7. Are Jains
7.1. Joins in the Minorities’
One of the least
vocal communities in India is the Jain community. When the Minorities’
Commission was formed in 1978, the Jains were somehow overlooked, though
Sikhs and Buddhists were invited to join. No Jain protest was heard.
It seemed that as a prosperous business community, the Jains were not too
interested in the politics of grievances, and therefore they didn’t care
too much whether they were entitled to minority status. In
1996, however, a delegation of prominent Jains submitted a memorandum to
Prime Minister Deve Gowda requesting recognition of the Jain community
as a religious minority.1 In 1997, the Minorities’
Commission did invite the Jains.
The Sangh Parivar
was angry at the 1997 move, though it merely confirmed the minority status
accorded to the Jains in the Constitution (Art.25). The RSS weekly Organiser
went out of its way to collect pro-Hindu statements from Jain sages and
lay authorities. Thus: “Jain saint Acharya Tulsi has categorically
asserted the Jains to be an integral part of Hindu society. In
a statement released here, the Acharya asked the Jains to desist from any
attempts to put them among minority communities. Hinduism is not
a specific religion but refers to nationality or society, according to
So far, nothing
has been gained: if “Hindu” merely means “Indian” (as the Sangh Parivar
often claims), then Acharya Tulsi’s assertion amounts to no more than the
trivial claim that Jains are Indians. It becomes more pertinent when
he adds: “In a Hindu family, one member can be a
Vaishnavite, another an Arya Samaji and yet another a Jain, all belonging
to Hindu society”.3 Another
Jain Muni, Anuvarta Anushasta Ganadhipati Acharya “pointed out that Jainism
is an inseparable part of Hinduism, even though it believes in a different
way of worship, follows distinct samskâras and has its own
spiritual books”.4 And
Sadhvi Dr. Sadhana, who leads the Acharya Sushil Kumar Ashram in Delhi,
asserted that “the Jains and the other Hindus are the inheritors of a common
Jains are divided in a few castes, some of which intermarry with (and are
thereby biologically part of) Hindu merchant castes: Jain Agarwals marry
Hindu Agarwals but not Jain Oswals.6 They
function as part of the merchant castes in the larger Hindu caste scheme.
If the observance of caste endogamy is taken as a criterion of Hinduism,
then Jains are Hindus by that criterion. In September 2001, the Rajasthan
High Court ruled that the Jains are Hindus, not a separate non-Hindu minority;
but in some other states they are counted as a separate minority.
Clearly, there is no consensus about this in lay society.
7.2. Joins in Hindu Revivalism
Given the actual
participation of Jains in Hindu society, it is no surprise that we find
Jains well-represented in the Hindu Revivalist movement, either formally,
e.g. J.K. Jain, BJP media specialist and MP in 1991-96, and Sunderlal Patwa,
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister in 1990-93, or informally, e.g. the late
Girilal Jain, sacked in 1988 as Times of India editor when he developed
Hindutva sympathies, and his daughters Meenakshi Jain and Sandhya Jain.
a collection of Girilal Jain’s columns on the triangular Hindu-Muslim-secularist
struggle (that is how he understood the “communal” problem)7,
we find his explicit rejection of Jain separateness: “Though not to the
same extent as in the case of Sikhs, (…) neo-Buddhists and at least some
Jains have come to regard themselves as non-Hindus. In
reality, however, Buddhism and Jainism have been no more than movements
within the larger body of Hinduism.”8 According
to Girilal Jain, what difference there was between Brahmins and Jain renouncers
has been eliminated by competitive imitation, e.g.: “the Brahman would
have adopted vegetarianism so as not to be outdone by the renouncer qua
spiritual leader”.9 Whatever schisms may have
taken place in the distant past, the ultimate origin is common, and ever
since, coexistence was too close to allow for permanent separateness.
When BJP President
Murli Manohar Joshi visited the predominantly Jain Indian diamond community
in Antwerp (August 1992), someone in the audience asked him whether Jains
are Hindus. Pat came his reply: “Jains are the best Hindus of all.”
7.3. Dayananda Saraswati on Jainism
at the doctrinal level, Jainism may have some aspects which mainstream
Hindus would disagree with. But the Sangh Parivar has a policy of
deliberate indifference to inter-Hindu disputes, aiming first of all at
uniting all sections of Hindu society “including” Jainism. The only
written argument against Jainism by Hindu revivalists was developed more
than a century ago by the Arya Samaj.
In the introduction
to his Light of Truth, Swami Dayananda tones down the polemical
thrust of the chapters devoted to other religions and sects: “Just as we
have studied the Jain and Buddhist scriptures, the Puranas, the Bible and
the Qoran with an unbiased mind, and have accepted
what is good in them and rejected what is false, and endeavour for the
betterment of all mankind, it behoves all mankind to do likewise.
We have but very briefly pointed out the defects of these religions.”10
Many schools of
thought and religious traditions which contemporary Hindutva ideologues
and even some outside observers would readily include in “Hinduism”, as
part of the prolific offspring of the ancient Vedic tradition, are rejected
in strong terms by the Arya Samaj. This class
of substandard varieties of Hinduism includes the Puranic tradition and
Sikhism.11 With even
more emphasis, the Arya Samaj rejects the Nâstika or non-Vedic
traditions. Chapter 12 of Light of Truth is titled: “An exposition
and a refutation of the Charvaka, the Buddhistic and the Jain faiths, all
of which are atheistic”.12
Charvaka (“polemicist”) sect, founded in pre-Buddhist antiquity by one
Brihaspati, can be considered a cornerstone in the spectrum of Indian philosophies
because of its radical clarity in proposing one of the possible extremes
in cosmology, viz. atheistic materialism.13 The
several materialistic schools of ancient Indian philosophy have naturally
been highlighted by Marxist scholars, even with a streak of patriotic pride.14 The
ancient Indian atheists are also quite popular as reference among crusading
“rationalists”, i.e. people devoted to debunking claims of the paranormal,
quite active in South India.15 For this reason,
they belong to the pantheon of the political parties which subscribe to
“rationalism”: Dravida Kazhagam (Dravidian Federation, DK), Dravida Munnetra
Kazhagam (Dravidian Progressive Federation, DMK) and Anna Dravida Munnetra
Kazhagam (C. Annadurai’s Dravidian Progressive Federation,
ADMK), Tamil chauvinist parties which are (or were) anti-Brahminical and
anti-religious promoters of “rationalism”.16
By contrast, since
it has been extinct as a separate sect for centuries, Indian Materialism
does not figure in modern Hindutva discourse, except as a referent to contemporary
secular materialism. It is nevertheless part of an atheistic-agnostic
doctrinal continuum to which Jainism and Buddhism also belong, and for
that reason, some references to it may appear in the following survey of
Dayananda’s argumentation. The major part of this critique is directed
against Jainism rather than Buddhism. The reason for this may simply
be that Dayananda was more familiar with Jainism as a living presence in
society, at a time when Buddhism was practically extinct in India.
