Jains are one of those few communities that can trace back their glorious history right within the remote prehistory. Theirs is a composite culture that has contributed amply to the abound development of humanity in this part of the world. Almost all facets of social and individual life, viz. art. literature, philosophy, architecture, music, science, etc., have been enriched by the followers of Jainism.
Such illustrious nines, from the country's past, as Shrenik-Bimbasara, Ajatshatru, Chandragupta Maurya and Samprati of Magadha; Kharavela Kings of Kalinga; Rashtrakuta Kings of Orissa; Siddharaj Jaisingh Dev and Kumarpal of Gujrat; and many others, have been intimately associated with the Jain culture.
The influence of Rishabha Dev on Puranic India is well known. He has been accepted as one of the Avatars (reincarnation) of Vishnu. Even the more dogmatic of the later sectarians could not remove him from the revered position in Puranic literature, but hardly anything in detail has been mentioned about his contribution there. Mahavir has been a historical figure, but justice has yet to be done to the evaluation of the colt played by hits and his followers in the history of the country.
In Indian culture there are certain themes and motifs that have been contributed by the Jains. The Kayotsarga pose is a sure contribution of Jains. The trident is a motiff that is common to both Vedic as well as Jain cultures. "Dharm-Chakra" (the wheel) is common to Jains and Buddhists. The remains from Kushan period indicate that although there are differences in rendering and decoration, there are visible thematic similarities with the Mohan-jo-daro findings. A study of the remains of Harappan culture and those from post Harappan cultures indicates that the remains found at Harappan sites contain some Jain symbols. However, unless conclusively proved, we can not stretch back the history of Jain archaeology to that period.
One of the important indicators of Jain antiquity is a copper plate inscription found from Prabhas Patan that mentioned--"King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon renovated the Nemi temple at Raivatgiri." These are the indicators that take back the history of Jain archaeology to the sixth or seventh century B.C.
The Shishunag and Nand rulers of eastern India were Jains. In the Kshatrap period Saurashtra was dominated by Jains. The Kharavels of Kalinga were great followers of Jainism. During the reign of Chandragupta Maurya. Jains occupied prominent positions in affairs of the state. Samprati is known as the 'Ashoka' of Jains as, like Ashoka did for Buddhism, Samprati worked for the spread of Jainism. These are some areas where a lot of research could be done to unearth more details.
In peninsular India the history of Jain sculpture and archaeology spans the period between 200 B.C. to 1300 A.D. The archeaological remains of Southern India are, comparatively, in a better state of preserve but there still is a need for lot of continued research. Recently Dr. Jawaharlal of Dept. of Archaeology and Museums has published his thesis, 'Jainism in Andhra', that provides some new indicators. Also, M. Vinaysagar has compiled a book on ancient Shwetambar temple of Kulapak, near Hyderabad.
Rajasthan, that has probably the maximum number of followers of Jainism in modern times, also has a large number of places of archaeological and historical importance. Of these, detailed work has probably been done mainly on Abu and Ranakpur. Nagda, near Udaipur, drew attention of late Muni Kantisagar and he did some gocxi efforts of compiling inscriptions from many known and lesser known sites. Recently M. Vinaysagar has also compiled the history of Nakoda Parshwanath. Of the numerous places that need attention, some important ones are Osian, Lodrava, Jaisalmer, Phalodi, Kareda Parshwanath and Jirawala Parshvvanath.
With such a glorious past, a spread covering the whole subcotinent, and an unbroken history of at least 2700 years, Jains also have a 'tale of destruction, devastation and conflict' to tell. At times they had to abandon their strongholds and settle in new areas. The grand sculptures, temples and other edifices constructed by them were transformed into places of worship of other religions or reduced to dust. It is difficult to accurately piece together the story of such a chequered past and more so when the inheritors lack the will and enthusiasm to recapture their lost glory. There have been only some local or, at the most, some regional efforts at historical research. Unfortunately Jains have not given much attention to compile their history properly and scientifically in consonance with the general history of the subcontinent. It appears that during some period in the past stress was given on the ritualistic religious activities or purely philosophical and spiritual pursuits. This had a negative effect on the society and all other fields of social and intellectual activities were either neglected or pursued only by a few bold individuals.
The attitude, by and large, still prevails. The Jains have mainly contributed to researches in sectarian history or, at the most, regional religious history. Maximum work on overall Jain history and related fields has been initiated and done by non-Jains or the specialists of their specific fields.
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