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Legendary History

  Life of Parshva

Life of Vardhamana Mahavira

  The Jain Church After Mahavira
  Extension of Jainism -Early Period
  The Schisms
  History of the Digambaras
  Canonical Literature of the Shwetambaras
  Sacred Books of the Digambaras
  The Tirthankaras

The Sthaviravali of the Kalpa Sutra

  Sthaviravali of the NandiSutra
  The Pattavali (List of Pontiffs) of the (Shvetambara)

The Pattavali (List of Pontiffs) of the (Digambara)

  Jain Books
  Catalog of Books in English
  Catalog of Books in Hindi
  Catalog of Books in Gujarati
  List of Books, Topics & Sub-topics and Authors


The Svetambaras, as a distinctly separate church developed only after the Valabhi Council. This Council was held in the year 980 (or 993) after the death of Mahavira (about the middle of the 5th century AD) for the purpose of collecting the sacred texts and for reducing them to writing. It was presided over by Devarddhi Kshamasramna. An important work of this period was the completion of the Kalpa Sutra of Bhadrabahu. The whole of the Kalpa Sutra cannot be ascribed to Bhadrabahu who, had died 170 years after Mahavira. The Kalpa Sutra has three sections. The first section contains the Jinacaritra, "the biographies of the Jinas." The main portion in this section is the biography of Mahavira. The second section of the Kalpa Sutra consists of the Ther avali, i.e. the list of the pontiffs, and also the name of the schools (gana), their branches (sakha) and names of the heads of the school. This list contains names of the heads of the school. This list contains names of the pontiffs up to Devarddhi nearly 30 generations after Bhadrabayhu. Thus this list could not have been compiled by Bhadrabahu himself. The third section of the Kalpa Sutra contains the Samacari, or Rules for the ascetics, namely, the rules for the rainy season (Pajjusan). It has been conjectured that this, the oldest section of the Kalpa Sutra was the work of Bhadrabahu. Indeed the complete title of the Kalpa Sutra is Pajjosanakappa, though this name fits only the third section. The other two sections according to the tradition, were added later by Devarddhi.

So far as an ordinary Shvetambara layman is concerned the Kalpa Sutra is his most important sacred text. It is revered almost in the same manner by him as the Bhagavadgita is revered by an ordinary Hindu. The Kalpa Sutra in the present form is also the first text of the Shvetambara Church, not accepted by the Digmabaras.

In regard to the earlier literature of the Jains, i.e. the sayings of Mahavira and the principal Ganadharas, the Valabhi Council reduced to writing whatever the Council thought had been authentically handed down. These are the canonical books of the Svetambaras. They are called the Angas Upangas, etc. and number 45 in all. The Digambaras do not accept them as authentic and canonical, but do not reject them completely either.

During the nearly 10 centuries that passed between the death of Mahavira and the Vallabhi Council, many scholars had written commentaries on these Angas, Upangas, etc.

These commentaries are called Nijutis or Niryuktis. All these commentaries would necessarily be considered Shvetambara literature. Similar would be the position of all the other Jain literature considered not acceptable by the Digambaras. One such example would be the commentary by Umasvati or Umasvami on his own Tatvarthadigama-Sutra. While the text of this work is acceptable to both the sects, the commentary by the author himself is rejected by the Digambaras. Yet another method of identifying a Shvetamara work is by the name itself. This method is applicable to mythologies only. While the Svetambaras call the mythologies caryias or caritas the Digambara term for a mythology is Purana, Thus the Ram epic Pauma-cariya by Vimala Suri may be called a Shvetambara work. This was composed 530 years after Mahavira's death, that is, in or about AD 4. (However, except for occasional differences, the tales described in both sets of the epics are essentially the same. In other words, but for the name, it would be difficult to assign the epics to any one sect).

The Shvetambara monks composed a large number of commentaries between the 6th and 9th century. These later commentaries were called churnis. One churni on the Nandi- Sutra called Mandichurni mentions that a council had been held in Mathura also. This churni was completed in Saka 598, that is, 676 AD, i.e., after the Vallabhi Council. The Mathura Council was presided over by Skandila. His name does not occur in the list of sthaviras of the Kalpa Sutra, but Jacobi2 notes in his translation of the Kalpa Sutra, that he might be the same as Sandilya mentioned 33rd in the list of the sthaviras.

It is not clear what the results of this Mathura Council were. Probably the Council did not come to any final decision.

Another important churni of this century is that of the Avashyaka-Sutra by Jinadasagani. This gives a long description of Mahavira's journeys during the 12 1/2 years that he wandered as an ascetic before attaining the kevalajnana. Jinadasagani must have obtained his facts from an earlier and reliable source, for his description of Mahavira's travels is considered more or less authentic.

