JAINpedia the website
JAINpedia’s three principal aims of increasing knowledge among Jains and non-Jains and offering academic resources are met by creating several areas in the website. Each piece is closely integrated with other parts, producing a seamlessly rich online experience.
There are two chief types of content in the JAINpedia website proper – images and contextual material. The contextual material helps website visitors understand more about the photographs of the manuscripts, which are at the core of the website, and about the Jain faith more widely.
At the heart of JAINpedia are the high-quality digital photographs of selected items from leading cultural and research institutions in the UK. These digitised gems of Jain collections have been acquired by the Institute of Jainology from the project content partners: the British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Wellcome Trust Library and the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford.
Most of the thousands of images are of manuscripts but statues and other artefacts will be included in due course. Most of them have never been on public view before. Each image is copyrighted to the holding institution and full credits are given.
To help JAINpedia users understand the images, there is a host of contextual content to explain what is on display. There are now four main types of contextual content:
There is a multitude of further contextual content, offering a variety of ways to find out more about Jainism, both in its ancient past and its vibrant present.
The encyclopaedia offers the most detailed and comprehensive background material to help understand the images on JAINpedia and the Jain faith more widely. It currently holds 128 articles, with many more planned. The aricles are arranged in four themes, called People, Principles, Practices and Places. Each one contains introductory articles and subthemes with articles covering aspects of the topic in more depth.
Each article is especially commissioned from invited scholars who cover their research interests. Most articles are written by Professor Nalini Balbir of the Sorbonne, JAINpedia’s editorial director and one of the most distinguished scholars of Jainism in the world.
The other main type of contextual content is the manuscript descriptions. Found in the Manuscripts section, this description consists of up to six parts.
Every manuscript folio has two sides, each captured in an archival-quality digital image. Each individual image has full metadata comprising details such as manuscript title, shelfmark, holding institution, language and date of composition.
The full set of contextual material for an image consists of:
- a detailed description of the individual image
- information on the story or background of the text
- a translation of the text in the image
- a transliteration of the text in the image
- individual glossary
- individual reading list
- related JAINpedia articles
- related JAINpedia manuscript images
- related JAINpedia manuscripts.
At present, only selected images have the full set of contextual information, yet over time more contextual information is being added to each image. Eventually each image will have complete contextual material, making JAINpedia manuscripts an extremely rich resource that is unprecedented on the world wide web.
This interactive feature helps website visitors put Jain history and the Jain present into perspective. The timeline presents significant events in Jain tradition and history alongside important events and periods in wider Indian and world history, so viewers can see how it all fits together.
The timeline begins in the present day, allowing visitors to scroll to the left to see what has happened in the past. Each event can be clicked for a summary and all Jain events contain pictures and links to JAINpedia articles that offer more information. A full legend provides the key to various types of events.
Even more timeline events are planned, filling out past and present in even more detail. Website viewers can reach the timeline via the main menu.
This archive of publications offers high-quality digital reproductions of magazines and books of various kinds. All past editions of the international magazine Jain Spirit are available via the e-Library, along with books published by the renowned L. D. Institute of Indology in India.
More publications are being added all the time, enabling website visitors direct access to a treasure trove of knowledge about the Jain faith, especially contemporary Jainism around the world.
JAINpedia viewers can look at what’s in the e-Library through the link in the main menu.
Other contextual content
To help website visitors gain a deeper understanding of the manuscript images and of the Jain faith, there are many other kinds of contextual information on JAINpedia. The table shows this contextual material, mostly found in the Resources section of the website.
FAQs about Jainism
defining a Jain manuscript
reading a Jain manuscript
guide to Indian languages
FAQs about the website
The glossary, image galleries, reading lists and links are all expanding even further as yet more articles and manuscript descriptions are added to the website, ensuring that the JAINpedia experience continues to improve.
A list of the most important events and periods in Jain history and tradition is provided in the chronology. It complements the interactive timeline, and includes dates according to the various traditions of the Jain faith as well as dates established among academic researchers.
Available in the Resources section, the chronology offers a quick summary of the history of Jainism down to the contemporary period.
