Nov 26, 2007

Jains and Farming

By Prof. Yashwant Malaiya

It is sometimes said that the Jains do not do farming because they are not supposed to.

The view is not correct.

In Maharashtra and Karnataka there are numerous Jain farmers who have been Jain since ancient times. Actually in north also, there are Jains who are involved in farming.
In north, there are many Jain families who have been zamindars (or masters of the lands). As zamindars, they were involved in agriculture. Some very distinguished Jain families in north have a zamindar background.
It should be noted that until development of industry in recent times, most of the government revenue came from farming. A regional chief (mandalika raja) received revenue from zamindars, and a sovereign king received revenue from the regional chiefs. The entire structure was thus supported by farming.
Kings and chiefs often used to donate land ("villages") to temples and religious institutions. Many religious institutions in India, including many Jain ones, owned villages, and were thus "zamindars".
There have been many Jain kings and chiefs, both in North and South India.
Why are Jains today in north India mostly traders? That is an interesting question. I will address this in future. In brief, preservation of Jainism in North/West India is due to the linkage of the communities through trade-routes. This contact was able to provide support to Jain communities even in difficult times.

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