Jainism and War: Practical Views of Jainism on Defense

Statue of Abbakka, a brave Jain Queen of 17th Century
Statue of Abbakka, a brave Jain Queen of 17th Century

Jainism allows violence in defense

Caution: This article is not written to promote violence or war but for showing the facts

Jainism is known as religion of non-violence. That is why the Jains, followers of this unique faith are peaceful people.

But most of us do not know that Jainism allows violence in defense. When someone attacks you or your family, your country, it is your duty to defend yourself and your people. If your community or nation is attacked by enemy, Jainism says ‘Go ahead and fight.'

Jain Teertahnkars were from warrior families!

It is fact that all the Jain Teerthankars (Ford Makers of Jainism) were from warrior families. In fact the Jain philosophy says that only warriors can become a Teerthankar.

Rishabhdev, the first Teerthankar himself invented warfare and taught it to the people.

Bharat, the eldest son of Rishabhdev was the first Chakravarti (Emperor) of the then known world. To become the Chakravarti, he won all the kingdoms of that time. Bhaarat, the popular and constitutional name of India is because of this Bharat. All the Jain and Hindu religious literature confirms this fact.

Four of the 24 Teerthankars also were chakravartis. To become a chakravarti, they had to win other kingdoms by launching wars.

Neminath, the 22nd Teerthankar was cousin of Krishna. Once, Jarasandh attacked Dwarika and Krishna was not there. Neminath was meditating on a hill at that time. But when he was informed about that attack, he became commander of Yadavs and defeated Jarasandh.

Parshwanath, the 23rd Teerthankar helped Dharnendra, the Naga king in battles with his enemy.

The Great Jain Warriors

Chandragupta, a Jain and founder of Mauryan Dynasty was the first emperor of India. He brought almost all of the south Asia under his control. He defeated many kings including Seleucus Nicator, the General of the great Alexander. In later life Chandragupta became a Jain monk and died in Jain way of death (Sallekhana/Santhara) at Shravanbelgola in Karnataka.

Ashok, the grandson of Chandragupt was also a Jain and an Emperor. He won many kingdoms. In a war with the King of Kaling, there was unbelievable violence, killing hundreds of thousands of soldiers and people. It created a hate against war in the mind of Ashok. So he renounced Jainism and embraced Buddhism. This fact shows that Jainism was not against wars.

Kunal, the son of Ashok and Samprati, son of Kunal also were emperors and Jains, and had involved in wars. Later emperors of this dynasty embraced Buddhism. They were extremely non-violent. As a result, last emperor of this dynasty Brahdrat was killed by his Bramhin General Pushyamitra Shring. It was the end of Maurayan Dynasty and rise of Shring dynasty. Shring dynasty was totally against Jains and Buddhists. He started to persecute Jain and Buddhist monks and lay followers. So both the faith were declined in eastern India. At that time, Mahameghvahan Kharvel was a very brave Jain emperor in Kaling (Orissa). He attacked Magadhan capital and taught a lesson to Pushyamitra Shrung. He defeated Satvahan kings of western India at the age of just 26. After two years, he attacked Ratthiks & Bhojaks of western India and defeated them. After two years he attacked the powerful Magadh again, and also North India and South India. Thus whole of India including present day Pakistan and Afghanistan became under his control.

The history of South India is the history of Jains, Jainism and Jain dynasties. The Gangs, Kalabhras, Chalukyas, Rashtrakuts, Kadambs, Kalchuries, Hoysalas, Shilahars, all the great dynasties were followers and patrons of Jainism.

Amoghvarsh, the great King of Rasthrakuts brought most of the India under his control. He defeated many kings from Kerala to Malwa (Rajasthan).

When Tamil Kings were persecuting their Jain subjects, Kalabhras (Kalchuris), the Jains attacked and defeated them.

Kumarpal, was disciple of Jain Acharya Hemchandra. He became a king by defeating his enemies under guidance of the Acharya.

Queen Abbakka, who was a staunch Jain, defeated Portuguese invaders for three times.

Jains have given a large number of brave Generals to various Emperors and Kings. The list is very big, but I would like to name three great Generals:Nimbaras of Shilahars, Irugappa of Vijayanagar and Bhamashah of Mewad.

Jain Monks became soldiers

Kalakacharya was a famous Jain Acharya. Gardbhill, king of Ujjayini kidnapped a nun from Kalakacharyas sangh. Kalkacharya met Gardbhill and asked him to free her. But the king insulted Kalkacharya.

Kalkacharya went to another king and asked him to attack on Ujjayini. But the king had untrained soldiers who were not able to attack the powerful Ujjaiyini. So Kalkacharya himself became commander of the military, well trained the soldiers and then attacked Ujjaiyini. Gardbhill was defeated and the nun was freed. Then Kalkacharya again became an Acharya.

Adishankaracharya, who had vowed to finish Jains and Buddhists, converted millions of Jains and Buddhists into Hinduism, converted many Jain temples all over India into Hindu temples and put Jain religious literature on fire. He was killed by two Jain monks.

Brave Laymen of Jain Community

Bijjal was a Jain king of Kalchuri clan in Northen Karnatak. Basaveshwar, his Bramhin commander in chief killed Bijjal and tried to become a king. There was civil war between Jains and Veershaivites. Jains caught Basaveshwar in a narrow street, but he escaped and committed a suicide by jumping in a well.

Asat Khan, Commander of Badshah of Bijapur had destroyed many Jain temples and converted some of them to masjids in North Karnatak. As a result Asat Khan was killed by a young Jain.

Thus we see that Jains have shown bravery whenever necessary. Today also many Jains, especially from farming communities are in armed forces of India, ready to show gallantry whenever necessary.

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Comments 3 comments

rohit 4 years ago

very good jains!!


dharmalingam 7 years ago

Did Ashoka become a Buddhist or did he just favor it? And he was tolerant to other religions, wasn't he?


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Rudra 8 years ago

Enlightening and very thought provoking.

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