First Published 1984


2/12 Vikram Vihar

Lajpat Nagar IV, New Delhi-110024


Ashim Kumar Roy
















            In the sixth century BC Buddhism had just been founded. The Vedic religion was almost getting extinct and Hinduism as we know it today was at a nebulous stage. Jainism at that time was not only a mature and living religion but also one claiming a hoary antiquity. All its tenets had fully developed by that time and these tenets have remained almost unchanged all these 2500 years. Jainism is thus the oldest living religion of India.


            But age alone is not what gives importance to Jainism.  This religion is important because it has greatly influenced practically all-religious thinking of India. If, as is thought by many, the spirit of Indian religious life was 'life and world negating' it might be said that it was mainly due to the influence of Jainism and similar other religions of that time on Indian thought. It also shows the triumph of the Jain spirit over the 'life and world affirming' attitude of the Vedic people who failed to divert the main stream of Indian religious thinking from pessimism to an optimistic and joyous path. The aversion to the killing of animals, the belief that all ascetics are holy people (and conversely that a person in order to be holy should be an ascetic), the theory of the transmigration of the soul, and that 'getting born in this world is itself a punishment' all these are parts of Hindu thinking. They seem to have been adopted without much change from Jainism and similar other religions which existed in India in the sixth century BC. (The evidence of the existence of such religions, though scanty, is available from the Buddhist and Jain texts.


            Yet, the Jains constitute a small proportion of the Indian people. They probably number a little over three million in a population of nearly 700 million. How did such a small community exercise so much influence? The answer probably lies in the fact that the original religions of the Indian people at least from the Indus Valley times were similar in many respects to Jainism. These religions got somewhat modified by the impact of the Vedic cult, but ultimately the ancient religions of India, of which Jainism was one, prevailed Jainism has thus not so much influenced as provided a guide-post to Hinduism to get back to its original course.


            Since Jainism itself has not much changed or developed in the course of these 2,500 years, it has in a sense no history. In fact, the last change in Jainism was introduced by Mahavira himself when he proposed an additional vow to the original four vows of Parshva the immediately- preceding Tirthankara.  The Jains themselves recognized this absence of change by hesitating to write any history of their religion after Mahavira. Indeed, when the Digambaras write any history (or mythology) of their religion they stop with Mahavira. The Svetambaras have no doubt at least two works, which continue the history even after Mahavira, but these too stop after a few centuries.


            This is, therefore, a history of the Jain people and not so much a history of their religion.


            In the history of the Jains the most important figure is Mahavira. He was a contemporary of the Buddha. This we know from the Buddhist works only, for the Jain works never mention the Buddha. Mahavira lived for 72 years of which for the last 30 years he was a teacher. The Jain works give some details for the first 42 years of Mahavir's life, but tell us little about his life as a teacher. (In the case of Buddha also the Buddhist works give few details of his life after he became a teacher).


            Jainism did not get much royal support in the first few centuries after Mahavira. Indeed, the Jain's themselves claim only one royal patron in these centuries. He was Samprati, grandson of Ashoka, and ruler of Ujayini. Epigraphic evidence, however, shows that Ashoka himself was a protector of the Jains and had appointed officers to look after their welfare, though he may not have been a patron. Again from epigraphic evidence we know that in the 1st century BC king Kharavela of Orissa and his queen were patrons of Jainism. (The Jain works mention Ashoka only in passing, and Kharavela is not known to them at all). People engaged in commerce and trades were drawn towards Jainism from at least the early centuries of the Christian era.  This we know from the extensive remains of the sculptures gifted by them in the Kankalitila in Mathura.


            We do not know how the Jains broke into two groups, the Digambaras and the Svetambaras. Perhaps there was no actual schism, the two groups just drifted apart due to geographical reasons, the Jains of Gujarat and the neighboring areas emerging as the Svetambaras sometime in the 5th century AD.


            By perhaps the 4th century AD Jainism had spread to South India. Southwest Karnataka from the very beginning became its center. Though the Jains were found more or less all over the South, in this part of Karnataka and specially in the Tulu speaking areas, Jainism was a force to reckon with for many centuries. They received patronage from the rulers of many dynasties, and occupied important administrative and military posts under them. In fact some of the Western Ganga rulers themselves became Jains. There were many learned Jains in the court of the kings of Karnataka. They wrote books on logic and philosophy and some of them produced important works on mathematics and medicine also.


