Article: Studying Jainism

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Early contact between Jains and Western visitors to India in the early 16th century gradually led to a more scholarly approach to the Jain faith on the part of many Westerners. The academic study of Jainism was born at the end of the 19th century. Since then it has developed in many different ways in several places, both in India and outside. More and more scholars in India and the West are joining this relatively new field of academic research. Beginning with textual and linguistic approaches to Jain holy writings, the study of Jainism in Western universities has branched out more recently into fields such as art, sociology and anthropology.

Research into and study of Jainism in India has also grown, with the establishment of research centres and universities dedicated to Jain studies. The attitudes of the various sects differ regarding education in religious studies but both lay and mendicant Jains are increasingly undertaking formal study of Jainism within the university system.

Seminars and conferences discussing Jain studies – for which some people use the term ‘Jainology’ – are becoming more frequent. Books and online resources on Jain studies are also on the rise. In Western countries where significant Jain communities live, there is ever-greater interest in the study of Jainism, resulting in various activities. The JAINpedia website and project is one outcome of this trend. Jain studies may be represented by a handful of scholars in each country outside India, but they form an active minority.

Western discovery of the Jains

Meetings in India between Western visitors and Jains were recorded from the early 16th century. Europeans who visited the subcontinent to carry out business or to evangelise Christianity sometimes met Jains, whom they initially found almost impossible to understand. A fascination with the most visible differences from their own customs is the hallmark of European records of these encounters.

As Europeans became more familiar with India over the following centuries, they often documented in great detail what they noticed about the people and places they met. They were strongly struck by the holy places of Jainism and centres of pilgrimage, especially the colossal statue of Bāhubali at Shravana Belgola and the huge temple-city of Shatrunjaya. However, close contact with Jains, their scriptures and their religious practices took place chiefly in the context of the European colonisation of India, especially British India. Western merchants, missionaries, scholars, soldiers and civil servants built up their knowledge of what they found in India in large part from their encounters with local people. This was probably the most decisive factor in the Europeans’ dawning recognition of the unique nature of the Jain faith.

First encounters with Jains – intriguing people

First published in 1916, this photograph shows three Śvetāmbara Sthānaka-vāsin monks sitting cross-legged, a boy monk on the left. Initiation as a child still occurs today, though rarely. In the colonial period many Britons became very interested in India

Three Śvetāmbara Sthānaka-vāsin monks
Image by R. V. Russell and Rai Bahadur Hira Lāl © public domain

The first meetings between Jains and European visitors to India produced deep cultural shock in the latter. The visible signs of the Jain faith – people and places – struck foreigners very strongly but at that time there was still no place for something called ‘Jainism’ – a doctrine and tradition, a set of principles.

The main early evidence of Europeans coming into contact with Jains in India dates back to the 16th to 17th centuries. The Europeans were Portuguese, Dutch, British, Italians or French who travelled to the western Indian coast or to southern India for trading or missionary purposes. Those travelling in western India came face to face with people whom they often called ‘Baniyans’ or merchants. In their parlance, this means Jains.

Occasionally the Europeans came across people they called ‘Vartia’ or ‘Vertea’. This term is an approximate rendering of the Indian word vratya – roughly ‘those who take vows’ – and refers to Jain monks. These travellers often mentioned that the Jains wore mouth-masks or mouth-cloths and carried cotton brooms to avoid killing insects. Recurring features in the travellers’ accounts are the muṃhpatti and the rajoharaṇa, along with the plucking out of the hair, prohibition on eating at night and fasting unto death. Records of these encounters show that the travellers were rather puzzled and embarrassed.

In some cases, they went into more detail about what they observed. For example, a Scots sea captain named Alexander Hamilton described the monastic equipment of Śvetāmbara ascetics rather precisely. Henry Lord, an Anglican chaplain, is the first to name some Jain monastic groups, the Tapā-gaccha and the Kharatara-gaccha, as well as the festival of Paryuṣaṇ – ‘Putcheson’ as he called it. The Anglican clergyman John Ovington wrote A Journey to Surat in the year 1689. Here he went a step further than his fellow British travellers, supplementing his descriptions of Jain behaviour with explanations he must have got from oral informants.

In south India, the Jesuit Father Roberto de Nobili, the founder of the Madurai mission in 1606, gave an account of the troubled relations between Jains and Śaivas in the Tamil country. This is based on a Jain text, although he uses the label ‘Buddhist tradition’. In the 18th century the Jesuit Beschi and the Protestant Ziegenbalg intuited the important place held by Jains in the religious history and culture of south India. Jesuit missionaries coming from France in the 18th century, such as Father Coeurdoux or Abbé Dubois, also drew on Jain accounts of their own history. See Williams 1977 and Orr 2009 for more about these and other early contacts between Jains and Western Europeans.

Most observers, especially in western India, were struck by the appearance of Jain ascetics and by behaviours showing such profound respect for life – ahiṃsā – that they found it beyond understanding. The utter foreignness of what they observed meant they did not know how to assess what they saw or what to think about it. This is why they largely remained at the surface, describing only the visible signs of practices that were totally alien to their intellectual framework. To some extent, the part played by Jains in south India seems to have been realised in a better way and earlier.

Encounters with places and monuments – uncommon artistic achievements

Buchanan's sketch of Bāhubali

Buchanan's sketch of Bāhubali
Image by  © Heidelberg University Library

During the British control of India, imperial civil servants frequently travelled and conducted investigations of Indian life, mainly for administrative purposes. These led them to discover visible traces of Indian culture, to which the Jain tradition belongs, whether or not they were able to identify them as Jain.

The colossal Digambara statues of Bāhubali at Shravana Belgola and Karkala were among those which struck Colin Mackenzie (1753–1821) and Francis Buchanan (1762–1829). These two men were among the first and most significant Europeans to discover the rich heritage of Jainism in south India, especially Karnataka (Orr 2009 and Howes 2010).

On the other hand, Jain monuments in western India were deliberately reviewed and described by British archaeologists, such as James Burgess and Henry Cousens. Regional branches of the Archaeological Survey of India carried out systematic tours cataloguing items of interest during the 19th century, including the famous temple-city of Mount Shatrunjaya.

The English botanical artist Marianne North is one of several widely travelled individuals who produced sketches or paintings of Jain monuments without necessarily knowing exactly what they were.

Encounters with people – a decisive factor

This 1822 manuscript painting shows the British soldier James Tod on an elephant. The information on the geography, history and social customs of central and western India which Tod collected in the early 19th century influenced European ideas of India

Captain James Tod mounted on an elephant
Image by San Diego Museum of Art © public domain; Edwin Binney 3rd Collection

Encounters with living Jains, who had direct access to their tradition, have been decisive factors in helping Europeans understand that there is a specific Jain identity. These encounters mostly took place within an official context. British officers posted in India from the 18th century onwards had Indian informants and assistants for the various tasks they had to fulfil. Scholars of south Asian cultures also met Jains while researching their work.

The 18th-century French Jesuit Abbé Dubois is considered ‘the first missionary who came into personal contact with a member of South India’s Jain community’ (Orr 2009: 267).

Posted to south India, Francis Whyte Ellis (1777–1819) was in direct contact with the chief guru of Shravana Belgola in Karnataka.

In Calcutta at the beginning of the 19th century, Henry Thomas Colebrooke was in close contact with a member of the prominent Jagatseth family, Jains who later turned Vaiṣṇavas. The Jagatseth connection was the main source of the Jain manuscripts that later formed the Colebroke collection at the India Office Library, now part of the British Library.

In 1802 the Scottish soldier Alexander Walker was appointed the first political resident at the court of Baroda in Gujarat and wrote Narratives of the Mahrattah History and an Account of the Jeyn or Shravacca Religion. In this book he refers to information from members of the Śvetāmbara monastic community. He shows sympathy towards the Jains and a rather intimate knowledge of the Gujarati Jains of his time. In his still unpublished work (see Luithle-Hardenberg, forthcoming), he also rightly insists on differentiating the Jain religion from the ‘Hindoo faith’.

European scholars who travelled in western India during the 19th century refer to various Śvetāmbara mendicants as having introduced them to temple-libraries or having informed them about the past and present of Jains in the region. An example is James Tod, who travelled in Gujarat and Rajasthan between 1819 and 1823 and mentions Yati Jñānacandra from the Kharatara-gaccha monastic order.

In this period individual Jains were important contacts for Westerners in India, either as assistants to scholars and administrators, or as sources of information.

Among the assistants in South India to Colin Mackenzie, Surveyor General of India from 1784 to 1821, was a Jain physician called Durmiah and, later, his son. They were instrumental in deciphering inscriptions, providing information about their faith’s past and present and introducing the right people.

