Jain Temples and Customs

Jains are people who follow Jainism, and they pray at places known as Jain temples. The temples that are in Gujarat and in Southern Rajasthan are known as Derasar. Temples or shrines in Karnataka are known as Basadi. In Sanskrit, the word Vasati is used, to imply an institution which includes scholars that live in places attached to the shrines.

Jain temples have distinctive appearances. The ones in North India look rather different to the ones that are located in South India, and the ones in West India differ again. Some temples follow the Shikar-bandhi style, which features a dome. Some follow the Ghar style, which does not have the dome, and is more of a ‘house temple.

The shikar-bandhi temples boast marble pillars, and have beautiful demi-god carvings. The Derasar also has a carving of the main deity, which is called the mulnayak. The main part of the temple, or the Gambhara, is where there is a God idol carved of stone. It is forbidden to enter the Gambhara without bathing and then donning special worship clothes, or ‘puja’.

Some Jain temples are more than 100 years old and are known as pilgrimage centers. These are often termed Tirtha. There is often a pillar constructed in the front of the Jain temples, which has four stone figures of the main god from that temple. These are called ‘Moortis’. Each pillar faces in a different direction (North, South, East, and West).

People who visit a temple are asked to bathe and wear freshly washed clothes. The clothes that one wears inside the temple must not have been worn while the person ate food or visited a washroom. It is permitted to drink water while wearing the clothes. It is forbidden to take leather items into the temple, and footwear (including socks) is also forbidden. It is not allowed to chew gum or eat mints inside the temple, or to put anything inside your mouth. Visitors are asked to be as silent as possible, and to turn off their mobile phones.

The traditional customs of worship and idols should be followed. These vary between Jain sects, so visitors should ask what the particular worship customs are, and do their best to abide by them and to respect the wishes of the Jains in the area. If in doubt, it is best to remain silent and simply wait for guidance from a Jain.

Countries with the Largest Jain Populations

Jainism is an Indian religion that can be traced back to ancient times. Although the majority of Jains live in India, people practice this religion in other parts of the world as well including NYC. If you’re interested in finding the countries with the largest Jain population, there are a few things you’ll need to do.

Research The Subject

Start learning everything you can about Jainism. If you develop a deeper understanding of this religion, you’ll be able to spot the countries that have the most substantial Jain populations in the world.

As mentioned above, the largest concentration of Jains can be found in India. However, if you learn more about Jainism, you’ll be able to see how this religion has spread. This will allow you to see where the Jains of the world have migrated to. You’ll be able to find areas where many people choose to practice Jainism.

Talk To Other People That Practice Jainism

If you know someone that is a Jain, you should talk to them about their religious beliefs. Let them know that you would like to learn more about Jainism. They should be able to provide you with a lot of useful information.

Even if you don’t know anyone that believes in Janism, you should try to connect with Jains in your area. Many people will be happy to speak with you on this subject. If you take the time to talk to people about Jainism, you’ll gain a lot of valuable insight and a perspective you’ve never considered before.

Keep Learning More

Religious demographics are constantly changing. As religions spread, the countries with the largest populations of Jains might start to change. That’s why you should continue to study this religion if you’re curious about the subject. You’ll be able to see how Jainism changes going forward.

Because Jainism is an ancient religion, you shouldn’t expect the religion to change too radically. With that said, every religion of the world has changed at one point or another. Don’t assume that you know everything there is to know about Jainism. There are always going to be opportunities for you to learn more.

Jainism may bring you the peace you have been looking for. It may be the answer to a stressful life or coping with a tough time, like a loved one’s death or injury. If you’re interested in finding the countries that have the largest Jain populations, you should follow the advice that is listed above. These suggestions will allow you to find regions in which many people practice Jainism. It’s easy than ever to learn more about Jains.


Design Elements Of The Shikhara Temple

In Sanskrit, the word Shikhara means “mountain peak” which is how these beautiful temples with extremely tall towers of spires earned their name. This temple architecture is very common in Texas and in both Hindu temples as well as Jain temples.

