Nov 18, 2007

Recent Conversions to Jainism

By Mahavir Sanglikar

We know much about people, especially Dalits converting to Buddhism, but most of us are unaware of recent conversions to Jainism, another ancient religion of Shramanic origin. We do not know much about such conversion as Jain monks do not want to give much prominence to conversion News. Instead, they have concentrated on attracting people to Jainism, and teaching them the Jain way of life. They do not care much about whether these new converts call themselves Jain or not, but their sole aim is to spread Jain ethics and practices amongst the converts. It is their strategy as the monks know that the converts will get benefits of practicing the Jain way of life in short period, and Jainism will get benefits of numerical strength in near future.

These conversions are going on in two ways:
a. converting common people to Jainism as a layman, on personal level and also in mass conversions.
b. Initiating desirous non Jains in Jain monk order.

It is interesting that many of the great Jain monks and their heads are basically from non-Jain families. I would like to mention some names of such great Jain monks, ascetics and spiritual persons, who were born in non-Jain families here: Acharya Atmaramji (from Punjabi Khatri Family), ShriMad Raaychandra (Gujarati Vaishnavite), Muni Buteraay (Jaat), Muni Mayaram (Jaat), Baba Bhagirath Varni (Jaat), Acharya Vijay Indra Dinn Suri (Tribal/Adivasi), Anant Punya Maharaj (Rajsthani Meghwal Dalit), Vishuddh Ratna Sagar (A Dalit from Maharashtra), Acharay Sushilmuni (Punjabi Brahmin), All these belong to recent time.

There were mass conversions to Jainism in last few decades of 20th century.
Here are some of the social groups (castes) from which the conversions took place.

Parmars
Parmars are adivasis (Tribals) of Panchmahal and other districts in Gujarat. They were converted to Jainism by Acharya Vijay Indra Dinna Suri. The Acharya himself was from this community. Parmars are about half a million in number. The Parmars were followers of Jainism in ancient time, but after revival of Bramhinism they had to take shelter of Jungles, and were not in touch of mainstream Jains. Now they are known as Parmar Kshatriya Jains. Please read Adivasi Conversion To Jainism for a detailed information on their conversions.

Dharmpals
Dharmpals were untouchable Balai Hindus of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. They were converted to Jainism by Acharaya Nanalal Maharaj. They are about 2 Lakhs in number.

Veervals
They were Khatiks (butchers) of Madhya Pradesh. About 1 lakh Khatiks became Jain. They were names as Veervals. Recently they had an Akhil Bhartiya Veerval Jain Sammelan at Secunderabad, A.P.

Saraks
They were originally Jains belonging to the ancient tradition of Jainism, but were away from Mainstream. Upadhyay Gyan Sagar Maharaj brought a large population of them to mainstream. The population of Saraks is about1.5 million. They are spread in Jharkhand, Bihar,Orissa and West Bengal.

Patidars
A large number of Patidars in Gujarat have adopted Jainism Jainism in 20th century. This conversion took place mainly because of Shrimad Rajchandra, Kanaji Swami and Dada Bhagwan.

Namdhari Gowdas
In South Karnataka, thousands of Namdhari Gowdas are getting converted to Jainism. These people were Jains in past, but had converted to Vaishnavism. But now they are returning to their original religion.


Neo Jains in West

Many people in North America and Europe have adopted Jainism in recent years.

There are also many other small groups all over India. Beside that a large number of people follow Jainism who are not in the mainstream.

5 comments:

Dr. A.P.Jain said...

This is a good thing.
Actually we must spread the vaani of the Jina to other people also because as we have got the opportunity to follow this great path so it is our 'moral' duty to spread it to others also, this will be a cause of the kalyan of the 'nij' & the 'par'

Dr. A.P.Jain said...

This is a good thing.
Actually we must spread the vaani of the Jina to other people also because as we have got the opportunity to follow this great path so it is our 'moral' duty to spread it to others also, this will be a cause of the kalyan of the 'nij' & the 'par'

Rahul said...

Excllent information..kudos to blogger

vd.nitish said...

Wow...! Really exciting info.. I ws totaly unaware of dis. These facts increase our responsiblty 2 follow d 'samyak jina dharm' & be d ''aadarsh'' for others.. Jai jinendra..!

Anonymous said...

an excellent thing to follow we must proud of such things thanks to those who did this yeomen work

Popular Posts

Mahavir Sanglikar's Articles

शोध आणि बोध: Marathi Articles on General Subjects