When the search for Jain manuscripts was organised systematically in western India in the 19th century, Jain individuals played an important role. One such case is that of Bhagavandas Kevaldas (1850–1900). He was employed by the Department of Education of the Bombay Presidency for tours undertaken in search of Jain manuscripts all over Gujarat and Rajasthan during the 1880s. As a learned Jain from Surat, he had several helpful connections with local owners. Not only did he work officially for the Bombay Presidency, but he also helped individual scholars and libraries in Europe to buy manuscripts.

‘Jainism’ established as a specific tradition

Interested in Indian life, Colin Mackenzie hired learned Indians to help him research topics such as history and religion. This painting depicts Mackenzie with his Jain and Telegu brahmin assistants and on his left, holding a telescope, his peon, Kistnaji

Colin Mackenzie and his assistants
Image by anonymous copy of Thomas Hickey's oil © public domain

Discovery of texts and monuments, encounters with people and manuscripts slowly paved the way to the recognition of Jainism as a tradition distinct both from Hinduism and Buddhism. The 1809 contributions by Mackenzie and Colebrooke to Asiatick Researches are still hesitant in this respect. To some extent, they recognise the differences from Hinduism, but Buddhism is more problematic. Jainism and Buddhism were clearly distinguished by Hermann Jacobi seventy years later.

 In the 1879 introduction to his edition of the Kalpa-sūtra, Jacobi shows that, though Jainism shares features with Buddhism, it is neither identical nor an offshoot. Instead, it is a tradition that evolved independently in the same geographical area of eastern India at around the same period, in the 6th to 5th centuries BCE.

The distinction between these two religions had been prepared and was continued by the works of another master of Indology and Jain studies, Albrecht Weber, who:

  • in 1865 to 1866 published part of the Bhagavatī-sūtra, which forms the fifth Aṅga of the Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures, and is one of the richest in content
  • in 1883 to 1885 published a detailed description of the sacred works of the Jains, which was entirely based on the manuscripts collected for the Berlin Royal Library in the 1870s.

The Jainism that Western scholars discovered belongs to the Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjaka tradition rather than to the other main sect of the Digambaras. This is explained partly by the fact that Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjaka Jains were more visible in the Indian society of that time. Digambaras, especially, were rather a suppressed minority during British rule. A notable exception to this concentration on Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjaka sects was the first Surveyor General of India, Colin Mackenzie. He focused on south India and collected a lot of material, as yet partly unexplored, on the Tamil tradition of Jainism.

Trends in Jain studies

This manuscript painting depicts some of the dreams of the woman carrying a Jina. According to the Śvetāmbaras, she has 14 dreams while the Digambaras say 16. Twelve Śvetāmbara dreams are shown here, minus the sixth and seventh – the moon and the sun.

Dreams of an expectant mother
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

At the end of the 19th century the Jain tradition’s distinctive nature was established by textual study. Transmitted through manuscripts, holy texts demonstrated Jain uniqueness to researchers more than investigations of contemporary Jains. Jains did not figure prominently in Indian society at the time, although observations of contemporary Jain practices did exist. The wealth of written matter and the low profile of Jains in 19th-century India explain, at least partly, why textual studies were the focus of scholarly efforts for a long time. It is an exaggeration to state that the philologists of the 19th and 20th centuries concentrated only on the past, ignoring living Jainism. It is true that the first Western studies dealt with the early scriptures, especially those of the Śvetāmbaras. However, the languages of these scriptures are varieties of Prakrits that had to be explored at the same time as the contents of the texts, as both were equally unknown in the West. Hence editions, translations and linguistic analyses were academics’ main activities.

It has often been remarked that serious work on Jain scriptures in the West did not necessarily go with sympathy for their contents or liking of their style. Indeed, judgmental comments minimising or disparaging the contribution of Jainism to world faiths, especially when compared to Buddhism, have been made quite frequently. Today they are shocking or simply out of place. But this was not the attitude of all scholars. Those who had contact with living Jains and observed them carefully often realised the originality and intellectual interest of their views on the world.

Today, textual studies have diversified, concentrating as much on later scriptures as on the early tradition and including literature in vernacular languages. This has led to scholarly activities in the following areas:

  • Jain philosophical works, in Sanskrit
  • dialogue between Jain and Buddhist thought
  • inter-sectarian debates
  • Jain narrative literature.

Coming from religious traditions that share features of origin and early development, Jain and Buddhist thinkers have had a sometimes uneasy relationship. The differences and similarities of the two faiths were particularly explored in the 5th to 12th centuries CE in texts written by leading mendicants of both religions.

Studies of different sects’ approaches to certain issues have shown that Jainism is not a monolithic block. Like any developing and living faith, it has given birth to various currents and groups, who differ over matters of ideas and practices. The position of women and the practice of nudity are examples of divisive issues that have been the subject of centuries-old debates.

The importance of Jain stories had been recognised by the scholars of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Stories are a fundamental component of Jain teaching. Jain mendicants have written many and have contributed to the pan-Indian repertoire.

Since the 1980s ethnographic and anthropological studies have developed extensively and given a new angle to the scholarly examination of Jainism. The study of Jain art is a more recent trend, with more significant exhibitions held, especially outside India. Examples include major shows in Los Angeles and London during 1994 and 1995, Antwerp in 2000 and New York in 2009.

In general more work has been done on the Śvetāmbara tradition than on the Digambara. This deficit on the Digambara side is being remedied as more scholars these days turn to this rather neglected area.

Investigations of a rather technical character and handbooks or collections that aim at a wider audience can be easily distinguished. The latter aim to make Jains and Jainism accessible to as many people as possible.

Textual studies

Scholarly examination of Jain texts can be divided into several groups, according to the approach taken.

Research into texts in Jain studies

Types of studies

Jain texts

Leading scholars

editions and critical editions of Jain scriptures

  • Hermann Jacobi
  • Ānandasāgara-sūri
  • Muni Puṇya-vijaya
  • Muni Jambu-vijaya

descriptions and translations

Śvetāmbara canon

  • Albrecht Weber
  • Jacobi

historical formation of and distinction between various textual layers

investigation of various layers of commentary

Jain commentaries on the canon

  • Ernst Leumann
  • Indian editions of the works

discovery of major narrative works in Prakrit reflecting the earlier stage of narrative literature

  • Vasudeva-hiṇḍī
  • Samarāiccakahā
  • Kuvalayamālā

translations of major narrative works

Hemacandra’s standard books on Jain Universal History:

  • ­Triṣaṣṭiśalākāpuruṣa-caritra
  • Pariṣiṣṭa-parvan
  • Helen M. Johnson
  • Johannes Hertel

translations and studies centring on major scriptures


  • Jacobi
  • Pandit Sukhlalji

investigation of debates among different monastic orders

  • Padmanabh S. Jaini – Gender and Salvation, 1991
  • Paul Dundas – Scripture and Controversy, 2007

Language studies

Dr Adinatha Neminatha Upadhye (1901–1975) was a distinguished scholar of Jain studies, who worked primarily on Prakrit texts. He spent the last part of his career as the first professor of the Department of Jainology and Prakrit at Mysore University

A. N. Upadhye
Image by unknown © unknown

Many Jain scriptures, especially those dating back to the early period, are written in various forms of Prakrits, not in Sanskrit. The foundation study for these languages is Richard Pischel’s 1900 Grammatik der Prakrit Sprachen (Grammar of the Prakrit Languages), later translated into English and Hindi.

Texts produced by the Digambara sect are associated with the later form of Prakrit called Apabhraṃśa. Some Apabhraṃśa Prakrit works were edited in Europe between 1918 and 1937 by Hermann Jacobi and Ludwig Alsdorf. But later on, all the editions and tools were produced in India, especially by A. N. Upadhye and Hiralal Jain. Beginning in the 1970s, Western academics in France and Belgium – at the University of Ghent – have again turned to this rewarding area of study. They have worked on Digambara authors such as Yogīndu and on the Apabhraṃśa versions of the Rāmāyaṇa.

Although overwhelming in quantity, the rich Śvetāmbara Jain literature in Old Gujarati has almost exclusively been the focus of interest of Indian scholars, whether monks or lay people. They are usually native to the region and have first-hand knowledge of the language. Western scholars are exceptions in this area thus far.

Studies of Jain art

A wall of Jina figures dating from the 8th to 9th centuries. Cut into the rock face at the cave temple at Kalugumalai in Tamil Nadu, these images nearly all depict the 24 Jinas.

Carvings of Jinas
Image by Jennifer Howes © CC BY-NC 3.0

The scholarly study of Jain art is a relatively new field and mainly falls into the two areas of:

  • temple architecture
  • manuscript painting of western and central India.