Jain Shikhara

When referring to Jain Shikhara temples, there are three types of shikharas, the Latina, Sekhari, and Bhumija. One thing that they all have in common is the fact that the temples contain a deity enshrined within the temple.

The Latina shikhara has four different faces and each face will often have projections. All of the design elements curve towards the top and the structure has a uniform look.

The Sekhari shikhara has spires and spirelets that reinforce the main design. The spires will cover the entire face. The spires can come in multiple sizes and there are often spirelets on the corners of the temple. This highly decorative temple style is ornate.

The Bhumija style tower has many small spires that go both horizontally and vertically. The spires go all the way to the top and this effect makes the tower look like a grid. The shape isn’t round and it looks more like a pyramid than anything else. You will find this style often in West India.

Hindo Shikhara

The shikhara style is found in Hindu temples and these temples also have their own unique styles of shikharas; Nagara, Vesara and Dravidian.

The Nagara style is often found in North India. This type of shikhara has a curved shape that is very high.

The Vesara style has more of a conical shape and it features a lot of very intricate carvings.

The Dravidian style is often found in Southern India. It has four sides and has a shape like a pyramid with pavilions that get progressively smaller as they get to the top. This straight structure is detailed and ornate.

Common Design Elements 

Every type of shikhara structure is going to have an urn at the peak which is used for offerings. If you are going to be in India you are definitely going to want to spend some time visiting these temples as they are fascinating to look at. Each temple has a storied history and they are very impressive.

The temples are inspiring and they have so much history. They are beautiful and you feel a sense of awe when you look at them. Knowing the design elements of the temples helps you to understand them more.

History of The Swastika

It’s a shame that such a symbol was so perversely tainted by Nazi Germany by the end of World War II. To the western world, it was originally known as a symbol of good luck and fortune. Although the west now views it as a symbol of the most egregious evils ever committed, the swastika is still used with its original meaning in mind in many parts of India, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. There, the swastika is sacred. It is an important symbol to the religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

Believe it or not, historians aren’t entirely certain about the origins of the swastika. That’s because it definitely appeared during the Neolithic period which began as early as 10,200 BC. The Neolithic period was sometimes called The New Stone Age, and ran parallel to the end of the hunting-gathering way of life and beginning of the agricultural revolution. It ended when metal tools were devised. By this time, the swastika was everywhere. It’s difficult to imagine this was only the beginning since written records and art from before this period were so scarce.

The swastika may indeed have been conceived earlier than that. There are rough swastika-like designs on mammoth ivory carved into the shape of a bird, a object that is at least 15,000 years old. Such objects are known to be of Jain origin, a religion which believes that the pattern could symbolize fertility. Others believe that this interpretation of the aforementioned bird could be wishful thinking, and may did not depict a true swastika.

There might be other reasons that this is such a popular early design. Many cultures have spiritual or religious teachings based on the four elements: wind, water, fire and earth. Some historians believe that each arm of an early swastika represents each of these respective elements, while the whole represents the sun. Other historians believe that the arms are symbolic of each of the four seasons. The swastika pops up repeatedly throughout history whenever the number “four” is important to an idea or culture.

Other uses of the swastika as a symbol occurred in early Iran, Bulgaria, and Egypt. Even earlier, the Illyrians, Celts, Greeks, Germans, and Slavs used it often. Because of its pervasiveness in so many different parts of the world, some historians believe it to be a symbol of the universe.

Civil rights have come a long way since World War II, and although the current global push toward ultra-conservative political policies seems to underpin the idea that the past can indeed come back to haunt us, perhaps it’s time to forget about the swastika’s meaning to Nazi Germany. Certainly, the association with racism and murder remains, but the symbol is so much more than that to so many people around the world who fight for peace and prosperity between all of nature’s creatures.

The Seven Valued Logic

Jain philosophers developed a system to argue certain points called seven-valued logic. Under this system, statements are assigned to various predicates or truth values depending on what is essentially empirical evidence obtained about each. Can you determine the truth about something, can’t you, or do you simply not have enough information to make a determination one way or another? It’s more complicated than that, but the system of seven-valued logic has been around since at least the fifth century.

