Like life at Jain University

The Jaina and the British



At the outset I extend my grateful thanks to the very kind invitation extended by Dr Andrea Luithle-Hardenberg and her very concerned efforts to persuade me to attend this distinguished International Tuebingen Workshop on a very important topic The Jaina and the British. However I would not be able to make the trip to the University of Tuebingen to participate in this important conference as medically advised. Therefore, I extend my heartfelt apologies to the organizers of the workshop. I have great pleasure in extending my greetings to the distinguished scholars participating in this conference.

I took German as a second language almost as an intuitive choice. Little did I know that I would be having an opportunity to translate Dr.Alsdorf’s book asked by my mentor in Jain studies, Dr.A.N. Upadhye a great Prakrit Jain scholar a former President of the All-India Oriental Conference and also General Editor of the renowned Bharatiya Jnana Pitha publications. Moortidevi Jain grandthmala

It has launched me on a German voyage of Indology-not an indologist myself- but translator of eminent Indological authors such as Ludwig Alsdorf, and Colette Caillat, (I translated from French her Le Jinisme, published as Jainism (Macmillan, 1974) which brings me to this Tuebingen Seminar! I read Albert Schweitzer’s My Life and Thought and was much impressed by his book Indian Thought and Its Development, and particularly his observation on the pioneering role of Jain ahimsa in human history.

I am proud to state that My translation of Dr. Ludwig. Alsdorf’s German Contributions to the history of vegetarianism and cattle worship in India (History of Vegetarianism and Cow Veneration In India) has been published (Routledge, London) in Feb.2010 edited by Dr. Bollee

Dr. Schweitzer speaks in glowing terms of the principle of Ahimsa non-violence as laid down by Jainism: “The laying down of the commandment not to kill and not to damage is one of the greatest events in the spiritual history of mankind. Starting from its principle, founded on world and life denial of abstention from action, ancient Indian thought and this is a period when in other respects ethics have not progressed very far reaches the tremendous discovery that ethics know no bounds. So far as we know this is for the first time clearly expressed by Jainism. ”

The principle of ahimsa (non-violence) and the prescription of strict vegetarianism are the prime and unique characteristics of Jain religion and ethics. That the concept of ahimsa what foreign to Vedic culture is shown by the eminent Indologist Prof. W. Norman Brown in his Tagore Memorial Lectures, 1964-65, Man in the Universe:

"Though the Upanishads contain the first literary reference to the idea of ​​rebirth and to the notion that one's action-karma determines the conditions of one's future existences, and though they arrive at the point of recognition that rebirth may occur not only in animal form but Also in animal bodies, they tell us nothing about the precept of ahimsa. Yet that precept is later associated with the belief that a soul in its wandering may inhabit both kinds of forms. Ancient Brahmanical literature is conspicuously silent about ahimsa. The early Vedic texts do not even record the noun ahimsa nor know the ethical meaning which the noun later designated ... Nor is an explanation of ahimsa deducible from other parts of Vedic literature. The ethical concept which it emdodies was entirely foreign to the thinking of the early Vedic Aryans, who recognized no kinship between human and animal creation, but rather ate meat and offered animals the sacrifice to the gods. "(pp.53-54)

Therefore Prof. Brown concludes: "The double doctrine of ahimsa and vegetarianism has never had full and unchallenged acceptance and practice among Hindus, and should not be considered to have arisen in Brahmanical circles. It seems more probable that it originated in non-Brahmanical environment, and was promoted in historic India by the Jains and adopted by Brahmanic Hinduism. "

I propose to discuss Jain minority issue as it has evolved in the last hundred years. The remarkable thing about the Jain minority issue is that it was duly noted by the contemporary British rulers as far back as in 1909. Even more significantly the Census of India has been counting the Jains as a separate religious community right from the first census in 1873 . With the dawn of the Indian freedom the Jain community did present its claim for minority status to the Constituent Assembly during the formation of the Indian Constitution.

It would be also most relevant to refer here to the two one anna coins minted during the East India Company regime in 1818 depicting Bhagwan Mahavira and Bhagvan Parsvanatha.

Figure not included in this excerpt

Then I would like to refer to the Imperial Gazeteer showing the British Indian Empire map in 1909 in which prevailing religions are shown as Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains. This I think as a most remarkable acknowledgment by the British India of Jainism as a distinct religious entity in India.

Yet the Jain leaders continued their efforts and made several representations to the non-statutory National Commission for Minorities for their designation as a national minority. Later with the enactment of National Commission for Minorities Act In 1992 Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) were notified as minorities omitting inexplicably the Jains. But due to their persistent representations finally the NCM recommended for the inclusion of the Jain community but it was not notified thus by the Government.


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