Contrary to Dayananda’s
refutations of Christianity and Islam, his critique of Jainism and Buddhism
is limited to certain highbrow points of philosophy, and avoids attacks
on the morality of the founder or on the humanity of the religion’s historical
career. We leave the scholastic points on the epistemology and metaphysics
of the Nastika schools undiscussed because they
are hardly relevant for the effective relationship between the communities
concerned, and because similar differences of opinion can easily be found
within Vedic Hinduism itself, e.g. between dualist and non-dualist Vedanta.17
In this section on Jainism, we will consider the general argument of religion
against atheism, of rationalism against irrational beliefs and practices;
and the argument against Shramanic sectarianism.
7.4. Philosophical materialism
12 of the Light of Truth starts with the classical counter-arguments
against the equally classical arguments of atheism and materialism.18
Thus, against the position that the conscious subject (Self) dies along
with the body, which makes short work of the notions of eternal soul, afterlife
or reincarnation, Dayananda develops the well-known argument in defence
of the soul as an entity separable from the body at death: “Your
so-called elements are devoid of consciousness, therefore consciousness
cannot result from their combination.”19 Like
begets like, so matter cannot generate non-matter, yet non-matter (consciousness)
is an observed fact of life, ergo there must be an entity which
exists apart from matter. The conscious subject is an entity separate
from the body and not bound to die along with it.20
We cannot hope
to settle a debate on such a fundamental philosophical question as the
“mind-brain problem” here, and will be satisfied with noting that Dayananda
uses the classical argument of religious people against this type of materialism.
The point is that his is not necessarily the only “Hindu” position.
Indeed, those who like to argue for the “tolerance” of Hinduism (including
those Hindutva authors who defend the position that Hinduism and fundamentalism
are intrinsically incompatible) often claim that “a Hindu can even be an
atheist”. Thus, Balraj Madhok writes: “The
theist and the atheist, the sceptic and agnostic may all be Hindus if they
accept the Hindu system of culture and life.”21
On this premiss, it becomes much easier to include atheist Jainism in Hinduism.
even in the hard core of Brahmanical ritualism, we find a strong atheist
element. The highly orthodox ritualists of the Purva Mimamsa school
developed the doctrine that the Gods, to whom sacrifices were made in expectation
of their auspicious intervention, were mere terms used to label the unseen
phase (in modern terms, the “black box”) of the
purely mechanical process which leads from the ritual performed to the
materialization of the effects desired.22
They were possibly the first deliberate atheists in world history, yet
they were Âstikas, followers of the Veda.
contrast, made it clear that he did not want to be associated with atheists,
and that the Arya Samaj was a crusading force against atheism. Here
we are faced with the fact that Dayananda had no intention of representing
the broadest possible spectrum of Hinduism, unlike the Hindutva movement.
He was a purist who rejected as unauthentic or un-Aryan all the Nastika
(and, at least implicitly, even some Astika) traditions which did not conform
to his own conception of Vedic doctrine.
the doctrines which reject or simply ignore the notion of a Creator-God,
Dayananda argues: “Dead and inert substances cannot combine together of
their own accord and according to some design unless the Conscious Being-God-fashions
and shapes them.”23
At the time of
his writing, it was probably too early for a provincial Indian pandit to
realize the implications of the findings of modern science. We see
dead substances combine and recombine all the time: even before the first
life forms appeared on earth, a lot of chemical processes took place which
scientists have explained entirely in terms of the Laws of Nature, without
needing the hypothesis of divine intervention. At face value, Dayananda’s
point seems to be close to the medieval idea that the planets could only
move because of angels pushing them forward; but a more sophisticated reading
of his view would be that at least the first beginnings of life and of
the physical processes require some kind of divine intervention.
Ultimately, the planets and the force of gravity which explains their motions,
and more generally all substances and the Laws of Nature which govern them,
cannot have come into being without being created by a Creator.
claim that nothing exists without a cause, and that the world itself must
therefore have a “cause”, viz. a divine Creator, is one of the classical
proofs of the existence of God, the main proof for Muslims and one of the
five proofs given by Saint Thomas Aquinas.24 The
atheist counter-argument is that if an eternal entity is admitted, viz.
the one which theists call God, then the universe itself might just as
well be that eternal and uncreated entity.25
But Dayananda was entirely unaware of the philosophical debates which had
taken place in the West, and was not very broadly informed even about those
7.5. The ethical argument for
well-known to Western debaters on the existence of God is the ethical argument:
without any kind of punishment and reward, people will not be motivated
to do good and shun evil, and since the history
of the world tells us about numerous good people ending in misery and evil
people enjoying success, the just punishment or reward has to be meted
out by God in some future life (whether in heaven or in new incarnations).26
According to Dayananda: “If there were no God (the giver of the fruits
of their deeds to souls), no soul will ever, of its own free will, suffer
punishment for their crimes.” Dayananda compares
it with burglars who will not volunteer for getting punished, “it is the
law that compels them to do so; in like manner, it is God Who makes the
soul reap the fruits of its actions, good or bad, otherwise all order will
be lost; in other words, one soul will do deeds while the other will reap
the fruits thereof.”27
is unlikely to convince those who hold the opposite view. indeed, one can
think up several ways in which people do “reap the fruits of their actions”
without requiring divine intervention, in a purely mechanical way. Jains
conceive of Karma as a mechanical process, in which experiences in this
life are preserved in seed form to determine the contents of one’s next
life, without any need for a personal God who records man’s sins and metes
out appropriate punishment at some later time. They share Dayananda’s
moralistic view that any good we do is ultimately rewarded and any evil
we do is ultimately paid for, but they are satisfied with their non-theistic
model of explanation.
