number of Jain officials, who occupied senior posts in the royal administrations. Many such officials, Jain merchants and bankers used their own resources to promote Jainism, and contributed generously to keep the heritage of Jain art and culture alive. This culture flourished under the British Raj because of religious freedom and generous help from Jain merchants and the wider sangha.

Although Maharastra has no history of royal patronage to compare to that of Gujarat, Jainism flourished there at an early date because of the missionaries sent by Samprati. The language of many Jain writings is today known as Jain Maharastri Prakrit. Maharastra was, for a time, under the domination of the Calukya and Rastrakuta dynasties and this allowed Jainism to flourish for a long period. Some places, such as Kolhapur, still have large Jain population. The early popularity of Jainism in Maharastra is shown by the fact that beautiful Jain caves at Ellora were excavated in 800 CE. The epigraphic evidence suggests that Jainism was very popular in the Kolhapur district and had royal patronage (Chatterjee 1984: p. 60-64).

Southern India

The Buddhist text Mahavansa (4th century CE) states that King Pandukabhaya constructed houses and temples for the Nirgrantha ascetics at Anuradhapura. Pandukabhaya lived in the fourth century BCE, and the evidence of this Pali text proves the presence of Jain ascetics in Sri Lanka in the 4th century BCE. Another Pali text Dipavamsa, which was composed a century earlier quotes the same Nirgrantha Giri. Thus the combined evidence of the above prove the presence of Jainism in Sri Lanka in pre-Mauryan times and it may have spread to the south in the time of Parsvanatha or the early period of the Mahaviran era. These Jains may have migrated from the Tamilspeaking areas of South India, and once we accept this, we have to believe that Jainism was firmly established in the southernmost corners of India by the 4th century BCE (Chatterjee 1978: p.118). The early Tamil literature (Sangam texts: Tolkappivam, Kural and Silappadikaram) indicates that Jainism was popular in quite early times in the regions south of the Kaveri. The Jain ascetics of Bengal and Orissa were responsible for the early propagation of Jainism in Tamil Nadu, but not of Karnataka, as it is usually believed.

The Silappadikaram gives an account of Jainism in the three Dravidian states of Chola, Pandya and Chera and describes the Jain temples in the capitals of these three kingdoms, and that a Jain chariot-festival (ratha-yatra) was associated with the observance of the elaborate Astahnika festival thrice a year (Asadha, Kartika and Phalguna). It further describes how Jain ascetics, Carnars, used to visit the beautiful temple at Kaveripattam, the Chola capital and that it was constructed at a great expense by the lay disciples of Nirgrantha. It delineates the Carnars as monks who possessed the highest knowledge, who had put aside attachment and anger and were responsible for the popularity of Jain religion in the south because of their religious activities and saintly life. The Silappadikaram also describes Jain temples at Madurai and Vanji (near Cochin), suggesting the popularity of Jainism not only in the Chola and Pandya kingdoms but also in Kerala. It further throws welcome light on the Jain nuns of south India.

The present Madurai district was the stronghold of Jainism in Tamil Nadu and this can be shown by literary evidence from many Jain shrines in Madurai city, a large number of caves (particularly in the hills) where Jain monks lived, and epigraphic inscription of early Brahmi script of the 3rd century BCE. From practically all over Tamil Nadu, celebrated Jain sites suggest the popularity of Jainism in this region from earliest times.

A number of sites in Kerala connected with Jainism have also been discovered: a Jain monastery near the Chera capital Vanji; a famous Jain centre of pilgrimage in ancient times, now known as the shrine of Bhagwati in Tirucanttumalai (the icons prove that it was a Jain site); Jain sculptures and inscriptions in Nagarkoyji.

The Pallavas were brahmanical kings, but during their reign Jainism was one of the dominant religions and more than one royal member of the dynasty favoured Jain monks. Thus the Dravida Sangha was established by Vajranandin at Daksina-Mathura (Madurai) in 464 CE, and the Digambar Lokavibhaga was composed by Sarvanandin in 458 CE during the reign of Simhavarman, the king of Kanchi (Patalipura).

The western Gangas, the rulers of southern Karnataka from the 4th century CE, were great patrons of Jainism from the beginning of their history; Aacaarya Simhanandi had guided the first king Sivarama Konngunivarma, who came from the north, to establish the Ganga dynasty in southern Karnataka (Jindal 1988: p.1). Simhanandi gave spiritual guidance and the explanation of ahimsaa to the rulers, and this aided the establishment of the Ganga dynasty The Ganga dynasty supported to Jainism for some 500 years. Epigraphic evidence suggests that the Ganga King Marasimha had decisive victories over the Cheras, the Cholas, the Pandyas, and the Pallavas. Camundaraya, who was his and his successor's valiant minister, erected the world famous monolithic statue of Bahubali at Sravanbelgola in 978 CE. In almost every part of the kingdom there were Jain shrines (Chatterjee 1978: p.191), and this was also due to the fact that the Western Calukyas and the Kadamba dynasty who ruled parts of Karnataka were also patrons of Jainism. Hoysala rulers, encouraged by a Jain ascetic Sudatta, supported Jainism. The Pallava and the Rastrakuta dynasty also patronised Jainism. The Eastern Calyukas who ruled the eastern districts of Andhra Pradesh also supported Jainism. But political conditions changed after the 10th century CE and Jainism went into decline due to the hostility of Saiva and Vaisnava fanatics.

