Article: Jains and Muslim iconoclasm

Contributed by Audrey Truschke

Iconoclasm, literally 'image-breaking' in Greek, is hostility towards religious objects, often resulting in their destruction. Muslims periodically damaged Jain idols and temples in India, usually for either commercial or political reasons. Enmity did not characterise overall relations between the two communities, and other Indian religious groups also practised temple destruction at times. Nonetheless, Islamicate iconoclastic ideas and behaviours were a repeated feature of encounters between Jains and Muslims.

Raids by Central Asian Muslims on the wealth of India started in the eighth century. These early Muslim attacks targeted both Hindu and Jain temples, particularly in Gujarat, over the next several hundred years. Reconstructing these events can be difficult because Jain texts often do not dwell on such attacks. Scholars estimate that temple destructions were far less frequent than often assumed by contemporary writers.

Reactions to such experiences differed among Jains. Many believed that violence and suffering were signs of the overall moral deterioration to be expected in the present cycle of time. Others treated episodes of destruction as an opportunity to prove Jainism's resilience in the face of danger. Only from the 19th century onwards does evidence emerge that Jains began to think of Muslim iconoclasm as springing from specifically Islamic principles.

Complexities of Islamic iconoclasm

Violent and ideological iconoclasms were recurring features of encounters between Jains and Muslims, yet a few comments are helpful to avoid misunderstandings. Muslims practised iconoclasm for a mix of reasons that often had little to do with religious values. Moreover, while Muslims damaged Indian religious images and buildings periodically, the scope and frequency of such attacks remain unclear. Last, the variety of Islamic thought and practices undermines any simplistic notion that Islam required the destruction of Indian sacred objects.

First, iconoclasm was not always or even primarily inspired by Islamic religious ideology. Rather Muslim rulers and communities practised iconoclasm for complex political, social and commercial reasons. Thus, while attacks on Jain and Hindu temples are often described in the language of religious conflict in Islamicate sources, they are best understood in their specific historical contexts.

Additionally, much of the data regarding Muslim iconoclastic activities towards Jains has yet to be properly analysed. Both scholarly and popular writers have long exaggerated the frequency of Islamic destructions of Indian temples. In 2000 Richard Eaton published a careful study of alleged Muslim demolitions of Hindu temples and settled on a notably low number of confirmed events. Nobody has yet made a parallel effort regarding Jain places of worship. Thus the prevalence of Muslim attacks on Jain temples remains uncertain.

Last, Islam is an incredibly diverse tradition, and many of its followers lack the staunch rejection of idol worship that is often falsely assumed to pervade the entire religion. Unsurprisingly, then, many Muslims who interacted with Jain individuals or communities raised no objections to the worship of images. In one instance, Akbar and Jahangir are even reported to have participated in idol worship at a Jain ceremony. Some Muslims also expressed fascination at the power attributed to Jain images and the devotion of Jain worshippers.

Harming religious images

The huge statue of Bāhubali at Shravana Belgola is anointed with a succession of holy substances in the 2006 'great head-anointing ceremony’ – mahā-mastakābhiṣeka.

Bahubali anointed
Image by unknown © Institute of Jainology

Beginning in the eighth century, Muslims conducted numerous raids on South Asian centres of wealth. These activities impacted Jains from the start, with the 782 sack of Vallabhi in Gujarat, which had been a hub of Jain intellectual culture.

Evidence that such incursions included Jain houses of worship surfaces only in the 11th century when the Ghaznavids started targeting Jain temples in Gujarat. These raids were largely motivated by financial gain, and Muslims simultaneously sacked temples devoted to Hindu deities. They sometimes championed their success by removing religious idols and displaying them in their Central Asian homelands, in modern-day Afghanistan.

As Islamicate rule became more entrenched in South Asia, assaults on temples continued, often for political reasons. In some cases, regional officials were involved in destructive activities, and Jains later appealed to Muslim governors and rulers for restoration funds. For instance, Khalji soldiers damaged some temples at Shatrunjaya in 1313, which were repaired with the joint support of a merchant from Patan, Gujarat, and the local Khalji governor. In 1645, while governor of Gujarat, Prince Aurangzeb desecrated a temple dedicated to Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva, the 23rd Jina. His father, Shah Jahan, later returned the temple to Jain control.

