Oct 9, 2009

A description of Jainism from Dabistan-e-Madahib (1)

Dabistan-e-Madahib (School of Manners) is an extremely rare andunusual examination of several religions, written around 1655 in Farsi. It has been assmed that the author may have been a Muslim,however a careful examinations shows that the author was in fact aParsi of Sipasis or Abadis sect. The author was either originallyfrom Iran, or a recent descendant of an immigrant from Iran.

The author was born during the rule of Jehangir in a Mobed (ParsiPriest) family. He spent time in Patna, Kasmir, Lahor, Surat andSrikakul (Orissa). He must have been a person of great scolarshipand curiosity. He mentions numerous interviews with scholars ofnumerous faiths.
In chapter II, on doctaries of the Indian (Hindu) people, variousIndian traditions are described.
The section XI "On the tenets held by the followers of Buddha" isactually all about Jainism. It presents an extremely rare view ofJainism, as viewed by an outsider. India was then country underMuslim rule, however the author's perspective is neither Muslim norHindu.

There are a couple of copies of the text in Khudabaksh Library.http://kblibrary.nic.in/Vol16/BP138.htm
The translation is by David Shea and Anthony Troyer done in 1843. Atthat time Jainism was not well known, and there appear to be someflaws intranslations.

The translators' notes are included below.

The translators had some difficulty with the word "Srivara". It mustbe from prakrit "sevada" i.e. swta-pata in Sanskrit, a term fromwhite-clad monks. The term Yati is applicable to to Swetambaras andDigambaras, but it seems that the author was mostly familiar with Swetambaras.

Obviously Lunugi=followers of Lonka Shah and Pujaris=murtipujak.
Yashwant Malaiya

These sectaries are also called Jatis.*1 They have no belief inincarnations or Avatars of the Deity, but they admit the trans­migration of the soul into different bodies; they deny several otherdogmas of the Hindus; in their opinion, nothing is more detestablethan the doctrine of the Brahmans, and when a misfortune befals anyone of them, they say: "Hast thou perchance done some good to aBrahman, or drunk some water of the bone devourer: so they call theGanges, because the Hindus, after the burning of the dead, throwtheir bones into that river, and think it a meritorious act.

The Jatis take the greatest care of not hurting a living being; onwhich account they do not like to pass through water, for fear thatan animal might come under their feet. They eat no animal food,never put their feet upon grass, and when they drink water, theyfilter it first through a handkerchief or a piece of cloth, that noliving animal may remain in it, and then steep this piece of clothawhile in water, in order that, if a living being stick thereto, itmay be separated, and take its place in the liquid.

A great number of the Banians or traders are of this sect; for themost part they sell corn, and some get a livelihood as servants. Thedurvishes of this class are called Srivaras and Jatis.*2 They pluckthe hair of their head and beard by means of tweezers.*3 When theytravel, they carry a besom of the bark of a soft tree with them, andout of regard for the life of animals, they sweep the road with itbefore they put down their feet, that no living insect may bedestroyed. When they speak, they hold a hand­kerchief before theirmouth, not to swallow a fly or other insect.

They are frequently learned, and pass their life in celibacy andsanctity; these they call Jatis, who never behold the face of awoman. Those of this sect who are married, called Grihastfa,* showgreat regard for the Jatis, before whom, by a refinement of respect,they scarce dare bend their body. When­ever they receive a Jati intheir house, they do what­ever he orders, according to their power.

They are divided into two classes: the Lunugi and Pujaris. The firstare those who adore God as one, and think him free from allimperfections and contradictions, descents and conjunctions, and whoworship no idol. The Pujaris venerate the image of a deity, and havetemples for it. The durvishes of both classes, called Jatis, at thetime of taking meals, go into the houses of friends, and take onlyas much food as may not cause a privation to the people of thehouse: thus they visit several houses until they get satiated. Theydrink no cold water, but go from place to place, and wherever anybody has warm water for bathing, they take a little of it, andhaving thus collected sufficient water, they let it cool and thendrink it.

Similar to the durvishes of both classes is a third sect, calledMaha-atma; they have the dress and appearance of Jatis; only they donot pluck their hair with tweezers, but cut it. They accumulatemoney, cook their meal in their houses, drink cold water, and taketo them a wife.
Farzanah Khushi says: I saw, in Guzerat of the Panjab, a srivara,and requested him to give me a full account, which may be deemedtrue beyond any doubt, of the people of his sect. He related asfollows: "The men of my faith may live retired from the world, ordevoted to business; they do no harm to any body; but there are manyof them eager for science, and as many bereft of knowledge."