Some current-day logic and rhetoric is enough to hurt the brain. In many cultures, it’s better to have rules and guidelines to argue a point, whether valid or invalid, and seven-valued logic is a way of doing that. Then again, the seven predicates of Jain logic might further confuse those who haven’t studied the religion. The system helps determine whether statements are logical by first determining whether or not each is true, false, or unassertible. Essentially, what are the conditions under which you know something is true or false?

Jains believe in a theory of pluralism, which is a philosophical concept centered on the belief that there is more than one possible reality. In the realm of logic, pluralism means that logic isn’t simple or singular. In other words, there can be more than one logical possibility about a given statement. Many different truths can exist depending on how a particular point is argued. What one person believes to be correct may deviate substantially from what another person believes to be correct.

This belief by itself does make logical sense. The purpose behind seven-valued logic is to prove the existence of multiple views. A single statement about a red ball won’t provide a view of that ball that captures its reality perfectly for anyone. The ball may be red, round, or imperfect, but a hundred other statements may be made, either correct or incorrect. It’s impossible to know the truth about the ball because no one statement can describe it in full. A Jain will often detail seven-valued logic by telling a story about a blind man who tries to describe various realities of an elephant.

Part of this system of beliefs is based on the idea that you cannot perfect your knowledge of the reality in which you reside without first achieving liberation by perfecting your soul. The literal blind man is a metaphor for the fact that we are, all of us, blind to the realities of our universe. We can’t know it all; it’s impossible.

What Is The Tattvartha Sutra

Although the majority of the world’s population is Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, there are a number of more minor (but important) religious followings that permeate communities all over the globe. Jainism is one of them, and Jains have been spreading their teachings for at least 5000 years. It likely began by 3000 BC somewhere in the Indus Valley. Even though the religion is ancient, we still have much to learn from its teachings and strong moral principles today. The Tattvartha Sutra is a Sanskrit text written sometime within the first five centuries AD.

Throughout the ages, Jainism has been divided–albeit in small ways. This is true of any religious following. Jains are divided into the Digambara, the sky clad, and Svetambara, the white clad. Both groups follow the most rigidly important principles of Jainism. It’s the details that set them apart. The Digambara sect believes that women cannot achieve soul purification or liberation; instead, they must first be reborn into a man’s body. This sect also believes that one must remain naked, devoid of any earthly possessions that can sway moral standing.

Svetambara also retain few possessions, but are granted simple clothes, grooming tools, and books. The two sects don’t agree on which texts constitute Jain canon. In almost all other ways, they agree on fundamental Jain beliefs. The Tattvartha Sutra is important because it is considered the only text of the age that is authoritative to both the Svetambara and Digambara. When taken alongside the fact that it is one of the earliest surviving Jain books, its importance can’t be undervalued.

As a Jain, there is no contract as there is in Christianity or other similar religions. The Tattvartha Sutra and other similar texts explain that no matter who you are, your goal is to remain kind and caring to your fellow man, and even the wildlife with which you interact on a regular basis.

Liberation is an important aspect of Jainism. The goal of each follower is to obtain liberation of the soul. The very beginning of the Tattvartha Sutra book paraphrases the importance and reality of this goal. It places importance on different types of faith in knowledge. In addition, it goes on to define the differences between living and non-living and celestial, and between the different worlds. It emphasizes the vows that true Jains make, and how to achieve final liberation.

The text defines seven categories of truth, from souls to basic particles that bear similarity to those taught in any basic physics course. It places emphasis on ethics and morality in an effort to help reduce the number of future rebirths that might prevent or delay liberation. Ultimately, the Tattvartha Sutra is a text revered by any Jain follower.

Metaphysics and Jainism

The field of study that surround metaphysics is steeped in knowledge of all things, but is based largely in the abstract. What is identity and what does it mean to “be” or have knowledge? What is the reality of time and space? These are the types of questions that metaphysics deals with, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that questions surrounding various religions are asked as well. Jainism is a religion based in spirituality–a journey from one life to the next as part of an almost endless cycle that culminates when a soul is purified to achieve final liberation from corporeal form. This is a good place to start.

