Jains have a long recorded history. While studying the history of India it is necessary to study the history of different Indian communities. Though small in number, Jains are very important in the economic and social life of the country.
Jain history becomes more important when we find that the community anticipated new commercial practices adopted by European trading countries from the sixteenth century onwards. It seems that while they gave up some of the traditions and practices in the country, their traditional social and cultural practices continued as before.
Two Jain names stand out in history; they are Veerji Vora, in the seventeenth century and Jagat Seth of Bengal in the eighteenth century. A succession of Jagat Seth interacted with high government officials and were very influential in their time as this volume brings out.
This volume contributes significantly to the study of merchant communities and colonial history in South Asia.
Surendra Gopal served as Lecturer, Reader and Professor in History Department, Patna University between 1958 and 1996. Along with teaching he carried out significant research work. The result has been more than 100 research papers and eight books. His latest book is Mapping Bihar: From medieval to Modern Times (2018).
Dr. Gopal has collected data for his works from English, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali and Russian sources.
Jainism has continuously flourished in India like Hinduism since ancient times. Buddhism flourished, when the twenty-fourth Jain Tirthankara, Mahavir was born. From then onwards Jainism has had a continuous history.
Jains have preserved their languages and memorialized their contribution to Philosophy, Ethics, Mathematics, etc., through the centuries. The Jain community has been basically literate and mostly engaged in trade activities. They deserve more attention by students of history.
In course of my study of medieval India, I came across repeated references to them in both European and Indian languages, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, etc. They are also mentioned in English, Dutch and other European accounts repeatedly.
Over the years I wrote quite a few essays on the Jain Community in various research journals and anthologies. These are collected here. Readers will find that in the seventeenth century Virji Vora was the greatest Indian merchant. In the eighteenth century a Jain family based in Bihar became the biggest merchant. The English East India Company agreed with the Mughal Emperor who conferred the title of lagat Seth' (world merchant) on the chief on head of this family. The title in course of time became hereditary.
Economic power soon placed them in the local political field. The English East India Company used them to their advantage. They became the de facto rulers of Bihar, Orissa and Bengal. This resource enabled the English Company to create an army which enabled them to establish their sway over India. I hope my essays on the community will attract scholars to write about them in detail.
It is my pleasure to remember friends who motivated me to write about the Jain community. The first place among them goes to Shri Ramesh Jain who persuaded me to collect these essays and publish them in a book form. My friend Prof. L.N. Ram, former Vice-Chancellor of Patna University has always encouraged me to write and publish my essays. I am grateful to Prof. Ejaz Hussain, Dr. Sanjay Garg and Ghufran Ahmad for help on several occasions.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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