ABSTRACT

At the dawn of the sixteenth century, Jains were mainly concentrated in Rajasthan and Gujarat although in ancient times they were an important component of the population in the plains of north India. Under the Turko-Afghans, they had dwindled 1 considerably in the Gangetic plain; however, the Rajasthani and Gujarati Jains did not forget their association with the eastern region: several of their holy places such as those associated with the life and death of tirthankaras and other teachers were situated in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. 2 This is evident from a number of inscriptions of the late fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries discovered in these places. 3 However, we have no information regarding their professional activities in eastern India during this period though they were active in Delhi, where they enjoyed the respect and favour of the Delhi sultans such as Ala-ud-din Khilji, Muhammad bin Tughluq and Firuz Tughluq. 4 This seems to have induced a stream of emigration to eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, as a result of which the Jain presence in the local population must have been strengthened. 5 We find references to settlement of rich Jain traders in Uttar Pradesh between the rivers Yamuna and Ganga in the first quarter of the sixteenth century. 6 But their role in the economic life is not clear as no information is available. The turning point in the history of Jains comes in the time of Akbar the Great when we start meeting them again in ever increasing numbers. Several factors contributed to this. From then onwards, the stream never dried up, though the volume occasionally fluctuated.