            In the matter of Architecture and Statuary, the Jains produced remarkable pieces of art in a number of places in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.


            In the 12th century Gujarat the rulers appreciated the learning of the great Jain polymath Hemachandra by making him their confidant. The Gujarat Jains continued the tradition of learning. In the 16th century, Abdul Fazl counted Hira Vijaya Suri as one of the 21 most learned persons of the Mughal Empire, and Akbar himself invited him to his court. The Jains maintained their fame in visual arts. They constructed beautiful temples in Shatrunjaya, Girnar, Ranakpur, Abu, Deogarh, Khajuraho, and other places in northern India. The contribution of the Jains in the cultural heritage of India has been high.


            The Jain religious philosophy has not changed much in all these years. The only development one can think of is that they have elaborated their logical system known as the Syadvada.  The original enunciation of this doctrine given in the canonical literature is not very clear. The later logicians have developed it into a complete system. The important point to notice, however, is that no Jain author has tried to refute this doctrine or to advance a rival system. There is no controversy in Jainism comparable to the one that has been going on for centuries on the interpretation of the Hindu Vedanta-Sutra. It is not that there have been no differences at all among the Jains in the matter of their religion.  There have been many groups and sub-groups within the community. But when one comes to analyze the differences among them it is found that these relate to trifling matters of ritual, or to details of the mythological stories. Even the great division between the Digambaras and the Svetambaras are in relation to such petty details.


            As the Jain temples and monasteries grew rich with fresh endowments, the persons in charge of these establishments became powerful. New groups arose within the community to protest against such domination. One such Protestant group arose among the Digambaras in the Agra region in the 17th century.  They were known as the Terapanthis. Among the Svetambaras also there rose a new group in the 15th century that believed that image worship was not mentioned in the canon.


            These controversies have not affected the essentials of the Jain religion. Never the less, they have made the Jains think about their religion and have kept Jainism alive.





            Jainism is one of the oldest religions of India.  We do not know exactly when it was founded.  The Jains themselves say that Jainism has existed since eternity and it had like the Jain universe no beginning and would have no end.   Most of the saints of Jainism belonged to remote ages, millions and billions of years ago.  However, for practical purposes we may take Mahavira, their last great saint, as a historical figure.  He was a contemporary of the Buddha.


            Mahavira was the twenty-fourth and last of the Tirthankara (ford-makers) of this age.  The twenty-third Tirthankara was Parshvanatha.  He is said to have lived two hundred and fifty years before Mahavira.  The historicity of Mahavira is difficult to prove from Jain sources alone because these were reduced to writing quite late.  In fact one of the two main sects of the Jains, the Digambaras think that no records of the period of Mahavira have survived.  The other sect, the Svetambaras assert that the oral traditions of the time of Mahavira were actually put down in the written form in the fifth century AD, i.e., a thousand years after Mahavira.  Some account of the life of Mahavira, can be obtained from this literature.  According to the Svetambaras, Mahavira was born in Vaishali a place about 45 km. from Patna on Chaitra, Shukla Trayodasi in 599 BC.  He was Kshatriya prince belonging to Jnatra clan.  He died in 527 BC in Pavapuri near Rajagriha.  King Shrenika and his son Kunika were the rulers of Magadh during his time.


            The historicity of Mahavira is sought to be proved by comparing these facts with those obtained form the Buddhist sources.  The Pali Buddhist texts on the life and sayings of the Buddha are claimed to have been compiled shortly after his death.  They mention quite often a Nataputta who belonged to the sect of the Niganthas (free from bonds.)  According to these sources Nataputta died in Pava thirty years before death of the Buddha.  The rulers of Magadh during the Buddha's time were Bimbisara and his son Ajatashatru.


            It is asserted that the person mentioned as Nataputta in the Buddhist texts was the same as Mahavira, the Jnatraputra of the Jains.  The name of the place where he died is the same in both the sets of sources.  Shrenika and Kunika, the two kings mentioned in the Jain sources were Bimbisara and Ajatashatru mentioned in the Buddhist (as well as in the Hindu Purana) texts.  In fact the full name Shrenika Bimbisara is mentioned in the (Jain) Dasasruta Skandha.1


            Ajatashatru's son according to the Buddhist sources was Udayabhadda.  According to the Jain sources Kunika's son was Udayin.  Since the names of the sons also are similar Kunika is identified with Afatashatru.


