The language of JAINpedia is English, mainly to allow as wide an audience as possible for the website. Concepts and phrases have been translated into English where possible.
However, as the Jain faith first developed in India, several Indian languages have been used over its history to describe various religious and philosophical concepts and cultural practices. As a living religion, Jainism also has several key concepts or customs that use terms from more modern Indian languages.
Indian words used in JAINpedia are transliterated. This means the Indian letters are changed into equivalent letters or combinations of letters in the Latin or Roman alphabet, which is used in English and other Western European languages. Indian words that have become part of the English language have been kept, even if the English meaning is not exactly the same. Examples include 'guru' and 'karma'.
The main Indian languages of historical Jainism are Sanskrit and Prakrit. Sanskrit was the literary language widespread in ancient and medieval Indian civilisations, as Latin was in Europe for centuries after the Roman Empire. Now a dead language, Prakrit was used by ordinary people in ancient and medieval India and various forms were used to write down sacred texts in the Jain faith.
Though a few thousand individuals speak Sanskrit in contemporary India, it is commonly thought of as a sacred language. Expressing religious and philosophical ideas, Sanskrit is used in the rituals of religions that originated in India, such as Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism.
When Indian words and terms are used in JAINpedia, the language is usually Sanskrit. If it is not Sanskrit, it is usually identified. The next most commonly used Indian language on the site is Prakrit and then Gujarati and Hindi.
To reduce any possible intimidation that may arise from encountering a long compound word in an unfamiliar language, Indian words are not used heavily on JAINpedia, except for names and titles.
The first time a Jain or Indian concept is mentioned in an encyclopaedia article in one of the Themes or a manuscript description, JAINpedia frequently gives the word or phrase in the appropriate Indian language. Then, in line with the approach of making JAINpedia easily understood for people who cannot read or speak Indian languages, standard English words are used instead of the Indian word or a literal translation of the original. An example is using ‘temple’ instead of one of the many Jain terms for a place of religious worship.
The rule of thumb is to use the equivalent English word or phrase instead of the Indian word. But using English equivalents for Indian concepts is tricky as there is often no direct equivalent of a concept or one that captures all the nuances and complexities of the original. This is particularly so with words for religious ideas. Examples are the words 'monk' and 'nun'. In English they have strong connotations of Christianity and do not entirely take in the idea of Jain ascetics. However, JAINpedia has come up with two ways to help website visitors get a clear idea of such words and phrases. Firstly, there is the glossary entry that appears when visitors move their cursor over a glossed word or phrase. Secondly, there are hyperlinks to relevant articles on which readers can click. These should make it clear enough that the words as used here should not be understood as direct equivalents of the Christian notions of ‘monk’ and ‘nun’.
If there is no equivalent English word or phrase, or it produces a complicated phrase or one that’s essentially meaningless, then a new phrase or translation is coined. Ending up with a complex name in translation is especially true of philosophical concepts such as anekānta-vāda. This is often translated as the ‘Doctrine of Non-Onesideness’ and the ‘Doctrine of Non-Exclusivity’. These are confusing phrases, particularly when the reader is encountering the concept for the first time. Other common translations are ‘Doctrine of Scepticism’ and ‘Doctrine of Non-Absolutism’. These are more easily understood but we feel they do not fully capture the core idea. Therefore we have translated it as the 'Doctrine of Truth from Many Viewpoints'. Although it's not a literal translation, we believe it gives a better idea of the concept.
JAINpedia does not use Indian scripts for Indian-language words. Instead, we use the standard academic method of transliterating Devanāgarī and other Indian scripts so the resource is open to visitors unfamiliar with Indian writing.
Devanāgarī is a script frequently used to write several Indian languages, including Sanskrit and Prakrit. In Devanāgarī each letter has a horizontal line above it. There are distinctive features in the manuscripts produced by Jains so the name 'Jain Nāgarī' has been given to this style.
Indian scripts are transliterated on JAINpedia using the diacritics that are routinely used in scholarly works. Diacritics are small symbols attached to letters in the Latin alphabet to indicate how they are sounded. Examples you will see in JAINpedia include symbols:
You can find out how to say letters with diacritics in the JAINpedia pronunciation guide. This demonstrates transliteration and pronunciation using the International Phonetic Alphabet plus examples of commonly found Indian words and similar English sounds.
Reconciling different scholarly approaches and contemporary and historical Jainism has led to apparent inconsistencies in how certain transliterated words and phrases are treated.
Modern Indian languages commonly omit the final syllable of certain words in pronunciation. For example in Hindi:
This therefore affects the transliteration into English.
The usage on JAINpedia varies slightly according to the context, so that the:
For example, the article on soḷ satī is written chiefly from a sociological point of view. Here, present-day social and religious practices are described. However, the article on story literature takes a more literary approach. When the concept is discussed in this piece, the more formal term 'soḷa satī' is used.
The doctrine of 'truth from many viewpoints', which is typical of Jainism. It means that the same reality can be seen from various angles and that reality cannot be understood from a single viewpoint.