One important thing that happened during the fifth and sixth centuries, that is, during the Gupta period of Indian history was that the Jain iconography was standardized. This iconography is more or less same for both Digambaras and Svetambaras, except of course for the fact that the Digambara images of the Tirthankaras do not have any clothes or ornaments. Two postures were standardized for these images: one standing, called the Kayotasaras, and the other sitting in the yogasana pose. The Tirthankaras in northern India all had the srivatasa mark on their chests. They were also given distinguishing signs called Lanchanas and in addition each Tirthankara was given a pair of attendants, called yaksha and yakshini whose images are carved on the two sides of the Tirthankara.4

At the time of Mahavira, the Yakshas as we have seen, were popular local divinities and there were yaksha temples in all the towns of Magadh. As the worship of Yakshas diminished, they became in the case of the Jains the attendants of the Tirthankaras. They however served a very useful purpose in Jain worship. A Tirthankara does not answer the prayer of a devotee, and therefore no worshipper when he performs a puja in a temple asks for any gift from him. But if an uninstructed Shvetambara does ask a gift, his prayer would be answered not by the Tirthankara (who as a matter of fact does not even hear it), but by the yaksha in attendance of the Tirthankara.

A class of deities that became quite prominent during this period were the Vidyadevis. In the beginning there was perhaps only one Vidyadevi, viz., Sarasvati, the Goddess of Learning. A Sarasvati image has been found even in the Kankali-tila remains in Mathura. This can be dated latest to the end of the 3rd century (the year inscribed on the image is 54). Later, a new set of Vidyadevis were added to the Jain pantheon, and ultimately we have sixteen of them. Their names are Rohini, Prajnapti, Vajrashrinkhala, Vajrankusha, Apraticakra, Purushadatta, Kali, Mahakali, Gauri, Gandhari, Sarvastra-Mahajvala, Manavi, Vairotya, Achchhupta, Manasi and Mahamanasi. All these sixteen can be seen depicted, for instance, in the famous Dilvara temple at Abu. None of these sixteen Vidyadevis carried the usual attributes of the Goddess of learning, viz. A book and a vina (lute). Also from their names it appears that they were similar to the Buddhist5 and Hindu Tantrik Goddesses. It will also be noticed that the period when the Jain Vidyadevis evolved was the period of the heyday of the Tantrik movement in India.

From Haribhadra Suri to Hemachandra Suri and Onwards

Haribhadra Suri laid the foundation of the Shvetambara intellectual movement, which culminated with Hemacandra Suri in the 12th century. "It is said that before Haribhadra's time only one-eighth of the whole Shvetambara literature available today, existed and to the remaining seven-eighths he was the greatest contributor and inspirer by example".6 It is said that he wrote 1,444 works, big and small. Of these 88 have so far been discovered and of them 26 are definitely known to be his creation.

"Haribhadra, a pupil of Jinabhadra (or Jinabhata) and Jinadatta, from the Vidyadhara kula lived in the 8th century, probably between AD 705 and AD 775. He was born at Chitrakuta, the present-day Chittorgarh, as the son of a Brahman and was instructed in all branches of Brahmanic learning. Proud of his enormous erudition he declared that he would become the pupil of any man who could tell him a sentence the meaning of which he did not understand. This challenge was inscribed in a plate which he wore on his stomach; whilst another legend has it that he laid gold bands around his body to prevent his bursting owing to so much learning. One day he heard the Jain nun Yakini reciting a verse, the meaning of which he did not understand. He asked her to explain the meaning to him. She referred to a teacher Jinabhata, who promised to instruct him, if he would enter the Jain order. So Haribhadra became a monk, and thenceforth called himself the spiritual son dharmaputra of the nun Yakini. He soon became so well- versed in the sacred writings of the Jains, that he received the title of Suri (honorific epithet of learning Jain monks), and his teacher appointed him as his successor. In all probability he soon wandered away from his birthplace Chitrakuta, for his life as a monk was spent for the most part in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Apart from being thoroughly well-versed in Brahmanism, he had considerable knowledge of the Buddhist doctrines, which he secretly procured knowledge of Buddhism through his pupils and his nephews Hansa and Paramhansa, in order to be able to refute its doctrines thoroughly.

Haribhadra wrote both in Sanskrit and Prakrit. Probably he was the first to write commentaries to the Canon in Sanskrit. While utilizing the ancient Prakrit commentaries, he retained the narratives (kathankhas) in their original Prakrit form.7

Haribhadra also wrote a long Prakrit poem Samaraicca Kaha. It is a religious novel in which the heroes and the heroines are after all sorts of adventures and through various lives as human beings or animals, renounce the world at last, and enter the Jain Order.