the non-moralistic possibility should be faced that we are not bound
to “reap the fruits of our actions”: if you kill someone, he definitely
reaps the fruits of your action, viz. by losing his life, and that is where
the causal chain ends. You yourself also reap indirectly in the form
of that which you wanted to take from the murdered man (the money he carried,
the shared secret which he threatened to divulge, etc.), but you are not
going to undergo punishment for this murder unless the human law machinery
catches up with you. It is perfectly conceivable,
as indeed the Indian Materialists hold, that there is no justice in this
world except as a human artefact, that evil is not punished nor good rewarded
except (with luck) in this lifetime by ordinary human means.28
In that case,
ethical behaviour comes without future reward, whether divine or mechanical.
Or rather, it will have to be its own reward, by giving a feeling of serenity,
peace of mind. This approach is a lot closer to what we can glimpse
of the original Vedic conception of ethics than the “divine punishment”-mongering
which the alleged Veda fundamentalist Dayananda offers. The Rigveda,
at least, is a very unmoralistic book. It praises certain virtues
(generosity, truthfulness etc.) without trying to lure anyone into practising
them: those who don’t practise them merely reveal their own ignoble character,
but they are not threatened with any divine punishment for that.
This is but one of many occasions at which Dayananda holds theistic and
moralistic opinions which are classically enunciated not in his revered
Vedas but in the reviled Puranas and Smritis.
At any rate, anyone
familiar with the old debate about the existence of God and related fundamental
questions will notice that Dayananda is not offering any compelling argument
to make committed atheists change their minds.
7.6. With the joins against priestcraft
is in agreement with the Nastikas on another issue which figures prominently
in standard atheist discourse: the absurdity and non-efficacity of funeral
rites and other priestly practices. He welcomes
the atheist argument that if one can benefit one’s ancestors in heaven
by throwing food into the fire, how come one cannot save a relative on
his journey through the desert from hunger and thirst by similar means?29
Thus, “the practice of offering oblations to the manes of departed ancestors
is an invention of priests, because it is opposed to the Vedic and Shastric
teachings and finds sanction in the Puranas (…) Yes,
it is true that the priests have devised these funeral rites from motives
of pecuniary gain but, being opposed to the Vedas, they are condemnable.”30
On this point,
the contrast between the Arya Samaj and the contemporary RSS Parivar is
complete: whereas the latter tries to group all Hindus and implicitly condones
all existing Hindu religious practices, the former takes objection to everything
which, in its opinion, is not well-attested in the Vedas. Veer Savarkar
rejected all superstitious practices too, and even forbade any funeral
rites for his own departed soul, but he never waged an ideological campaign
against such practices, as this would have greatly harmed his effort to
unite all Hindus. In the case of the RSS Parivar, the same concern
for unity stands in the way of this type of religious purism, except when
it comes to superstitions which directly affect the unity effort, most
notably untouchability, or which harm Hindu interests otherwise, e.g. the
taboo on widow remarriage with its negative effect on the Hindu birth rate.
However, the “protestant”
objections to priestcraft, which are in effect similar to Luther’s objections
against Roman Catholic practices, do not define an antagonism between Hinduism
(even if limited to the Vedic tradition) on the one and Jainism and Buddhism
on the other hand. The antagonism between ritualists and non-ritualists
cuts through both Hinduism and the Shramanic traditions. The shift
in emphasis from Vedic Karmakânda (ritual) to Jñânakânda
(contemplation) is a central theme of the Upanishads, while Buddhism, supposedly
a revolt against empty ritualism (among other things), had its limited
array of non-icon-centred rituals from the beginning, and soon developed
its own rich array of rituals in temples before impressive Buddha statues,
culminating in the near-suffocation of silent meditation by endless rituals
in Tibetan Tantric Buddhism. Jainism, too, has its network of temples
where idols of the 24 Tirthankaras (“ford-makers”, founding saints of Jainism)
The Arya Samaj
itself, though professing a decided skepticism (which most Westerners would
readily qualify as “healthy”) vis-à-vis mûrti-pûjâ
(idol-worship), pilgrimages and other rituals, has some rituals of its
own. Indeed, rather than being a rationalistic rejection of all ritual
per se, it represents a restoration of Vedic ritual to the detriment of
rival ritual practices. If the ritual of feeding the departed souls
is incapable of affecting the souls of the deceased, why should the Arya/Vedic
ritual of Homa or Agnihotra be taken to have any effect upon any being
whether living or dead? Here, we are faced with the common phenomenon
that apologists of a religion are very rationalistic when it comes to evaluating
the supernatural claims of rival traditions, but do not extend the same
logic to an evaluation of their own doctrine.
