“Jainism can never become a popular religion because of its asceticism,” says Hampa Nagarajaiah, an eminent Kannada scholar on Jainism. Popularly known by his pen name Hampana, Mr. Nagarajaiah is one of the foremost exponents of Jainism. Drawing comparison between Jainism and Buddhism and their popularity on Indian soil, he says Buddhism has compromised on food habits. “This has helped a sizeable population embrace the religion unlike Jainism which has adhered to its strict food habits. Many teachings of the two religions are similar. Buddhism gave so many concessions and yet did not survive in India mainly because it did not reconcile with other religions.”
He says the case of Jainism is different. “It has been, both influenced and left its own influence on Hinduism. The contribution of Jainism to the overall glory of Indian culture, art and architecture, sculpture and literature is enormous. The Jain community has always been in the mainstream strengthening the Indian culture.”
Born in 1936 at Hampasandra, a sleepy village in Kolar district of Karnataka, Mr. Nagarajaiah moved to Mysore for post-graduation in Kannada literature in 1959. He was soon appointed as a lecturer in Kannada and served the University of Mysore in various capacities before retiring in 1996. He has delivered guest lectures at renowned Universities in USA, UK and Germany.
Author of nearly 100 books – 75 in Kannada and 25 in English, some of his works have been translated in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Tulu, Gujarati, Rajasthani and Hindi. “I am basically a literature student but out of interest, I diverted to history, art and architecture. I read thousands of inscriptions and did some intensive and extensive field work. It helped me comprehend the visited tours of Jain leaders and the ups and downs of Jainism. The vast study, teachings of my gurus and close association with contemporary scholars stoked my curiosity to dig deeper in the subject.
Mr. Nagarajaiah is happy that even while adhering to its fundamental principles, Jainism has embraced modern technology. “Inter-caste marriages were unheard of in the past but they are happening now. Even in this business community, parents now allow education to their children. Jain monks and nuns who never crossed the sea are travelling abroad to spread the word of Jainism. Jain temples are coming up in Western countries and the scholars worldwide have started showing interest. “We have come a long way but we still have a long way to go,” says the scholar.