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Jain Culture as dipicted in their folklitereture

Updated on June 6, 2012
 Statue of Lord Gomateshwara at Shravanbelagola in Karnataka(South India)-This is the largest, free standing monolithic statue in the world. It is most beautiful. Jaina folk songs have lot of praise for this statue, and this god, and this place
Statue of Lord Gomateshwara at Shravanbelagola in Karnataka(South India)-This is the largest, free standing monolithic statue in the world. It is most beautiful. Jaina folk songs have lot of praise for this statue, and this god, and this place
 Upper half of the same statue, during -great bathing ceremoney(Mahamasthakabhisheka)which is held only once in 12 years.
Upper half of the same statue, during -great bathing ceremoney(Mahamasthakabhisheka)which is held only once in 12 years.

Culture-its meaning

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)


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    • prasadjain profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Tumkur

      thank you

    • torrilynn profile image


      5 years ago

      Hi prasadjain,

      thanks for this hub and for sharing the religion

      and very great details that are included in your hub

      thanks again and Voted up

    • prasadjain profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Tumkur

      Dear Mr. Vikram,

      It seems you want me to tell the whole body of your thesis. It is not possible to write in detail the matter known to me and the sources.I have given my phone number in personal email. Call to that.Thanks Put your real photograph,t o get the confidence.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hello sir i think u did not get my email,sir i m sending now..Sir i need information regarding the following areas..Actually m doing research on "jainism in medieval karnataka with special reference to north karnataka"..sir hope you will give some information related to my area..

      1)north karnataka as a cultural zone.

      2)political patronage and the politics of north karnataka.

      3)the main themes and scope of jainism in medieval north karnataka.

      4)the famous jaina saints of medieval north karnataka.

      5)the major religious trends in medieval north karnataka.

      6)politics and patterns of the religious establishment in medieval north karnataka.

      7)contestation between the jainas and the shaivas for religious patronage.

      thank you sir.

      ck vikram

    • prasadjain profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Tumkur

      I did not get it so far. Let me wait.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hello prasad sir i sent u an email regarding my queries related to jainism in medieval north karnataka..did u get it sir?

    • prasadjain profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Tumkur

      Dear Mr. MFM,

      Have you read about Lord Mahaveer? Lord Krishna? Rama?Gommateshwara?Mahaveera is the Tirthankara who developed from human state to God state. He performed many miracles when he was just a boy.So also Kriashna.Rama killed demons when he was just 12 years old. They all said 'Live without harming others; Help others to your might.Keep purifying your self. When you become pure,you will be god or one with GOD.

      Read the sacred books of other religions also. Love your religion. Appreciate the symbolism and great principles in others too.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Ok sir sure i will do that..

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very interesting Mr prasadjain, I really have found this very interesting and intriguing, thanks for sharing.

    • Man from Modesto profile image

      Man from Modesto 

      6 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California)


      Have you read about Jesus? He came to us to share with us the plan of the One True God, who made all of us. Jesus healed the blind, easily defeated demons, and showed many great signs and miracles.

      Jesus told us that there is only one way to Heaven: Jesus. Without Jesus, none enter the Kingdom of Heaven for all eternity.

      I hope you will read up on Jesus. He is called "THE PRINCE OF PEACE."



    • prasadjain profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Tumkur

      Thank you Mr. Jainismus.I know you too are equally knowledgeable.

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 

      6 years ago from Pune, India

      Great information, thank you for sharing it.

    • prasadjain profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Tumkur

      Please write through 'Contact Prasadjain' option on my profile page. that comes to my email. then I will answer you. If I openly publish my email, I am afraid, i may not be left with anytime for my research work and studies.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Sir thank u for the information..,sir if u dont mind can u give me your email id as i need to discuss some questions regarding jainism in medieval north karnataka.. in detail..actuaaly i sent one email to ur email but guess sir its unable to send..thank u sir..

    • prasadjain profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Tumkur

      I needed some more clarity in your question to help you. but, as I understand your question, it seems you want to know about Jain Digambar saints from north karnataka region.If I am right, following matter is what you wanted.

      1 North Karnataka has contributed more number of Jain Digambar saints than southern Karnataka.About 70% of Digambar saints in India, are from that part.

      2. Acharya Shanthi sagar ji, who rejuvinated the almost extinct digambar creed of saints ,hails from Belagaum district.He is respected all over India and abroad as Prathasmaraniya Acharya, by digambar jains.His statue is established at many jaina centres.

      3. Most respected contemporary Digambar muni, Acharya Vidyanandaji, 88 years, also hails from Shedbal village, in belgaum district.He is responsible for the establishment of so many Jaina institutions and publication organizations, by encouraging different persons.

      4 Acharya Nijananda Sagarji Maharaj,an engineer turned digambar saint, hails from Hubli.

      5. Acharya Payasagarji maharaj, Acharya Siddhasagarji Maharaj,also hailed from Belagaum district.

      6 Acharya Vidyasagarji Maharaj, a 16th century saint belonged to northern karnataka.It is believed that he performed many miracles when Jainism was under test. He is said to have lived in Akbar's time. His samadhi is at Akki wata, near Raibhag, Belagaum district.

      thus many digambar saints hailed from Northern Karnataka and upheld jaina principles. From Bijapur and Bagalokt area also some digambar saints hailed. But i do not have their details at present.

      Please visit my other hubs related to jainism.

      Thanks for your inquiry.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hello sir my name is vikram could you share some details regarding the famous jaina saints of north karnataka..thank u sir.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thank you Sir for the quick reply. It is very painful to maintain many blog accounts. I'd be thankful if you could email me the details of where I can buy the book. My email address is on my website . I'm not typing my email to avoid spam. Also, I would be glad if I could meet you sometime to discuss more about Jainism.

    • prasadjain profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Tumkur

      Dear Vinay,

      Thank you for your interest. As I cannot type kannada here, i suggest you to purchase my thesis book on this topic. Mine is the only exhaustive thesis in kannada on this subject, since past 25 years.It is recently reprinted and the book costs Rs.200/-.It is 500 pages. It contains large number of jain folk songs with commenteries and analysis. If you write me through hubpages, I shall send you my email address.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Sir, Could you please share the original Kannada song as well.


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