In South India, Islamic officials occasionally banned Jains from acts of idol-veneration. For example, they blocked the anointing of the large statue of Bāhubali at Shravana Belagola in Karnataka in the 17th century.

Jain reactions

This 17th-century manuscript painting illustrates the elements of the armies of the Bhavanavāsin. Dancers and musicians entertain the king on campaign while the others are always ready to fight for their master and to serve him.

Armies of the Bhavanavāsin gods
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Jain traditions offered numerous material and cultural responses to Muslim iconoclasm. They responded practically by changing the materials used to carve religious icons. They also produced monumental statues intended to withstand the inevitable apocalypse of this cycle of time, which was being brought about by Islamic attacks.

Jains also cultivated a myriad of literary responses. Many Jain thinkers pass over instances of violent iconoclasm in pre-modern texts and instead focus on other topics. Others interpreted iconoclastic episodes according to Jain concepts of regressive time or as an opportunity to showcase the durability of their faith.

Material responses

Enormous Digambara statues of Jinas were carved in the 15th century. The reasons are unclear but the images in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, may have been created to withstand the end of the world. Emperor Babur ordered many of the naked figures mutilated.

Mutilated figures at Gwalior
Image by geohs © CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Jains took several practical measures against Muslim assaults on religious images and buildings. For example, many stories narrate that the gods instructed people not to make bejewelled images but, rather, to use stone or brick to avoid attracting unwanted attention. Earlier writers, such as Jinaprabha-sūri, refer to images being buried in order to avoid damage by Muslims. Later writers, such as Samayasundara, also confirm that idols were concealed underground by attesting that they were reintroduced to the Jain community in the 17th century. Jains often replaced and, less frequently, recovered images that had been taken by Muslims.

Jains also produced artistic responses to Islamic iconoclasm and the associated end of the world. Most notably, in the 15th century, Digambara followers carved a series of monumental Jain images into the rock face of the Gwalior fort in Madhya Pradesh. A poet known as Raidhū oversaw the creation of the statues, which was largely financed by wealthy lay donors. Raidhū left no direct account of the motivations behind this project. However, his poetry and writings by later Jains suggest that the colossal images were designed to survive the end of the world, which was linked with the spread of Islamic power.

Incidentally, these same naked figures disconcerted the Mughal Emperor Babur in the early 16th century. He records in his Turkish memoirs that he ordered many to be mutilated.

Literary responses

Jain texts, primarily from the 14th century and later, mention some specific Muslim attacks that resulted in lost or damaged idols but tend not to dwell on these events. Jain authors most frequently note the damage and subsequent renovations at highly symbolic locations, such as Somanatha and Shatrunjaya in Gujarat. But often they do not refer to these incidents at all, preferring to describe other episodes, such as conflicts between Jain and Hindu groups and even clashes between Hindus and Muslims.

This seeming lack of concern with Islamic iconoclasm against Jains may partially reflect the overall amicable relations between the two religious groups in politics and trade. Additionally, Indian kings had desecrated the temples of their adversaries, including Jains, for centuries before the advent of Mughal rule. Thus such experiences were hardly new with the advent of Islamic dynasties on the subcontinent.

Indeed, when Jains writers do record instances of temple destruction, they almost never characterise these assaults as religious conflicts. Rather, they viewed Islamic attacks as merely one symptom of the inevitable cosmic trend towards depravity in the current corrupt age. Sometimes Jain writers even blamed such events on the carelessness of the gods in these troubled times.

Jain texts also incorporated Islamic iconoclasm into narratives that proclaimed the greatness of the Jain faith. Jinaprabha-sūri describes how images were miraculously restored, without any human intervention. In these stories, Jainism is alive and well, and Muslim temple destructions provide the perfect stage for highlighting the tradition’s ongoing prosperity.