7.7. Critique of Jain chronology
of the same tendency to judge others by more exacting standards of rationality
than one’s own tradition is Dayananda’s critique of Jain chronology. The
24 Jain Tirthankaras, among whom the historical teacher Parshvanath is
listed as 23rd and Mahavira Jina as 24th, are credited with astronomical
lifetimes and body sizes, e.g. the first in the list, Rishabhadeva (claimed
to be attested in the Vedas)31 was 500 dhanush
(= 500 x ca. 2 metres) tall and lived for 8,400,000 years. Dayananda
laboriously criticizes this scriptural hyperbole, and additionally blames
it for similarly grotesque claims in the Puranas: “Let the wise consider
if it is possible for any man to have so gigantic a body and to live so
long. If the globe were inhabited by people of such dimensions, very
few would be contained in it. Following the
example of the Jainees, the Pauraniks have written of persons
who lived for 10,000 years and even for 100,000 years. All this is
absurd and so is what the Jainees say.”32
True, if ever
there was a human being called Rishabhadeva, he probably lived for less
than 8 million years. But if the Jain tradition is highly unrealistic
at this point, how should we judge Dayananda’s claim that the four Vedas
were given in complete form at the time of Creation itself? This
claim, made in accordance with a long-standing Vedic tradition, implies
a rejection of any historical interpretation of all factual mundane data
(e.g. the Battle of the Ten Kings, sung in the Rigveda). It necessitates
forcing a universal symbolical interpretation on mundane data such as names
of rivers, mountains, places and persons, and thereby replaces the real
and complex meaning of the Vedic text with a simplistic though elaborate
Hineininterpretieren. Worst of all, the belief that a book
has been in existence since millions of years, though it was written in
a historical language which only came into existence several thousands
of years ago as a dialectal development from Proto-Indo-European, is really
little better than the Jain claims about the sizes and lifetimes of the
7.8. Dayananda on Jain sectarianism
rebukes the Shramanas, particularly. the Jain monks, for keeping a haughty
distance from others: “The Jains are strictly prohibited to 1) praise a
person belonging to another religion or to talk of his good qualities,
2) to salute him, 3) to talk much to him, 4) to talk to him frequently,
5) to bestow upon him food and clothes, 6) to supply
odoriferous substances and flowers to enable him to worship his idol.
Let the wise consider with what feelings of hatred, malice and hostility
the Jainees are actuated in their relations with those who profess a religion
different from theirs.”33
the Jain teachers teach: ‘Just as a ruby, which is embedded in the head
of a venomous snake, should not be sought after, even so it behoves the
Jainees to shun the company of a non-Jainee, no matter how virtuous and
learned he is.’ It is clear, therefore, that no
sectarians are so much biased, perverse, wrong-headed and ignorant as the
Jainees are.”34 Similar
quotations to the same effect include: “Let not the Jainees even look at
those that are opposed to the Jain religion.”35
definitely has a point. The Shramana sects, consisting of people
who had given up all worldly responsibilities and had thereby acquired
ample leisure to concentrate on doctrinal matters, were quite literally
sectarian. Spending a lot of their time and energy on polemic against
rival sects as well as against non-sect beliefs and practices, they produced
a polemical literature which has no counterpart in pre-Buddhist Brahmanism.
The need, not so much of a sect’s founder but of his followers, to set
the founder apart from his contemporaries, automatically leads to a somewhat
hostile attitude towards other traditions, specifically those closely related.
It is part of this same tradition that contemporary Buddhists and Jains
go out of their way to magnify the differences with Hinduism.
An aspect of Jain
history not considered by Dayananda, is the influence of Islam on the Sthanakvasi
branch of Jainism, founded by a Muni who lived at the court of Mohammed
Shah Tughlaq 1325-51, and on its Terapanthi offshoot. In
imitation of Islam, these communities denounce temple-going and idol-worship,
common enough among the Shwetambara mainstream (contrastively also known
as Murtipujaka Sangha, “image-worshipping assembly”)36,
and from there it is but a step to assuming that the social separatism
enjoined in the passages quoted by Dayananda is equally due to Islamic
influence; that interpretation has at least been given to me by Hindutva-minded
Jains. In my opinion, however, the purity notion intrinsic to Jain
tradition (conceived as a need to avoid accumulating Karma) is sufficient
as an explanation for this Jain practice of keeping distance from the uninitiated.
of haughtiness and keeping distance would of course fit orthodox Brahmins
as well as Jain sectarians, but the Arya Samaj cannot be accused of double
standards here, i.c. of neglecting to produce a similar anti-Brahmin invective.
On the contrary, it can take a certain dubious credit for “hinduizing”
the anti-Brahmin rhetoric propagated by Christian missionaries. What
may, however, be held against the Arya Samaj, is that it is similarly sectarian
itself, sometimes in a more aggressive way than the Jains as per Dayananda’s
In the early decades
of the Samaj’s existence, its more zealous activists would disrupt traditional
devotions and insult priests, with “pope” as a common taunt for Brahmins. Some
would even go into Hindu “idol temples” and relieve themselves right there
to show their contempt for idolatry in no uncertain terms.37
Dayananda’s own writing against more traditional forms of Hinduism is very
intemperate, full of harsh words and lacking in patience and human sympathy.
Sectarianism has made school inside Hindu society.
7.9. Did Hindus demolish Jain
During the Ayodhya
conflict, Muslim and secularist polemicists tried to counter the Hindu
argument about the thousands of Hindu temples razed by Islamic iconoclasm
with the claim that Hindus had likewise destroyed or desecrated Buddhist
and Jain temples. While the few cases of alleged Hindu aggression
against Buddhism are either of doubtful historicity or easily and credibly
explainable from other motives than religious intolerance, there are a
few cases of conflict with Jainism which seem more serious. They
have formed the topic of a debate between Marxist historian Romila Thapar
and Sita Ram Goel.
a start, in the 12th century, “in Gujarat, Jainism flourished during the
reign of Kumarapala, but his successor [i.e. Ajayapala] persecuted the
Jainas and destroyed their temples”.38 According
to D.C. Ganguly: “The Jain chronicles allege that Ajayapâla was a
persecutor of the Jains, that he demolished Jain temples, mercilessly executed
the Jain scholar Ramachandra, and killed Ambada, a minister of Kumârapâla,
in an encounter.”39
Here, the alleged
crime is related by the victims, not by the alleged aggressors (as is usually
the case for Muslim iconoclasm). It is possible that they exaggerated,
but I see no reason to believe that they simply invented the story.
However, since the Jains had been dominant (“flourishing”) in the preceding
period, one might suspect a case of retaliation here. We shall see
shortly that in South India, what little of Hindu aggression against Jainism
occurred was due precisely to earlier oppression by the Jains.