            Jain, as the name of this particular sect does not occur in the Buddhist sources.  The reason is that both Mahavira and the Buddha were called Jina by their respective followers, and the term Jain would thus technically denote both the sects.  However, the Niganthas according to the Buddhists were known for extreme asceticism.  This is a characteristic, which differentiates the Buddhists and the Jains.  There is little doubt, therefore, that the Niganthas are the same people who were known as the Jains in later days.  In fact the old Jain literature such as the Acharanga Sutra and the Kalpa Sutra describe their own community as that of Nigganthas.


            However, the historicity of Mahavira is not crucial to the history of Jainism.  Mahavira was not the founder of Jainism in the sense that the Buddha was the founder of Buddhism.  As stated earlier the Jains claim that their religion had existed from time immemorial, and Mahavira was the last great saint and reformer of the religion.  The most important of these reforms was the introduction of five vows in place of the four obtaining in the system of Parshva ( the twenty-third Tirthankara of the Jains).


            The later history of Jainism is marked by a number of schisms.  But one might say that different groups existed among the Jains even at the time of Mahavira himself.  There was an ascetic called Keshi who followed the system of Parshvanatha.2  He had a long discussion with Gautama, a disciple of Mahavira, and finally accepted the latter's views and sincerely adopted the "Law of the five vows".3  Thus Parshva's group and Mahavira's group, originally separate, were united.  However, new schisms appeared according to the Svetambaras, even during Mahavira's lifetime.  The first schism was by his own son-in-law Jamali 14 years after Mahavira's enlightenment.  The various schisms are known as nihnavas.


            The most important schism, the eighth nihnava according to the Svetambaras, occurred among the Jains a few centuries after Mahavira.  At that time the community broke into the two sects, the Digambaras (the sky-clad) and Svetambaras (the white-robed).  It is interesting to note that the two sects describe the life of Mahavira differently. The Svetambaras say that Mahavira lived as a prince up to the age of thirty.  He had married and had a daughter, Anojja or Priyadarshana.  His granddaughter Yashovati was born after Mahavira had left home.  Digambaras on the other hand believe that Mahavira never married.


            Before we come to the difference among the sects, we may consider the basic religious philosophy of the Jains.  These are practically the same for both the sects and have remained almost unchanged from very early times.


"According to Jain philosophy, matter, which consists of atoms, is eternal, but may assume any form, such as earth, wind, and so on.  All material things are ultimately produced by combination of atoms.  Souls are of two kinds: those, which are subject to mundane transmigration (samsarin), and those, which are liberated (mukta).  The latter will be embodied no more they dwell in a state of perfection at the summit of the universe; being no more concerned with worldly affairs they have reached Nirvana."


            The souls (Jiva) with which the whole world is filled are different from matter; But being substances they are also eternal. Subtle matter coming into contact with the soul causes its embodiment; being then transformed into eight kinds of karma and thus forming as it were a subtle body, it clings (ashrava) to the soul in all its migrations.  The theory of karma is the keystone of the Jain system.  The highest goal consists in getting rid (nirjara) of all karma derived from past existences, and acquiring no new karma (samvara).  One of the chief means of this end is the performance of asceticism (topas).  The Jain system differs from Buddhism in emphasizing asceticism to a greater extent, even to the point of religious suicide: and in the total evidence of taking life of any kind, such avoidance being described as the highest duty."4


The methods by which a Jain could get rid of the acquired karma and attain Nirvana have been prescribed.  He should posses right faith, right knowledge and right conduct. These are called tri-ratna. He should also observe the following five vows:


1) Ahinsa (non-killing).

2) Sunrita (truthful speech).

3) Asteya (non-stealing).

4) Brahmacharya (celibacy), and

5) Aparigraha (non-possession).


            As mentioned earlier Parshvanatha had prescribed only four vows.  Mahavira splits Parshvanatha's fourth vow, which was perhaps Aparigraha into two.  It is said that Brahmacharya was already included in Aparigraha, but Mahavira made it explicit so as to remove any misunderstanding.


            It is clear that these vows are difficult for a layman to practice.  Laymen were, therefore, required to observe these vows to the extent permitted by the conditions of their lives.


