Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions - ASPECTS OF JAINA RELIGION

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(B) Minor Points of Differences

Leaving aside the trivial differences in rituals, customs and manners, the following are some of the minor points on which the two sects of Digambaras and Svetimbaras do not agree:

(i) Embryo of Mahavira

The Svetambaras believe that Mahavira was born of a Ksatriya lady, Trisala, though conception took place in the womb of a Brahmana lady, Devananda. The change of embryo is believed to have been effected by God Indra on the eightythird day after conception. The Digambaras, however, dismiss the whole episde as unreliable and absurd.

(ii) Marriage of Mahavira

The Svetambaras believe that Mahavira married Princess Yasoda at a fairly young age and had a daughter from her by name Anojja or Priyadarsana and that Mahavira led a full�fledged householder�s life till he was thirty, when he became an ascetic. But the Digambaras deny this assertion altogether.

(iii) Tirthankara Mallinatha

The Svetambaras consider Mallinatha, the 19th Tirthankara. as a female by name Malli but the Digambaras state that Mallinatha was a male.

(iv) Idols of Tirthankaras

The Svetambara tradition depicts the idols of �Tirthankaras as wearing a loin-cloth, bedecked with jewels and with glass eyes inserted in the marble. But the Digambara tradition represents the idols of Tirthankaras as nude. unadorned and with down�cast eyes in the contemplative mood.

(v) Canonical Literature

The Svetimbaras believe in the validity and sacredness of canonical literature, that is, the twelve angas and sutras, as they exist now, while the Digambaras hold that the original and genuine texts were lost long ago. The Digambaras also refuse to accept the achievements of the first council which met under the leadership of Acharya Sthu-labhadra and consequently the recasting of the angas.

(vi) Charitras and Puranas

The Swetambaras use the term `Charitra� and the Digambaras make use of the term `Purana� for the biographies of great teachers.

(vii) Food of Ascetics

The Svetambara monks collect their food from different houses while the Digambara monks take food standing and with the help of knotted upturned palms and in one house only where their sarikalpa (preconceived idea) is fulfilled.

(viii) Dress of Ascetics

The Swetambara monks wear white clothes, but the Digambara. monks of the ideal nirgrantha type are naked.

(ix) Possessions of Ascetics

The Svetambara ascetic is allowed to have fourteen posses�sions including loin-cloth, shoulder-cloth, etc. But the Digambara ascetic is allowed only two possessions (viz., a the pichhi, a peacock-feather whisk-broom) and a kamanctalu (a wooden water-pot).


The division of the Jaina religion into two sects was only the beginning of splitting the religious order into various sub-sects. Each of the two great sects, viz., the Digambara sect and the Svetambara sect, got sub-divided into different major and minor sub-sects according to the differences in acknowledging or interpreting the religious texts and in the observance of religious practices. These major and minor sub�sects gradually sprang up for the most part on account of different interpretations the pontiffs put on the canonical texts from time to time and due to revolt or opposition by sections of people against the established religious authorities and the traditional religious rites and rituals.

The Digambara sect, in recent centuries, has been divided into the following sub-sects :

(A) Major sub-sects :

(i) Bisapantha,

(ii) Terapantha, and

(iii) Taranapantha or Samaiyapantha.

(B) Minor sub-sects :

(i) Gumanapantha

(ii) Totapantha.

(1) Bisapantha

The followers of Bisapantha support the Dharma-gurus, that is, religious authorities known as Bhattarakas who are also the heads of Jaina Mathas, that is, religious monasteries. The Bisapanthis, in their temples, worship the idols of Tirthankaras and also the idols of Ksetrapala, Padmavati and other deities. They worship these idols with saffron, flowers, fruits; sweets, scented `agara-battis�, i.e., incense sticks, etc. While performing these worships, the Bisapanthis sit on the ground and do not stand. They perform Arati, i.e., waving of lights over the idol, in the temple even at night and distribute prasada, i.e., sweet things offered to the idols. The Bisapantha, according to some, is the original form of the Digambara sect and today practically all Digambara Jainas from Maharashtra, Karnataka and South India and a large number of Digambara Jainas from Rajasthan and Gujarat are the followers of Bisapatha.