Ganguly adds that
Jains had opposed Ajayapala’s accession to the throne: “After the death
of Kumârapâla in AD 1171-72 there was a struggle for the throne
between his sister’s son Pratâpamalla, who was apparently backed
by the Jains, and Ajayapâla, son of Kumârapâla’s
brother Mahîpâla, who seems to have been supported by the Brâhmanas.”40
Clearly, a political intrigue is involved of which we have not been given
the full story. Predictably, Goel comments:
“The instance she mentions from Gujarat was only the righting of a wrong
which the Jains had committed under Kumârapâla.”41
Next, there was
the attack by the Paramara king Subhatavarman (r. 1193-1210) on Gujarat,
in which “a large number of Jain temples in Dabhoi and Cambay” were “plundered”
in retaliation of plundering of Hindu temples in Malwa by the Gujaratis
during their invasion of Malwa under Jayasimha Siddharaja (d. 1143) who
was under great Jain influence. Harbans Mukhia
cites this as proof that “many Hindu rulers did the same [as the Muslims]
with temples in enemy-territory long before the Muslims had emerged as
a political challenge to these kingdoms”.42
However, it is well-known that the Muslims did more than just plunder:
even temples where there was nothing to plunder were desecrated and destroyed
or converted into mosques in many places, for the Muslims’ motive was not
most important and well-known case of “persecution of Jains” is mentioned
by Romila Thapar: “The Shaivite saint Jnana Sambandar is attributed with
having converted the Pandya ruler from Jainism to Shaivism, whereupon it
is said that 8,000Jainas were impaled by the king.”43
To this, Sita Ram Goel points out that she omits crucial details: that
this king, Arikesari Parankusa Maravarman, is also described as having
first persecuted Shaivas, when he himself was a Jain; that Sambandar vanquished
the Jainas not in battle but in debate, which was the occasion for the
king to convert from Jainism to Shaivism (wagers
in which the second or a third party promises to convert if you win the
debate are not uncommon in India’s religious literature); and that Sambandar
had escaped Jain attempts to kill him.44
This Shaiva-Jaina conflict was clearly not a one-way affair, and as per
the very tradition invoked by Prof. Thapar, Jains themselves had been the
is even a matter of debate whether this persecution has occurred at all.
Nilakanth Shastri, in his unchallenged History of South India, writes
about it: "This, however, is little more than an
unpleasant legend and cannot be treated as history.”45
Admittedly, this sounds like Percival Spear’s statement that Aurangzeb’s
persecutions are “little more than a hostile legend”46:
a sweeping denial of a well-attested persecution. However, Mr. Spear’s
contention is amply disproves by contemporary documents including firmans
(royal decrees) and eye-witness accounts, and by the archaeological record,
e.g. the destruction of the Kashi Vishvanath temple in Varanasi by Aurangzeb
is attested by the temple remains incorporated in the Gyanvapi mosque built
on its site. Such evidence has not been offered in the case of Jnana
Sambandar at all. On the contrary: “Interestingly,
the persecution of Jains in the Pandya country finds mention only in Shaiva
literature, and is not corroborated by Jain literature of the same or subsequent
On the other hand,
the historicity of the Jain-Shaiva conflict in general is confirmed by
Shaiva references to more cases of Jain aggression, none of which is mentioned
by Romila Thapar. Dr. Usha Sivapriya, before
duly quoting classical Tamil sources, argues that the literatures posterior
to Manikkavasaghar (an ancient Tamil sage, author of Thiruvasagham)
“had plenty of reference to the nature, torture and terrorism of Jaina
missionaries and rulers in Tamil kingdom”.48
It all started with the invasion by Kharavela, king of Kalinga, at the
turn of the Christian era: “Kharavela defeated the Tamil kings headed by
Pandiyans and captured Madhurai. The Kalinga or Vadugha king enforced Jaina
rule in Tamil kingdom. People were forcibly
converted at knifepoint, temples were demolished or locked down, devotees
were tortured and killed.”49
And it continued
intermittently for centuries under Pandya and Pallava rule: “When the Digambara
Jaina missionaries had failed in converting the masses, they tried to torture
and kill them. (…) After failing in the attempt
of converting Pandiyans the Digambara Jains tried to kill the Pandiyan
Kings through various means, by sending a dangerous snake, wild bull and
links the advent of Jainism in Tamil Nadu with an episode of conquest by
non-Tamils. Goel adds: “The persecution of Jains in the Pandya country
by some Shaivas had nothing to do with Shaivism as such, but was an expression
of a nationalist conflict which I will relate shortly. What 1 want
to point out first is that most of the royal dynasties which ruled in India
after the breakdown of the Gupta Empire and before the advent of Islamic
invaders, were Shaiva (…). The Jains are known to have flourished everywhere;
not a single instance of the Jains being persecuted under any of these
dynasties is known. (…) M. Arunachalam, in a monograph published eight
years before Professor Thapar delivered the lectures which comprise her
pamphlet (…) has proved conclusively, with the help of epigraphic and literary
evidence, that the Kalabhara invaders from Karnataka
had occupied Tamil Nadu for 300 years (between AD 250 and 550), and that
they subscribed to the Digambara sect of Jainism.”51
So, this is where
“nationalist” resentment against the conquerors came to coincide with resentment
against Jainism: “It so happened that some of the Kalabhara princes were
guided by a few narrow-minded Jain ascetics, and inflicted injuries on
some Shaiva and Vaishnava saints and places of worship. They also
took away the agrahâras which Brahmanas had enjoyed in earlier
times. And a reaction set in when the Kalabharas were overthrown. The
new rulers who rose subscribed to Shaivism. It was then that the
Jains were persecuted in some places, and some Jain places of worship were
taken over by the Shaivas under the plea that these were Shaiva places
in the earlier period.”52
In such cases,
“Professor Thapar does not mention the Jain high-handedness which had preceded.