Someone who withdraws from ordinary life to meditate and practise physical hardships in order to advance spiritually. Jain ascetics or mendicants beg for food from devout lay followers and wander the land.
Also used as an adjective to describe the practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition.
The religion founded by Buddha, often called the 'Middle Way' between the self-indulgence of worldly life and the self-mortification of a very ascetic way of life. Buddhism has similarities to Jain belief but some significant differences. For example, Buddhists hold that the world around us is a short-lived illusion and do not believe in individual, everlasting souls.
A follower of Jesus of Nazareth, called the Christ or Anointed One. Among other key principles, Christians believe in a creator God, that Jesus is the Son of God, who suffered and died to redeem the sins of the world and was restored to life after three days in the Resurrection. Also an adjective for concepts, people and objects related to Christianity.
A religion based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, called the Christ or Anointed One. Jesus is an historically attested figure, who lived around 4 BCE to 30 CE in modern Israel. Adherents hold that Jesus is the Messiah or saviour, fulfilling a prophecy in the Hebrew Bible.
A script for writing in different Indian languages, still used today. In Devanāgarī each letter has a horizontal line above it.
To explain or translate a word or phrase in a text. A glossary is a collection of such explanations. A gloss may be a short note in the margin or between the lines of a text or it may be an extended commentary.
The language that developed in Gujarat, in western India. It is also spoken in neighbouring states. Also a term for someone or something associated with or coming from Gujarat.
Sanskrit term meaning both:
The most widely spoken group of languages in India, originating in the northern part of the subcontinent. Local dialects and Hindi languages are spoken all over northern India and in surrounding countries. Standard Hindi is used in administration by the central government of India, along with English.
The majority faith in India, often called Sanātana Dharma or Eternal Law. With no single named founder, Hinduism has a pantheon of gods and a range of different beliefs. Most Hindu traditions revere the Veda literature but there is no single system of salvation or belief, although many Hindus believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Large Hindu communities exist in southern Asia, with smaller groups across the world.
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
A 'victor' in Sanskrit, a Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma and teaches the way to achieve liberation. A synonym for Tīrthaṃkara, which means 'ford-maker' or one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience through asceticism. The most famous 24 – Ṛṣabha to Mahāvīra – were born in the Bharata-kṣetra of the middle world, but more are found in other continents. There have been Jinas in the past and there will be some in the future.
Action or act, thought of as physical in Jainism. Created by mental or physical action, karma enters the soul, which then needs religious restraints and practices to make it flow out. Karma can be both:
Both types of karma trap a soul in continual rebirth. A pan-Indian concept, karma has extremely complex, detailed and technical divisions and subdivisions in Jainism.
The 'liberation' of the soul from its body and thus from the cycle of rebirth because it has no karma and becomes omniscient. The ultimate aim of Jainism is to achieve mokṣa and become a liberated soul in siddha-śilā.
Jains who venerate and worship images of Jinas in temples.
An early form of the Devanāgarī script, which is still used in India. Nāgarī was used to write several Indian languages, particularly Prākrit and Sanskrit.
The 23rd Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is green and his emblem the snake. Historical evidence points to his living around 950 to 850 BC.
A term for any of the dead vernacular languages of ancient and medieval India. It may be contrasted with classical Sanskrit, the language used by priests and the aristocracy. The Jains used a large variety of Prakrits, with the Jain canon written chiefly in Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit.
Sanskrit for 'worship' or 'homage'. All Jains perform rites of honour to the 24 Jinas. Rites of worship take place daily, with more elaborate ceremonies performed on holy days. Mendicant and lay Jains perform different rituals. Some sects worship images – mūrti-pūjaka – and others do not, and different sects have various practices. Focused on images or not, worship can be:
A sequence of actions that must be followed to perform a religious ceremony. The set of actions is largely symbolic, for example offering food to statues symbolises sacrificing to a deity. The ritual actions are often accompanied by set phrases.
A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.
'Virtuous woman', who is worshipped for her admirable qualities. Satīs demonstrate religious devotion and loyalty to husbands and family, especially in difficult times. Some satīs renounce to become nuns while others remain householders. There are many satīs but there is a group of Sol Satī or 16 satī who are particularly venerated by Śvetāmbara Jains.
Monotheistic religion founded by Guru Nanak Dev in the Punjab around 1600 CE and consolidated by the ten successive Sikh Gurus. Taking its name from the Sanskrit terms for ‘instruction’ and ‘disciple’, Sikhism has three main principles:
The aim of life is to achieve spiritual union with God, who is timeless, shapeless and sightless, and thus salvation from reincarnation. The life of a householder is essential to this, with asceticism, pilgrimages, ritual and idol worship discouraged.
Sikhs are concentrated in the Punjab areas of Pakistan and India, with sizable communities in Europe, particularly the UK, Australia, North America, east Africa and increasingly in other parts of Asia.
The conversion of words from one alphabet into the corresponding letters of another alphabet. The text is not necessarily translated into another language, just put into another alphabet.