There are hundreds of Jain temples in India and they are often distinctively Jain in terms of their style and architecture. However, Jain temples display enormous variation too, demonstrating technical development over the centuries and incorporating local styles and materials. Significant examples of Jain temples that have inspired academic exploration include:

  • cave temples, with famous examples at Ellora and Badami
  • the important temple complexes of central India such as Khajuraho and Deogarh
  • the temple-cities of Shatrunjaya and Girnar
  • the impressive temples at Mount Abu and Ranakpur.

Paintings in manuscripts have always been one of the main ways of transmitting religious knowledge among Jain communities. Prominent work in this field of study has been completed by Indian scholars who had direct access to the material preserved in temple-libraries, such as Muni Puṇya-vijaya, U. P. Shah, Moti Chandra and Saryu Doshi. But the three books published in the 1930s by the American scholar W. Norman Brown remain the essential reference works on manuscript illustrations of the three major texts of the:

Development of this trend in Jain studies has been favoured by important events among the Jain community. Examples include the celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the final liberation of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina in 1974 and the thousandth anniversary of the consecration of the colossal Bāhubali statue at Shravana Belgola in 1981. These events have created an increased awareness of the richness of Jain heritage, and have been the starting point of art books published in India.

Initially, there tended to be many more studies of the Jain art of western and northern India than of south India. More recently, this has been balanced by various projects such as:

Sociological, ethnographic and anthropological studies

Lay women take part in the procession that accompanies the installation of an idol in a temple – pratiṣṭhāmahot-sava. This is a major religious occasion among the sects that worship images. An idol of Neminath, the 22nd Jina, was at the centre of this day

Celebrating the installation of an idol
Image by Chandu Shah © Chandu Shah

This trend in Jain studies has developed considerably since the late 1970s under the impulse of scholars working in the United Kingdom and North America. Though ethnographic studies of the Jains produced in continental Europe do exist and are valuable, they are rarer. This is changing these days, as the overall focus of Jain studies shifts from philological and classical studies to modern studies in the general academic context.

Sociological, ethnographic and anthropological Jain studies

Topic of study

Examples of publications

food habits

Mahias, France, 1985

Jain lay life including interaction with mendicants, worship, festivals and calendar

  • Cort, 2001, based on fieldwork in Patan, Gujarat
  • Carrithers & Humphrey, 1991
  • Laidlaw 1995

Jain diaspora in the UK

Banks, 1994

women, including literary images, the place of women in rituals and daily religious life

  • Reynell, 1985
  • Kelting 2001, 2009

Handbooks published outside India

The first two significant syntheses on Jainism were written in German in 1925 and in French the following year. Naturally, they have to be read against more recent works, but they still contain valuable material and information, giving an overview of what was known at that time.

Since the late 1970s key reference books have been published in English, namely:

  • Jaini – The Jaina Path of Purification in 1979
  • Dundas – The Jains in 1992, the second edition in 2002
  • Wiley – Historical Dictionary of Jainism in 2004.

It is often said that Padmanabh S. Jaini’s The Jaina Path of Purification marked a turning point in the field, so that scholars talk of a pre-Jaini and post-Jaini period of Jain studies. In particular, Jaini’s book gives much more attention to Digambara sources and viewpoints than ever before in general syntheses on Jainism.

Story collections

Jain story literature has been written in all the languages Jains have used, from Prakrit and Sanskrit and vernacular languages. The rich heritage of the traditional tales is a path often considered more accessible to a wider audience than the doctrinal scriptures themselves. Indeed, stories are a means of teaching that has always been believed essential by Jains themselves, as they provide examples to follow or not to imitate.

Major anthologies of Jain stories have been published since the 1960s, including:

  • Granoff – The Clever Adulteress 1991 and The Forest Thieves 1998
  • Mette – Die Erlösungslehre der Jaina – Legenden, Parabeln, Erzählungen, 2010 (Jaina Soteriology: Legends, Parables and Narratives)

Jain studies in Western universities

This detail from a manuscript of the Bhaktāmara-stotra shows two examples of the auspicious symbol śrī. Although it is a Sanskrit word, it is also used in modern Indian languages.

Two śrī symbols
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Outside India, there are two specialised centres for studying Jainism, both in Europe.

The Centre of Jaina Studies was established in 2004 at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the University of London. Directed by Peter Flügel, the centre runs an annual conference for the growing international discipline of Jain studies. The centre’s website provides details of its activities, including information on its curriculum, publications, online resources and events. Its work is supported by the Sanskrit and Prakrit courses taught at SOAS.

The Center for Jaina Studies (CfJS.FU) at Freie Universität Berlin in Germany focuses on the art, history and culture of the Jains, as well as religious studies. Building on the pioneering work of German Indologists such as Hermann Jacobi, Ludwig Alsdorf and Walther Schubring, the center opened in May 2011. It works closely with the nearby Museum of Asian Art, which has an impressive collection of Jain art.

But these are not the only places where Jainism is studied nowadays. In most European universities, the study of Jainism has been traditionally subordinated to the study of classical languages used by the Jains – namely Sanskrit and Prakrit – and to the field of Indology in general. Early scholars of Jainism, such as Jacobi, Ernst Leumann, Schubring and Alsdorf, were primarily philologists. Although there is no department of Jain studies as such in these academic contexts, there have been and presently are professors who specialise in the field. They promote its study by acquiring significant collections of books and training younger scholars.

The scholarly study of Jainism tends to take somewhat different approaches among scholars based in North America. In Japan, Jain studies has also witnessed a rise in interest among academics in recent decades.


Noted scholars who were or are leading figures in Jain studies are listed here. When dates are not given, the academic is an active scholar.

Major scholars of Jain studies in Europe


University and department

Other information


United Kingdom

University of Edinburgh, Department of Sanskrit

history of Jainism and its sectarian debates

Paul Dundas


University of Hamburg

  • Jain philology, textual and metrical studies
  • large library of printed books
  • Walther Schubring (1881–1969)
  • Ludwig Alsdorf (1904–1978)


Free University of Berlin

  • Klaus Bruhn (1928; retired 1991)
  • Candrabhāl Tripāṭhī (1929–1996)
  • Bansidhar Bhatt


University of Munich

  • Jain philology
  • Jainism in Karnataka
  • Adelheid Mette
  • Robert J. Zydenbos


University of Tübingen

Jain philosophy

Klaus Butzenberger


University of Göttingen

Study of Middle Indian languages and Jain texts

Thomas Oberlies

The development of new trends in Jain studies accounts for the presence of Jain studies in other centres as well.

Other scholars of Jain studies in Europe


University and department

Other information



University of Bonn

history of Jain art and architecture

Julia A. B. Hegewald


University of Tübingen

anthropology of Jainism

Andrea Luithle-Hardenberg


University of Paris-3 Sorbonne-nouvelle

  • Jain philology
  • Jain literature
  • history of Jain sects


University of Lyon-3

Jain literature in Prakrit and Sanskrit

Christine Chojnacki


University of Ghent

  • Jain philology
  • Jain philosophy and cosmology
  • Jain traditions in Apabhraṃśa
  • Jozef Deleu
  • Frank van den Bossche
  • Eva de Clercq


University of Oslo

history of religion

Torkel Brekke


University of Lund

Jain philosophy

Olle Qvarnström


University of Warsaw

Jain logic and philosophy

Piotr Balcerowicz

North America

In North America, the study of Jainism is not as closely connected to language departments as in Europe. Jainism is also taught and studied in the context of departments of religious studies.

Major scholars of Jain studies in North America


University and department

Other information



Yale University

Jain literature and art

Phyllis Granoff


University of California, Berkeley

Jain philology and religion

  • Padmanabh S. Jaini
  • Kristi L. Wiley


Denison University

ethnography of Jainism

John E. Cort


Northeastern University

women and contemporary religious practice

M. Whitney Kelting


Florida International University

Jain religion and literature, and applied Jain ethics

  • Bhagwan Mahavir Professor of Jain Studies, Nathan Katz (since 2010)
  • Steven M. Vose, assistant professor and director of Jain Studies Program
  • Samani Unnata Pragya, visiting instructor


Center for Jain Studies, Claremont Lincoln University

Legalities and ethics of sallekhana

Whitny Braun


University of La Verne, California

Jain wisdom and ethics

Brianne Donaldson


Loyola Marymount University

Yoga, Jainism and Buddhism

Navin and Pratima Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology, Christopher Key Chapple


University of Toronto

Jain philosophy

Christoph Emmerich


independent scholar

Jain art

Robert Del Bonta


In Japan, the study of Jainism has long been secondary to that of Buddhism, which is a prominent active religion in the country. But since the 1980s more Japanese scholars have become specialists in Jain studies.

