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Jain Culture as dipicted in their folklitereture
Culture tells what a person or community is. It is the subtotal of one's interests, behavior, works etc.
Customs, beliefs and traditions are interrelated. Beliefs form the foundation for customs and when customs are transmitted from one generation to the other, then it is called tradition.
Every community has its own customs, beliefs and traditions. They constitute the major part of culture. They are very well expressed in the folk literature of that community. Jains are not an exception.
This paper tries to outline Jain culture as depicted in the folk literature of Karnataka.
For the sake of understandable presentation this culture could be analyzed at three different levels - I) Individual culture ii)Religiouns culture and iii) Social culture.
i) personal culture in Jains :-
Attitudes, behavior etc developed in a person together constitute the individual culture of that person. Some part of this is usually common to all in a community. But other parts are salient to each person. As tastes and views differ, people differ (‘LOKO Bhinna Ruchihi ie- world has different tastes).
Hence the culture of a person expresses the culture of the community at large, and to some extent - specific to such persons.
There are many folk songs which express this individual culture.
One folk song describes the curiosity of a boy in plucking flowers to worship Jina the god.
"My lad is naughtier than all
climbing the red champak tree ! plucking flowers
he made a bouquet for Jina!"
This song expresses not only the devotion, dedication and eagerness of the boy towards worship but also denotes another subtle point in the style of worship. He prepared a bouquet not a garland! Garlands are put around the neck. In jaina way of worship nothing should be put on the statue of Jina, as he is ‘APARIGRAHI' or ‘POSSESER OF NOTHING'. So garland cannot be used. Instead a bouquet could be beautifully placed at the feet of the lord. In Kannada original song, the actual word here is ‘CHENDU' i.e. the ball. That could still be better placed in the space between two feet.
Treating saints with all devotion in another tradition in Indian culture. It is followed by Jains also. Feeding saints, Serving the saints etc are called ‘VAIYAVRUTHYA' in Jaina philosophy. It is believed that if saints are fed at home, that home will be peaceful and gets prosperity. With all sincerity and eagerness Jain householders (Shravaks) wait for the arrival of muni (saint of highest cadre), make arrangements to feed him. It is a matter of pride and satisfaction. A folk song gives the picture of preparation and process of feeding the saint.
‘I have kept the seats washed
filtered warm water is ready
and flowers are brought to worship him!'
‘At whose home the saint is fed?
At my brother's - who is great to the clan,
There goes the feeding of the saint'.
Feeding the digambar saint is a delicate job. Nothing should happen to disturb his vows. Food should be absolutely clean and pure. It should be fully of non-violent category and of that nature. He takes food only once a day. Sometimes he takes food after fasting for 1-2 or 3 days or even more. Even then if he sees some dust or germ in the food, or hears an animal cry, etc he gives up taking food. He doesn't take even water till his next feeding time. So feeding a Jina digambar saint is a serious and cautious job which needs the following of so many subtle details. These folk songs have behind them that seriousness and dedication.
Wearing sandal paste on the head, neck, chest and arms in one tradition followed by Jains. They also wear the holy thread. It is explained in the folk verse like this:-
‘What to speak of the one going to temple,
Sandal paste on the forehead and chest,
He is going to temple with all cheers!'
Going to places of piligrimage is another tradition followed by Jains. The following folk verse describes the posture of a devotee who is climbing down the Shravana Belagola hill -
‘Who is that returning on the Belagola hill
The fatty one wearing the dhoti! He
Is returning after darshan'.
There is another custom in Jains, specially those in north Karnataka, that Jaina housewives should not wear new bangles on Friday. There is a song related to ‘bangle wearing by goddess padmavathi', in which she happens to face allegations for wearing bangles on Friday. The narrative song goes on describing that goddess padmavathi crushed the bangles, cursed the bangle seller, and then he pledged to observe certain vows throughout life and then she blessed him to maintain his properties and peace in life. Even today, many Jain ladies do not wish to wear new bangles on Friday.
There are certain other beliefs related to listening and learning of songs. At the beginning of every long narrative folksongs prevailing among Jains, these beliefs are expressed. These beliefs are the following:-
"No body should go to sleep or doze while
listening a song. That leads to utter sin".
"If any body wishes to listen the song and requests,
one who knows the song should not reject it.
That is the great sin".
"If you know the meaning, tell as much as you can.
If you don't know it, even then simply sit on the floor
And listen to the song".
These beliefs have encouraged the tradition of passing the songs down to generations preserving them in their full form. Similar beliefs nurtured by Indians have helped to pass down Vedas, and Jaina Agamas for thousands of years.
ii) Religious culture
Jaina texts prescribe that every householder should perform six duties every day.
