Article: Jainism and Islam

Contributed by Audrey Truschke

Two of the minority religions in Hindu-dominated India, Jains and Muslims have interacted in interesting, diverse ways for more than a millennium. Jain communities in Gujarat were among the targets of periodic attacks by Arab and Central Asian raiders from the eighth century onwards. Beginning in the 13th century, Islamic monarchs, including the Delhi Sultanates and Mughal Empire, ruled significant portions of the subcontinent. During these six hundred years, Muslim rulers and Jain subjects developed a wide range of hostile, co-operative and warm relationships.

The two religious communities first encountered one another during Muslim raids to seize wealth in the eighth to 12th centuries. More substantial relations developed during the late 13th and 14th centuries as the Tughlaqs, one of the Delhi Sultanate kingdoms, gained control over western India. During this time, Gujarati Jain monks visited the royal court at Delhi, and Jain intellectuals and merchants associated with local Islamicate elites. This range of complex connections expanded after the Mughals came to power in 1526. During the colonial and modern periods, Jains and Muslims continued to converse over religious questions, such as the practice of idol worship.

Under the Delhi Sultanates and the Mughals, Śvetāmbara Jains exerted political influence over some rulers to promote their religious values and regional interests. This influence peaked in the reign of the third Mughal Emperor, Akbar, when a number of representatives from both the Tapā-gaccha and Kharatara-gaccha were present at the royal court. During the rule of Jahangir, Akbar’s successor, the Jain presence at court faded, as did Jain political weight.

Other types of interactions between Jains and Muslims also flourished throughout Delhi Sultanate and Mughal rule, even after the collapse of consistent links with the political centre. Jains frequently enjoyed good relations with local Islamic officials, particularly in Gujarat, and commercial alliances prospered. Additionally, Islamicate culture stimulated Jain art and literature. Persianate influences can be found in works from Gujarat in particular. Jains also wrote a great deal about their contacts with the Mughals.

In addition to these positive connections, Muslim rulers also presided over the destruction and defacement of Jain temples and religious objects. However, Jains also suffered iconoclasm from members of other religions. Rather than link such attacks with Islam or other faiths, many Jains viewed these events as signs of the deterioration of morals in the current era, which is a time of depravity according to traditional Jain notions of the cycles of time. Only during the British Raj and later did Jains consider Muslim iconoclasm to be an idea that emerged from Islam.

Early contacts

A 12th-century bronze figure of Lord Śānti, the 16th Jina. His deer emblem is on the ornate jewelled cushion while his silver eyes were probably once set with gems and crystal.

Lord Śānti
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Jains first encountered Muslims when the latter began raiding western India in the late eighth century. In 782 Arabs moved against Vallabhi, a rich city in Saurashtra that was a centre of Jain learning. At the start of the second millennium, the Ghaznavids of Central Asia engaged in similar activities, such as Mahmud of Ghazna, who sacked Somanatha in Gujarat in 1025 to 1026. Some Jain authors later produced accounts of this event, although they tended to focus on rivalries with Hindu sects during this period.

The campaigns in Gujarat intensified under the Ghurids, the Ghaznavids’ successors. It is uncertain how many Jain temples were harmed or destroyed during these raids, but Jain statues were carried back to present-day Afghanistan. It is likely that they were publicly displayed as war trophies there, alongside Hindu images.

Delhi Sultanate

Jains and Muslims initiated more substantial and varied relations during the late 13th and 14th centuries as the Tughlaqs, the third Delhi Sultanate, expanded into western India. Trade relations thrived during this period, and individual Jain and Muslim merchants often developed commercial connections. Temples and religious images were still occasionally attacked, although the extent and frequency of iconoclasm is uncertain.

During Sultanate rule, Gujarati Jain monks visited the imperial court at Delhi and gained royal decrees supporting Jain interests. Jain intellectuals also associated with local Muslim elites, particularly in Gujarat. Jains authored various texts that demonstrate the impact of ties with the Islamic world in their language, content and style.

Mughal rule

View of the temple-city of Mount Shatrunjaya in Gujarat, which is one of the most popular pilgrimage centres for Śvetāmbara Jains. Some of the temples were damaged in 1313 by soldiers in the pay of the Khalji sultan but were later repaired.