The Japanese Association of Jain Studies edits the Journal of Jain Studies in Japanese. Several Japanese scholars, such as S. Matsunami, M. Yajima, T. Tanigawa, S. Fujinaga, Y. Kawasaki, have published valuable studies focusing on the Jain scriptures in Prakrit or on Jain philosophy. A young generation of scholars working in the field is coming up, having recently completed doctorates at Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka and Sendai universities.

Jain studies in India

There has often been a tension within the Jain community between the desire for academic study of Jainism and the fact that this study could endanger or question the religious practice. Some people have encouraged education in Jainism, while others have defended the idea that lay people and even mendicants should be satisfied with rituals and hymns or other texts oriented towards daily life. Even so, the study of Jainism in both India and the West would not have progressed without the efforts of Jain mendicants. They not only authored books and organised institutions, but they also often encouraged or helped the work of Western scholars. This situation still holds true today.

Studying Jainism in India is carried out today in different contexts. Traditional teaching continues among the mendicant and lay communities while formal study in Western-style universities is on the rise. Depending on their sect, both mendicants and lay Jains may enrol in official study programmes. Naturally, non-Jains also study Jainism, but they are less common.

Mendicants and the study of Jainism

A Śvetāmbara monk and a bookstand – sthāpanācārya – which symbolises his role and authority as teacher. It holds a scripture in protective cloth. He sits on a low plaform while pupils sit on the floor. Religious beliefs were originally passed on orally

Monk and pupils
Image by Chandu Shah © Chandu Shah

Scholars and religious teachers are revered among the Jain community, with Jain beliefs being passed down from mendicant teacher to student through the ages. A teacher–apprentice relationship is a key part of the novitiate stage for many new monks and nuns even today.

Monks and nuns live their faith in their daily life through respecting monastic rules, through recitation and reading of scriptures. But, depending on the monastic order to which they belong, they may also be encouraged to study the development and principles of their faith. They usually do this in the traditional method, listening to and discussing with senior monastic teachers or lay Jain scholars – pandits – who are versed in the areas of grammar and philosophy, for instance. Today the Śvetāmbara Terā-panthin sect has a special category of nuns, the samaṇis, who often pursue their studies in universities and gain postgraduate degrees in Jain studies.

In the later 19th century and in the 20th century Western scholars such as Sylvain Lévi, Luigi Pio Tessitori or Ludwig Alsdorf acknowledged the help of monks such as Vijaya-dharma-sūri and Jina-vijaya. Mendicants often helped foreign researchers secure manuscripts from India which they needed for their work and, in return, became familiar with Western scholarly approaches.

In the 20th century some prominent monks contributed in different ways to knowledge of the Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures, such as:

Their critical editions and deep reflections on their tradition and its transmission over time were influential in understanding both holy texts and the relationship between scriptures and religious practice.

It is no surprise that several of these monks took radical action to preserve manuscripts and make their material as widely available as possible. They organised or reorganised traditional manuscript libraries, established modern libraries and used new technologies to reproduce manuscripts.

Leading monastic figures such as Vijaya-dharma-sūri also played a significant role in the assessment of a specifically Jain archaeological past. This proved crucial to the contemporary political and social establishment of Jain identity in India. Thus explorations of the history of Jain holy places became one of their main concerns.

Indian centres of Jain research

The Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) is a government-sponsored centre in Pune, Maharashtra. Set up in 1917, the institute now has around 30,000 Indian manuscripts, including a few thousand Jain manuscripts

Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute
Image by Joy1963 – Jayanta Bhattacharya © CC BY-SA 3.0

There are several centres of Jain research in modern India. Among them are the Jain Vishva Bharati in Ladnun, Rajasthan and the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Institute of Indology in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The former was created by the sect of the Terāpanthins under the impulse of Ācārya Tulsi while the guiding force behind the latter was Muni Puṇya-vijaya.

When a Jain lay scholar and a monk join their efforts, the result is a new journal, Anusandhān (Research). Founded in 1993 by Harivallabh C. Bhayani and Vijay-shila-candra-suri, the journal features editions or new editions of short Jain literary works in Sanskrit, Prakrit or Gujarati, among other things. This is only one instance meant to show how various Jain groups work for a better knowledge of their tradition in a scholarly perspective.

In Indian universities, the study of the Jain literary tradition is carried out in departments of Sanskrit or of Prakrit. The approach is therefore more similar to studies of languages and literatures than that of religious studies. Examples of departments that run degree courses are found in the Gujarat University in Ahmedabad and the University of Udaipur or the University of Madras in Chennai.

A special case is the Jain Vishva Bharati University in Ladnun, Rajasthan. It is closely associated with the Śvetāmbara Terāpanthin monastic order but offers programmes in academic fields beside Jain studies.

An instance of a government research institution of great importance is the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, in Pune, Maharashtra. This boasts one of the largest collection of Jain manuscripts and a staff of professors or researchers who specialise in Sanskrit and Prakrit.

Research into Jainism is also performed in institutes managed by private trusts. Featuring prominent members of the Jain lay community, these members have a say in the governing rules and in the predominantly sectarian orientations of the organisation. Both centres of research and repositories of resources, these private institutions may number about 50.

Several institutions are oriented towards Śvetāmbara research and are detailed in the table.

Major centres of Śvetāmbara research in India



Activities and resources

Bhogilal Leherchand Institute of Indology

New Delhi

  • manuscript library
  • publication of a specific collection of books
  • organisation of seminars

Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Institute of Indology

Ahmedabad, Gujarat

  • manuscript library
  • publication of a specific collection of books
  • publication of the Sambodhi journal in English, Hindi and Gujarati
  • organisations of seminars
  • the L. D. Institute is a national centre affiliated to the National Mission for Manuscripts and has a special section for manuscript preservation and cataloguing
  • the L. D. Museum, in an adjoining building, holds an important collection of Jain artefacts – statues, manuscripts and monastic equipment that belonged to Muni Puṇya-vijaya, and the N. C. Mehta Collection of paintings
  • Muni Puṇya-vijaya, a Śvetāmbara monk, was the leading force in establishing these institutions.

Mahavir Aradhana Kendra

Koba, near Ahmedabad in Gujarat

  • manuscript library
  • publication of books
  • Jain museum

Parshvanath Vidyashram Research Institute

Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh

  • manuscript library
  • publication of books
  • publication of the Śramaṇ journal in Hindi and English

Others tend to focus on research into Digambara Jainism, and are given in the following table.

Major centres of Digambara research in India



Activities and resources

Apabhramsa Sahitya Academy

Jaipur, Rajasthan

  • manuscript library with an important collection of Digambara items
  • organisation of seminars and courses

Bahubali Prakrit Vidyapeeth

Shravana Belgola, Karnataka

Publication of journal Prakrit Teerth: Quarterly Journal of Prakrit Studies.

Kundakunda Bharati

Mehrauli, near Delhi

Publications of books in Prakrit, Hindi or English

Resources for studying Jainism

A Jain temple-library holds sacred books, individually wrapped and labelled. The rice on the table in front is an offering left by worshippers. Jains consider their scriptures to be holy objects, with books often the focus of religious rituals.

Jain holy texts
Image by Malaiya © CC BY-SA 3.0

The Jains have a long tradition of keeping manuscripts of holy texts and other writings in libraries attached to temples. The physical artefact of a manuscript and the content are venerated independently in the Jain faith, with festivals among the different sects that are dedicated to both individual texts and to the concept of knowledge. These customs mean that there are several thousands of manuscripts in the temple-libraries across India. Some of these are in a poor state, since these often centuries-old documents may be kept in storage conditions that do not protect them against ravages of the climate and insect life.

However, original manuscripts have increasingly been preserved in accordance with international curatorial standards. The modern centres of research in India often have significant collections of manuscripts that are the focus of scholarly exploration.

Many manuscripts have also been purchased by foreign scholars, private collectors and public institutions. The proportion of foreign-held manuscripts is a matter of speculation, as a good number appears to be in private hands and therefore does not feature in the catalogues of institutions such as museums. The early Western scholars of Jainism frequently bequeathed their private collections to universities and museums, which provided the foundation of several prominent public collections. These collections are usually in good condition, though cataloguing is patchy. This is partly because many manuscripts were acquired before the establishment in Western academia of Jainism as a tradition separate from Buddhism and Hinduism and thus they were often miscatalogued.

