Jainium, as a religious and cultural system, is purely indigenous to India and, in its origin, dates back not only to proto-historic but to pre-historic times. It has had diffused over the entire length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent drawing its adherents from all the races, peoples, classes, social and linguistic groups, inhabiting this land. As such, it has come to possess a very rich, vast and varied cultural heritage, including an enviable mass of literature, written in various forms and styles, in almost all the ancient and mediaeval languages, and on almost every branh of learning or subject of cultural, religious, social, political, national, traditional or human interest, so much so that no modern researcher, Indian or foreigner, dealing with any topic connected with Indology, can do without refer ring to a good bibliography of Jainological studies.
Take for example the Rama-literature. Rama, the eldest son and successor of king Dasharatha of Ayodhya, born in the lineage of Ikshvaku of the celebrated Solar race of ancient Indian kshatriyas, is one of the foremost personages of Indian proto-history. He was noted for his superb qualities of head and heart, his noble ideals, exemplary character and remarkable acheivements Valmiki’s Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana, usually assigned by modern scholars to 2nd or 1st century B. C., has immortalised its hero Rama and his life-story. This work has come to constitute the ultimate source and principal basis of and set the trend for all later writers of the Rama lore, parti- cularly those of the Brahmanical tradition, yet, whereas till the 12th century AD.. only about a dozen works, mostly in Sanskrit, were composed on this subject, in subsequent centuries, especially with the emergence and growing popularity of the Rama-cult as a branch of the Vaishnava sect propagated by Ramanujacharya, Rama came to be accepted as an important incarnation of the god Vishnu. Con- sequently, since then Rama literature saw a rapid rise and more than a thousand works were produced in Sanskrit and the different regional languages, viz. Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Kannada, Tamil, Telgu, Malayalam, etc. We have even khotanese, Tibetan, Nepalese, Ceylonese, Javanese, Malaysian, Indonesian and Cambodian versions of the Ramayana. There is also a Buddhis version try
name of Dasharatha-Jataka
In the Jaina tradition, which is as old, if not more, as the Brahmanical. Ranua has all along been revered as one of the 63 pre-eminently auspicious personages of pent-history. He was the ith Balabhadra, as Lakshmana was the Bih Narayana and and Ravana the 8th Pratinarayana. Rama perforord many heroic deeds, ruled – over his kingdom as a just and popular ruler, finally abdicated his throne, renoun ced worldly life and pleasures, practised austerities as an ideal Jama ascetic, became an Arbar-kevalin or Jina, the perfect man-god, and ultimately attained Nirvana or Moksha. Since, as an ascetic, he came to be known by the name of Padma or Padma-munisvara, the Jaina Puranic account narrating his life-story has umally been called the Padma-purana or Padma-charita (Prakrit Paumachariya, and Apabhramsha Pauma-chariu) Rama, his parents, brothers, sons, wife. Sira the veritable paragon of virtue, her brother Bhamandala, Rama’s friends and allies like Hanumana, Sugriva and Vibhushana and arch enemy, Ravanam the notorious king of the golden Lanka, are living characters in the Jaina version. The principal characters, events and their sequence are roughly the same a in Valmiki’s Ramayana; but there are marked differences as well. It may look strange that in the case of several of such differences, majonity of non-Jaina writers adopted the Jaina view, ignoring that of Valmiki’s. Incidentally, it is a concrete evidence of the influence of the Jaina version on the development of the Rama story and Rama literature in general. Some five dozen theses have so for been approved by different Universities, which have vividly brought out this fact.
The earliest available Jaina version of the story is the Prakrit Paumachariya (Vira Nirvan S. 530-3A. D) by Vimalasuri, which was thus written within a century or so of the publication of Valmiki’s Ramayana, with the avowed object to dispel the misconceptions and errors that were circulated by the latter, and to present the true account of Rama’s story, as handed down in the Jaina tradition It was followed by Sanghadasa’s Vasudeva Hindi (c. 600 A. D.), Ravisena’s Sanskrit Padma-Charita (675 AD.). Suambhu’s Apabhramsha Ramayana (c. 800 A. D), Gunabhadra’s Uttarpurana (c. 850 A. D.). Pushpadanta’s Apabhramsha Mahapurana (967 A. D.). Chamundarai’s Kannada Mahapurana (978 A. D.), Bhadreshvara’s Prakrit work (11th c.), Kannada Pampa Ramayana (early 12th c.). Hemchandracharya’s Sanskrit Mahapurana (mid, 12th c.), and many others. In fact, some 250 works are known to have been produced by Jaina writers on or relating to the Rama theme, of which 25 are in Prakrit, 71 in Sanskrit, 22 in Apabhramsha, 82 in Hindi, 17 in Kannada, 2 in Tamil, 4 in Gujarati, 3 in Marathi and 2 in Urdu. Thus the contribution of the Jainas to Rama literature can be said to be quite substantial.