Jainism – a way of life





Thousands of temples have been constructed because Jains (who believe in temples and image worship) believe that building a temple or contributing towards it is a meritorious act. Most of the time marble or sandstone is used in construction of temples. Use of steel or iron is generally not desired whereas wood is used for doors and gates but the main structure is usually built using stones or marbles. White marble comes from Jaipur and nearby areas whereas reddish limestone comes from Jaislmer and it is considered suitable for constructing a temple.

Jain idols are made as per the silpa shāstra texts. Workers use drawings to determine the proportions of various limbs. Once the height is decided, a craftsman knows the size of the head to be carved out and other measurements follow. Jain idols are sometimes made of bronze and other materials. Small idols in crystal, silver and gold are also not uncommon. An image carved out of red sand stone is also seen in the temple of Ghoghā.

Jains do not worship Tirthankaras for seeking material benefits. They worship or rather meditate on His qualities in order to make progress on the path of liberation of the soul. It is argued that image worship is necessary because it gives mental and spiritual support to a devotee. After all people who do not believe in idols/images, keep pictures of their guru(s) and ‘worship’ them. It is said that every one is an idol-worshipper in one form or the other. Because everyone worships or pays homage or reveres to some kind of ‘form’- be it a picture of the Guru, or a shrine or an image in the mind.

Great man like Mahātma Gāndhi had also recognised the importance of image/idol worship. Shrimad Rājchandra (see special section) who was and still is the spiritual leader of the millions of people now had accepted that idol worship is a stepping-stone and it purifies one’s mind and helps immensely in achieving mental peace and solace.

Worship is the expression of one’s devotion. A worshipper feels happy by the sight of his beloved image and momentarily he loses himself in complete devotion. He forgets his worries, his problems, even his whole existence. He starts praising and singing. He admires and performs all sorts of adoration. Sometimes a layman gets more peace and joy by some sort of ritual worship than by reading scriptures, which he may not even understand. In one way the whole idea of image worship does not fit into the Jain ideology of renunciation. Jain Gods or Tirthankaras are Vitrāga Gods (those who have no attachment or aversion). They are also liberated souls not having any desire or any form and therefore do not grant any favours. This way it seems strange that Jains have thousands of temples and they worship God with an intense devotion.

The whole thing can be explained from a different angle. Worship is also a type of meditation (a Dharma dhyāna). The worship brings joy and peace, equanimity and love. The image- worship in Jain religion is a very old practice, perhaps older than the Vedic tradition. It is possible that image worship in Hindu religion is an influence of tradition, which prevailed in India before the arrival of the Aryan people.

Jains also worship some Yaksha (semi-gods) such as Manibhadra. God-Manibhadra is the protector of Jain Shāsana (order of Jains). His sthānakas (places) are at Magarvāda, Ujjain and Aaglod in India. Another deity worshipped highly is Ghantākarna Mahāvir who is believed to be a God who fulfils one’s wishes. His temple is at Mahudi in the state of Gujarāt. Many people also worship Goddesses like Padmāvati and Chakreshwari. Many temples in India have the images of these Gods and Goddesses. As explained in the previous paragraph these semi-gods and semi-goddesses are not Tirthankaras. Jains place Tirthankaras on the highest and supreme order of deities where as other gods (yaksha or yakshinis) are really semi-gods.

The earlier images were depicted seated in lotus posture with open palms, resting on the lap and placed one palm over the other; eyes either semi closed in meditation or fully open. Digambara images are found usually in kāyotsarga (standing meditation posture) and naked. The idols of Pārshvanāth (23rd Tirthankara) are usually found with the seven- hooded snake over the head of the idol. As most idols look same and there is no way one can say that a certain idol is that of Mahāvir Swāmi or of Shāntināth Bhagvān, there usually is an identifying symbol of particular Tirthankara carved out on the pedestal.

The practice of doing a parikar (decorative carving around an idol) around the marble image started from the Gupta period. The parikar sometimes include a carved halo, sometimes with two flying worshippers are also depicted (one either side of the halo). A pedestal was shown with two lions and a wheel in the centre. Two attendants were also shown. These attendants are often yaksha and yakshini (attendant god and goddess of a Tirthankara). Parikar around many images show elephants as well.

Jains may not have invented their own style of architecture but they have constructed some of the most beautiful temples in India. They also selected some of the picturesque site for building temples.

Before looking at some of the worship practices, which are more recognised as rituals, let us consider some important daily prayers.

(1) Navkār Mantra, also known as Namaskār Mantra or Namokar Mantra: Text and translation of the Navkār Mantra are as follows:

Namo Arihantānam= I bow to the Arihants- the ever-perfect spiritual victors.

Namo Siddhanām= I bow to the Siddhas- the liberated souls.

Namo Āyariyanām=I bow to the Āchāryas- the leaders of the Jain order.

Namo Uvajjāyānam= I bow to the Upādhyāyas- the learned preceptors.

Namo loe savva sahunam= I bow to all the saints and sages everywhere in the world.

Eso panch nammukāro       = These five obeisance-
Savva pāva panāsano         = Erase all sins.
Mangalānch savvesim        = Amongst all that is auspicious,
Padhamam havai mangala = This is the foremost.

