The Philately of Jainism

By Mr. Prakash Mody, Toronto, Canada


India is a secular country. In other words,  it does not encourage any particular religion as such. However, religion does play a dominant role in the lives of the millions of its citizens, and the influence of religions can be seen in philately. This  has been an area which has received positive encouragement from the government.

Indian stamps include many religious motifs. Some religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism originated in India: whereas Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism and others, came from outside and have survived well.

India Post has issued many stamps to reflect this mosaic, and continues to do so. Subjects of these stamps include portraits of founder-saints, commemorative issues of events, places, scenes from scriptures, cover pages of books, and personalities of various faiths. All  religions have been represented by Indian stamps. Even contribution of foreigners have been recognized by the issue of special stamps.

One such example is the one-Rupee stamp of Max Muller (1823-1900) who edited the Sacred books of East that was issued on the 15 July 1974. It is true that the issue-quantity of each stamp makes the subject of the stamp well known or popular.

Jains believe that the envelopes with stamps being canceled or post marked and later thrown off, it is inappropriate to have images  of the god or photographs of the saints on the stamps. Simple designs of motifs may be used to commemorate the occasion. Due to this reason, no stamp is issued of any Jain personality. Jains feel that once a person is worshipped then respect has to be given and due care be taken to maintain the reverence.

Since India's Independence Dayton 15 August 1947, nearly two thousand stamps have been released. Approximately ten percent of these stamps have a direct of indirect connection to religion. Of these numerous stamps, five stamps deal with Jainism. Jain form less than a percent of India's population.

In 1934, King George V issued a set of four stamps of shrines, for commemoration of the Silver Jubilee of his reign. One of stamps was an 1\4 Anna stamp of the Jain Temple of Calcutta. It displayed the traditional 18th century Jain shrine of Rushabhnath, who was the first of of the 24 Tirthankars. Jain follow the path preached and practiced by Tirthankars, who were also called Jinas, spiritual victors who have attained omniscience.

Another noteworthy Jain stamp was a 15-Rupees stamp of the Shatrunjaya Temple in Palitana, Kathiawar of Saurashtra, issued on the 15 August 1948. This temple is of 11th century focusing once  again of Rushabhnath.

Jains everywhere celebrated on 13 November 1947, the 2,500 the anniversary of Lord Mahavir attainment of Nirvana. Vardhaman Mahavir (599-527 B. C.) was the last of the 24th Tirthankars. On this occasion, a 25-paisa stamp depicting Jal Mandir (temple in a lake) of Pavapuri, Bihar was issued.

On 27 July 1978, a 25-Paisa stamp showing a mythological elephant (Airavat), a 19th century wood carving from a Jain temple in Kacucch, Gujrat was issued under the Treasures of Museums series.

A one-Rupee stamp of the Millennium of the Gommateshwara statue was issued on 9 February 1981. Chavundaraya, a royal minister, erected this 58 foot statue on top of a 300- foot hill in Shravanbelgola, Karnataka, a thousand years ago to honour Bahubali (981 A. D.). The second son of Rushabhnath, Bahubali contested for the empire with his brother Bharat. At the moment of victory, he renounced everything to seek salvation. Gomata, as the statue is called, is ritually anointed Mohamastakabhishekha, once every twelve year and is a center of attraction for Jains.

On the first death anniversary of Vikram Sarabhai (1919-1971), a 20-Paisa stamp showing him with his Rohini rocket and a dove,  was issued. He was Jain Scientist, whose efforts as the Chair of National Committee for Space Research earned his this stamp.



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