Jainism /ˈdʒeɪnɪz(ə)m/, traditionally known as '" Jaina Shasana'" or Jaina dharma (Sanskrit: जैन धर्म), is a nontheistic Indian religion that prescribes a path of ahimsa - nonviolence - towards all living beings, and emphasizes spiritual independence and equality between all forms of life. Practitioners believe that nonviolence and self-control are the means by which they can obtain liberation. Currently Jainism is divided into two major sects, Śvētāmbara and Digambara.
The word Jainism is derived from the Sanskrit verb root jin ("to conquer"). It refers to a battle with the passions and bodily pleasures that the Jain ascetics undertake. Those who win this battle are termed as Jina (conqueror). The term Jaina is therefore used to refer to laymen and ascetics of this tradition alike.
Jainism is one of the oldest religions in the world. Jains traditionally trace their history through a succession of twenty-four propagators of their faith known as tirthankaras with Rishabha as the first and Mahāvīra as the last of the current era.
For long periods of time, Jainism was the state religion of Indian kingdoms and widely adopted in the Indian subcontinent. The religion has been in decline since the 8th century CE due to the growth of, and oppression by the followers of Hinduism and Islam.
Jainism is a religious minority in India, with 4.2 million adherents, and there are small but notable immigrant communities in Belgium, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and the United States. Jains have the highest degree of literacy of any religious community in India (94.1 percent),and their manuscript libraries are the oldest in the country.
from the Victoria and Albert Museum
Non-violence in Jain art
Genuine compassion requires imagination, and this is why for the Jains, art is central. The seated Tirthankara image (murti) is one of the most common icons in Jainism. It is at once serene, peaceful and balanced.
Animals and nature play a central role in temple art. For Jains, all life is precious and worthy of the highest respect.. Jains believe that there cannot be human peace at the expense of harming nature or animals. One of the most iconic Jain images is that of the Samavasarana, depicting the sermon given by a Tirthankara after attaining enlightenment. While Mahavira was sharing his knowledge, all kinds of species joined the congregation, and all could clearly see Mahavira and understand the message in their own language. This event is often depicted in Jain painting and sculpture.
While manuscript illustrations are certainly the best-known Jain paintings to audiences outside India, there is also an extensive Jain tradition of larger paintings, from album-size to monumental paintings on cloth. The most spectacular of these are the cosmological paintings depicting the structure of the Jain universe.
The Jain cosmos is divided into three realms of virtually unfathomable proportions: the upper or celestial world, the middle or mortal world, and the lower or infernal world. The three realms are portrayed either collectively or independently in both abstract and personified representations, the latter as the cosmic man (lokapurusha) endowed with a fantastical anatomy hierarchically arranged to symbolise the three realms of creation.
and Jain art
The study, recitation and veneration of sacred scriptures are a primary religious focus of the Jains. Important sermons, canonical texts and commentaries were transmitted orally long before being committed to writing. Exactly when Jain texts began to be illustrated is uncertain; the oldest surviving examples date from around the 10th-11th century, but many state that they were copied from earlier texts that presumably were decaying.
The earliest Jain illuminated manuscripts are inscribed and painted on prepared palm-leaves and bound with cords passing through holes in the folios. The folios are encased in wooden covers that are often decorated with religious or historical themes. Book covers continued to be made in later centuries.
After the introduction of paper into western India from Iran around the 12th century, Jain texts were increasingly written on this new and more versatile medium. The use of paper permitted larger compositions and a greater variety of decorative devices and borders, although the format of the palm-leaf manuscript was retained. By the end of the 14th century, deluxe manuscripts were produced on paper, brilliantly adorned with gold, silver, crimson and a rich ultramarine derived from imported lapis lazuli.
The major centres of Jain manuscript production were Ahmedabad and Patan in Gujarat. Other centres included Jaisalmer, Gwalior and Delhi. The patrons were mainly Svetambara Jains, who considered the commissioning of illustrated books and their donation to Jain temple libraries (bhandars) to be an important merit-making activity.