Shatrunjaya temples
Image by Audrey Truschke © Audrey Truschke

When the Mughals rose to power in the 16th century, Jain relations with Muslims intensified. Members of several Śvetāmbara sects frequented the courts of Akbar and Jahangir. Leading monks from the Tapā-gaccha and Kharatara-gaccha gained political concessions from the Mughals, including:

Jains also performed a variety of additional roles at the Mughal court, including writing Sanskrit texts for imperial figures and conducting Jain religious rituals for the royal family.

Sustained Mughal relations with Jain ascetics ended during Jahangir’s reign, although Jain authors wrote about their imperial affiliations for several more decades. The tastes and practices of the Mughal court and broader Islamicate culture also continued to impact Jain writings and art.

Jains also engaged with the Mughals in other ways. Jain merchants forged connections with imperial officials well into Aurangzeb’s rule in the second half of the 17th century. Perhaps unwillingly, they even bankrolled certain state operations, such as Murad Bakhsh’s 1657 bid for the imperial throne while he was governor of Gujarat.

Commerce also remained one of the main areas in which Jains interacted with Muslims beyond the imperial elite. Business dealings prospered and may have helped to foster amicable relationships.

Although Digambaras do not appear to have established direct connections with the Mughal elite, they were highly aware of political developments. They wrote about the Mughals in Sanskrit and vernacular texts, such as Rayamalla's Jambū-svāmi-carita and the memoirs of Banārasīdās. Muslim disapproval of public nakedness seems to have made it risky for Digambara monks to practise traditional nudity in some locations. This may have boosted the institution of the bhaṭṭāraka, Digambara clerics who wore clothes and lived in monasteries.

Destruction of Jain images

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

Although relations between the two communities were amicable overall, Jains repeatedly encountered Muslim iconoclastic beliefs and practices. At different times Muslims both destroyed temples and criticised the worshipping of images, practised by mūrti-pūjak Jains.

Early on, Muslims based in Central Asia raided parts of the subcontinent, largely in search of wealth. After the establishment of Islamic kingdoms in India, temple destruction was often politically driven. Many modern accounts exaggerate the frequency of Islamic iconoclastic attacks in India and uncritically assume that they were motivated by religious zealotry. Scholars still need to conduct further research to understand the complex interplay of political, cultural, religious and financial factors that fed into Islamic iconoclasm.

Jains responded to these violent episodes in many different ways. Their reactions also changed significantly from the pre-modern to the modern period. Before European colonialism, many Jains viewed attacks on temples and religious statues as signs of inevitable social deterioration in the current era and did not link iconoclasm to Islamic beliefs. Only in the 19th century does clear evidence emerge that Jains began to view iconoclasm as a specifically Islamic religious notion that can be traced to the teachings of Muhammad.


  • Lord Śānti A 12th-century bronze figure of Śāntinātha or Lord Śānti, the 16th Jina, from Rajasthan. The Jina sits in the lotus position, the śrīvatsa on his chest very noticeable. His emblem of the deer is found on the ornate jewelled cushion while his silver eyes were probably once set with gemstones and crystal.. Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
  • Shatrunjaya temples View of the temple-city of Mount Shatrunjaya in Gujarat, which is one of the most popular pilgrimage centres for Śvetāmbara Jains. Some of the temples were damaged in 1313 by soldiers in the pay of the Khalji sultan but were later repaired. Most of the hundreds of temples were built from the 18th century onwards.. Image by Audrey Truschke © Audrey Truschke
  • 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

Further Reading

‘Imperial Mughal Tolerance of Jainism and Jain Painting Activity in Gujarat’
Shridhar Andhare
Arts of Mughal India: Studies in Honour of Robert Skelton
edited by Rosemary Crill, Susan Stronge and Andrew Topsfield
Victoria and Albert Museum and Mapin Publishing; London, UK and Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India ; 2004

Full details

‘The Empire of Polysemy as evidenced in Artharatnavali of Samaya sundaragani’
Prabhakar Apte
Kośa vijñāna: siddhānta evaṃ mūlyāṅkana
edited by S. K. Rohra and D. Pitambar
Kendriya Hindi Samsthan; Agra, Uttar Pradesh; 1989

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Religion and Politics in India During the Seventeenth Century
Mohammad Akram Lari Azad
Criterion Publications; Delhi, India; 1990

