Jain Literature

Jains have contributed to India's classical and popular literature. Almost all early Kannada literature and many Tamil works were written by Jains.

Some of the oldest known books in Hindi and Gujarati were written by Jain scholars. The first autobiography in Hindi, [Ardha-Kathanaka] was written by a Jain, Banarasidasa, an ardent follower of Acharya Kundakunda who lived in Agra.

The oldest Jain literature is in Shauraseni and Ardha-Magadhi Prakrit (Agamas, Agama-Tulya, Siddhanta texts, etc). Many classical texts are in Sanskrit (Tatvartha Sutra, Puranas, Kosh, Sravakacara, mathematics, Nighantus etc). "Abhidhana Rajendra Kosha" written by Acharya Rajendrasuri, is only one available Jain encyclopedia or Jain dictionary to understand the Jain Prakrit, Sanskrit, and Ardha-Magadhi and other Jain languages, words, their use and references with in oldest Jain literature. Later Jain literature was written in Apabhramsha (Kahas, rasas, and grammars), Hindi (Chhahadhala, Mokshamarga Prakashaka, and others), Tamil (Jivakacintamani and others), and Kannada (Vaddaradhane and various other texts). Jain versions of Ramayana and Mahabharata are found in Sanskrit, Prakrit, Apabhramsha and Kannada.

Jain Agams:

The Jain literature, which was compiled by Ganadharas and Srut-kevlis, is known as Agam Literature. These texts are the Holy Scriptures of the Jain religion. The Jain Agams consisted of:

1) 14 Purvas
2) 12 Ang-pravishtha-Agams and
3) Ang-bähya-Agams (34 for Shwetambar murtipujak, 21 for Shwetambar Sthanakväsi and 14 for Digambar).

With a view to establish order in the preaching of Lord Mahavir, Jain Acharyas assembled three times and prepared three recessions of the preaching. Whenever the Acharyas saw that the Shrut was waning and that there was disorderliness into it, they assembled and established order in it. No documentation occurred during the first recension (320 BC in Patliputra under the leadership of Sthulibhadra) but during the second (380 AD in Mathura and Vallabi under the leadership of Skandil and Nagarjun respectively) and third (520 AD in Vallabhi under the leadership of Devardhigani Acharya) conferences most of the scriptures, commentaries, and other works were documented.

All sects agree that 14 Purvas and Drastiväd, 12th Ang-pravishtha-Agams are extinct. Digambars believe all Jain Agams are extinct, while Shwetambar sects accept the existing Jain Agams as authentic teachings of Lord Mahavir. However, Shwetambar murtipujak believe there are 34 Ang-bähya-Agams existing. While Shwetambar Sthanakväsi believes there are 21 Ang-bähya-Agams are existing.
The composition of scripture has a specific purpose of showing the listener the path of everlasting happiness and liberation. The Agam Sutras teach the eternal truth about conduct, equanimity, universal affection and friendship, and the eternal truths on thinking, namely, the principle of relativity, principle of non-one-sided-ness and many spiritual things including great reverence for all forms of life, soul, karma, universe, strict codes of asceticism, rules for householders, compassion, nonviolence, and non-possessiveness.

Jains believe that Ang-Agams were at all times in the past, are in the present, and will be at all times in the future. They are eternal, firm, permanent, non-destructive, non-decaying and everlasting.  Jains are people of books and there are many great books written on Jainism by many great Ächäryas and scholars.