In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Hinduism and Jainism

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Early Western Encounters with Jainism
  • World Renunciation and the Origins of Jainism
  • Pre-Gupta Period, Up to 400 ce
  • Muslim Period, from 1200–1800 ce
  • Survival of Jainism and the Forging of a Jain Identity
  • Social Organization and Caste
  • Law
  • Ritual Worship
  • Art and Architecture
  • Tantra and Goddess Worship
  • Women’s Religious Practice
  • Modern Period

Hinduism Hinduism and Jainism
Jonathan Geen
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0048


For approximately 2,500 years, Hinduism and Jainism have coexisted in South Asia, leading to a long history of interaction and mutual influence, particularly in the areas of philosophy and mythology. However, being very much a minority community throughout most regions and time periods (currently comprising only 0.5 percent of the Indian population), the Jains have typically paid closer attention to Hindus than Hindus have to Jains. As a rule, at least until the 12th to 13th centuries CE, Hindus viewed Buddhists as their primary religious rival. This is reflected both in primary and in secondary sources, and much of the available material focusing on the intersection between Hinduism and Jainism comes from Jain texts or scholars of Jainism. This article, wherever possible, will highlight both primary and secondary sources that deal specifically with the intersection between Hinduism and Jainism in South Asia. For certain topics, however, little direct comparative work is available, and the reader will be left to his or her own devices, based on independent Hindu and Jain sources. Due to space constraints, primary-source references are kept to a minimum, because they could quickly fill the entire bibliography, though many of the relevant primary-source references may be obtained easily within the sources listed here.

General Overviews

Although separate discussions both of Hinduism and of Jainism will be found in any number of books on world religions, Asian religions, or South Asian religions, few (if any) of them include any significant examination of the intersection between the two traditions—and thus, no such works are referred to here. General introductions either to Hinduism or to Jainism also abound. Varying in scope and perspective, Flood 1996, Klostermaier 1994, and Doniger 2009 all offer solid introductions to the Hindu tradition, though relatively little mention of the Jains is to be found therein. Similarly, Glasenapp 1999, Jaini 1979, and Dundas 2002 all provide excellent overviews of the Jain tradition, with at least some cross reference to Hinduism.

  • Doniger, Wendy. The Hindus: An Alternative History. New York: Penguin, 2009.

    This work departs from the traditional narrative of Hinduism as formulated by male Brahmins and their Sanskrit texts, and instead uses indigenous narratives of priests and kings, as well as traditionally excluded voices, including those of low-caste folk and women, to reconstruct the Hindu tradition. This work pays slightly more attention to Jainism than the other two introductions to Hinduism mentioned here.

  • Dundas, Paul. The Jains. 2d ed. New York: Routledge, 2002.

    Currently, the best single-volume study of the Jain tradition available. It is both learned and readable but also well researched and remarkably up to date, with an extensive bibliography. Includes a nice synopsis on the controversial issue of whether Mahavira or Pārśva should be considered the historical founder of Jainism. It also includes an entire chapter on Jain attitudes toward Hinduism and Buddhism.

  • Flood, Gavin. An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

    An excellent, well-researched, concise (eleven chapters) and historico-thematic presentation of the Hindu tradition, with only sparse references to Jainism.

  • Glasenapp, Helmuth von. Jainism: An Indian Religion of Salvation. Translated by Shridhar B. Shrotri. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999.

    This ambitious and valuable work by one of the early German scholars of Jainism represents the first truly comprehensive account of the Jain tradition from its beginnings to modern times. It also contains a short section titled “Jainism and Hinduism.” Though parts of it are now dated, it remains a valuable resource. Originally published as Der Jainismus: Eine Indische Erlösungsreligion; nach den Quellen dargestellt (Berlin: Häger, 1925).

  • Jaini, Padmanabh S. The Jaina Path of Purification. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979.

    The first authoritative introduction to Jainism written in the English language, Glasenapp’s work not being translated until 1999. It remains an excellent and easily accessible introduction to Jainism, though it engages in little comparative work vis-à-vis Hinduism.

  • Klostermaier, Klaus K. A Survey of Hinduism. 2d ed. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994.

    An excellent (though more in-depth) thirty-chapter examination of the Hindu tradition, with copious notes and a valuable fifty-eight-page bibliography. References to Jainism are sparse.

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