In addition, printed resources are also significant sources for Jain scholars. Books printed in India and elsewhere both publish research and provide material for fresh investigation. Increasingly, Jain texts and other resources are being put online. The use of the internet to store and access all kinds of material enables professional scholars and interested amateurs to examine items that are physically remote and share their findings. Several professionally produced websites of Jain material can be found online as well as countless other Jain-oriented sites on the world wide web.

Jain manuscript collections outside India

It is likely that many countries outside India have at least a few Jain manuscripts, while some countries have good collections. A world-level inventory or survey is out of reach here for the following two reasons:

  1. many private collectors have Jain manuscripts of which nothing is known
  2. there are numerous public collections for which no list is available or is not available outside the holding institution.

This section is preliminary. It will have to be enriched by the feedback of curators, private collectors and so on. It does not include Jain manuscripts in Asian countries or New Zealand, for which information is not readily available.

However, the European collections are probably the richest holdings of Jain material outside India. North America boasts large numbers of manuscripts and other artefacts, a large proportion of them in private hands.


James Tod (1782–1835) of the British East India Company authored several books and articles on Indian topics in the early 19th century. Though not a scholar, he carried out research over his 23 years in India and joined the Royal Asiatic Society

James Tod
Image by unknown © public domain

Most of the first Westerners to study Jainism systematically were Indologists from Germany and the United Kingdom. French and Italian scholars were also active in the 19th century. These university academics or private scholars acquired manuscripts and artefacts on their travels in India and through commercial dealers. These items form the basis of the large collections of Jain materials in Europe.

United Kingdom

The four most important repositories of Jain manuscripts are the partners of the JAINpedia project. They are the source institutions for all the digitised images of manuscripts on the JAINpedia website. The JAINpedia project hopes to add materials from all the major collections in the UK in due course.

Repositories of Jain artefacts in the UK


Collection details


British Library, London

1100 manuscripts

Catalogue of the Jain Manuscripts at the British Library
The British Library and the Institute of Jainology
3 volumes + CD, London, 2006

Victoria and Albert Museum, London

illustrated manuscripts

Included in Catalogue of the Jain Manuscripts at the British Library

Wellcome Institute, London

catalogue in preparation

Bodleian Library, and Indian Institute, University of Oxford

catalogue in preparation

British Museum, London

a few illustrated manuscripts

Included in Catalogue of the Jain Manuscripts at the British Library

Royal Asiatic Society, London – Tod Collection

53 manuscripts acquired from 1799 to 1823

L. D. Barnett
'Catalogue of the Tod Collection of Indian Manuscripts of the Royal Asiatic Society'
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
April 1940, Part II, pages 129 to 178

Cambridge University Library – Bendall Collection

210 manuscripts acquired from 1884 to 1885 with the help of Bhagavandas Kevaldas

partial lists in C. Bendall
A Journey of Literary and Archaeological Research in Nepal and Northern India during the winter of 1884–5
Cambridge, 1886

Repositories of Jain artefacts in Germany


Collection details


Königliche Bibliothek (Royal Library), Berlin

259 manuscripts acquired from 1873 to 1878 and from 1886 to 1889

Albrecht Weber
Verzeichnis (Directory) 2.1 (1886)
2.2 (1888) and 2.3 (1892)

Preussische Staatsbibliothek (Prussian State Library), Berlin

770 manuscripts acquired from 1892 to 1944

Walter Schubring
Die Jaina-Handschriften der Preussischen Staatsbibliothek (Jain Manuscripts in the Prussian State Library)
Leipzig, 1944

Göttingen University Library – Kielhorn Collection

14 manuscripts acquired from 1866 to 1881

R. Fick
‘Kielhorns Handschriften-Sammlung’
Nachrichten von der Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen aus dem Jahre (Annual News from the Society of Sciences and Humanities)
1930, pages 65 to 94 and
Nachrichten 1941, pages 115 to 119

Leipzig University Library

119 manuscripts acquired in the late 19th century

Anett Krause
Die Jaina-Handschriften sowie weitere indische Handschriften in den Sprachen Avadhi, Bengali, Braj, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Prakrit, Sanskrit und die tibetischen Handschriften und Blockdrucke der Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig (A 1500-A 1502, K 1-K 169, Ms Gabelentz 97:3,4,6,7,21), Otto Harrassowitz, 2013 (Katalog der Handschriften der Universitäts-Bibliothek Leipzig, Neue Folge Band III)

Repositories of Jain artefacts in Austria


Collection details


Vienna University Library – Bühler Collection

74 manuscripts acquired in Gujarat through Bhagavandas Kevaldas

U. Podzeit
Die Indische Handschriften an der Universitätsbibliothek (Indian Manuscripts at the University Library)
Vienna, 1988

Swiss-born Ernst Leumann (1859–1931) was a scholar of Indo-European languages, pioneering research into the āvaśyaka textual tradition. He is also known for helping establish the collection of Jain manuscripts at the National Library, Strasbourg, France.

Ernst Leumann
Image by unknown © unknown

Repositories of Jain artefacts in France


Collection details


Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire (National and University Library), Strasbourg

193 manuscripts bought from 1891 onwards at the urging of the scholar Ernst Leumann

  • Śvetāmbara manuscripts – aided by Bhagavandas Kevaldas of Surat
  • Digambara manuscripts – aided by Brahma-sūri and his son Jinadāsa of Shravana Belgola

C. B. Tripāṭhī
Catalogue of the Jaina Manuscripts at Strasbourg
Brill, Leiden, Netherlands, 1975

Bibliothèque Nationale de France (National Library), Paris – collection Emile Senart

266 manuscripts acquired from around 1897 to 1898 from Gujarat

J. Filliozat
‘État des manuscrits de la collection Emile Senart’ (‘Status of Manuscripts in the Emile Senart Collection’)
Journal Asiatique, 1936

Musée Guimet, Paris

a few illustrated Jain manuscripts

Repositories of Jain artefacts in Italy


Collection details


Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale (National Central Library), Florence

about 295 manuscripts acquired from 1885 to 1886 around Bombay and Surat by A. de Gubernatis

F. L. Pullé
‘I manoscritti indiani della Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze’ ('Indian Manuscripts in the National Central Library of Florence’)
Giornalle della Societa Asiatica Italiana (Journal of the Italian Asiatic Society)
20, 1907

Vincenzo Joppi Civic Library, Udine – Fondo Tessitori (Tessitori Foundation)

215 manuscripts acquired by L. P. Tessitori from 1914 to 1916 in Jaipur and Jodhpur

provisional unpublished catalogue
new catalogue in preparation by Nalini Balbir

North America

A rough survey of H. I. Poleman’s 1938 A Census of Indic Manuscripts in the United States and Canada yields about 415 Jain manuscripts in present-day North America. Between 7,500 and 8,000 manuscripts are listed in this catalogue, mainly in Harvard University.

Especially in the USA, there are many illustrated Jain manuscripts or pages of Jain manuscripts in private collections or museum catalogues and on websites. Private collectors have often bought illustrated manuscripts of some value, which they may show in temporary exhibitions. Granoff 2009 has details of some items that have been publicly exhibited but usually the only information publicly available is in the exhibition catalogues.


The Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, formerly part of the Institute of Oriental Studies, holds around 150 Jain manuscripts. The St Petersburg collection does not yet have a published catalogue

Russian Institute of Oriental Studies
Image by Mahury © CC BY-SA 3.0

In Russia there is a collection of 150 Jain manuscripts in the Asiatic Museum and Russian National Library in St Petersburg. However, no proper catalogue is available at this point.

In Australia there are isolated Jain artefacts in some museums and an important collection of Jain publications at the University of Canberra.

Print books and internet resources

Important collections of Jain printed books are found in several institutions in India and outside, especially in centres or institutes specifically dealing with Jainism. One of the most recently gathered collections in Germany is the Pianarosa Library, housed in the University of Bonn.

Internet resources have become very crucial in recent years. The most systematic and comprehensive one is the Jain eLibrary, which regularly expands its holdings and has printed books in English or Indian languages, as well as manuscripts. But Jainism has become very much present on the Internet, and important resources are found in many places, sometimes unexpected.

International conferences and symposia

The development of Jain studies as a distinct area of research has become more visible with the organisation of several panels or international conferences beginning in the 1980s. Held with the participation of Western and Indian scholars alike, these gatherings have also become a part of Japanese academic life of late.

Major conferences and symposia include the following examples outside India.

