Bhubaneswar: Odisha has been one the most-diverse states with historical accounts of different religions having originated and preached here. Among the popular cults is Jainism.
This religion that propagates peace, non-violence and love, was founded by 24th Tirthankara, Mahavir. His birth is, therefore, celebrated every year as Mahavir Jayanti.
It is said that the first Tirthankara, Adinath, was worshipped in Kalinga. According to various Jain texts, 11th Tirthankara was born in Simhapura, the capital of Kalinga. However, there are no historical evidence to prove them.
The sculptures and inscriptions at twin hills at Khandagiri-Udaygiri stand testimony to Jainism being one of the most practised religions in Odisha. They represent the preachings of Parshvanatha of 850 BC, who existed nearly 250 years before Mahavira. Religious texts of Jain say that Parshvanatha delivered sermons at Odisha’s Kupari (Kopakataka) and Vardhamana Mahavira taught at Toshali.
Besides, Murunda King Dharmadamodara patronized Jainism too. In the 3rd and 4th Century, Nala and Gupta dynasty let Jainism make its way into people’s lives.
Accounts of Chinese traveller Yuan Chwang also mentions popularity of Jainism in Odisha, when he visited the state in 7th Century A.D.
Though Jainism is somehow similar to Hinduism, one can still distinguish it with features of the idol that are being worshipped, like the position, kevala tree, flying gandharvas with garlands, umbrella and nudity of the image.
However, with time, Buddhism, Saivism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism took over the state that led to a decline in the Jain cult, but it still found its way to a certain section of the state.