(Last Updated on : 24/02/2011)
The monuments which were found in Mathura, a holy city on the banks of Yamuna, and famous today as the centre of the Krishna-cult, are the oldest authentic records of the propagation of the Jaina-faith in the western direction starting from Bihar. They originate from the period of 2nd century B.C. to the 5th century A.D. and show that Mathura was an important Jaina-centre during this long period of Jainism in many respects.
Headquarters of Jainism
were in the region of Malwa with its capital Ujjain
. Emperor Samprati is supposed to have ruled here. He was a great patron of Jainism. Even afterwards, the reports of Jainas connect this famous city most closely with the legendary history of their faith.
A legend says that a king called Gardabhilla ruled in Ujjain in the 1st century B.C. He robbed a beautiful Jaina-nun who was the sister of monk Kalaka. When the brother did not succeed in moving the ruler to return the booty, he went to Sahan Sahi, the chieftain of Sakas (Scythians) and prompted him to march against Gardabhilla with his army. Gardabhilla was vanquished, dethroned and removed from the land, but the Saka king and his members of the family settled in Ujjain where they enjoyed the fruits of monarchy. They hailed the Jaina-doctrine and "danced around the foot-lotus of the wise Kalaka like bees" but again after a short period, Saka-rule was brought back by King Vikramaditya who was said to have been the son of Gardabhilla. Vikramaditya is supposed to founded the so-called "Vikrama-era" which begins in 57th or 58th year B.C. and it is used these days in North India, particularly also by Jainas. But it is doubtful what can be considered as historical of the reports on Gradabhilla Sakas and Vikramaditya. Much of what is narrated here about Vikramaditya rests apparently upon the confusion of this king with the Gupta-ruler Chandragupta II
, having the same name Vikramaditya, who conquered Ujjain around 390 A.D. and who was the patron of the great poet Kalidasa
According to the tradition, Vikramaditya is said to have been vanquished by Salivahana after whom an era is named which began in the year 78 A.D. This Salivahana, the ancestor of a famous dynasty in the Deccan
is said to have been a son of a Brahmana-widow of four years; she was made pregnant by a serpent-king by biting her while she was taking a bath in river He grew up in Paithan in the house of a potter and Vikrama's protecting spirit had described him as the man who would topple him from his throne. Vikrama attacked him; the young man then formed elephants, horses and soldiers of clay, gave life to them with the help of incantations, conquered Vikrama with their help and became king. Salivahana, like Vikrama, is supposed to be a pious-worshipper of the Tirthankaras. It is difficult to find out what is really historical from the reports of Jainas on the relationship of the North Indian kings with the Jaina church.
Thus the history of Jainism around the turn of the era remains in the dark for the time being. The religion of the Tirthankaras had spread further and was encouraged by a number of rulers in the different North Indian kingdoms; but the details have to be more accurately researched into. There were setbacks from time to time. Thus Mihirakula, the king of the Huns who brought an end to the glorious rule of the Gupta-Emperors around 480 A.D., was considered among Jainas as the main opponent of their doctrine. It is said that once he asked his ministers whether any person was not dependent upon him. When he was told that the Nirgrantha monks were not dependent upon him, he ordered that the first meal that would be given to them by strangers should be taxed. Since now strict ascetics were allowed to take only one meal on a day, at noon, and if they were prohibited from taking this on account of one thing or the other, they had to wait till the next day to get their food; they were thus made to starve by this edict of the tyrant. Fortunately, the villain did not succeed in carrying out his plan. He was finally defeats and killed and he went into hell, where he had to atone for his atrocities.
King Harsavardhana of Thanesar (606-647 a.d.), who had established a huge empire which included almost the whole of North India and who ruled from Kannauj
, emulated the great Ashoka
by lending his support to priests and monks of all sects. He pursued in it the tradition of his house in which the greatest tolerance had ruled since time immemorial; his ancestors had been the worshippers of Lord Shiva
; his father had worshipped the Sun and his brothers and sisters were the followers' flowers of Hinayana
. He himself practised all cults simultaneously, albeit giving preference in his later period to Mahayana Buddhism
which was propagated by Chinese pilgrim Hiuen-Tsiang. He organized a big congregation of religions in Prayag, i.e., Allahabad
of today, every five years; he rewarded in this festival all the holy man belonging to all the faiths, including also Jaina-monks.
A later king of Kannauj, Ama, who resided (8th century) in Gopagiri (Gwalior), is said to have been converted to Jainism by the famous Bappabhatti, a pupil of Siddhasena. This sage had predicted to young Ama that he would become a king, although he was expelled along with his mother by his father as a result of court intrigues. He was, therefore, invited to the court and held in high esteem when Ama took over the reign. Ama's adversary was King Dharma of Laksanavati. He proposed to Ama that they should resolve the dispute without shedding any blood with the help of a disputation among the scholars in such a way that the king whose Pandita is defeated in the battle of words should hand over his empire to the other. Dharma's representative was the Buddhist Vardbanakunjara, and Bappabhatti appeared for Ama. The disputation of the two men lasted for six months and did not come to any conclusion. Bappa then worshipped Goddess Saraswati
and knew from her that the Buddhist could not be conquered as long as he had in his mouth the "pill of ceaseless speech" which she herself had given him as a reward for his austerities during his past seven existences. Bappa then prevailed upon his friend; poet Vakpati, who was living in Dharma's court and was in the company of Vardhanakunjara to arrange that all the participants, would have to wash their mouths before the next discussion. Vakpati did what he was told, and the consequence was what Bappa intended: while gargling, the Buddhist lost his pill and he was defeated in the disputation. Dharma handed over his kingdom to Ama, but he returned it generously to him at the request of Bappa.
Subsequently, Bappa exerted a great influence on Ama during rule. It is also said that he converted his friend Vakpati, who had composed his famous Prakrtaepic Gaudavaho in the intervening period, to Jainism and prevailed upon him to choose death by starvation by his free volition. Later Bappa prevailed upon Ama to undertake a long pilgrimage during which the most important holy places of Jainas were visited. The king died on completion of this pilgrimage and five year later, Bappa followed his master into the eternity.
The real Indian tolerance with respect to the most diverse religious views which was peculiar to Harsa is also found among later kings, e.g., kings Munja (974-995) Bhoja who were highly respected by Jainas.
The religion of the Tirthankaras could experience this semination and reach its bloom in the regime of the tolerant kings; they did not put any hurdles in the way of the Jaina-faith, although they themselves did not belong to it. Therefore, the traces of Jaina-settlements are found in almost all the parts of North and Central India, in the present regions of the United Provinces of Agra
and Audh, in Kashmir and Punjab
, above all in Rajaputana, in the Central Indian Agency and in Central Provinces. The States which existed in these wide landscapes were only seldom Jaina-empires in the sense that their monarchs were Jainas or that the majority of the population embraced Jaina-faith; but Jainas held almost everywhere important positions and exerted, particularly in Rajaputana and Central India, quite a considerable influence. They played a great role in the cities the courtyards of the kings thanks to their education and wealth which they got as businessmen, and they gave to the state excellent officers. The imposing temple layouts are the testimony to the Power and glory which Jainism enjoyed in the past.