            It will be noticed at once that the Jain point of view of human life and its end are completely different from the Vedic ideals.  There is no mention of transmigration of soul or of the theory of karma or Nirvana in the Rigveda.  The Vedic view of life is joyful.  The Vedas prescribe the performance of Yaga, where animals were sacrificed.  These were done to please the gods and also for taking the sacrificer to paradise after his death. The paradise itself was a delightful place where there was no death.  Vedic heaven was full of light and all desires were fulfilled there.5  Drinking of Soma (perhaps as an intoxicant) was a method of gaining all desirable objects on the earth.6  There is no thought in the Vedas of ascetic life while on earth.7  The Vedas envisage a priestly class who would correctly recite the Vedic hymns at the time of the sacrifices.  The Jains on the other hand neither have any hymns nor have they any priestly class of their own.  Indeed it is specifically mentioned that their great saints, the Tirthankara, were Kshatriyas i.e., not Brahmans.  Similarly, meditation (yoga), the atomic theory of matter (Vaisheshika), the non- perishing of matter (Sankhya) etc., would take the Jain thinking nearer of those systems of Indian philosophy which are not based on the Vedas.  It is also interesting to note that Kapil, Kanda, etc., the founders of these non-Vedic systems were known as Tairthikas.  There were eighteen or more Tairthikas according to the encyclopedists. The similarity of this name with Tairthikas is striking. (Strangely enough, the Buddhists also called those who held heretical views, Tairthikas.)


            Mahavira, and to some extent the Buddha, ignores the existence of the Vedic religion.  When in their youth they left their homes to become ascetics they are not protesting against any Vedic or Brahmin rule.  In fact, it appears that they were doing just what was thought proper for a person of religious bent of mind in that part of the country. The Buddha after trying it abandoned the extreme form of asceticism.  Thus, he was actually reacting against the practices followed by the Jains and similar other ascetics, when he founded his new faith of moderation.


            An important thing about Buddhism and Jainism is that there religions are not much concerned about-worldly things. Also, they have no theistic theories.  Present day Hinduism, on the other hand, is much pre-occupied with these things. Signs of emergence among a section of the people of such thoughts become apparent in the post-Vedic literature such as Upanishads.  These show that a new post-Vedic religion was emerging.  The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is one of the earliest of the Upanishads.  It was perhaps compiled within a hundred years of the time when the Buddha and Mahavira lived. Some of the dialogues in this Upanishad took place in Videha (modern Mithila) which is not very far from Magadh where these two great teachers preached.  Thus both in time and in space, the two ages, the Upanishad and the Buddhist-Jainis, are not far from each other.  Yet, one feels that they belong to two different worlds together.  We may as an example take the questions the king Janak of Videha asked Vajnavalkya in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:


            Janak Vaideha said: "When the sun has set, O Yajnyavalkya and the moon has set, and the fire is gone out, and the sound hushed, what is then the light of man".


            Yajnavalkya said: "The Self indeed is his light; for having the Self alone as his light, man sits, moves about, does his work, and returns."


            Janak Vaideha said: "Who is that Self?"


            Yajanvalkya replied: "He who is within the heart, surrounded by the pranas (senses), the person of light, consisting of knowledge....."8


            It is quite clear that the questions as well as the answers are other- worldly.  They do not relate to any human activity.


            As a contrast we may cite the question which king Ajatashatru of Magadh asked six of the non-Vedic teachers preaching at that time in his kingdom.  One of the teachers was Mahavira (Nigantha Naraputta) himself.


            The question King Ajatashatru9 of Magadh asked, was, "The fruits of various worldly trades and professions are obvious, but is it possible to show any appreciable benefit to be derived from asceticism? Sanditthikam samanna-phalam?" Each of the six teachers gave a different answer.  These answers need not concern us at the moment.  The point, however, to notice is that the question is quite mundane and very natural for a king, but it is in a different plane altogether from the one king Janak of Videha has asked.


