Jains, Or Jainas, a religious sect of India, once dominant in the Deccan, now scattered over the whole peninsula. Their faith is a mixture of Brahmanism and Buddhism, and various accounts are given of its origin. Some suppose that it preceded the rise of Buddhism, but its history can hardly be traced to the 2d century A. D. On the Coromandel coast it was introduced in the 8th or 9th century, in the reign of Amoghversha, king of Tonda Mundalam. The compiler of the Jain Puranas of the Deccan is said to have written at the end of the 9th century. Hema Chandra, one of the greatest scribes of the Jains, flourished in the latter part of the 12th century, to which time also the composition of the Kalpa Sutra must be assigned. About 1174 the Jain faith became that of the ruling dynasty of western Marwar and the territory subject to the princes of Guzerat. Numerous temples, caves, and inscriptions of ancient date are ascribed to the Jains, but it is scarcely possible to determine their age and nature. True Jaina caves occur at Khandagiri in Cuttack, and especially in the southern parts of India. A number of colossal figures, 30 to 40 ft. high, cut in the rocks of Gwalior Fort, are by some supposed to date from about the 10th or 12th century B. C, which is of course a matter of great doubt.
Five Jain images in marble have been dug up at Ajmeer, with a Prakrit inscription and a date corresponding to A. D. 1182 on one of them. The principal seats of the Jains at present are the mountains Aboo and Girnar in Guzerat. At the latter place are the most ancient of their temples, some of them magnificent in structure; and at Mount Aboo is their most sacred shrine in Guzerat. The libraries of Jessulmeer, Anhulwarra, Cambay, and other places contain thousands of volumes of Jain literature. The Oswal tribe, so called from Ossi, their first settlement, professing the Jain tenets, are one of the most influential mercantile classes of India. The sect is said to be very numerous, and most of the officers of state and revenue are from the Jain laity. - The points in which the doctrines of the Jains differ from Brahmanism are, according to Wurm: 1, the rejection of the Vedas as an infallible guide of faith, and the substitution of their own religious literature, consisting of four Yogas, several Siddhantas, a number of Agamas, a few Angas and Upangas, and 24 Puranas, legends of the saints; 2, the adoration of 24 mortal saints, Tirthankaras, whose ascetic life raised them above the gods; and 3, the ahinse, or prohibition against killing living beings.
While in these respects there is an approach to Buddhism, there are others which remove the Jain religion from it. Atheism is not its starting point, but rather an attempt at monotheism. There is a god called Arugan or Jinan, from whom it is supposed that the Jains derive their name, and to whom 1,008 various appellations are given. His worship is believed to be that of the earth, the air, and the heavens. (See India, Religions and Religious Literature of.) He is omniscient, and in his grace he communicates his thoughts to all creatures without the aid of their mind, word, or body. Nevertheless he is no creator, though himself uncreated and immortal. He says there is no god besides him; blessed are those who adore him; and all are rewarded according to their deeds. There is a hell, and there is a place where the gods dwell. Whoever is good and bad in an equal measure will be reborn as a human being; he who is rather bad than good will be an unreasoning animal; and he who is either predominantly bad or good will go accordingly either to the infernal or divine abode. Arugan has 24 attributes, which are ascribed to the 24 Tirthankaras as incarnations of divine apprehensions, and who are worshipped in images and at temples and feasts.
There is no destruction and no renewing of the world; it is eternal and uncreated. Time is divided into yugas, each of which has an ascending or utsar-pini and a descending or avasarpini period. There are also manvantaras, and the present Manu, Nabi Makraja, is sometimes called Brahma. It was in his reign that the 24 Tirthankaras were born, and Vrishabha was the first. They attained unto knowledge and blessedness without the aid of a guru, and they are the true swamis or equals of Arugan. Jain priests are either sadhus, pious, or yatis, self-restrained, and digambaras, naked, or svetambaras, clad in white. The Jains are opposed to the ancient system of castes, and allow it only as a distinction of occupations. It is said that there are about 50 families of Jain-Brahmans in Mysore, but on the whole it seems that the sect has found the largest number of votaries among the ancient Vaisyas. Jain priests never marry, but lead a sadhu or pure ascetic life. Widows never remarry. The men are generally well educated, but the women are kept in ignorance. Young widows, however, commonly devote themselves to the priests, with whom they live, and from whom they learn to read the sacred books of their religion, whereby they become in fact like priestesses.
The priests and strict Jains are scrupulously careful to avoid destruction of animal life. They move about with a cloth over their mouths to prevent insects from entering; they use constantly a small brush or broom to sweep aside all living creatures; and they never partake of stale food, lest in the interval since its cooking animalcules may have formed in it. - See Elliot, " On the Characteristics of the Population of India" (London, 1869), and Wurm, Die Ge-schichte der Indischen Religion (Basel, 1874).