Principal international conferences on Jain studies






International Symposium on Jaina Canonical and Narrative Literature

Strasbourg, France


published in 1983, as volume 11 of the Indologica Taurinensia journal

International Jain Workshop

SOAS Centre of Jaina Studies, London UK

Founded in 1998 and held in March every year

published by Routledge

a major event for international Jain scholars, each workshop focuses on a specific issue, such as law, art, narrative literature

Jain Conference

Toronto, Canada


published in 1999

International Jain Conference on Buddhist and Jain Studies in honour of Padmanabh S. Jaini

Lund University, Lund, Sweden


published as P. S. Jaini Felicitation Volume

Jain panels within the World Sanskrit Conferences



Jain panels within the Oriental Conference

Marburg, Germany


Jain papers presented at the meetings of the American Academy of Religion and Jaina Studies Consultation

2009 and then annually

International Jain conference on ‘The Jaina and the British’

Tübingen, Germany


Luithle-Hardenberg, editor, Co-operation and Competition, Conflict and Contribution: The Jaina Community, British Rule and Occidental Scholarship from 18th to Early 20th Century, 2013

Academic conferences take place regularly in India, involving representatives from all around the world. However, the proceedings of such symposia are often not published and thus keeping track of them and their details is a greater task.

Reports on the main conferences are published in the annual Centre of Jaina Studies Newsletter. Available online, the newsletter is published by the Centre of Jaina Studies in the London School of Oriental and African Studies.

These gatherings show that scholars of Jainism have become keen on finding occasions to reinforce their links and feel that they form a growing community of researchers willing to explore all avenues of the Jain past and present. The local Jain communities, formed mainly by the diaspora and their organisations, are part of these events. They participate intellectually as well as providing financial and material support. This interaction is an important asset and a key to the development of Jain studies in the future.

Lecture series and awards

Another way of creating events to stimulate the growing interest in Jain studies is to establish regular lectures and awards. There are several such lecture series and awards around the world, such as the following examples.

The Roop Lal Jain annual lecture series at the University of Toronto in Canada began in 1990 with the support of the Jain community in Canada and continues up to today. A different scholar is invited to deliver the lecture each year. The first nine lectures have been published in book form in the volume entitled Jain Doctrine and Practice: Academic Perspectives, edited by Joseph T. O'Connell. But the collected publication is not systematic and takes place long after the lectures, so that scholars often publish the text of their lecture on their own.

The Dr. Chander Mohan Lal Jain Memorial Lectures at the University of Western Ontario, in London, Ontario in Canada take a similar pattern. The first lecture was given in 1995.

The Bhagwan Mahavir Professorship in Jain Studies at Florida International University, Miami, in the USA, was established in 2010. It also has provisions for inviting a scholar to give an annual lecture on the occasion of the Mahāvīr Jayantī festival.

Prizes are regularly awarded to undergraduate and postgraduate students at the Centre of Jaina Studies at SOAS in London.

The Prakrit Jnanbharati International Award is meant for seasoned scholars and is offered by the Bahubali Prakrit Vidyapeeth in Shravana Belgola, Karnataka, India. It is administered jointly by Shri Svastishri Charukirti Bhattarak Mahaswami and Dr Hampana Nagarajaiah, emeritus professor of Bangalore University.


  • Three Śvetāmbara Sthānaka-vāsin monks Originally published in a 1916 book, this photograph shows three Śvetāmbara Sthānaka-vāsin monks sitting cross-legged, a boy monk on the left. Initiation as a child still occurs today, though it is much rarer. In the colonial period many British civil servants or residents in India became very interested in Indian languages, religions, cultures and history.. Image by R. V. Russell and Rai Bahadur Hira Lāl © public domain
  • Buchanan's sketch of Bāhubali When Scots-born Francis Buchanan surveyed the newly conquered kingdom of Mysore in 1800, he drew various monuments he encountered on his travels. This sketch of the huge statue of Bāhubali at Shravana Belgola in Karnataka captures the detailed carving of the figure's hair and the leaves that twine up its arms and legs.. Image by © Heidelberg University Library
  • Captain James Tod mounted on an elephant This manuscript painting from 1822 shows the British soldier James Tod riding an elephant. The information on the geography, history and social customs of central and western India which Tod collected in the early 19th century greatly influenced European ideas of India, although much of it has since been shown to be faulty.. Image by San Diego Museum of Art © public domain; Edwin Binney 3rd Collection
  • Colin Mackenzie and his assistants Scots-born Colin Mackenzie was the first Surveyor-General of India in the 18th century, responsible for recording accurate maps. Interested in Indian life, Mackenzie hired learned Indians to help him research topics such as language, history, religion, philosophy, art and mathematics. This painting depicts Mackenzie with his Jain and Telegu brahmin assistants and on his left, holding a telescope, his peon, Kistnaji.. Image by anonymous copy of Thomas Hickey's oil © public domain
  • Dreams of an expectant mother This manuscript painting depicts some of the dreams of the woman carrying a Jina. According to the Śvetāmbara sect, she has 14 dreams, which differ slightly from the Digambaras' 16 dreams. Twelve Śvetāmbara dreams are shown here, with the sixth and seventh – the moon and the sun – on another page. . Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • A. N. Upadhye Dr Adinatha Neminatha Upadhye (1901–1975) was a distinguished scholar of Jain studies, who worked primarily on Prakrit texts. He spent the last part of his career as the first professor of the Department of Jainology and Prakrit at Mysore University.. Image by unknown © unknown
  • Carvings of Jinas A wall of Jina figures dating from the 8th to 9th centuries. Cut into the rock face at the cave temple at Kalugumalai in Tamil Nadu, these images nearly all depict the 24 Jinas.. Image by Jennifer Howes © CC BY-NC 3.0
  • Celebrating the installation of an idol Lay women Maya, Rekha, Vipool, Amit, and Ajit Shah take part in the procession that accompanies the installation of an idol in a temple – pratiṣṭhāmahot-sava. This is a major religious occasion among the sects that worship images. An idol of Neminath or Lord Nemi, the 22nd Jina, was at the centre of these 2005 celebrations at the temple at Potters Bar in Hertfordshire, England.. Image by Chandu Shah © Chandu Shah
  • Two śrī symbols This detail from a manuscript of the Bhaktāmara-stotra shows two examples of the auspicious symbol śrī. Although it is a Sanskrit word, it is also used in modern Indian languages.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Monk and pupils A Śvetāmbara monk sits before a bookstand – sthāpanācārya – which is a symbol of his role and authority as teacher. It holds a scripture wrapped in protective cloth. He sits on a low plaform while his pupils sit on the floor and listen. Religious beliefs were originally passed on orally, with junior monks memorising what their teachers said. Today, monks and nuns still learn in large part from senior monks.. Image by Chandu Shah © Chandu Shah
  • Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute The Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) is a government-sponsored centre in Pune, Maharashtra. Set up in 1917, the institute now has around 30,000 Indian manuscripts covering various topics and in many styles and languages, including a few thousand Jain manuscripts.. Image by Joy1963 – Jayanta Bhattacharya © CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Jain holy texts A Jain temple-library holds sacred books, individually wrapped and labelled. The rice on the table in front is an offering left by worshippers. Jains consider their scriptures to be holy objects, with books often the focus of religious rituals. The Digambara sect of Tāraṇ Svāmī Panth worships books instead of images of Jinas.. Image by Malaiya © CC BY-SA 3.0
  • James Tod James Tod (1782–1835) of the British East India Company authored several books and articles on Indian topics in the early 19th century. Though not a scholar, he carried out research over his 23 years in India and joined the Royal Asiatic Society on his return to London.. Image by unknown © public domain
  • Ernst Leumann Swiss-born Ernst Leumann (1859–1931) was a gifted scholar of Indo-European languages, pioneering research into the āvaśyaka textual tradition, which deals with ethics. He is also known for his part in establishing the fine collection of Jain manuscripts at the National Library at Strasbourg, France.. Image by unknown © unknown
  • Russian Institute of Oriental Studies The Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, formerly part of the Institute of Oriental Studies, holds around 150 Jain manuscripts. The St Petersburg collection does not yet have a published catalogue.. Image by Mahury © CC BY-SA 3.0

Further Reading

‘An Early Nineteenth Century Study of the Jains’
Ernest Bender
Journal of the American Oriental Society
volume 96: 1
American Oriental Society; New Haven, Connecticut USA; 1976

Full details

‘Jainology in Western Publications I’
Klaus Bruhn
Jain Studies in Honour of Jozef Deleu
edited by Rudy Smet and Kenji Watanabe
Hon-no-Tomosha; Tokyo, Japan; 1993

Full details

‘The Study of Jaina Art’
Klaus Bruhn
Jain Studies in Honour of Jozef Deleu
edited by Rudy Smet and Kenji Watanabe
Hon-no-Tomosha; Tokyo, Japan; 1993

