Hinduism and Jainism are two of the oldest religions in the world lost in time due to their antiquity. The religious sculptures and art from their past reveal a complex, exotic and mythical aspects of these religions. A thousand gods generating ten thousand mythologies have been inspiration for Hindu Art for over a thousand years. These gods became personal deities in various names and forms all over India thus multiplying the myths. The Hindu Art that we are endowed with today is culmination of the imagination of Hindu devotees and artisans over millennia. The main portrayal of Shiva as Nataraja (Natyam; dance, raja; king) came from the Chola Period (ca 800 – 1100 AD) to become the most iconic sculpture in religious art. In more remote parts of India Shiva was a powerful tribal God offering protection to the Hindus with names such as Khadoban, Bhairava, Rudra and hundred more. Amongst the female Hindu deities Durga for protection from evil, Parvati for compassion, Sarasvati for prosperity and wealth are more popular. The mesogenic representation of Shiva and Parvati as one (Ardhanarishwara) is the ultimate not only in art but also in philosophy. Hindu Art, a heritage from Hindu faith has now become an art, sans religious borders across the world.
Jainism one of the oldest religions in the world is traditionally traced through a succession of twenty-four propagators of their faith known as tirthankaras, Rishabha being the first of them, and Mahavira the last.
Jainism, traditionally known as Jain Dharma was founded in the 5th century BC. Followers of Jainism are called “Jains”, a word derived from the Sanskrit word jina (victor) and connoting the path of victory in crossing over life’s stream of rebirths through an ethical and spiritual life. Jains trace their history through a succession of twenty-four victorious saviors and teachers known as Tirthankaras, with the first being Rishabhanatha, who is believed to have lived millions of years ago, and twenty-fourth being the Mahavira around 500 BCE. Jains believe that Jainism is an eternal dharma with the Tirthankaras guiding every cycle of the Jain cosmology.
The main religious premises of Jainism are ahimsa (“non-violence”), anekantavada (“many-sidedness”), aparigraha (“non-attachment”) and asceticism. Jain monastics renunciants and devout householders take five main vows known as vratas, outlined in their oldest surviving text, the Acaranga Sutra: ahimsa (“non-violence”), satya (“truth”), asteya (“not stealing”), brahmacharya (“celibacy or chastity”), and aparigraha(“non-attachment”). These principles have impacted Jain culture in many ways, such as leading to a predominantly vegetarian lifestyle that avoids harm to animals and their life cycles. Parasparopagraho Jivanam (“the function of souls is to help one another”) is the motto of Jainism. Namokar Mantra is the most common and basic prayer in Jainism.
Jainism has two major ancient sub traditions, Digambaras and Svetambaras; and several smaller sub-traditions that emerged in the 2nd millennium CE. The Digambaras and Svetambaras have different views on ascetic practices, gender and which Jain texts can be considered canonical. Jain mendicants are found in all Jain sub-traditions, with laypersons (śrāvakas) supporting the mendicants’ spiritual pursuits with resources.
As the preachers of ancient Hindu scripts who held title to the unwritten Vedas or incantations became king makers propagating the ritual of animal sacrifices and indulgences, a spiritual rebellion was born. Siddhartha Gautama, who later became known as “The Buddha,” was born into a wealthy family as a prince in present-day Nepal in 5th century BC. Gautama was later moved by suffering in the world and then existing practice of Brahmins of the day decided to give up his lavish lifestyle and endure poverty, proposing happiness within one’s own mind.
However of all the ancient religions Jainism has best stayed close it’s roots of spiritual philosophy while Buddhism spread across the world mainly due to the efforts of King Asoka in 3rd century BC. Much later in the 4th to 8th century the Khmer kings being originally Hindus embraced Buddhism by a process of inclusion into Hinduism while still honoring the Hindu deities.