Even though most religions have a reputation for providing faith-based answers to many of life’s most profound mysteries, Jainism is important to metaphysics because it does the opposite. While Jainism does provide a number of faith-based teachings and spiritual thought from historical documents left from the ancient world, it also seeks to find answers to the same questions that many scientists struggle with everyday. Because metaphysics deals in the abstract, there are many potential answers to a single question.

Followers of Jainism are the first to acknowledge that the scientific field of physics revolves around what we can prove with empirical fact. What form of matter is this particle? What is its mass? Does it have an observable shape? Physics is broken down into the physical attributes that can be used to describe all matter and how it behaves in relation to other kinds of matter.  How is this similar to Jain teachings? You might be surprised.

Jain teachings show that all life is interconnected, and that’s why it should be treated with respect. That’s why the six Dravyas of Jainism are based in the same physical concepts you would learn about in school.

Dharma is a field of motion. Adharma is rest. Akasha is space. Pudgala is matter. Kala is time. These same ideas and concepts are critical to physics (kinetic and potential energy, momentum, distance, mass, time, etc.), whereas Jain philosophy deals with the more abstract metaphysical ideas. In Jainism, Pudgala undergoes constant change. A slight suspension of disbelief might allow you to bypass surprise for understanding: Pudgala is broken down into individual units, which are smaller than individual atoms. These smaller units combine into what physics would define as an atom. Jainism takes this one step further by providing other attributes, including color, smell, taste and touch.

Pudgala is also a concept used by Buddhism, but it has a different meaning. When trying to understand the metaphysical world, one could do a lot worse than try to understand the Jain religion and the teachings that provided a great deal of context far before their time. Here is a video going more in depth on what metaphysics is about.

Mahamastakabhisheka – Feb 17th through Feb 25th 2017

A small town of Shravanabelagola in the state of Karnataka in India is usually quiet, except for every 12 years. The  Mahamastakabhisheka or the Grand Consecration is a major festival for Jains that’s celebrated every 12 years. During this festival, Jain idols are anointed including the famous statue of Bhagwan Bahubali known as the Gommateshwara statue.

The statue was built in 981 AD and stands at 58.8 feet tall and it the world’s largest free-standing statue. This year will be the 88th anointing of the Gommateshwara statue and will be conducted under His Holiness Swasti Sri Charukeerthi Bhattarakha Swamiji of Shravanabelagola. More than 1 million devotees are expected to attend the event in 2018.

Bhagwan Bahubli is revered because he is considered one of the first followers of Jainism to reach salvation. During the ceremony, 1008 pots that contain water and sandalwood paste are poured over the statue. During the week-long celebration milk, water, sugarcane juice, turmeric, saffron, and vermillion are bathed upon the statue. Other donations include silver and gold coins and other gems. At the conclusion of the ceremony, a helicopter drops 52 varieties of flowers upon the statue and the crowd.

This year, the local government has set up housing with running plumbing and electricity to house the millions to be estimated to come to this event. The local government is also working on upgrading roads and bus stands to help accommodate the visitors. The scaffold that is built in order to anoint the statue is approximated to have between 500-600 steps.

Mahamastakabhishekas happen at other holy Jain idols every 12 years. Next year, there will be a Mahamastakabhishekas at Dharmasthala where a different statue of Bhagwan Bahubli will be anointed. This statue is 39 feet high with a 13-foot pedestal. The attendance of that event is normally smaller than the one in Shravanabelagola. After that, the next Mahamastakabhishekas will take place in 2024 at Venur.

Good News for Jains

History is one of the most important parts of our future because it shows us the efforts made by those in the past. As such, our own efforts to protect it must be upheld at all costs. This is especially true of religious sites around the world because they not only evoke strong feelings from believers of associated religious followings, but they are a great way to document the evolution of society and culture in general.

The problem is, religious sites can be among the most difficult to keep safe because of so many conflicting beliefs and politics, and adversaries who believe in other religions or spiritual realities. Jains have reason to rejoice, however, as the Jain rock carvings in the Villupuram district have been declared a protected monument in the eyes of Lemon Law PA.

