Jainism in Northern India

Jainism in Northern India

When by 300 B.C. the migration of Jainas began from eastern India to different parts of the country. One of their branches was firmly established in north India from the middle of the second century B.C. and was settled in the Mathura region. That Shravanabelagola was to the Jainas of South. Mathura, in the old kingdom of Surasenas, was to the Jainas of North. The numerous inscriptions excavated in this city tell us about a wide-spread and firmly established Jaina religion. Strongly supported By pious lay devotees and very jealous in the consecration and worship of images and shrines dedicated to Lord Mahavira and his predecessors. As these inscriptions range from the 2nd century B.C. to the 5th century A.D.. it is clear that Mathura was a stronghold of Jainas for nearly a thousand years.

Another center of Jaina activities in the North was Ujjayini It was the capital of Maurya Emperor Samprati who was the Jaina Ashok. Since we find several references to Ujjayini in the Jaina literature, it seems that the city might have played an important role in the history of Jaina religion.

The archaeological and other evidences brought to light from different parts of north and central India establish close relations of various rulers with Jainism. During the Mohammedan period Jainism could not get the royal and popular support as it used to receive before but it succeeded in holding its own without much trouble. Jainas even could secure some concessions for their holy places and practices from the liberal minded Mughal emperors like Akbar the Great and Jahangir.

It is recorded that emperor Akbar was very favorably inclined towards the Jaina religion. In the year 1583 A.D. he made animal slaughter during the Paryusana days a capital offense throughout his vast empire. This tolerant policy of the Great Mohgal was revoked by his successor Jahangir. A deputation of the Jainas which visited Jahangir in 1610 A.D. was able to secure a new imperial firman or rescript under which the slaughter of animals was again prohibited during the days of the Paryusana.

During the Mohammedan period, however, the Jainas particularly increased in the native States of Rajputana, where they came to occupy many important offices under the state as generals and ministers. In this connection Col. Tod remarks that:

“The officers of the state and revenue are chiefly of the Jaina laity. The Chief Magistrate and assessors of Justice in Udaipur and most of the towns of Rajasthan, are of this sect. Many of the ancient cities where this religion was fostered, have inscriptions which evince their prosperity in these countries, where with their own history is interwoven. In fine, the necrological records of the Jainas bear witness to their having occupied a distinguished place in Rajput society; and the privileges they still enjoy, prove that they are not overlooked.” (Vide Col. Tod, J. Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, Vol. II, pp. 603-605).