            We may thus take it as a working hypothesis that we are here dealing with two communities, one non-Vedic and the other post-Vedic whose outlooks were altogether different. The Buddhist scriptures name sixteen tribes living in northern India at that time.  The land where they lived was also named after the tribes.  Of these tribes, the Kurus, the Panchalas, the Machchas, the Saurasena, etc., followed the post-Vedic and Brahmanic religion.  The people before whom the Buddha preached, his new religion or one of whose existing religions Mahavira reformed were the Magadh, the Angas, the Kasis, the Kosalas,10 the Mallas, the Vajjis, etc. The religions of these people were non-Vedic. There is one initial difficulty in this hypothesis.  the Vajjis included eight confederate clans, of whom the Lichchhavis and the Videhas were the most important. Videha, in Buddha's time, was republic.  This does not go very well with the fact that Janak was the king of Videha or with the fact that he followed a Brahmanic or post-Vedic religion.  Perhaps by Buddha's time Videha had become a republic.  One way of getting out of the second difficulty would be to imagine that in Videha both the groups of religions, post-Vedic and non- Vedic existed side by side.  This was perhaps also true of Kashi and Kosala, where also both the communities visited the areas, people of his group would flock about him while the other groups would ignore him.  (The position is same even today. If a Hindu religious teacher visits a town his followers go and greet him but the Muslims are not even aware of his visit).


The people of Anga (Bhagalpur area) and the Magadh Patna, Gaya, area) do not seem to have followed the Vedic religion, for they were very much disliked by the Vedic people.  We have the curse in the Atharva Veda (V. 22.14): "To the Gandharis, the Mujavants, the Anga, the Magadh, like one sending a person a treasure, do we commit the fever".  The Vedic people called the Aryans who did not follow their religions Vratyas.  Vratyas are frequently mentioned in the Vedas, and other Vedic literature such as the Srauta Sutras and the Brahmans.  The whole of the fifteenth book of the Atharva Veda deals with the Vratyas. Unfortunately the style of this book of the Atharva Veda is not clear and not much information about the beliefs of the Vratyas can be gleaned out of it.  One thing however is clear.  The Magodhas were somehow connected with the Vratyas. We have in the Atharva Veda (XV.2.a) "Of him in the eastern quarter, faith is the harlot, Mitra the Magadh, discernment the garment, etc....." Similarly in the southern quarter Magadh was the mantra of the Vratya; in the other two quarters Magadh was the laughter and the thunder of the Vratya.  What Magadh means here is not clear.  It may mean a resident of Magadh or more probably a bard or a minstrel. The Yajur Veda (XXX. 8) does not look at Vratyas kindly.  They are included in the list of victims at the Purushamedha (human sacrifice).11 The Sutras mention Arhants (saints) and Yaudhas (warriors) of the Vratyas corresponding to the Brahmanical, Brahman and Kshatriya.  The similarly of the word Arhant with the word Arhat used both for the Buddha and Mahauria by their respective followers is noticeable.


            We thus see that in the period under discussion Mahavira was preaching perhaps one of the Vratya religions which was prevalent in that part of India.  This religion came to be known as Jainism in later days.  Most of the religions in this area advocated an extreme form of asceticism.  Gautama, who later became the Buddha, originally joined this main stream.  Apart from some changes in the philosophical principles, Buddha's main modification was that he deprecated the severe asceticism of these religions.


            Jain Yoga as also the Yoga of Patanjali is meditation, preferably in a secluded place.  We have the Indus valley evidence of the figure of an ascetic sitting in a forest. The figure found on a seal shows a man sitting in a forest surrounded by a number of animals.  The man has a mask with horns.  The figure has been variously interpreted as that of Shiva as Pashupati or Shiva as Mahayogi.  But there is no doubt that it is a figure of an ascetic either human or divine.  Thus the idea of asceticism though foreign to the Vedic people was already existent in India in the proto- historic period.


            The remarkable similarity between the stone statue of a nude man, found in Mohenjodaro and of the statue said to be that of a Tirthankara found in Lohanipura (Bihar) has often been pointed out.13  But the time interval of almost 2500 years would incline one to think that the similarity is accidental.


            That Jainism is a continuation of some pre-Vedic religion is not a new theory.  G. C. Pande wrote in 1947, "The anti-ritualistic tendency within the Vedic fold is itself due to the impact of an asceticism which antedated the Vedas. Jainism represents a continuation of this pre-Vedic stream, from which Buddhism also springs, though deeply influenced by Vedic thought."14 Similarly A.L. Basham says, "In the eastern part of the Ganga---basin Brahmanism was not so deeply entrenched as in the west and other non-Aryan currents of belief flowed more strongly."15  Basham's point that all these other currents of belief were non-Aryon cannot, however, be maintained.  There is scarcely any non-Aryan word in the sacred literature of Jainism.  Thus at least one, of these pre-Vedic currents of belief was Indo-Aryan in origin. It existed in India before the Vedic people arrived in eastern India.  It has survived to the present day in the form of Jainism.  Also, it is not Buddhism and Jainism and other pre-Vedic religions of the eastern Ganga basin which have influenced Vedism and converted that religion into Brahmanism, and then Hinduism.  It is from the pre-Vedic religions that Brahmanism has learned all about asceticism, meditation, yoga, the theory of karma, the theory of the transmigration of souls, Nirvana, and finally the pessimistic view of life.