The monument depicts the icon Bahubali, a figure often revered among the Jains. Bahubali was the son of Adinath and brother to Bharata Chakravartin. Although he had an attachment to these other important Jain figures from history, he achieved much himself. The stories say that he spent a year meditating while standing. And those stories don’t mention breaks, either. So it goes that plants began to creep up his legs as time went on.

When Bahubali finally completed the entire year of meditation and eventually passed away, he was supposed liberated from the moksha–the cycle of births and deaths. This is the goal of all Jains, who are reincarnated until they achieve enough earned karma to liberate the soul from the world that we know.

The icon of Bahubali in Villupuram is important to Jains because it proves that their religion thrived a long time ago–not just today. The Tamil Nadu Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act will hopefully prevent vandals from doing any damage to this small piece of history, and furthermore should prevent businesses from conducting themselves with potentially damaging consequences in the immediate region. Each of the Jain temples that have been passed down through antiquity has the same idol within their walls.

This is the 21st Jain site protected by the same state government, and with luck, another 48 will be soon to follow. Although this is certainly a step in the right direction, more work remains to be done: there are a total of 135 known Jain sites situated around temples within the state, all with similar depictions and images. Some of these sites are over 2,000 years old, an impressive feat worthy of protecting for another 2,000 years.

Paryushana 2017 – All You Need to Know

The festival of Paryushana has already passed, but next year’s festival dates have already been set. For those who are unaware of the Jain festival, Paryushana is more commonly known as the festival of forgiveness according to the Jain faithful: an eight-day or ten-day festival (depending on whom you ask) where Jains of both of the prominent sects – Svetambara and Digambara – have significant fasting periods and ultimately seek to atone for sins they have committed upon others.

Fasting and forgiveness are the two focal points of Paryushana, the pinnacle of holy events in the Jain religion. Originating from and practiced mostly in India, Jainism teaches its followers to achieve liberation by way of non-violence (ahimsa) and renunciation or non-possession (aparigraha). Similar to Buddhism, Jainism believes in a cycle of reincarnation that will ultimately lead to the liberation of and true bliss of the soul when one has truly achieved these and the other three major mahavratas of brahmacarya (chaste living or sexual restraint), satya (truthfulness) and asteya (non-stealing) – cumulatively known as the Five Great Vows.

The celebration of Paryushana itself has no strict protocol, and it only suggests that its followers practice as they are able. Typically common in either sect, however, is the recital of several chapters from holy text. For the Svetambara (also known as the “white-clad”), followers often recite from the Kalpa Sutra, a collection of biographies of Tirthankaras – saviors and spiritual teachers – or of the Antagada Sutra to learn of those who had achieved moksha – spiritual liberation from the cycle of karma, similar in concept to Buddhism’s nirvana. The Digambara (the “sky-clad”) often recite from the Tattvartha Sutra, which compiles a rich philosophy of Jainism in the span of ten chapters. This text is generally regarded as one of the authoritative texts on Jainism as a whole, and is held in high esteem between both the Digambara and the Svetambara.

Both Digambara and Svetambara also celebrate Paryushana by way of fasting, and this only has slight differences between the two factions. Digambara often practice this by consuming food or water no more than once per day. Svetambara recognize this by consuming only water, also boiled, between sunrise and sunset. Fasting for Jains is said to be a process of purifying the body and the soul, and that the act of fasting in itself will not suffice for Jains – one who truly follows this spiritual path during a fast must also restrain themselves from having the very desire of eating and drinking, or else the fasting is viewed as worthless.

The other major component and reason of Paryushana, forgiveness, falls in line with the great vow of ahimsa – non-violence. For both Svetambara and Digambara, the final day of the festival of Paryushana culminates in a mass prayer for forgiveness of all offenses. Jains of both sects often practice this by chanting, “Micchami dukadam.” Roughly translated, this means, “If I have offended you – knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, in word or in action – then I seek your forgiveness.” Because Jains actively ask for forgiveness, essentially, from all living beings – not only friends, family or strangers – some also refer to this act as the “rite of universal friendship.”