Full details

‘Jainology in Western Publications II’
Colette Caillat
Jain Studies in Honour of Jozef Deleu
edited by Rudy Smet and Kenji Watanabe
Hon-no-Tomosha; Tokyo, Japan; 1993

Full details

‘Observations on the sect of Jains’
Henry Thomas Colebrooke
Asiatic Researches
volume 9

Full details

Jains in the World: Religious Values and Ideology in India
John E. Cort
Oxford University Press USA; New York, USA; 2001

Full details

The Jains
Paul Dundas
Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices series; series editor John Hinnels and Ninian Smart; volume 14
Routledge Curzon Press; London, UK; 2002

Full details

History, Scripture and Controversy in a Medieval Jain Sect
Paul Dundas
Routledge Advances in Jaina Studies series; series editor Peter Flügel; volume 2
Routledge Curzon Press; London, UK; 2007

Full details

‘The Invention of Jainism: A Short History of Jaina Studies’
Peter Flügel
Journal of Jain Studies
volume 11
Kyoto, Japan; 2005

Full details

‘Jainism and the Western World: Jinmuktisūri and Georg Bühler and Other Early Encounters’
Peter Flügel
Jain Journal
volume 34: 1

Full details

Scripture and Community: Collected Essays on the Jains
Kendall W. Folkert
edited by John E. Cort
Studies in World Religions series; volume 6
Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University & Scholars Press; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; 1993

Full details

Jainism: An Indian Religion of Salvation
Helmuth von Glasenapp
translated by Shridhar B. Shrotri
Lala Sundar Lal Jain Research series; volume 14
Motilal Banarsidass; New Delhi, India; 1999

Full details

La religion djaïna
Armand Albert Guérinot
Paul Geuthner; Paris, France; 1926

Full details

The Forest of Thieves and the Magic Garden: An Anthology of Medieval Jain Stories
translated by Phyllis Granoff
Penguin; New Delhi, India; 1998

Full details

Victorious Ones: Jain Images of Perfection
Phyllis Granoff
Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd and Rubin Museum of Art, New York; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India and New York, USA; 2009

Full details

The Jaina Path of Purification
Padmanabh S. Jaini
University of California Press; Berkeley, California USA; 1979

Full details

Gender and Salvation: Jaina Debates on the Spiritual Liberation of Women
Padmanabh S. Jaini
University of California Press; Berkeley, California, USA; 1991

Full details

Triṣaṣṭiśalākapuruṣacaritra: Lives of the Sixty-three Illustrious Persons
translated by Helen M. Johnson
Gaekwad's Oriental series; volume 1
Oriental Institute; Baroda, Gujarat, India; 1931

Full details

Triṣaṣṭiśalākapuruṣacaritra: Lives of the Sixty-three Illustrious Persons
translated by Helen M. Johnson
Gaekwad's Oriental series; volume 2
Oriental Institute; Baroda, Gujarat, India; 1937

Full details

Triṣaṣṭiśalākapuruṣacaritra: Lives of the Sixty-three Illustrious Persons
translated by Helen M. Johnson
Gaekwad’s Oriental series; volume 3
Oriental Institute; Baroda, Gujarat, India; 1949

Full details

Triṣaṣṭiśalākapuruṣacaritra: Lives of the Sixty-three Illustrious Persons
translated by Helen M. Johnson
Gaekwad's Oriental series; volume 4
Oriental Institute; Baroda, Gujarat, India; 1954

Full details

Triṣaṣṭiśalākapuruṣacaritra: Lives of the Sixty-three Illustrious Persons
translated by Helen M. Johnson
Gaekwad's Oriental series; volume 5
Oriental Institute; Baroda, Gujarat, India; 1962

Full details

Triṣaṣṭiśalākapuruṣacaritra: Lives of the Sixty-three Illustrious Persons
translated by Helen M. Johnson
Gaekwad's Oriental series; volume 6
Oriental Institute; Baroda, Gujarat, India; 1962

Full details

Triṣaṣṭiśalākapuruṣacaritra: Lives of the Sixty-three Illustrious Persons
translated by Helen M. Johnson
Gaekwad's Oriental series; volume 7
Oriental Institute; Baroda, Gujarat, India; 1962

Full details

‘Alexander Walker of Bowland’s “Account of the Jeyn”: A starting point of Jaina–British Encounters’
Andrea Luithle-Hardenberg
Co-operation and Competition, Conflict and Contribution: The Jaina Community, British Rule and Occidental Scholarship from the 18th to the Early 20th Century
edited by Andrea Luithle-Hardenberg
University of Tübingen; Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany; forthcoming

Full details

Co-operation and Competition, Conflict and Contribution: The Jaina Community, British Rule and Occidental Scholarship from the 18th to the Early 20th Century
Andrea Luithle-Hardenberg
Studies in Asian Art and Culture series
EB Berlag; Berlin, Germany; 2013

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‘The Mackenzie Parsvanath at the V&A: Research in Progress on the British Library’s Mackenzie Collection’
Jennifer Howes
South Asia Archive & Library Group Newsletter
volume 2
British Library; London, UK; November 2004

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Illustrating India: The Early Colonial Investigations of Colin Mackenzie (1784–1821)
Jennifer Howes
Oxford University Press; Oxford, UK; 2010

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‘Account of the Jains: collected from a Priest of this sect; at Mudgeri: Translated by Cavelly Boria, Bráhmen’
Colin Mackenzie
Asiatick Researches
volume 9
Calcutta, India, and London, UK; 1809

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Délivrance et convivialité: le systéme culinaire des Jaina
Marie-Claude Mahias
Éditions de la maison des sciences de l’homme; Paris, France; 1985

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Die Erlösungslehre der Jaina: Legenden, Parabeln, Erzählungen
translated and edited by Adelheid Mette
Insel Verlag; Berlin, Germany; 2010

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Gujarati School and Jaina Manuscript Paintings
Ratan Parimoo
N. C. Mehta Collection series; volume 1
Gujarat Museum Society; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 2010

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Jainism and Early Buddhism in the Indian Cultural Context: Essays in Honor of Padmanabh S. Jaini
Olle Qvarnström
Asian Humanities Press; Fremont, California, USA; 2003

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‘Orientalists, Missionaries, and Jains: The South Indian History’
Leslie C. Orr
The Madras School of Orientalism: Producing Knowledge in Colonial South India
edited by Thomas R. Trautmann
Oxford University Press; New Delhi, India; 2009

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A census of Indic manuscripts in the United States and Canada
Horace I. Poleman
American Oriental series; volume 12
American Oriental Society; New Haven, Connecticut, USA; 1938

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The Doctrine of the Jainas: Described after the Old Sources
Walther Schubring
translated by Wolfgang Bühlen
edited by Satya Ranjan Banerjee
Lala Sunder Lal Jain Research series; volume 15
Motilal Banarsidass; New Delhi, India; 2000

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The Heart of Jainism
Margaret Sinclair Stevenson
Munshiram Manoharlal; New Delhi, India; 1984

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Travels in Western India: embracing a visit to the sacred mounts of the Jains and the most celebrated shrines of Hindu faith between Rajpootana and the Indus, with an account of the ancient city of Nehrwalla
James Tod
Munshiram Manoharlal; New Delhi, India; 1997

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Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan: or the Central and Western Rajput States of India
James Tod
edited by William Crooke
Milford / Oxford University Press; London; 1920

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‘Account of the Jainas taken from sixteenth and seventeenth century authors’
Robert Williams
Mahāvīra and His Teachings
edited by A. N. Upadhye, Bal Patil and Dalsukh Malvania
volume VII: 1
Bhagavān Mahāvīra 2500th Nirvāna Mahotsava Samiti; Bombay, Maharashtra, India; 1977

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The Clever Adulteress and Other Stories: A Treasury of Jain Literature
Phyllis Granoff
Mosaic Press; Oakville, Ontario, Canada; New York, USA; London, UK; 1990

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Preceptor, teacher. A title given to a Jain religious teacher, usually one who is a head monk.


Apabhraṃśa is an umbrella term for the dialects that were the forerunners of modern Indian languages. Taken from the Sanskrit term apabhraṃśa, which literally means 'corrupt' or 'non-grammatical language', Apabhraṃśa was used to write a large number of Jain texts. Though Apabhraṃśa developed over the 6th to 13th centuries, literary works date back to the 8th century.


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.


Sankrit term meaning 'pontiff'. This title is given to a type of Digambara clergy who are not mendicants. Instead of practising the 'wandering life' – vihāra – of Jain monks and nuns, a bhaṭṭāraka stays in one place, living in a kind of monastery called a maṭha. There are several bhaṭṭārakas in south India, who lead the local Jain community.