Jain aniconism

A Śvetāmbara Sthānaka-vāsin monk meditates. Meditation – dhyāna – is very important for all Jains but is one of the main methods of worship for members of the Sthānaka-vāsin sect. They reject the worship of images in favour of mental worship – bhava-pūjā

Śvetāmbara Sthānaka-vāsin monk meditating
Image by Shree Diwakar Prakashan © public domain

Some Jains formulated strong criticisms of idol worship during the height of contact with Islamic traditions. Among the Śvetāmbaras, Loṅkā Śāh led the most influential movement against using religious images. Digambara groups such as the Taraṇ Svāmī Panth also developed at this time. However, there is no proof of any direct link between strains of Islamic thought and these aniconic Jains.

In the 15th century, Jain reform movements that rejected idol worship surfaced in the Śvetāmbara tradition. Their relationship to Islamic ideas remains unclear, however. In Gujarat, Loṅkā Śāh condemned the veneration of idols as inconsistent with Jain scriptures. Many of his followers returned to standard mūrti-pūjaka practices in the 16th century, but five monks renewed Loṅkā Śāh’s criticisms in the following century. Each one founded his own monastic lineage. Today these are collectively referred to as the Sthānaka-vāsin Jains. In the 18th century, the sect of the Śvetāmbara Terāpanthin developed into a separate aniconic community.

While the timing of Loṅkā Śāh's objections seems to coincide with the growing presence of Islam on the subcontinent, there is no evidence of specific connections. Loṅkā Śāh’s own followers did not produce written historical records until the 19th century. Only with 20th-century murti-pujak Jains, such as Jñānsundar, does the notion arise that Islamic ideas prompted Loṅkā Śāh’s suspicion of idol worship.

Additionally, Digambara movements that do not use icons, such as the Taraṇ Svāmī Panth sect, also arose in the 15th to 16th centuries. They do not have any ideological relationship to Islam, although Muslims were among the earliest followers.

Moreover, scholars have pointed out that there have been criticisms of idol worship throughout Jain history. Thus, it is perhaps not necessary to look outside the tradition to explain different opinions about the role of images. Indeed, early-modern Jain thinkers who authored texts defending image worship directed their remarks against other Jain groups. For instance, Dharma-sāgara and Yaśovijaya wrote against the practices of Loṅkā Śāh and his followers.

Later Jain reactions

Lay men and women kneel in prayer before a large idol of a Jina in a temple. The idol's plain style and downcast eyes are characteristic of Digambara images.

Lay people worship a Jina
Image by Sheetal Shah © Sheetal Shah

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Jain thinkers began to address Islam directly in discussions on the use of religious images. Some connected Jain groups that disagree with idol worship to Islamic ideas. Others pointed out inconsistences between Islamic ideas and practices regarding icons.

Some mūrti-pūjak authors, such as Jñānsundar, attributed Loṅkā Śāh’s rejection of icons to Islamic influences. This suggestion also carries the implicit and deliberately unfavourable comparison of aniconic Jains to the meat-eating Muslims. All Jains are vegetarian, because of the key principle of non-violence towards living beings, so likening any group of Jains to meat-eaters is insulting.

Many Jain thinkers in the colonial and modern periods explicitly traced the origins of Muslim iconoclasm to Muhammad’s misunderstanding of the world. Bhadrankarvijay articulates this idea in the greatest detail, although several others shared it. Bhadrankarvijay argued that religious images are part of the very nature of reality, which Muhammad ignorantly opposed.

Other intellectuals provided alternative ways of undermining Christian and Islamic criticisms. For example, Kalyanvijay wrote that all religions use icons, including Christianity and Islam. Buddhi-sagar provided numerous examples of such contradictions between doctrine and practice in Islam, such as Muslim veneration of the Qur’an and the required pilgrimage to Mecca.

