How did Jainism spread in India?

  1. In order to spread the teachings of Jainism, Mahavira organized an order of his followers which admitted both men and women.
  2. It is said that his followers counted 14,000 which is not a large number. Since Jainism did not very clearly mark itself out from the Brahmanical religion, it failed to attract the masses.
  3. Despite this, Jainism gradually spread into south and west India where the brahmanical religion was weak. According to a late tradition, the spread of Jainism in Karnataka is attributed to Chandragupta Maury a (322- 298 B.C.).
  4. The emperor became a Jaina, gave up his throne and spent the last years of his life in Karnataka as a Jaina ascetic. But this tradition is not corroborated by any other source.
    The second cause of the spread of Jainism in South India is said to be the great famine that took place in Magadha 200 years after the death of Mahavira.
  5. The famine lasted for twelve years, and in order to protect themselves many a Jaina went to the south under the leadership of Bhadrabahu, but the rest of them stayed back in Magadha under the leadership of Sthalabahu.
  6. The emigrant Jainas spread Jainism in south India. At the end of the famine they came back to Magadha, where they developed differences with the local Jainas. Those who came back from the south claimed that even during the (amine they had strictly observed the ‘religious rules: on the other hand, they alleged, the Jaina ascetics living in Magadha had violated those rules and had become lax.
  7. In order to sort out these differences and to compile the main teachings of Jainism a council was convened in Pataliputra, modem Patna, but the southern Jainas boycotted the council and refused to its decisions.
  8. From then onwards the Southerns began to be called Digambaras, and the Magadhans  as Swetambaras. The tradition which refers to drought as the callse belongs to a later period and is considered doubtful. But it is beyond doubt that the Jainas were divided into two sects.
    However, epigraphic evidence for the spread of Jainism in Karnataka is not earlier than the third century A.D. In subsequent centuries, especially after the fifth century, numerous Jaina monastic establishments called Basadis sprang up in Karnataka and were granted land by the king for their support
  9. Jainism spread to Kalinga in Orissa in the fourth century B.C., and in the first century B.C. it enjoyed the patronage of the – Kalinga – king Kharavela who had defeated the princes of Andhra and Magadha.
    In the second and first centurie.s B.C. it also seems to have reached the southern districts of Tamil Nadu.
  10. In later centuries Jainism penetrated Malwa, Gujarat and Rajasthan, and even now these areas have a good number of Jainas who are mainly engaged in trade and commerce.
  11. Although Jainism did not win as much state patronage as Buddhism did and did not spread very fast in early times, it still retains its hold in the areas where it spread. On the other hand, Buddhism practically disappeared from the Indian subcontinent.
Also Read:   The Sangam Literature
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