These six duties are - worshiping the god (Devapooja), Serving the saints, Self-study (Swadhyaya), Self-control, Meditation and donating what one possesses (Daana). This prescription has given room for so many traditions and customs. Jaina folk literature also reflects these traditions. A ‘dream song' which is sung in the morning of the marriage day by grooms party, tells like this-
"O, mother ! I drempt in the early morning
That your son got up in the morning
Earlier than others and before the bud blossom,
Opens the door of God room on the upstairs and
Bowing to the god".
Here, the tradition of bowing to god as soon as we get up from the bed is indicated. That too, he is the groom getting married after some hours !. Even on that busy and exiting day, he has not forgotten his duty of soluting to god first.
Similarly there are other folk songs which describe the glory of different worships saying that - ‘Milky Abhishekha is going on in the temple and father is attending that' etc are also being sung. Their devotion to god is so much that a folk verse says ‘two parrots sitting on the green coconut tree, in front of the temple (Basadi) sing the song on lord parshwanath'.
Jains have another religious custom. That is - taking food before sunset. This is for the reason that, more micro-organisms are generated at night. With a view to minimise their victimization, preparation and consuming food at night is prohibited in Jainism for ages. This tradition is followed by all Jains irrespective of their economic status, living place etc. One folk song, narrating this tradition this way tells -
‘Jains won't take curds
till the rays of morning sun
touch the temple door ! Even
the little son at home follows this vow !'
Here curds represent food.
‘Swadhyaya' or studying the philosophical books is another rule which every Jain (whether householder or saint) has to follow. So, there is a custom in majority of Jaina householders that, any one in the house reads out a religious book every day to all in the house. A folk song sketches this situation like this -
‘O Thou, daughter of the honest ones
and daughter in-law of moral ones,
bring and keep the light on the platform ! your hubby
reads shastras till the morn!'.
-This verse expresses the seriousness, with which the preparations were made for reading and also the seriousness with which that person reads.
Respecting and serving the monks is another custom followed by Jains. Various folk songs describe this attitude and behavior. Naming the children after the revered Guru is also there. A folk verse expresses this desire. A Jaina householder tells -
"Naming after the monk I respectfully call
O Guru of my household- keeping your name
I call my children respectfully!"
Naming the children after the family god, fore-fathers is a tradition followed by Indians. Jains also have the custom.
Remembering and saluting god as we get up from bed is a custom followed by all orthodox people in the world. Jains also do it. In a folksong an ordinary women tells that she become happy on recalling Goddess padmavathi and Jina parshwanatha while rising from the bed.
‘I recall pure charactered one in the morning
who wears the crystal jewel in her ears / padmavathi
of Humcha, the pure one, is remembered by me!'
"Don't worry about the world while rising
think of the temple O mother! Be happy
on recalling parishwa Jina as you rise!"
Jains believe that only things earned by rightful conduct stay in life. They wish only the energy and intellect bestowed by god, character and behavior prescribed by saints, to stay firmly in their mind. A folk song expresses this wish in this way -
"Energy bestowed by god, wisdom given by lord Nemi
vows and conduct prescribed by guru / let these
go in our mind forever//".
The stress on behavioral pattern and character here, is nothing but self-control, which is one of the six rules mandatorily to be followed by a Jaina householder.
Thus, folk songs in kannada powerfully sketch various aspects of Jaina religious culture.
iii) Social Culture
Jains are known for their tolerant cultured behaviour. Theirs is not an attacking nature, but adjustable one. Their principles of non - violence, no - enemity with anybody, possessing only essential things etc have made them more polite and socialized. But at the same time they have also done heroic deeds and ruled over different proviences. This quality of leadership is still persisting in Jains. By their culture, they are commanding the respect from people. A folk song expresses this ability thus -
‘Why is the chariot of Goddess of Humcha stopped?
Because of the quarrel among the farmers/
My brother, the king is there to see the chariot runs.
The word ‘King' here expresses only the commanding position of that person in that area.
Many legends (more than folk songs) describe the social culture of Jains. They express both, their soft and chivalrous nature. Story of Jinadattaraya tells us of his God fearing, law-abiding nature. All legends or Jaina kings say they were loving their subjects very much and ruling well. Similarly Jaina ministers like Chamundaraya were not only good administrators but also interested in literature and fine arts. Stories about attimambbe, a house holder belonging to a royal family describe how she did so many useful works which helped thousands of people at that time.
Some stories tell about egoistic Jains. But they also tell how they met with ruin because of their defects.
Thus, folk literature prevailing among Jains effectively sketch their culture which is formed as a result of their beliefs, customs, traditions and philosophy. Jaina culture as depicted in their folk literature is a refined one, full of principles, devotion and flexible nature.
( Note: Underlined words are sung twice)