What is the Contribution of Jainism to Indian Culture?

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The Hindu religious texts were all in Sanskrit and the Buddhist texts were mostly in Pali. The Jains, however, opted for Prakrit, though at different places texts were written in local languages as well.

Mahavira himself preached in Ardha-Magadhi. Secondly, the Jain philosophy has certainly en­riched India's thought. The five vows ahimsa, satya, asateya, aparigraha and brahmacharya are relevant even today.

In the early centuries of the Christian era, the Jains (like their Buddhist counterparts) con­structed stupas adorned with railings, gateways with carved figures and pillars. The image of a Tirthankara from Lohanipur (Patna) dating back to the Mauryan period is one of the earliest Jain figures. The Hathigumpha Cave of Kharvela (with its famous inscription) and the Khandagiri and Udaigiri caves of Orissa contain early Jain relics.

During the Kushana period Mathura was a great centre of Jain art. Several votive tablets (ayagpatta) with the Tirthankara in the centre were produced. The practice continued throughout and a number of Jain images were made during the Gupta period and afterwards. The gigantic statues of Bahubali (called Gomateshvara) at Shravanabelagola and Karkala, both in Kar- nataka, are real wonders.

The Jain temples were constructed at all places of pilgrimage. The temples at Ranakpur, near Jodhpur in Rajasthan and the Dilwara temples at Mount Abu (Rajasthan) are the products of su­perb craftsmanship.

The Jain Tower in the fort of Chittor is another specimen of architectural en­gineering. Innumerable manuscripts in palm leaves were written down and some of them were painted with gold dust. These have given rise to a new school of painting known as the "Western Indian School".

Thus Jainism has played a very significant role in the development of language, philosophy, ar­chitecture, sculpture and painting in India. It never became a dominant religion, nor was it embraced by a large number of people, and it never crossed the frontiers of India; but its presence in Indian art and culture was always felt and admired. The same is true to this day.


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