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II. 3.4.2 Impact of Jainism on Indian Society

It is popularly believed that Jainism is fundamentally an offshoot of Hinduism.  It originated in teachings of Mahavira’s during period  599-527 BC. Jainism originated in opposition to distorted Vedic religion. It brought changes in the religious atmosphere of India. By its contribution it enriched the Indian Culture. It has brought changes in many aspects of Indian Culture.                 jainism

Growth of Language and Literature:

Jainism influenced Indian language and literature. Vardhaman Mahavir preached in ‘Ardha-Magadhi’ language, the language of the common man. The people knowing ‘Magadhi’ and ‘Soruaseni’ could easily follow the preaching’s of Mahavir. In due course of time the Jaina Canonical texts were written in Prakrit language.

Thus, the vernacular and regional languages were enriched by Jainism. Further, the Jaina texts like ‘Anga’, ‘Upanga’, ‘Kalpasutra’, ‘Archarangasutra’, ‘Uttaradhyayanasutra’ etc. were also written in Sanskrit. Thus, the literature also grew due to the rise of Jainism.

Influence on Politics:

Jainism influenced the Indians politics too. It cast its influence over many rulers. The great Chandragupta Maurya became the famous Chadramuni coming under the spell of Jainism. The mighty emperor Mahameghavahana Aira Kharavela became an ardent devotee of Mahavira Jaina. Examples can be multiplied. By following the principle of non-violence the kings became kind hearted and tolerant. This was a lasting impact of Jainism on Indian politics.

Growth of Trading Community:

Jainism contributed a lot for the growth of trading community. At first, Jainism became popular among the traders and merchants. It fostered brotherhood among them which gave rise to guild system in future. The merchants became rich and got a special position in the society. Owing to their wealth and fame they came closer to ruling class. The cooperation between them brought stability in the society.

Creation of Healthy Society:

Jainism went a long way in creating a healthy society. Mahavir preached against the caste system. With the end of caste system in society the grip of the higher caste over the lower cast ended. The lower class people were not to be exploited by the higher caste people. The bitterness between the two antagonistic sections of the society melted away. This gave rise to a healthy society which influenced the course of Indian history.

Growth of Charitable Institutions:

Jainism helped a lot in the growth of charitable institutions. Its influenced on the kings and other people was abiding. The kings created many caves for the dwelling of the sages of different castes. They also distributed foods and clothes to the people. With the gradual march of time other rich people followed this practice. They created charitable institutions to serve the people. Thus, social welfare was largely attained due to the growth of charitable institutions.

Growth of Art and Architecture:

Jainism helped a lot in the growth of Art and Architecture. The kings patronized Jainism. So many Jaina unages and the images of Jaina Tirthankara were found in many parts of India. The image of Bahuvalin in Shravanavelgola in Karnataka (known as Gomateswara) is the highest Jaina image ever craved in India. In fine arts, their rock cut architecture, temple architecture and paintings stand out.

The Jaina images found in Mathura, Bundelkhand, Northem Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Benares are important Jaina Art remains in India. The cave art of Udayagiri in Bhubaneswar, Madhya Pradesh, Ellora and Maharashtra are unique examples of Jaina art. The Dilwara Jaina temple at Mount Abu of Rajasthan is a dream in marble. Thus, Jainism helped in the growth of art and architecture in India.

The new way of Life:

Jainism gave a new touch to life. It criticized the Vedic religion and the pre-dominance of Brahmanism. Thus, the people turned away their attention from the unnecessary ritualistic practices. They led a very simple and normal life. This influences the society a lot and moulded its character in future. It inculcated following in indian society-

  • Ethical idealism; Strengthening of ethical life and moral virtues,
  • Austerity, both external (eg: begging, fasting, lack of fetishism) internal (eg: humility, service to humanity, acquisition of knowledge, meditation, penances) to shut influx of evil
  • Preaches kindness not only to human society but to other life forms too which gave form to pure vegetarianism
  • Intoxication of any kind is strictly prohibited in Jainism
  • Construction of dharamshalas (rest houses, inn) for public service

Jainism has laid down a simple ethical code for people as against complex and esoteric ideas. Prominent among the essence of Jainism are observance of principles of :-

  • Satya (truth)
  • Asteya (non-stealing)
  • Brahmacharya (non-adultery)
  • Aparigraha (non-possession)
  • Ahimsa (non violence, peace)

Principle of Non-Violence:

Mahavira Jaina was the embodiment of peace. He was the preacher of non-violence. He rejected the Vedic rituals and taught to be kind and humane to the animals. Further, he emphasized that both living and non-living beings have life and they get pain. His concept of non-violence largely influenced the course of Indian history. Even a great leader like Mahatma Gandhi followed the principle of non-violence and became successful by ousting the British from India.

Observance of these moral virtues are is known as anuvarna.  Both lay persons (Shravakta) and the ascetic (Yati) are supposed to be bound by the following vows

  • Cultivation of right state of mind
  • Regular practice of meditation
  • Observance of fast on the 8th and 14th day of moons waxing and waning period
  • Confessions of faults and consequent penance

Because of factors such as orthodoxy, its affinity with brahmanism, non-missionary spirit, absence of hostility with other faiths Jainism still flourishes in Indian society despite the fact that like other religious ideologies it has imbibed a number of distortions.

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