Sixth century CE is characterised by the revival of Brahmanism, which shook the foundation of Jainism as well as Buddhism. Buddhism had already lost its hold in south India, but Jainism was at its zenith. The Jain teachings had become very rigorous and exacting in their application to daily life. The exclusiveness of the Jains and their lack of adaptability to circumstances soon rendered them objects of contempt and ridicule, and it was only the state patronage that rendered them influential. However, the hostile propaganda made Jainism unpopular and in time it ended in violence and religious persecution through force by the over-zealous state officials who were ready to execute the commands of the bigoted kings.

With the rise of Saivism, an abundance of religious literature on Shiva, his miracles and powers, was written, and was edited in the twelfth century by Sekkizhar as Tirutondar Puranam or Periapuranam (Ayyangar 1922: p. 61). Among the 63 Saiva Nayanars or saints whose accounts fill this text, Appar, Siruttondar and Sambandar furnish some information on the Jains. Of these three, Sambandar, who was a popular activist, shrewd orator and singer saint, rendered Jainism a mortal blow in the Pandya kingdom, from the effects of which it never recovered. Appar did the same for the Pallava kingdom, and his account states that the fiery preaching of Saint Samandar and the Vaisnava saints, Tirumazhisaipiran and Tirumangai Alvar, led to the decline of Jainism in Tamil Nadu in the eighth century CE. The Chola kings who followed Siva did not patronise Jainism during this period. From the Periapuranam it is evident that 8,000 Jain leaders were impaled at the suggestion of Samandar and that there was violent religious persecution in the Pallava and Pandya kingdoms. As a result, not only were many Jains driven out of these kingdoms, but also many were forced to embrace Saivism. The evolution of Hinduism owes a debt to the Saiva Nayanars, Vaisnava Alvars, and Sankaracharya (8th century CE) who turned his attention to the north after witnessing the ruin of Jainism in the south.

Jain saints, especially Ajjanandi, travelled through Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala to counteract the hostile propaganda of the Saivites and Vaisnavites, but it was a losing battle. The Jains due to their persecution, and the fear of persecution, migrated to Sravanbelgola in the Ganga Kingdom, a few remained in Tamil Nadu, but without any influence. Nevertheless they continued their literary activities and produced classic works such as Kural Sillappadikaram, Chintamani, Nannul and many books on grammar, lexicography and astronomy. The contribution of the Jain heritage to the Tamil culture is unique and considerable, and can be seen in the observance of ahimsaa in the Vedic rites and ceremonies, surviving temples and their institutions, and the literature. By the end of the thirteenth century CE, with the exception of Karnataka and few pockets in Tamil Nadu, where Jains had to face very stiff opposition, Jainism had practically disappeared from south India.

Thus for more than 1,500 years after the age of Mahavira, parts of southern India proved to be strongholds of Jainism, mainly in its Digambar variant. Jain literature claims that Neminatha was in the south when Krishna's city of Dwaraka was burnt. Legend says that a saintly ascetic, who had been repeatedly harassed by some drunken members of the royal household, had put a curse on the city and it may be that the drunken behaviour of those inhabitants of Dwaraka precipitated the fire.

Many south Indian dynasties such as Calukyas, Gangas, Rastrakutas, Kadambas, Pandyas, Cholas, Kalcuri, Amoghvarsha, Vijaynagar and other dynasties patronized Jainism. The Rastrakuta period is looked upon as a 'golden era' of Jain literary activity, technical and religious literature, and of Jain art and architecture in the south. By the 14th century CE, Jainism declined both numerically and culturally when royal patronage was withdrawn, due to new rulers who followed Saivism and Lingayatism. But despite these setbacks and persecution, some pockets of Jainism survived.

Under the Raj, British rule did not actively help to promote Jainism, though indirectly it did through an increasing liberal education and freedom of religion, but the struggle for independence from Britain, in which Mahatma Gandhi so publicly embraced non-violence (ahimsaa), led to a new dissemination of Jain values.

In independent secular India, Jainism has revived and Jain values have been given an important place in the life of the nation, and Jainism has been accepted as one of the major religions of India. Under the patronage of the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, India celebrated the 2,500th anniversary of Mahavira in 1975. People from all walks of life participated in the head-anointing ceremony of the colossal statue of Bahubali at Sravanabelgola, and many tourists visit Jain temples such as Delwara, Ranakpur and Satrunjay. Some places of pilgrimage have been restored to their former glory and many new temples are being built throughout India. Jain literature is being made accessible to all through translations into English and the Indian languages.

In November 1996, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, John Major, visited the Jain Centre in Leicester. These and establishment of Jain Centres in North America are leading to a greater awareness of Jainism outside India. Thus, Jainism is beginning to establish an international dimension, but without the active patronage of rulers in this modern and secular age.


Title: Jainism: The World of Conquerors
Dr. Natubhai Shah
Publisher: Sussex Academic Press
Edition: 1998
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  64. Ramayana
  65. Ranakpur
  66. Risabha
  67. Saiva
  68. Sangha
  69. Sankaracharya
  70. Sonagiri
  71. Srenika
  72. Sutra
  73. Svetambar
  74. Tamil
  75. Tamil Nadu
  76. Tirthankara
  77. Tirthankaras
  78. Ujjain
  79. Uttar Pradesh
  80. Vaisnava
  81. Varanasi
  82. Vardhamana
  83. Vedic
  84. Violence
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