One of the Mahaatmas was a learned man; the wife of a rich mandevoted her­self to his service; one day she complained to him of theunkindness of her husband; the srivara gave no answer; wherefore thewoman said: "Another time I will not wait on thee, because thoutakest no interest in me." The srivara rejoined: "If even thy visitwere agreeable to me, it would be of no service to thee." He thentook up a bit of grass, and having breathed upon it, gave it to thewoman, saying: "Put on a clean garment, and having ground the grass, rub it upon thy garment until thy husband becomes kind to thee." Thewoman returned to her house, and having ground the grass upon astone, intended to rub it upon her garment, when the husband enteredinto the room, therefore the grass she had ground remained upon thestone. When night fell in, they shut the door of the house. Thestone at every moment jumped from its place, knocked against theboard of the door, and fell back: the woman and her husband wereastonished. The man asked his wife the reason of it, and she, fromfear, told him what had taken place. The man rose and opened thedoor of the house; the stone was set in motion, and rolled on untilit reached the house of the Mahaatma.

Many other similar stories are told of the Srivaras. Khushi saidthat he had seen the Jati just mentioned, who by the power ofincantation put stones into motion; he praised him, but declaredthat this man was really a Jati, but not a Maha-atma.

The author of this book affirms he has seen a great number ofSrivaras and their followers. From them he knew Meher chand, a Lunu,in the year 1056 of the Hejira (1646 A. D.), in Dotarah, which isunder the dominion of Jodpur Marawar, he found also Siva rama, aPujari, in Mirta, which place belongs to Marawar, and one namedJagna, a Banian, in Rawel Pandi: he was adorned with all the goodqualities of Jatis. When he saw a bird in the hands of a fowler, hebought it of him and set it free.

This sect do what­ever they can for the liberation of living beings.Many of them are rajas in several places and countries. When onebrings a goat which he has bought somewhere, and is disposed to killit, they come from their shops and buy the animal at a high price;thus it has been seen that, having assembled from person to takecare of them. It is said, that in Guze­all hands a great number ofsheep, they appointed a rat lived a Banian who was a Jati; one day,a Musel­man Durvish sat down before his shop, and having pickedvermin from his coat, was about to kill it; the Banian interposed;the Durvish said: "If thou wilt give me something, I may spare it;"the Banian offered a pie;*1 the other wanted more and more, untilthe bargain closed with the sum of one hundred rupees, which theBanian paid for the liberation of the offensive insect.

Hafiz Shirazi says:
"Avoid hurting any living animal, and do whatever thou likest,For in my book of laws there is no crime but this."

1. More correctly Yatis. See note, p. 195. This section appears toapply more properly to the Jainas, that is, to one of the greatdivisions of the followers of Buddha. The Jainas are subdivided intoa great num­ber of tribes and religious sects, a long series of whichis enumerated in the work quoted by Lieut.-Col. Miles (p. 351-363).

2. In the note, p. 195, are mentioned the Jatis, or Yatis, alsocalled Sevras among the Jainas of Guzerat and Marwar. According tothe same authority (Transact. R. A. S., vol. III. p. 344), these aredistin­guished from the Sravakas, as the laity of the Jainas arecalled in that country.

According to Major de la Maine (work quoted,vol. I. p. 413), the Sravacs are the only considerable part of theearlier Jains or Arhats. "Sravakas," says Doctor Buchanan Hamilton(ibid., p. 531), "is the name given to the Jains in the districts ofBahar and Patna." The three authors just quoted agree in statingthat the priests of the Sravakas are called Yatis. The Dabistanreads , Srivarah, which may be correct "the electof happiness."

3. Lunchita-kesa, "hair-pluckers," is one of the nicknames given tothe Swetambaras, "clad in white," a sect of the Jainas (Colebrooke,work quoted, p. 551).

4. "A householder."

1 comment:

Jyoti said...

Excellent post. This is something unusual that a Persian has written some thing about Jain and Jainism.

I came across a farshi stotra in 1970s written in the period of Alauddin khiljee.

Thanks for a nice post.
Jyoti Kothari

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