(2) Terapantha

Terapantha arose in North India in the year 1683 of the Vikrama Era as a revolt against the domination and conduct of the Bhattarakas. i.e, religious authorities, of the Digambara Jainas. As a result in this sub-sect, the Bhattarakas are not much respected. In their temples, the Terapanthis instal the idols of Tirthankaras and not of Ksetrapala, Padmavati� and other deities. Further, they worship the idols not with flowers, fruits and other green vegetables (known as sachitta things), but with sacred rice called `Aksata�, cloves,, sandal, almonds, dry coconuts, dates, etc. As a rule they do not perform Arati or distribute Prasada in their temples. Again, while worshipping they stand and do not sit.

From these differences with the Bisapanthis it is clear that the Terapanthis appear to be reformers. They are opposed to various religious practices, as according to them. these are not real Jaina practices. The Terapantha had performed a valuable task of rescuing the Digambaras from the clutches of wayward Bhattarakas and hence the Terapanthis occupy a peculiar position in the Digambara Jaina community. The Terapanthis are more numerous in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

It is pertinent to note that even though the name Terapantha sub�sect appears both among the Digambara and the Svetambara sects, still the two Terapanthis are entirely different from each other. While the Digambara Terspanthis believe in nudity and idol-worship, the Svetambara Terapanthis are quite opposed to both.

(3) Taranapantha

The sub-sect Taranapantha is known after its founder Tarana-Svami or Tirana-tarana-Svami (1448-1515 A.D.). This sub-sect is also called Samaiya-Pantha because its followers worship Samaya, i.e., sacred books and not the idols. Tirana-Svami died at Malharagarh, in former Gwalior State in Madhya Pradesh, and this is the central place of pilgrimage of Taranapanthis.

The Taranapanthis strongly refute idolatry but they have their own temples in whcih they keep their sacred books for worship. They do not offer articles like fruits and flowers at the time of worship. Besides the sacred books of the Digambaras, thev also worship the fourteeen sacred books written by their founder Tirana-Svami. Further, Taranapanthis give more importance to spiritual values and the study of sacred literature. That is why we find a complete absence of outward religious practices among them. Moreover, Tirana-Svami was firmly against the caste-distictions and in fact threw open the doors of his sub-sect even to Muslims and low-caste people.

These three� main traits of the Taranapanthis, namely, (a) the aversion to idol worship, (b) the absence of outward religious practices, and (c) the ban on caste distinctions, were evolved as a revolt against the religious beliefs and practices prevailing in the Digambara Jaina sect, and it appears that Tirana-svami might have formulated these principles under the direct influence of Islamic doctrines and the teachings of Lorikashaha, the founder of the non�idolatrous Sthanakvasi sub-sect of the Swetambara sect.

The Taranapanthis are few in number and they are mostly confined to Bundelkhand, Malwa area of Madhya Pradesh and Khandesh area of Maharashtra.

(4) Gumanapantha

The Gumanapantha is not so important and in fact very little is known about it. It is stated that this sub-sect was started by Pandit Gumani Rama or Gumani Rai, who was a son of Pandit Todaramal, a resident of Jaipur in Rajasthan.

According to this Pantha, lighting of candles or lamps in the Jaina temples is strictly prohibited, because it regards this as a violation of the fundamental doctrine of Jaina religion, viz., non-violence. They only visit and view the image in the temples and do not make any offerings to them.

This pantha became famous in the name of suddha amnaya, that is pure or sacred tradition, because its followers always stressed the purity of conduct and self-discipline and strict adherence to the precepts.

Gumanapantha originated in the 18th.Century A.D. and flourished mainly during that century. It was prevalent in several parts of Rajasthan, and it is found now in some areas of Rajasthan around Jaipur.

(5) Totapantha

The Totapantha came into existence as a result of differences between the Bisapantha and Terapantha sub-sects. Many sincere efforts were made to strike a compromise between the Bisa (i.e. twenty) Pantha and the Tera (i.e., thirteen) pantha and the outcome was sadhesolaha (i.e., sixteen and a half)-Pantha or `Totapantha�. That is why the followers of Sadhesolaha Pantha or Totapantha believe to some extent in the doctrines of Bisapantha and to some extent in those of Terapantha.

