Studies in Jain Population and Demography
Edited by Prakash C. Jain, Rawat
What an ancient community needs to do to survive....
In the religion-charged atmosphere of contemporary Indian society, the enigma around the Jain population is a cause of comfort as well as curiosity. One of the oldest communities in the world, the Jains are known for wealth and philanthropy and a vegan lifestyle. That the Jains practise an ancient faith without drawing larger public interest is typical of what they stand for.
In this regard this book edited by sociologist and demographer Prakash C. Jain is a great attempt to explain the community that remains silent about its issues and concerns. Prof. Jain makes it clear that the community is the least studied in the pantheon of religions in India. The term micro-minority is taken by the Parsis for their numerical weakness, but they are lavishly documented in academia and sociology. Sadly, the same is not true for the Jains.
The volume indicates how the community survived more than 2,600 years in South Asia. Contributor Jagdish P. Sharma points out that the attitude of the community towards authority and power - 'maybe-ism' is a unique attribute that is both a philosophical pillar as well as a source of its strength.
The entire Jain population of India can be accommodated in a small city. As per the census of 2001, this highly urbanised community can be found in some of the major commercial and urban centres of India.
This book also points out that the Jains are perhaps the only community who have never really been politically mobilised in the history of the subcontinent and can be described as the eternal minority of India. Unlike Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, the Jains have not really been part of the political realm in a major way though they have played a significant role in the commercial evolution of India.
Jains are also among the most affluent global Indians as they constitute one of the oldest streams of Indians who immigrated to other places with the advent of colonialism in South Asia. In this time of religious fundamentalism while it is common to talk about reforms, it is noteworthy that the Jains attained several reform landmarks in the ancient era and carved a faith that allows little space for elaborate ritualism in daily life.
The antiquity of the Jains is also a problem for the community's demographic need as they maintain a taboo on widow remarriage which in turn prevents its numerical expansion. This book argues for reform in the ancient community in the way Jews and Parsis have been clamouring for a change in ancient practices to survive.