Images

  • Bahubali anointed The huge statue of Bāhubali at Shravana Belgola is anointed in 2006 with a succession of holy substances in the ‘great head-anointing ceremony’ – mahā-mastakābhiṣeka. The centrepiece of a month-long festival, the spectacular Digambara ritual involves pouring the contents of more than a thousand pots over the statue's head.. Image by unknown © Institute of Jainology
  • Armies of the Bhavanavāsin gods This 17th-century manuscript painting illustrates the elements of the armies of the Bhavanavāsin. Dancers and musicians entertain the king on campaign while the others are always ready to fight for their master and to serve him. The lowest group of gods in the three Jain worlds, the Bhavanavāsin live in the highest of the seven hells.. Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
  • Mutilated figures at Gwalior Enormous Digambara statues of Jinas were carved into the cliff in the 15th century. The reasons remain unclear but the huge images in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, may have been created to withstand the end of the world. The memoirs of the Mughal Emperor Babur tell how he ordered many of the naked figures, which he thought offensive, to be mutilated.. Image by geohs © CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
  • Śvetāmbara Sthānaka-vāsin monk meditating A Śvetāmbara Sthānaka-vāsin monk meditates. Meditation – dhyāna – is very important for all Jains but is one of the main methods of worship for members of the Sthānaka-vāsin sect. They reject the worship of images in favour of mental worship – bhava-pūjā. Śvetāmbara Sthānaka-vāsin mendicants wear mouth-cloths permanently. . Image by Shree Diwakar Prakashan © public domain
  • Lay people worship a Jina Lay men and women kneel in prayer before a large idol of a Jina in a temple. The idol's plain style and downcast eyes are characteristic of Digambara images. . Image by Sheetal Shah © Sheetal Shah

Further Reading

The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor
Babur
translated and edited by Wheeler M. Thackston
Modern Library; New York, New York, USA; 2002

Full details

‘Samayasundara’s Sāmācārī-śataka and Jain Sectarian Divisions in the Seventeenth Century’
Nalini Balbir
Essays in Jaina Philosophy and Religion
edited by Piotr Balcerowicz
Lala Sundara Jain Research series; volume 20
Motilal Banarsidass; Delhi, India; 2003

Full details

‘A Fifteenth-Century Digambar Jain Mystic and his Followers: Tāraṇ Taraṇ Svāmī and the Tāraṇ Svāmi Panth’
John E. Cort
Studies in Jaina History and Culture: Disputes and Dialogues
edited by Peter Flügel
Routledge Advances in Jaina Studies series; volume 1
Routledge Curzon Press; London, UK; 2006

Full details

Framing the Jina: Narratives of Icons and Idols in Jain History
John Cort
Oxford University Press; Oxford, UK and New York, USA; 2010

Full details

‘In Defense of Icons in Three Languages: The Iconophilic Writings of Yaśovijaya’
John E. Cort
International Journal of Jaina Studies (Online)
edited by Peter Flügel
volume 6: 2
Centre of Jaina Studies, SOAS; 2010

Full details

‘Jain Perceptions of Islam in the Early Modern Period’
Paul Dundas
Indo-Iranian Journal
volume 42: 1
1999

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

‘Temple Destruction and Indo-Muslim States’
Richard M. Eaton
Journal of Islamic Studies
volume 11: 3
2000

Full details

‘The Unknown Loṅkā: Tradition and the Cultural Unconscious’
Peter Flügel
Jaina Studies
edited by Colette Caillat and Nalini Balbir
Papers of the XIIth World Sanskrit Conference series; series editor Petteri Koskikallio and Asko Parpola; volume 9
Motilal Banarsidass; New Delhi, India; 2008

Full details

‘Tales of Broken Limbs and Bleeding Wounds: Responses to Muslim Iconoclasm in Medieval India’
Phyllis Granoff
East and West
volume 41: 1/4
1991

Full details

‘The Jina Bleeds: Threats to the Faith and the Rescue of the Faithful in Medieval Jain Stories’
Phyllis Granoff
Images, Miracles, and Authority in Asian Religious Traditions
edited by Richard H. Davis
Westview Press; Boulder, Colorado, USA; 1998

Full details

‘Mountains of Eternity: Raidhū and the Colossal Jinas of Gwalior’
Phyllis Granoff
Rivista di Studi Sudasiatici
volume 1
Firenze University Press; 2006

Full details

Somanatha: the Many Voices of a History
Romila Thapar
Penguin Books India; New Delhi, India; 2004

Full details

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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