The Totapanthis are extremely few in number and are found in some pockets in Madhya Pradesh.

In connection with the account of the major and minor sub-sects prevailing among the Digambara sect, it is worth while to note that in recent years in the Digambara sect a new major sub-sect known as `Kanaji-pantha�, consisting of the followers of Kanaji Svami is being formed and is getting popular especially among the educated sections. Saint Kanaji Svami (from whom the name `Kanaji-pantha� is derived), a Swetambara-Sthanakavasi by birth, largely succeeded in popularising the old sacred texts of the great Digambara Jaina saint Acharya Kundakunda of South India. But Kanaji Svami s efforts, while interpreting Acharya Kunda kunda�s writings, to give more promi�nence to nischaya-naya, that is, realistic point of view, in preference to vyavahara-naya, that is, practical view point, are not approved by the Digambaras in general as they consider that both the view points are of equal importance. However, the influence of Kanajipantha is steadily increasing and Sonagarh town in Gujarat and Jaipui in Rajasthan have become the centres of varied religious activities of the Kanaji�panthis.


Like the Digambara sect, the Swetambara sect has also been split into three main sub-sects:

(i) Murtipujaka,

(ii) Sthanakavasi, and

(iii) Terapanthi.

(1) Murtipujaka

The original stock of the Swetambaras is known as Murtipuja Swetambaras since they are the thorough worshippers of idols. They offer flowers; fruits, saffron, etc. to their. idols and invariably adorn them with rich clothes and jewelled ornaments.

Their ascetics cover their mouth with strips of cloth while speaking, otherwise they keep them in their hands. They stay in temples or in the specially reserved buildings known as upasrayas. They collect food in their bowls from the sravakas or householders� houses and eat at their place of stay.

The Murtipujaka sub-sect is also known by terms like (i) Pujera (worshippers), (ii) Deravasi (temple residents), (iii) Chaitya-vasi (temple residents) and (iv) Mandira-margi (temple goers)

The Murtipujaka Swetarnbaras are found scattered all over India for business purposes in large urban centres, still they are concen�trated mostly in Gujarat .

(2) Sthanakavasi

The Sthanakarasis arose not directly from the Svetambaras but as reformers of an older reforming sect, viz., the Lorika sect of Jainism. This Lorika sect was founded in about 1474 A.D. by Lorikasaha, a rich and well-read merchant of Ahmedabad. The main principle of this sect was not to practise idol-worship. Later on, some of the members of the Lorika sect disapproved of the ways of life of their ascetics, declaring that they lived less strictly than Mahavira would have wished. A Lorika sect layman, Viraji of Surat, received initiation as a Yati, i.e., an ascetic, and won great admiration on account of the strictness of his life. Many people of the Lorika sect joined this reformer and they took the name of Sthanakavasis, meaning those who do not have their religious activities in temples but carry on their religious duties in places known as Sthanakas which are like prayer�halls.

The Sthanakavasis are also called by terms as (a) Dhundhiya (searchers) and (b) sadhumurgis (followers of Sadhus, i.e., ascetics). Except on the crucial point of idol-worship, Sthanakavasis do not differ much from other Swetambara Jainas and hence now-a-days they invariably call themselves as Swetambara Sthanakvasis.

However, there are some differences between the Sthanakavasi and the Murtipujaka Svetambaras in the observance of some religious practices. The Sthanakavasis do not believe in idol-worship at all. As such they do not have temples but only sthanakas, that is, prayer halls, where they carry on their religious fasts, festivals, practices, prayers, discourses, etc. Further, the ascetics of Sthanakavasis cover their mouths with strips of cloth for all the time and they do not use the cloth of yellow or any other colour (of course, except white). Moreover, the Sthanakavasis admit the authenticity of only 31 of the scriptures of Swetambaras. Furthermore, the Sthanakavasis�s do not have faith in the places of pilgrimage and do not participate in the religious festivals of Murtipujaka Swetambaras.

The Swetambara Sthanakavasis are also spread in different business centres in India but they are found mainly in Gujarat, Punjab, Harayana and Rajasthan.