(... ) Professor Thapar should have mentioned the persecution of Shaivas
practised earlier by the Pandya king who was a Jain to start with, and
who later on converted to Shaivism and persecuted the Jains. This
is another case of suppressio verb suggestio falsi practised very
often by her school.”53
To clinch the
issue and confirm that the Pandya incident of persecution of Jains is atypical
and disconnected from Hindu doctrines, Goel adds: “But the reaction was
confined to the Pandya country. Jainism continued to flourish in northern
Tamil Nadu which also had been invaded by the Kalabharas, where also the
Shaivas and Vaishnavas had been molested by the Jains, and where also the
Shaivas had come to power once again. It is significant that though
Buddhists also invite invectives in the same Shaiva literature, no instance
of Buddhists being persecuted is recorded. That was because Buddhists
had never harmed the Shaivas. It is also significant
that the Vaishnavas of Tamil Nadu show no bitterness against the Jains
though they had also suffered under Kalabhara rule.”54
7.10. Jains and Virashaivas
A later offshoot
of Shaivism, viz. the Virashaiva or Lingayat sect, also showed its hostility
to Jainism repeatedly. Indeed, Prof. Thapar’s
next piece of evidence is that “inscriptions of the sixteenth century from
the Srisailam area of Andhra Pradesh record the pride taken by Veerashaiva
chiefs in beheading shvetambara Jains”.55 Concerning
such cases, she alleges that: “The desire to portray tolerance and non-violence
as the eternal values of the Hindu tradition has led to the pushing aside
of such evidence.”56
Now, the Veerashaivas
were an anti-caste and anti-Brahminical sect. As these are considered
good qualities, secularists have tried to link them to the influence of
Muslim missionaries (“bringing the message of equality and brotherhood”),
who were indeed very active on India’s west coast, where and when the Veerashaiva
doctrine was developed. If we assume there was indeed Muslim influence
on the Veerashaiva sect, the secularists should acknowledge that the Veerashaivas’
occasional acts of intolerance may equally be due to the influence of Islam.
At any rate “Brahminism” cannot be held guilty of any misdeeds committed
by this anti-Brahminical sect.
But it seems well-established
that the Lingayats did give the Jains a hard time on several occasions.
Prof. Thapar’s continues: “The Jaina temples of
Karnataka went through a traumatic experience at the hands of the Lingayats
or Virashaivas in the early second millennium AD.”57
After a time of peaceful coexistence, which Romila Thapar acknowledges,
“one of the temples was converted into a Shaiva temple. At
Huli, the temple of the five Jinas was converted into a panchalingeshwara
Shaivite temple, the five lingas replacing the five Jinas in the sancta.
Some other Jaina temples met the same fate.”58
Could this be
a case of a peaceful hand-over? Maybe the community itself had converted
and consequently decided to convert its temple as well? After all,
the temples were not destroyed. No, because:
“An inscription at Ablur in Dharwar eulogizes attacks on Jaina temples
as retaliation for Jaina opposition to Shaivite worship.”59
It may be remarked
at the outset that the element of retaliation sets this story apart
from Christian or Islamic iconoclasm, which did not require in any way
that some form of aggression had first been committed by the other party.
When Saint Boniface, the Christian missionary to the Frisians and Saxons,
cut down the sacred trees of the Frisians, he was not taking revenge for
any wrong committed by them against him: he was unilaterally destroying
cultic objects of what he believed to be a false religion (in glorification
of his chopping down sacred trees, he is iconographically depicted with
an axe in his hand). When Ghaznavi invaded India and took great strategic
risks to venture as far as Prabhas Patan and destroy the famous Somnath
temple there, he was not retaliating but unilaterally initiating an aggression.
In this case,
however, the inscription cited by Prof. Thapar herself justifies the unspecified
“attacks” on Jain temples as an act of retaliation. This proves that
either the Jains had indeed been the first aggressors, or if they were
not, that the Shaivas felt the need to claim this: otherwise, attacking
someone else’s temple didn’t feel right to them. Christian and Islamic
iconoclasts had no such scruples. No Hindu revivalist historian could
have mustered better evidence for the radical difference between the alleged
cases of intolerance by Hindus and the Islamic and Christian religious
persecutions, than this brief information given in passing by Romila Thapar.
There is a second
aspect to this inscriptional evidence. Here again, Mr. Goel accuses
Prof. Thapar of distorting evidence by means of selective quoting. The
inscription of which she summarizes a selected part, says first of all
that the dispute arose because the Jains tried to prevent a Shaiva from
worshipping his own idol.60 It further relates
that the Jains also promised to throw out Jina and worship Shiva if the
Shiva devotee performed a miracle, but when the miracle was produced, they
did not fulfil their promise. In the ensuing quarrel, the Jina idol
was broken by the Shaivas. The most significant element is that the
Jain king Bijjala decided in favour of the Shaivas when the matter was
brought before him. He dismissed the Jains and showered favours on
Again, in this
story the conflict is not a one-way affair at all. We need not accept
the story at face value, as it is one of those sectarian miracle stories
(with the message: “My saint is holier than thy saint”) which abound in
the traditions surrounding most places of pilgrimage, be they Christian,
Sufi, or Hindu. Goel cites the testimony of Dr. Fleet, who has edited
and translated this inscription along with four others found at the same
place. He gives summaries of two Lingayat
Puranas and the Jain Bijjalacharitra, and observes that the story
in this inscription finds no support in the literary traditions of the
two sects, and that Bijjala’s own inscription dated 1162 AD discovered
at Managoli also does not support the story either.61
The fact that the inscription under consideration does not bear a date
or a definite reference to the reign of a king, does not help its credibility
either. And do authentic inscriptions deal in miracles?