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Absent Lord: Ascetics and Kings in a Jain Ritual Culture
Lawrence A. Babb
Comparative Studies in Religion & Society series; volume 8
University of California Press; Berkeley, California, USA; 1996

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‘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

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‘A propos des hymnes jaina multilingues (sanskrit, prakrit, persan)’
Nalini Balbir
Indica et Tibetica: Festschrift für Michael Hahn
edited by Konrad Klaus and Jens-Uwe Hartmann
Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde series; volume 66
Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien; Vienna, Austria; 2007

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‘Alamgir’s Tolerance in the Light of Contemporary Jain Literature’
Jnan Chandra
Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society
volume 6: 1

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‘Imperial Mughal Farmans in Gujarat: being farmans mainly issued in favour of Shantidas Jawahari of Ahmadabad by the Mughal emperors’
M. S. Commissariat
Journal of the University of Bombay
volume 9: 1

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‘Who Is a King?: Jain Narratives of Kingship in Medieval Western India’
John E. Cort
Open Boundaries: Jain Communities and Cultures in Indian History
edited by John E. Cort
SUNY Series in Hindu Studies series
State University of New York Press; Albany, New York, USA; 1998

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‘A Tale of Two Cities: On the Origins of Digambar Sectarianism in North India’
John E. Cort
Multiple Histories: Culture and Society in the Study of Rajasthan
edited by Lawrence A. Babb, Varsha Joshi and Michael W. Meister
Rawat Publications; Jaipur, Rajasthan, India; 2002

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‘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

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

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‘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

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Mohanlal Dalichand Desai
Siṅghī Jaina granthamālā series; volume 15
Sanchalaka-Singhi Jain Granthamala; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, and Calcutta, Bengal, in India; 1941

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

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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

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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

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

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‘Jāhangīr’s Vow of Non-Violence’
Ellison B. Findly
Journal of the American Oriental Society
volume 107: 2

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Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval "Hindu-Muslim" Encounter
Finbarr Barry Flood
Princeton University Press; Princeton, New Jersey, USA; 2009

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‘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

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‘Worshipping the Ideal King: On the Social Implications of Jaina Conversion Stories’
Peter Flügel
Geschichten und Geschichte: Historiographie und Hagiographie in der asiatischen Religionsgeschichte
edited by Peter Schalk with Max Deeg, Oliver Freiberger, Christoph Kleine and Astrid van Nahl
Historia Religionum series; volume 30
Uppsala University; Uppsala, Sweden; 2010

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‘The Jain Community and Akbar’
Surendra Gopal
Akbar and His Age
edited by Iqtidar Alam Khan
Monograph series; volume 5
Northern Book Centre; New Delhi, India; 1999

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‘Authority and Innovation: A Study of the Use of Similes in the Biography of Hiravijaya to Provide Sanction for the Monk at Court’
Phyllis Granoff
volume 1

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

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‘Jinaprabhasūri and Jinadattasūri: Two Studies from the Śvetāmbara Jain Tradition’
Phyllis Granoff
Speaking of Monks: Religious Biography in India and China
edited by Phyllis Granoff and Koichi Shinohara
Mosaic Press; Oakville, Ontario, Canada; 1992

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‘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

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

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‘The Persian of Jain Hymns’
Banarsi Das Jain
Siddha-Bhāratī, or the Rosary of Indology
edited by Vishva Bandhu
Vishveshvaranand Indological series; volume 1
Vishveshvaranand Vedic Research Institute P. & P. Organization; Hoshiarpur; 1950

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edited by Muni Jinavijaya
Singhi Jain series; volume 10
Shantiniketan; Bombay, India; 1934

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Vividhatīrthakalpaḥ: Regards sur le lieu saint jaina
translated by Christine Chojnacki
Publications du département d’indologie series; volume 85
Institut Français de Pondichéry, Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient; Pondicherry, Puducherry, India; 1995

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‘Jains at the Court of Akbar’
R. Krishnamurthi
Journal of Indian History
volume 23

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‘Qutb and Modern Memory’
Sunil Kumar
The Partitions of Memory: The Afterlife of the Division of India
edited by Suvir Kaul
Permanent Black; Delhi, India; 2001