Worship of twenty-four Tirthankaras (Logassa Sutra):

Text and translation.:

Loggassa ujjoagre, dhamma titha yare Jine,
Arihante kittaisam, Chavisampi kevli
Praise be to those who have brightened this world.
Those who have founded this religion, I adore.
Those victors and destroyers of all sins
Praise be those infinite knowers twenty four.

(The following verses then names 24 Tirthankaras.)

Ushabh-m Ajianch vande, Sambhav-mAbhinandanam ch Sumainch
Paumappaham Supāsam, jinamcha Chandappaham vande
Suvihim Ch Puphadantam, Siyal Sijjans Vāsupujjanch
Vimal-mAnantnam ch jinam Dhammam Santinch vandāmi
Kunthum Aramcha Mallim Vande Munisuvvyam Namijinam cha
Vandāmi Ritthanemim Pāsam taha Vadhhamānam cha
Evam mae abhithuā vihuya raya maāa pahinjara maranā
Chauvisanmpi jinvarā, tithyarā me pasiyantu

Bow I to Rushabhdeva and Ajitnath,
Sambhav, Abhinandan and Sumatinath Prabhu.
Padma and Suparsvanath are the great
I adore Chandraprabha Jina too.

Suvidhi or Pushpadanta are the same,
Shital, Shreyas and Vasupujya best
Vimal, Anant and Dharmanath,
I pray to Shantinath next

Bow I to Kunthu, Ara, Malli
Munisuvrata and Naminath divine
Arishtnemi, Parsva and then comes
Lord Mahaviraa last in the line.

From Rushabh to Mahavira Lord, Twenty-Four founders in all
Free are they from life and death. May they bless my worldly soul.
Kittiya vandiya mahiyā, je a loggasa uttamā siddhā
Aarugga bohi lābham samāhi varam uttammam dintu
Praised and worshipped they have been;
They have attained the highest state.
Givers of health and intelligence,
I look up to you in search of the ultimate.
Chandeshu nimmlyarā, aaichesu ahiyam payāsayrā,
Sāgarvar gambhirā, sidhdhā sidhhmi mam disantu.
Cleaner than the clean bright moon,
Brighter then the bright sunshine.
Like an ocean magnanimous,
Grant me emancipation O Soul divine!


Vandan is a simple ritual of obeisance to God. When one enters a temple he or she pays respects with folded hands, bowing his/her head and saying nishihi, nishihi, nishhi (This signifies giving up all bad thoughts and egoistic attitude. A worshipper bows down in a systematic way and says:

Ichchāmi Khamāsamno Vandiu javanjjia, nishiae, matthen vandāmi
‘O compassionate one! Allow me to worship, with whatever capacity I have, I bow with my head down, Leaving behind ill feelings and sins.’

There are many worship-rituals too. Chaitya-vandan or worshipping the Lord in a temple is a short and simple ritual. It takes about five to ten minutes depending upon the song or songs rendered. The Loggasa-sutra is usually recited, which is given in a previous page.

Snātra Poojā is a ritual that is often performed by a group of devotees. It is said that when a Tirthankara was born, he was taken to mount Meru for a sacred bathing ceremony. The birth of a Tirthankara was a most joyful occasion and was celebrated in a grand manner. Similarly lay people celebrate the event by way of bathing and anointing the image of a Tirthankara. During such rituals people sing and dance joyfully and spread divine-vibrations all round. Snatra Poojā is quite popular amongst lay Jains. An individual can worship the Lord by what is described as Ashtaprakāri-poojā (Worship with eight different objects).

These eight different steps are:

(1) Jal-poojā: cleaning the image with water wherein a worshiper imagines cleansing of his own thoughts and actions.

(2) Chandan-poojā: This is done by using sandalwood to anoint an image. This signifies a cool, collective and pure attitude.

(3) Akshat-poojā: By way of using grains of rice symbolising unbroken faith and wishing for immortality.

(4) Pushpa-poojā: Worship with the use of flowers and wishing for the real fragrance of freedom.

(5) Offering of sweets: This really signifies giving up desires.

(6) Waving a lamp: very significant in Jain and Hindu religion. This is a symbol of knowledge and light.

(7) Burning incense or dhoop-poojā: This signifies burning out karmas.

(8) Fal-poojā: This is done by way of offering of fruits, wishing for the greatest fruit of nirvāna or moksha.


Siddha-Chakra is worshiped during āyambil period and during many other rituals. This is a symbolical worship of nine ‘steps’ or ‘places’ shown in a diagram given in this book. These nine steps are:

Arihanta, Siddha, Āchārya, Upādhyāya, Sādhu; right faith, right knowledge and right conduct; and the last and ninth step is penance. A ritualistic poojā of the diagram of Siddha-Chakra is also sometimes performed. True worship, however is leading the life-style as prescribed by the religion.

An important symbol of swastika:

A swastika is usually drawn in temples before the ritual of worship starts. People use rice to draw or create this symbol. This illustrates the wish for an ultimate goal. The four sides of a swastika represent the four states the soul may live in: They are- divine, human, tiryanch (animals, birds etc.) and hellish. The half moon is the sign of Siddha-shilā (the final place for liberated souls).

During evenings and after some rituals, Ārati and Mangaldivo are performed. This is a simple ceremony of waving a lamp or lamps in front of the idol of Lord. People bid large amounts of money to have the privilege of doing such rituals.

Those who do not believe in temple-worship, perform forms of worship associated with prayers and meditation.

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