An introduction to Jainism

An introduction to Jainism by Varun Soni , dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California on the Oprah Winfrey Network


Our article, published in The Speaking Tree (of Times of India)!

In contemporary popular culture, Sanskrit is sometimes understood to be the mother of all languages and a major tongue spoken by a majority of ancient Indians. However, this is not an entirely accurate view.

Large parts of the population in the subcontinent spoke various dialects, each of which have their own histories and characteristics. These dialects are collectively known by contemporary scholars as Prakrit, or ‘natural language’.

Chaturmukha Basadi

...the Portuguese conferred her with the title “Rainha de Pimenta” – The Pepper Queen. The queen also patronised Jainism and supported building temples of Jain Tirthankaras, and the prominent among them is the Chaturmukha Basadi.


In 1656 CE, Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan's son Murad Baksh (the then Governor of Gujarat) granted Palitana villages to the prominent Jain merchant Shantidas Jhaveri, a Svetambara Jain and an influential merchant and money lender in the period. Earlier, Emperor Akbar had issued an edict granting special status to Shatrunjaya, protecting the area and thus allowing Jain tradition to flourish uninhibited. Subsequently all taxes were also exempted and the temple town prospered.

Fundamental rights of Birds

All jivas are formally different but essentially similar.

Birds have the fundamental right to "live with dignity" and fly in the sky without being kept in cages or subjected to cruelty, Delhi High Court has said while holding that running their trade was a "violation of their rights".

Aamir Khan on Jainism

"I have realized that Jainism is having a deep impact on me. It has some amazing thoughts — forgiveness, non-violence, only use what you really need and anekantvad. It means if somebody has a totally opposing view to yours and you are fully convinced in your view, you should still keep a window open thinking the other person might be right. Also to recognize that he or she has a right to opposing thoughts." ~Aamir Khan

The Jain perspective

An amazing article on The Atlantic, with a large inclusion of the Jain perspective:

Jains make up less than 1 percent of India’s population.
There is evidence that the Jains influenced the Buddha himself. And when Gandhi developed his most radical ideas about nonviolence, a Jain friend played philosophical muse.

Section 377

Today is a historic day for India. A diversity of sexual expression is no longer considered criminal, as it formerly was due to an archaic law inherited from the British Empire.

In Jain literature, there is a recognition of three broad categories of physical sexual characteristics: pumlinga (male), strilinga (female), napumsakalinga (neither clearly male nor female). There is also a recognition of three broad modes of psychological sexual expression: pumveda (attraction towards females), striveda (attraction towards males), napumsakaveda (attraction towards any gender, not always clearly defined).

Samanars of Tamil Nadu

Inscriptions in Tamil Brahmi at Perumalmalai and a Jain idol carving near Samanarmalai, Tamil Nadu. These writings, idols and the caves are attributed to the Jain monks who lived in these areas more than 2000 years ago. Though most people don't know about it, Jains have had a huge impact on Tamil Nadu through culture and language.

Featured by LSE!

We got published in the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) South Asia blog! The article below is an account of the Mahamasthakabhisheka of the Gomateshvara bahubali idol at Shravanabelagola that took place this year.

Happy Mahavira Jayanti

Happy Mahavira Jayanti to all our readers! Around two and a half millennia ago, Mahavira was born in the Indian subcontinent. In the Jain tradition, he is considered the 24th and last tirthankara of our times.

Jainism & Buddhism

Jainism and Buddhism share historical roots and also have very similar ethical practices.

"Helping others brings deep satisfaction. No matter how strong we may feel, our survival depends on others." ~The Dalai Lama

On violence

Independent thinkers often reach inferences that are remarkably similar to Jain viewpoints. About violence, Hans Abendroth wrote:

"Moderns regard violence as something internal to human beings: they often speak of the violence that originates in mankind, as if violence were a series of actions a man might perform, or—were he less ignorant, irrational, or superstitious—might as well not perform.