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‘Akbar as Reflected in the Contemporary Jain Literature in Gujarat’
Shirin Mehta
Akbar and His Age
edited by Iqtidar Alam Khan
Monograph series; volume 5
Northern Book Centre; New Delhi, India; 1999

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‘Jain Influence at Mughul Court’
Kalipada Mitra
Proceedings of the Indian History Congress

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Building Communities in Gujarāt: Architecture and Society during the Twelfth through Fourteenth Centuries
Alka Patel
Brill's Indological Library series; series editor Johannes Bronkhorst; volume 22
Brill; Leiden, Netherlands; 2004

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‘Akbar and the Jains’
Pushpa Prasad
Akbar and His India
edited by Irfan Habib
Oxford University Press; Delhi, India; 1997

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‘Sulṭān, Sūri and the Astrolabe’
S. R. Sarma
Indian Journal of History of Science
volume 35: 2

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Ancient Vijñaptipatras
Hirananda Sastri
Sri-Pratapasimha Maharaja Rajyabhisheka Granthamala series; volume 1
Baroda State Press; Baroda, Gujarat, India; 1942

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‘Śabda-vilāsa or Pārasīnāmamālā of Mantrī Salakṣa of Gujarat’
Umakant P. Shah
Vimarśa: A Half-Yearly Research Bulletin of Rashtriya Sanskrit Samsthan New Delhi
volume 1: 1

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‘The three earliest Jain Influencers of Mughal Religious Policy: Padmasundara, Ānandarāja, and Ajayarāja’
Dasharatha Sharma
Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute
volume 25
Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute; Pune, Maharashtra, India; 1944

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Forging a Region: Sultans, Traders, and Pilgrims in Gujarat 1200–1500
Samira Sheikh
SOAS Studies on South Asia series; volume 5
Oxford University Press; Delhi, India and Oxford, UK; 2009

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‘The Jain Teachers of Akbar’
Vincent A. Smith
Commemorative essays presented to Sir Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar
Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute; Poona, Maharashtra, India; 1917

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The Many Lives of a Rajput Queen: Heroic Pasts in India c. 1500–1900
Ramya Sreenivasan
University of Washington Press; Seattle, Washington, USA; 2007

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

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

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‘Defining the Other: An Intellectual History of Sanskrit Lexicons and Grammars of Persian’
Audrey Truschke
Journal of Indian Philosophy
volume 40

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A Monk and a Monarch
Muniraj Vidyavijayji
translated by D. R. Mankad
Deepchandji Banthia; Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, India; 1944

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Studies in Jaina Sanskrit literature
Satya Vrat
Eastern Book Linkers; Delhi, India; 1994

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Glimpses of Jaina Sanskrit Mahākāvyas
Satya Vrat
Raj Publishing House; Jaipur, Rajasthan, India; 2003

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Early Medieval India and the Expansion of Islam 7th–11th Centuries
André Wink
Al-Hind: The Making of the Indo-Islamic World series; volume 1
Brill; Boston, Massachusetts, USA and Leiden, Netherlands; 2002

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The Slave Kings and the Islamic Conquest 11th–13th Centuries
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Al-Hind: The Making of the Indo-Islamic World series; volume 2
Brill; Boston, Massachusetts, USA and Leiden, Netherlands; 2002

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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.


Someone who withdraws from ordinary life to meditate and practise physical hardships in order to advance spiritually. Jain ascetics or mendicants beg for food from devout lay followers and wander the land.

Also used as an adjective to describe the practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition.


The 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.


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.


Formally recognised leaders within a religion. The clergy often perform rituals, lead worship and instruct believers in religious principles. Lay men and women usually complete formal study before being initiated into the clergy. Clerics are active among lay believers, often living in society. They may have specific roles or ranks and may progress through a hierarchy to become top leaders of the religious organisation.

Delhi Sultanate

Series of Muslim dynasties that ruled portions of northern and central India from 1206 to 1526.


'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.


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


Central Asian dynasty that established the Delhi Sultanate in 1206.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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).


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’.

Murad Bakhsh

Youngest son of Shah Jahan, Murad Bakhsh lost the Mughal throne to his brother, Aurangzeb, and was executed in 1661.


Jains who venerate and worship images of Jinas in temples.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


One of the dynasties of the Delhi Sultanate, the Tughlaqs ruled much of India from 1320 to 1414.


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.


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.

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