Article: Jains and Muslim iconoclasm

Contributed by Audrey Truschke

Glossary

Akbar the Great

Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, third Mughal Emperor of India from 1556 to 1605. Akbar's long reign is often thought of as beginning the peak of the Mughal Empire, as it grew and became rich and powerful, witnessing a cultural and intellectual flowering, and degrees of religious tolerance.

Aniconism

The belief and practice of avoiding the representation of divinities or other religious figures, which may also include human beings or living creatures. Aniconic followers may use images of abstract shapes or symbols, such as pillars, as the focus of religious worship. Aniconic Jains are opposed to the worship of figures of Jinas and deities.

Aurangzeb

The sixth Mughal ruler extended the empire to its largest, controlling most of the Indian subcontinent at one point. He took the title of Alamgir – ‘Conqueror of the World’ – and reigned from 1658 to 1707.

Avasarpiṇī

The regressive or descending half-cycle in the Jain conception of time. With the second half, the progressive one, avasarpiṇī forms a complete cycle of time.

Babur

Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur (1483–1530) overthrew the Lodi dynasty and founded the Mughal Empire in India in 1526. Descended from the Mongol emperor Genghis Khan and the Turkish sovereign Timur, Babur wrote his memoirs in Chaghatai Turkish.

Bhadrankarvijay

(1903–1980). Author of many theological works and an important figure in the 20th-century Tapā-gaccha.

Buddhi-sagar

(1874–1925) Jain monk credited with over a hundred books, who became heavily involved in debates about idol worship.

Christian

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.

Deity

A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.

Dharma-sāgara

Tapā-gaccha monk who died in 1596. He wrote polemical texts challenging the validity of other Jain sects, especially the Kharatara-gaccha.

Digambara

'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.

Doctrine

A principle or system of teachings, especially religious philosophy.

Donor

A donor gives freely. He or she may give alms to a mendicant or money to an institution. This donation may be for specific items or purposes, such as the creation of art. A donor, sponsor or patron may be named or pictured in the artwork.

Ghaznavid

Turkish dynasty based in Central Asia from 977 to 1186, which periodically controlled parts of the Indian subcontinent.

Gujarāt

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

Hindu

Follower of the majority faith in India and an adjective describing something belonging to Hinduism. Hindus have numerous gods and diverse beliefs and practices, though many believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Roughly a billion Hindus comprise the third largest religion in the world.

Iconoclasm

From the Greek for 'image-breaking', iconoclasm is hostility towards items of religious or political importance, which may lead to their destruction. Iconoclasts hold iconoclastic beliefs.

Idol

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

Islam

The monotheistic religion founded by the Prophet Muhammad in the sixth century CE. A believer in Islam, which means ‘peace’, is a Muslim, ‘one who submits to God’ in Arabic. Islamic practices and beliefs are based on the Qu’ran and the hadiths or stories about the Prophet Muhammad. A diverse faith, most Muslim sects accept the Five Pillars of Islam:

  • stating that Allah is the only god and Muhammad his prophet
  • praying five times daily at fixed times
  • giving to the poor and needy
  • fasting
  • making a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.

Islamicate

Term for cultural patterns and practices that are common in Muslim societies but are not overtly religious in nature. In contrast, the adjective 'Islamic' often refers to things directly connected with the religion of Islam.

Jahangir

Nur-ud-din Salim Jahangir, Mughal ruler of India from 1605 to 1627. A great patron of the arts, Emperor Jahangir was also tolerant of the many faiths of his subjects.

Jain

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

Jinaprabha

(1261–1333) Kharatara-gaccha monk famous for writing Vividha-tīrtha-kalpaGuidebook to Various Pilgrimage Places. He also visited the court of the Delhi Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq.

Jñānsundar

(1880–1955) Sthanaka-vāsi mendicant who became a mūrti-pūjaka and spent the rest of his life defending image worship.