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 Buddhism. There are two main schools of Buddhism, namely:

  • Theravāda – 'the Teaching of the Elders' in Pali – is older and is found chiefly in Sri Lanka and continental South East Asia
  • Māhayana – 'Great Vehicle' in Sanskrit – is the larger sect and is followed mainly in East Asia and the Himalayan nations.

Both sects are practised in India.


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.

Common Era

The period of time starting with the year when Jesus Christ was traditionally believed to have been born. Using CE is a more secular way of dating events in a multinational, multi-religious world.


From the Greek term meaning 'scattering or dispersal', the word 'diaspora' describes large groups of people with shared roots who live away from their ancestral homes. They have usually moved because they were forced to by other groups, because they have fled war, famine or persecution, or to improve economic opportunies. They usually have strong emotional, religious, linguistic, social and economic ties to their original homeland.


'Sky-clad' in Sanskrit, used for one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which monks are naked. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.


A principle or system of teachings, especially religious philosophy.


A public commemoration of a religious ritual. Often a celebration that involves holding a religious ceremony to mark an important event in a religion's history. 


The westernmost state in India, which is a stronghold of Śvetāmbara Jainism.


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:

  • a spiritual teacher
  • 'heavy', in contrast to laghu or ‘light'.


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.


An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.


The academic study of the civilisations found in the Indian subcontinent, chiefly their history, languages and literature. Also known as South Asian studies, Indology covers the modern states of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.


Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.

James Burgess

Born in Scotland, James Burgess (1832—1916) published many volumes on Indian architecture and became director-general of the Archaeological Survey of India from 1886 to 1889. He is best known for his work documenting significant architectural sites in western India between 1871 and 1885 and for establishing the journals Indian Antiquary in 1872 and Epigraphica Indica in 1888.


The Book of Ritual attributed to Bhadrabāhu. It has three sections:

  1. 'Jina-caritra' – 'Lives of the Jinas'
  2. 'Sthavirāvalī' – 'String of Elders'
  3. 'Sāmācārī' – 'Right Monastic Conduct'.

A significant sacred text for Śvetāmbara Jains, the Kalpa-sūtra has a central role in the annual Paryuṣaṇ festival.


State in south-west India.


Pulling out one’s hair in handfuls in a symbolic gesture as a part of the religious initiation known as dīkṣā. Only mendicants do this, and they do it regularly in their monastic life.


Subsect of the Śvetāmbaras, chiefly found in Rajasthan and Mumbai and established in the 11th century. 


Believers in a religion who are ordinary worshippers, not clergy or members of religious orders. In Jainism, lay people are often called 'householders', indicating that they live in houses and have domestic responsibilities, unlike ascetics.


Bordering on the Arabian Sea, Māhārāṣṭra in central India is the third-largest and the richest state in India. Its capital is Mumbai and the official language is Marathi.


The 24th Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is yellow and his emblem the lion. Mahāvīra or 'the great hero' is his title. His birth name was Vardhamāna, meaning 'ever increasing'. His existence is historically documented but the two main sects of Digambara and Śvetāmbara Jains have slight differences in their accounts of his life.


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.

Monastic order

A single-sex group of ascetics that vows to follow rules set out by a founding religious teacher. They formally renounce the world to become monks and nuns. They usually have a hierarchy of leaders at different levels to govern them.


A man who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to formally enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, monks perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.


Modern Indo-aryan language term from the Sanskrit ‘mukhavastrikā'. The small rectangular piece of cloth permanently fixed over the mouth by some mendicant orders. This is to avoid being violent accidentally, either by inhaling tiny creatures or killing them by breathing over them unexpectedly.

This is not the same as the mouth-cover used on some occasions by other mendicants and by laypeople when they perform certain rites.


The capital of the state of Mahārāṣṭra, the city of Mumbai is the biggest and richest in India. Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is the centre of Indian film-making and commercial activities.


Sage. A common term for a Jain monk.


Jains who venerate and worship images of Jinas in temples.


The Digambara mendicants are 'sky-clad' because they believe that all the Jinas and their male ascetic followers went nude as part of their vow of renunciation. This vow entails renouncing all possessions, including clothing. Female Digambara ascetics wear white saris and are thus technically spiritually advanced celibate laywomen. Śvetāmbara mendicants of both sexes, however, wear white clothing. The difference of opinion over whether the vow of non-possession includes clothing was one reason for the Jain community's split into these two major sects early in the Common Era.


A woman who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, nuns perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.


'Learned one' in Sanskrit and used originally for a Hindu brahmin scholar and teacher. Nowadays a Jain pandit is a scholar who has been educated traditionally and is expert in the sacred texts of at least one of the Jain sects.


The study of texts with a focus on language. It covers the historical development and structures of languages, and of written records. Philologists may be interested in establishing the authenticity or age of a text or in tracing the introduction and evolution in usage of certain terms or languages.


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.


Someone who protests against the established doctrine and practices of his or her religion. Protestants try to return their religion to a purer condition, free of the corruption and misunderstanding they believe has grown up.

Originally used of Europeans in the late medieval period who raised formal objections to the practices and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, triggering the Reformation.


The largest state in India, in the north-western part of the country.


The cotton-thread broom used by some groups of Śvetāmbara ascetics to sweep the ground before sitting, for example, so no insects or small creatures are harmed by mistake. It is also used by lay Jains when performing certain rites.


'Eating at night'. No Jains should eat after dark because of the greater risk of unknowingly eating living beings. It is counted as a supplement to the five Greater Vows of the ascetics. Lay Jains should also observe it, but not all of them do so.


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.


One of the four main Hindu sects, in which the faithful worship Śiva as the supreme being. There are various strands of Śaivism but many devotees daub sacred ash on their foreheads and other parts of their bodies. Some Śaivites may also use cannabis as a sacred offering or smoke it as part of a spiritual experience.


The progressive eradication of passions and other negative features in order to reach total spiritual purity. In practice, it is the ritual of fasting unto death.


A special category of nuns in the Śvetāmbara Terāpanthin sect. The nuns are officially free from certain rules restricting their movements and can visit institutions in India or go abroad to pursue academic research or minister to the Jain diaspora.


Sanskrit for 'community'. The Jain ‘fourfold community’ is composed of monks, nuns, lay men and lay women.


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.


Set of sacred texts that believers accept as authoritative within a religion. Synonymous with canon.


An organised group of believers in a religion, often distinguished from other groups within the same religious faith who have differences of doctrine or practice.


A title of respect often used to indicate holiness or divinity. It honours a person or place and is also added to the name of written or sung texts, such as scriptures. It is added before the name, for example Śrī Ṛṣabha.


The Indian or South Asian subcontinent is a term for the geographical area roughly covering modern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.


'White-clad’ in Sanskrit, the title of one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which both male and female mendicants wear white robes. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.

Śvetāmbara Terāpanthin

A subsect of the Śvetāmbara Sthānaka-vāsin, which originated in Rajasthan in the 18th century. The Terāpanthin do not worship images. One of the sect's best-known leaders was Ācārya Tulsī, who created a new category of ascetics in 1980. These samaṇ and samaṇī are allowed to travel using mechanised transport and to use money.


A Śvetāmbara mūrti-pūjaka sect, first established in the 13th century and reformed from the 19th century. Today nearly all mūrti-pūjak mendicants belong to this sect.


A building reserved for public worship or prayer, usually dedicated to one religion and run by members of that religion's clergy.


A cluster of many temples built so close together that they form a group as large as a small town or city. No one lives in a temple-city, which has no shops or other buildings found in normal towns, because it is dedicated to worship. Consisting solely of temples and other religious buildings, usually linked by streets, a temple-city is visited by pilgrims and priests.


One of the four main Hindu traditions, which worships Viṣṇu – or his avatars Rāma and Kṛṣṇa – as the original and supreme deity.


The everyday or common language spoken by people in a particular country or region, often contrasting with the literary form or the national or official language. Similarly, vernacular architecture reflects local conditions and conventions more than other considerations, such as national or international design trends, and may be built by non-professional architects.


Vows are extremely important in Jain religious life. Mendicants take the compulsory Five Great Vows – mahā-vratas – as part of their initiation – dīkṣā

Lay people can choose to take 12 vows, which are divided into:

  • aṇu-vratas – 'Five Lesser Vows'
  • guṇa-vratas – three supplementary vows
  • śikṣā-vratas – four vows of spiritual discipline

All of these vows are lifelong and cannot be taken back. The sallekhana-vrata is a supplementary vow to fast to death, open to both ascetics and householders. 


Among the Śvetāmbaras, a spiritually advanced lay man. It may also refer to a Jain monk.

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