I do not think
that historians working with conflicting testimonies are in a position
to make apodictic statements and definitive conclusions, so I will not
completely dismiss this inscription as fantasy. It is possible that
the Jainas had indeed fallen on hard times, and I do not dispose of material
that would refute prof. Thapar’s contention that
“in the fourteenth century the harassment of Jainas was so acute that they
had to appeal for protection to the ruling power at Vijayanagar”.62
But note that the ruling power at Vijayanagar, whose protection the Jains
sought, was of course Hindu. Clearly, the Jains’ experience with
Hindus was such that they expected Hindu rulers to protect religious freedom
Not much is left
of the allegation of “Hindu persecution of Jains”, and in that light, Goel’s
conclusion must be considered relatively modest: “It is nobody’s case that
there was never any conflict between the sects and sub-sects of Sanatana
Dharma. Some instances of persecution were indeed there. Our
plea is that they should be seen in a proper perspective, and not exaggerated
in order to whitewash or counterbalance the record of Islamic intolerance.
Firstly, the instances are few and far between when compared to those listed
in Muslim annals. Secondly, those instances are spread over several
millennia (…) Thirdly, none of those instances were inspired by a theology
(…) Fourthly, Jains were not always the victims
of persecution; they were persecutors as well once in a while. Lastly,
no king or commander or saint who showed intolerance has been a Hindu hero,
while Islam has hailed as heroes only those characters who excelled in
And even if all
the claims of a Hindu persecution of Jains had been true, they would still
not prove the non-Hindu character of Jainism. From the history of
Christianity, Islam and Communism, great persecutors of outsiders to their
own doctrines, we know numerous instances where the worst invective and
the choicest tortures were reserved for alleged heretics within their own
At the institutional
level, the Hindutva opposition to the recognition of Jainism as a separate
non-Hindu religion is largely a losing battle. Religious separatism
has its own dynamic, feeding egos who feel more important as leaders of
a religion in its own right rather than a mere sect within a larger tradition.
Anti-Hindu separatists are also assured of the support of secularist bureaucracies
such as the Minorities’ Commission, of the secularist media and of all
the non-Hindu religious lobbies. All of these are eager to fragment
and weaken Hindu society.
Yet, at the sociological
level, the Jain community is entirely part of Hindu society, caste and
all. Even more importantly, a great many Jains (certainly a larger
portion of the community than in the case of Sikhism or Buddhism) come
forward themselves to affirm their Hinduness. Historically, Jainism
has always enjoyed a place under the umbrella of Hindu pluralism, suffering
clashes with southern Shaivism only a few times when its own sectarianism
had provoked the conflict.
Deciding the question
whether Jainism is a sect of Hinduism requires a proper definition of Hinduism.
The answer varies with that definition. If Hinduism means veneration
of the Vedas, then Jainism may formally be taken to be outside the Hindu
fold, though it remains closely akin to Hindu schools of philosophy springing
from Hindu thought (particularly Nyaya-Vaisheshika). If Hinduism
implies theism, then Jainism should definitely be counted out; but a theistic
definition of Hinduism is highly questionable, eventhough after centuries
of theistic devotionalism, many unsophisticated Hindus would accept it.
On the other hand,
if Hinduism means the actually observed variety of religious expressions
among non-Muslims and non-Christians in India, then there is nothing in
Jainism that would make it so radically different as to fall outside this
spectrum. If Hinduism means all traditions native to India (as per
Savarkar and the original Muslim usage), then obviously Jainism is a Hindu
Jain Community’s Memorandum to the Prime Minister”, Muslim India,
Nov. 1996, p.522.
Dev: “Jains are Hindus”, Organiser, 25-5-1997.
Dev: “Jains are Hindus”, Organiser, 25-5-1997.
thus in Organiser, 9-3-1997.
quoted in Organiser, 9-3-1997.
origin of the Oswals is that in AD 564, the Rajputs of Osian or Os, near
Jodhpur, adopted Jainism along with Vaisyadharma (the trader caste
duties), renouncing their Kshatriya (knightly) status and occupation, deemed
incompatible with Jain non-violence. The Agarwals were originally,
and since hoary antiquity, a republican clan in East Panjab, the Agrashreni
mentioned by the Mahabharata and by Panini, and centred in Agrodaka (modern
Agroha) and Rohtiki (modern Rohtak).
Meenakshi Jain opens the posthumous collection of her father Girilal Jain’s
columns by announcing (The Hindu Phenomenon, p.v): “Girilal Jain
belonged to that minority of Indian intellectuals who welcomed the movement
for the Ram temple as part of the process of Hindu self-renewal and self-affirmation.”
Jain: The Hindu Phenomenon, p. 24-25.
Jain: The Hindu Phenomenon, p.26, quoting Louis Dumont: Homo
Hierarchicus, p. 194.
Light of Truth, p.vii.
together in Ch.11 of Dayananda: Light of Truth.
is a different matter that Dayananda’s equation of “nâstika”
with “atheistic” is inaccurate. Buddhism is agnostic rather than
atheistic, while theistic Islam can definitely be included in the nâstika
category because it does not pay any respect to the Veda. Conversely,
dualist Samkhya cosmology is atheistic but not materialistic nor nastika.
also the chapter “Concept of Materialism” in M.G. Chitkara: Hindutva, p.23-32.
Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya: Lokâyata, a Study in Ancient Indian
Materialism (1959) and In Defence of Materialism in Ancient India, a Study
in Cârvâka/Lokâyata (1989).
the Indian “rationalists”, a documentary was made by Robert Eagle and Adam
Finch (broadcast on Flemish TV: BRTN TV 1, 26-1-1997). One of their leading
lights was Abraham Kovoor, whose booklets debunking magic tricks employed
by godmen or presenting the case against astrology (e.g. Begone Godmen!,
1976) are fairly popular. Another is V.R. Narla, see e.g. his polemical
book The Truth about the Gita.
e.g. DK spokesman K. Veeramani’s Tamil rationalist paper Viduthalai,
or his attack on the Shankaracharya: Kanchi Sankarachariar, Saint or
Sectarian? However, the DMK and ADMK have moved back to religion,
still the mainstream in India: “No longer the ‘rationalists’ they once
were, DMK leaders are realising that when your intention is to get votes,
anti-religion ideology has to take a back seat”, according to G.C. Shekhar:
“In Search of God”, India Today, 28-2-1997.
on Buddhist epistemology, see Dayananda: Light of Truth, p.512-520.