Kalyanvijay

(1888–1975) Mūrti-pūjak monk who devoted his life to studying manuscripts and inscriptions.

Karnataka

State in south-west India.

Khalji

Second dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate, which ruled from 1290 to 1320.

Mecca

The holiest city for Muslims. In modern Saudi Arabia, Mecca is the birthplace of Muhammad, and where he received some of his divine revelations. Muslims perform the hajj – pilgrimage – to Mecca as one of the five 'pillars' or duties of Islam.

Monk

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.

Mughal

The Mughal Empire lasted from 1526 to 1858, a period noted for its wealth, overall religious tolerance, and cultural and intellectual achievements, particularly in art and architecture. Originally Muslims who swept down from Central Asia, the Mughals' best-known ruler is probably Akbar the Great (1556–1605).

Muhammad

Generally considered founder of the religion of Islam (approximately 570–632), who converted the Arabian peninsula into a Muslim region. Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad is the last and greatest in a line of prophets, who reformed a corrupt tradition. The complete word of Allah or God was revealed to Muhammad and set down in the Arabic Qur’an or ‘recitation’.

Mūrti-pūjaka

Jains who venerate and worship images of Jinas in temples.

Muslim

A Muslim, or ‘one who submits to God’ in Arabic, follows the religion of Islam, which means ‘peace’. Muslims believe that Muhammad is the last in a line of prophets. The complete word of Allah or God was revealed to Muhammad in the sixth century CE and set down in the Arabic Qur’an or ‘recitation’. Nearly all Muslims belong to either the Shia or Sunni sects, with Sunni Muslims comprising around 90% of Islamic believers.

Nudity

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.

Patan

A small town in Gujarat that was a capital city in medieval times, a Jain centre of learning and art with beautiful temples. Some of these and remains of other structures can be seen today. Old name: Aṇahilla Paṭṭaṇa.

Pre-modern

Term for the period before the 'modern' age, which began around the 1500s in Western Europe. The pre-modern era was characterised by general belief in the divine and a strong sense of tradition and social order. In contrast, the modern period witnessed the spread of:

  • scientific knowledge and method
  • mechanisation and technologies such as the printing press
  • capitalism
  • individualism
  • increasing lack of belief in organised religions.

Pūjā

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:

  • external or material – dravya-pūjā – involving offerings of food, drink and precious substances
  • internal or mental – bhava-pūjā – including singing hymns of praise, reciting mantras and meditating.

Qur’an

Holy book of Islam. Muslims believe that the Qur’an, meaning ‘recitation’ in Arabic, contains the word of God as heard by Muhammad. The Qur’an is also widely praised as fine Arabic poetry.

Scripture

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

Sect

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.

Shah Jahan

Prince Khurram was given the title of Shah Jahan – 'King of the World' – by his father, Emperor Jahangir. Succeeding in 1628, he became the fifth Mughal emperor and ruled until 1658, when his son, Aurangzeb, imprisoned him. Shah Jahan presided over the zenith of Mughal architecture, including the Taj Mahal, built in honour of his dead wife, Mumtaz Mahal. He died in 1666.

Somanatha

City in western Gujarat famous for its temples. It is one of the primary pilgrimage destinations for many Śvetāmbaras.

Subcontinent

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

Śvetāmbara

'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.

Temple

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

Valabhī

The wealthy city of Valabhī – now Vallabhi – in Gujarat was a major centre of Jain intellectual life in the early medieval period. The final version of the Śvetāmbara canon was written down there under the supervision of the religious teacher Devarddhi-gaṇi Kṣamāśramaṇa in the fifth century CE.

Vegetarianism

In line with the key principle of ahiṃsā – non-violence – Jains are traditionally vegetarian. They do not eat meat, fish, eggs or anything that contains potential life, such as onions, potatoes and aubergines. They do generally eat dairy products.

Yaśovijaya

(1624–1688) Śvetāmbara Tapā-gaccha monk who wrote extensively on Jain philosophy.

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