The ever-expanding glossary contains definitions of words and phrases. The glossary chiefly covers the following types of word or phrase:
Jain beliefs, concepts and practices
general religious concepts and practices
key individuals, organisations, titles and events in Jain belief and practice
Māhavīra, Digambara, ācārya, Dīvālī
other relevant key individuals, organisations or religions
Buddha, British Raj, Islam
dating systems, Indian culture and history, and historical individuals
VS, Devanāgārī script, Moghul period, Akbar the Great
The glossary can be viewed in three different ways.
Looking at encyclopaedia articles or manuscript descriptions, the visitor can see words or phrases in the text that are blue. These indicate that the word or phrase is glossed. Moving the mouse over the glossed item brings up a box containing a definition so the visitor can see the definition and smoothly continue reading.
Clicking the ‘Glossary’ tab at of each encyclopaedia article page produces a list of the glossed words and phrases in that article, so it can be printed easily.
Images and galleries
Each article in the encyclopaedia has at least one media item or picture, adding an extra, colourful dimension to the JAINpedia experience.
The media for each article can be seen on the page when reading the article or it can be viewed separately, using the tab on the top of each article page.
All the images in the encyclopaedia are collected together into four groups, categorised by theme. These image galleries enable website visitors to browse all the images in a theme, examining each in turn.
Each encyclopaedia article and manuscript description has a reading list for website visitors who wish to explore the topic in more depth. For articles, this can be looked at and printed out separately.
Visitors can also see the full reading list, which includes all the books, articles and websites referenced across JAINpedia, by selecting the Resources option in the main menu. Clicking on the phrase ‘Full details’ below a publication takes the website visitor to more information, which often includes a link to the full text or a selection from it.
Each manuscript description and encyclopaedia article has two sets of hyperlinks.
The first set contains customised lists of related articles, related manuscript images and related full manuscripts on JAINpedia. These related links are editorially selected to enhance the website experience, showing how the various materials on JAINpedia support and complement each other. Where the lists of related manuscripts and manuscript images are long, only four at a time are displayed. Each time the page is loaded, there will be a fresh set of four to explore.
The second set consists of hyperlinks to carefully chosen content on the world wide web. Including videos, photographs, background information, essays, prayers, commentaries and holy texts. These websites offer a good starting point to research Jain-related material online. Again, all the web links across the site are collected under the Links title in the Resources section, found in the menu at the top of each page.
Many JAINpedia visitors will not be very familiar with Jainism, which has a small number of followers in the UK and is a minority faith in its homeland of India. Even those born into Jain families may not know much about certain aspects of their faith and culture. A comprehensive set of answers to frequently asked questions has been compiled to help provide basic knowledge of Jainism quickly.
Pronunciation and Indian languages
A guide showing how to pronounce Indian letters enhances the JAINpedia experience. Knowing how to produce certain letters or sounds that are not found in English makes it much easier to say Indian words reasonably accurately. This guide also offers brief information about the transliteration and pronounciation of letters in the Devanāgarī script.
The Devanāgarī script is part of the Brahmic family of scripts of India and is used to write many Indian languages. It is almost exclusively used in publishing sacred Sanskrit texts.
The use of Indian words has been kept to a minimum throughout the website and English translation or the equivalent has been used where possible. As explained in the Indian languages article, this is so everyone can easily explore the resource. Indian names, titles and concepts are usually glossed and are often explained in the text as well. The pronunciation guide and the article on Indian languages are in the Resources section, found via the main menu.
Find out more about the method of using and transliterating Indian languages in the editorial approach pages.
Articles on Jain manuscripts
In addition to a proud history of oral works, Jains have long been associated with the written word. Indeed, Jains are known as the story-tellers of India and have preserved and spread much of the literature of the Indian subcontinent down the millennia. The question of what makes a manuscript Jain is covered in a dedicated illustrated article.
Jain manuscripts have their own conventions in terms of layout, numbering, commenting, artwork and so on. The illustrated article called ‘How to read a Jain manuscript‘ provides a guide to understanding these beautiful manuscripts, which contain the key elements of Jain life in both the past and the present.
Both these special articles are found in the Resources section.
This page offers background to the content of the JAINpedia website. The history of Jain manuscripts in the West is summarised, along with the reasons for the background of the authors of the encyclopaedia articles and the website’s majority of Śvetāmbara material.