It is interesting to note that the two non-idolatrous sub-sects, viz., Taranapanthis among the Digambaras and Sthanakavasis among the Swetambaras, came very late in the history of the Jaina Church and to some extent it can safely be said that the Muhammedan influence on the religious mind of India was greatly responsible for their rise. In� this connection Mrs. S. Stevenson observes: �If one effect of the Muhammedan conquest, however, was to drive many of the Jainas into closer union with their fellow idol-worshippers in the face of iconoclasts, another effect was to drive others away from idolatry altogether. No oriental could hear a fellow oriental�s passionate out�cry against idolatry without doubts as to the righteousness of the practice entering his mind, Naturally enough it is in Ahmedabad, the city of Gujarat, that was most under Muhammedan influence, that we can first trace the stirring of these doubts. About 1474 A.D. the Lorika sect, the first of the non-idolatrous Jaina sects, arose and was followed by the Dhundhiya or Sthanakavasi sect about 1653 A.D., dates which coincide strikingly with the Lutherian and Puritan movements in Europe.� (vide Heart of Jainism , p. 19).

(3) Terapanthi

The terapanthi sub-sect is derived from the Sthanakavasi section. The Terapanthi sub-sect was founded by Svami Bhilckanaji Maharaja. Svami Bhikkanaji was formerly a Sthanakavasi saint and had initia�tion from his Guru, by name Acharya Raghunatha. Svami Bhikkanaji had differences with his Guru on several aspects of religious practices of Sthanakavasi ascetics and when these took a serious turn, he founded Terapantha on the full-moon day in the month of Asadha in the year V.S. 1817, i.e., 1760 A.D.

As Acharya Bhlckanaji laid stress on the 13 religious principles, namely, (i) five Mahavratas (great vows), (ii) five samitis (regulations) and (iii) three Guptis (controls or restraints), his sub-sect was known as the Tera (meaning thirteen)-pantha sub-sect. In this connection it is interesting to note that two other interpretations have been given for the use of the term Terapantha for the sub-sect. According to one account, it is mentioned that as there were only 13 monks and 13 laymen in the pantha when it was founded, it was called as Tera (meaning thirteen) pantha. Sometimes another interpretation of the term Terapantha is given by its followers. Tera means yours and pantha means path; in other words, it means , �Oh! Lord Mahavira! it is Thy path�.

The Terapanthis are non-idolatrous and are very finely organised under the complete direction of one Acharya, that is, religious head. In its history of little more than 200 years, the Terapantha had a succession of only 9 Acharyas from the founder Acharya Bhikkanaji as the First Acharya to the present Acharya Tulasi as the 9th Acharya. This practice of regulating the entire Pantha by one Acharya only has become a characteristic feature of the Terapantha and an example for emulation by other Panthas. It is noteworthy that all monks and nuns of the Terapantha scrupulously follow the orders of their Acharya, preach under his guidance and carry out all religious activities in accordance with his instructions. Further, the Terapantha regularly observes a remarkable festival known as Maryada Mahotasava. This distinctive festival is celebrated every year on the 7th day of the bright half of the month of Magha when all ascetics and lay disciples, male and female, meet together at one predetermined place and discuss the various problems of Terapanthi.s.

The penance of Terapanthis is considered to be very severe. The dress of Terapanthi monks and nuns is akin to that of Sthanakavasi monks and nuns. But there is a difference in the length of murimhapatti, i.e., a piece of white cloth kept always on the mouth. The Terapanthis believe that idolatry does not provide deliverance and attach importance to the practice of meditation.

Further, it may be stressed that the Terapantha is known for its disciplined organisation characterised by one Acharya (i.e., religious head), one code of conduct and one line of thought. The Terapanthis are considered reformists as they emphasise simplicity in religion. For example, the Terapanthis do not even construct monasteries for their monks, who inhabit a part of the house which the householders build for themselves. Recently their religious head, Acharya Tulasi, had started the Anuvrata Andolana, that is, the small vow movement, which attempts to utilise the spiritual doctrines of the Jainas for moral uplift of the masses in India.

The rise of Terapantha is the last big schism in the Svetambara sect and this Pantha is becoming popular. The Terapanthis are still limited in number and even though they are noticed in different cities in India, they are concentrated mainly in Bikaner, Jodhpur and Mewar areas of Rajasthan.