Jainism, alongside Buddhism and Hinduism, is one of the three most ancient religions of India. Teaching a path to spirituality through living a life of nonviolence and renunciation, Jains live a simple and peaceful life. ‘Jain’ derives from the Sanskrit verb to conquer; referring to the belief that one must overcome one’s desires and bodily senses to reach enlightenment. Jains take their guidance from the 24 ‘victors’, or Jinas, who have broken the cycle of birth and rebirth therefore achieving liberation. These Jinas, or more commonly knows as Tirthankaras act as role models to practicing Jains.

The Jain motto is Parasparopagraho Jīvānām, ‘souls render service to one another’. Devout Jains also take 5 main oaths; ahiṃsā (non-violence), satya (truth), asteya (not stealing), brahmacharya (celibacy), and aparigraha (non-attachment). This pledge to selflessness and peacefulness has inspired other religions – Gandhi was an admirer of Jainism; inspired by their practices he adopted a non-violence policy for his independence movement.

You will encounter Jainism at the impressive Ranakpur temples, constructed in the 15th C, it is one of the most important temples of Jain culture. Look out for the stunning carvings throughout the temples; famed for their intricacy, they demonstrate the refined skill of Rajasthani craftsmen over 600 years ago. The Chaumukha temple is the most important; a masterpiece of architecture, it is renowned throughout the world for its superior style, with 24 pillared halls and 80 domes supported by 400 columns. Make sure to notice the columns; incredibly every one boasts its own unique design!

Surrounded by this awe-inspiring setting, you can learn first-hand about Jainism, experiencing its culture and practices, by joining the Jain pilgrims for lunch. The nature of Jainism means that the majority lead a strictly vegetarian lifestyle in order to avoid harm to animals and their life-cycles. We can promise, having experienced it ourselves, that lunch is delicious; featuring an excellent thali (a platter of food consisting of many dishes) that you must eat with your right hand. Portions will be handed around – but be careful not to let your eyes be too big for your stomach, finishing your plate is very important! Leave this unique experience with not only full stomachs, but also a new understanding of this beautiful culture and, hopefully, a peaceful and renewed outlook on life.

Author: Katy Landles @katylandles_art.

Discovering: Lunch with the Jain Pilgrims

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