            In a somewhat different context Dandekar, has said almost the same thing: "One may, of course, not go to the extreme of asserting that Hinduism turned its back completely on Vedic beliefs and practices, but one has nevertheless to admit that the impact of Vedism on the mythology, ritual and philosophy of classical Hinduism has been of a superficial nature."16 Dandekar was developing his thesis that " in the long history of Hinduism, ....Vedism occurred more or less like an interlude".17


            It would thus appear that Jainism, and many other religions existed from pre-Vedic times in northern India. Only Jainism remained practically unaffected by the impact of Vedism.  The other religions which coalesced to form classical Hinduism, were affected by Vedism, albeit, as Dandekar insists, superficially.


Both Buddhism and Jainism were parts of the philosophic atmosphere prevailing in Magadh and the near about areas in the sixth century BC. We can get a feel of this atmosphere from canonical books of the two religions, for, as we know both of them purport to give accounts of the actual happenings in the lives of the Buddha and Mahavira respectively.  The Buddhist works are a little more helpful in this matter, because they give generally greater details of the beliefs of the rival sects.  Out of these several competing sects two or three, if we include the Ajivikas) religions emerged triumphant.  This was perhaps mainly due to the quality of leadership and the organizing capacity of the Buddha and Mahavira (and Makkhali Goshala in the case of the Ajivikas).


One thing about the religious atmosphere of this period is quite clear.  Among the religious people the most respected ones in those days were the ascetics.  It was not necessary for  an ascetic to belong to higher castes like the Brahmans or the Kshatriyas.  Even a slave would be respected by his erstwhile master if he joined an order and became an ascetic.  The Buddha once asked king Ajatashatru of Magadh whether he would ask a slave to come back and serve him again if he heard that the slave had run away and become a recluse.


            Ajatashatru answered "Nay rather should we greet him with reverence, and rise up from our seat out of deference towards him, and press him to be seated.  And we should have robes and bowl, etc.,... and beg him to accept of them".18  An important point to notice here is that the religious order which the slave might have joined did not matter.


            No doubt, advantage was taken by many people of this attitude toward the ascetics.  The rulers themselves perhaps took unfair advantage of this general reverence for the ascetics.  They used to send spies to the territories of their hostile neighbors in the guise of ascetics.  Common people were aware of these deceptions, and if one or two unknown persons garbed as ascetics were seen in any village they were sometimes suspected to be spies.  Mahavira in his pre-kevalin days traveled about the country with Makkhali Goshala for six or seven years.  Twice they were suspected to be spies and harassed by the villagers. In fact, once they were thrown into a well, but were rescued when they were identified by some female followers of Parshva.19


            Another important development that was taking place in eastern India at the time was that the Brahmans were trying to establish their supremacy over the other classes.  This Kshatriyas of the area were not prepared to concede.  The Ambattha Sutta20 describes the conversation Buddha had with a Brahman named Ambattha.  At that time the Buddha was staying in the Koshala country.  This was perhaps the western limit of his missionary work.


            When Ambattha came in the presence of the Buddha he behaved in an off-hand manner.  The Buddha pulled him up for being discourteous to an aged teacher.  Ambattha then complained, "That, Gautama is neither fitting nor is it seemly that the Sakhyas (who were Kshatriyas) menials as they are, mere menials, should neither venerate, nor value, nor esteem, nor give gifts to, nor pay honors to Brahmans."


            The Buddha explained to him that these things could not be claimed by a person merely because he was born a Brahman. Such veneration was payable only to a recluse or to a Brahman who had obtained the supreme perfection in wisdom and conduct.


            Interestingly enough the Jain Sutras also give instances where Brahmans claimed superiority by virtue of their birth alone.  This was strongly repudiated by the followers of Mahavira.  We have in the Sutra Kritanga the following dialogue:


            A Vedic Priest:  "Those who always feed two thousand holy (Snatak) mendicants, acquire great merit and become Gods.  This is the teaching of the Veda".