Light of Truth, p. 503-506, 525-545.
Light of Truth, p. 504.
may consider it beyond the present endeavour to confront this argument
with advanced scientific notions of a degree of consciousness present in
all material life-forms (the feed-back mechanisms inherent in biological
processes could be considered as a very material form of consciousness)
and even in the behaviour of quantum-physical particles. More immediately
relevant is the fact that modern neuro-psychologists are strongly inclined
towards accepting the materiality of consciousness: they consider thoughts
as a mere function of chemical processes in the brain, as suggested by
the causal relationship between depression and lack of vitamins, or between
altered states of consciousness and the intake of certain drugs.
See e.g. Karl Popper & John Eccles: The Self, and Its Brain,
and Daniel C. Dennett: Consciousness Explained.
Madhok: Rationale of Hindu State, p.20, with reference to S. Radhakrishnan.
e.g. Lucas Catherine: De gelaagde religie (Dutch: “The layered religion”),
Light of Truth, p. 508.
as Immanuel Kant admitted, this proof is inconclusive; discussed in e.g.
Hubert Dethier: Geschiedenis van het Atheîsme (“History of
argued in Bertrand Russell: Why I Am Not a Christian (and again
countered in the review of that book by T.S. Eliot, etc.), and in India
by Jain and Buddhist philosophers, e.g. Dharmakirtti, see Chandradhar Sharma:
Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy, p. 139-140, para “Criticism
figuring prominently in the historical BBC debate on God between Frederick
Copleston s.j. and Bertrand Russell, 28-1-1948, discussed in Caroline Moorehead:
Bertrand Russell, p.458.
Light of Truth, p.531. The expression “God, the giver of the fruits
of their deeds to the souls” is an allusion to the etymology of the word
Bhagvân, effectively “the Lord”, literally “the share-giver”.
have discussed the non-moralistic as well as the atheist-moralistic views
of Karma in my Philosophy thesis: De niet-retributieve Karma-leer,
Light of Truth, p.507.
Light of Truth, p.509.
of Rishabha in the Yajurveda (“Om nama arhato Rishabho…”), along
with two from the Vishnu and Bhagavata Puranas, are given as proof for
the pre-Vedic antiquity of Jainism by T.K. Tukol: Compendium of Jainism,
p.11-12. However, the oldest mention of one Rishabha is inside the Rigveda,
and not even in the oldest part: Rishabha, son of Vishvamitra, is listed
as composer of hymns 3:13 and 3:14 to Agni; there is nothing typically
Jain about these hymns. For all we know, the Vedic Rishabha is not
the same person as the founder of Jainism.
Light of Truth, p.578; similarly, p.577-585.
Light of Truth, p.547, quoting from the Jain scripture Vivekasâra,
p.121, without further bibliographical data.
Light of Truth, p.549, quoting the Jain scripture Prakara?a Ratnâkara
Light of Truth p.549, quoting Prakarana Ratnakara 2:29.
P. Dundas: The Jains, p.66.
testimony of this type of Arya Samaj activism is given by S.R. Goel: How
I Became a Hindu, p. 5.
Thapar: Cultural Transaction and Early India: Tradition and Patronage,
Ganguly: “Northern India during the eleventh and twelfth centuries”, in
R.C. Majumdar: The History and Culture of the Indian People, vol.5:
Struggle for Empire, p.78,
Ganguly: “Northern India during the eleventh and twelfth centuries”, in
R.C. Majumdar: The History and Culture of the Indian People, vol.5:
Struggle for Empire, p.78.
Goel: Hindu Temples, vol.2 (2nd ed.), p.419-420.
Mukhia in R. Thapar, ed.: Communalism and the Wilting of Indian History,
Thapar: Cultural Transaction, p. 17.
Goel: Hindu Temples, vol.2 (2nd ed.), p.420.
Sastri: History of South India, p.424.
Spear: A History of India, vol.2, p.56.
Goel: Hindu Temple, vol, vol.2 (2nd ed.), p.420.
Sivapriya: True History and Time of Mgnikkavgsaghar from His Own Work,
Sivapriya: Mânikkavâsaghar, p.139.
Sivapriya: Mânikkavâsaghar, p.137-138.
Goel: Hindu Temples, vol.2 (2nd ed.), p.419, with reference to M.
Arunachalam: The Kalabharas in the Pandiya Country and heir Impact on
the Life and Letters There, University of Madras, 1979.
Goel: Hindu Temples, vol.2 (2nd ed.), p.419-420.
Goel: Hindu Temples, vol.2 (2nd ed.), p.419-420.
Goel: Hindu Temples, vol.2 (2nd ed.), p.420.
Thapar: Cultural Transaction, p.18, with reference to P.B. Desai:
Jainism in South India.
Thapar: Cultural Transaction and Early India: Tradition and Patronage,
p.18. Note here that Veerashaivism is assumed to be a part of Hindu tradition,
as it obviously should be. Yet, when its initial anti-caste tendency
is praised, it is often presented as an anti-Hindu or at least non-Hindu
“reaction of the non-Aryan natives restoring their pre-Aryan deity Shiva”
and the like.
Thapar: Cultural Transaction, p.17; with reference to P.B. Desai:
Jainism in South India, p.82-83, p.401-402.
Thapar: Cultural Transaction, p.17.
Thapar: Cultural Transaction, p. 18.
Goel: Hindu Temples, vol.2 (2nd ed.), p.413, with reference to the
inscription itself, reproduced in Epigraphica Indica, vol.3, p.255.
Indica, vol.5, p.9-23.
Thapar: Cultural Transaction, p. 18.
Goel: Hindu Temples, vol.2 (2nd ed.), p.422. An evaluation of this
statement presupposes some familiarity with the Hindu critique of Islam,
which is discussed in K. Elst: Decolonizing the Hindu Mind, p.310
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