                        Ardraka:  "He who always feeds tow thousand holy cats (i.e. Brahmans), will have to endure great pains in hell, being surrounded by hungry beasts".21


            It appears from the above that the Brahmans could not claim any superior position by virtue of their birth alone, in eastern India.  A Brahman had to earn the position by cultivating the same qualities as an ascetic.


            Most of these ascetics practiced severe austerities. Many of them lived completely nude throughout the year. Naturally some people wondered why these ascetics led such difficult lives.  This question occurred to king Ajatashatru of Magadh also.  He thought that all persons whether horsemen or charioteers, washer-men or weavers, basket-makers or potters, enjoyed in this very world the visible fruits of their crafts.  But was there any such immediate fruit, visible in this very world, of the life of a recluse?  When the question first came to the king's mind his ministers advised him to consult some famous recluse who were also heads of their orders and teachers of their schools (of philosophy).  The following six religious teachers were named by the ministers of Ajatashatru:


1.  Purana Kassapa, 

2.  Makkhali Goshala, 

3.  Ajita Keshakamblai, 

4.  Pakudha kachchayana, 

5.  Sangyo Belathhiputta, and

6.  Nigantha Nataputta.


            The answers that these teachers gave were not always to the point.  They, in fact, took the opportunity to expound their own views on life and human destiny instead of answering the king directly.  Another important point to notice is that none of them touched on God, Soul or other intangible subjects.  Only one among these six, Sanjaya Belathiputta recognized the possibility of such things, but he was a complete agnostic and his answer to the question of Ajatashatru was:  "If you ask me whether there is another world, well, if I thought there were, I would say so.  But don't say so.  And I don't deny it.  And I don't say there neither is, nor is not another world.  And if you ask me about the beings produced by chance; or whether there is any fruit, any result, of good or bad actions; or whether a man who won the truth continues or not after death to each or any of these questions do I give the same reply."


            A teacher who would not answer any question whatsoever would not have many followers.  If Sanjaya Belathiputta left behind him any religious group, it did not last long.  In fact in the history of the Indian Philosophy there have not been many agnostics.  But during his life time Sanjaya appears to have been quite influential.  In the Mahavagga I, 23 and 24, we are told that Sariputta and Mogglayana, the most distinguished pair of the Buddha's disciples had, before their conversion to Buddhism been adherents of Sanjaya and had brought over to the Buddha 250 disciples of their former teacher.22


            There is, however, an interesting question.  Did Sanjay's agnosticism influence the conception of Syadvada or the Satabhangi Nyava of the Jains?  Jacobi said in this connection, "Thus, I think, that in opposition to the Agnosticism of Sanjaya, Mahavira has established his Syadvada.  For as the Ajnyanavada declares that of a thing beyond our experience the existence or non-existence or simultaneous existence and non-existence, can neither be affirmed nor denied, so in a similar way, but one leading to the contrary results, the Syadvada declares that you can affirm the existence of a thing from one point of view Syadasti, deny it from another Syadnasti and affirm both existence and non-existence with reference to it at different times Syad-asti-nasti.  If you should think of affirming existence and non-existence at the same time from the same point of view, you must say that the thing cannot be spoken of Syad avaktavya.  Similarly, under certain circumstances, the affirmation of existence is not possible of non-existence Syad nasty avaktavyah and also of both Syad asti nasty avaktavyah.


"This is the famous Saptabhangi Nyaya of the Jains. World and philosopher have enunciated such truisms.  The subtle discussion of the Agnostics had probably bewildered and misled many of the contemporaries.  Consequently Syadvada must have appeared to them as a happy way leading out of the adversity of the Ajnyanavada.  It was the weapon with which the Agnostics assailed the enemy, turned against them. Who knows how many of their followers went over to Mahavira's creed convinced of the truth of the Saptabhangi Nyaya".23


            Ajita Keshakambali was a materialist.  He used to put on a garment of hair.  Hence his name Keshankambali.  His answer to Ajatashatru was, "There is no such thing, O king, as alms or sacrifice or offering.  There is neither fruit nor result or good or evil deeds.  There is no such thing as this world or the next........  Fools and wise alike are cut-off, annihilated, and after death they are not".


            Ajita, of the garment of hair, had a successor called Payasi, who championed Ajita's views.  But these people who were usually called Charvakas did not establish any schools. There were, however, individual Charvakas from time to time in all periods of Indian history.  They also appear in the epics.  For instance we have a Charvakas called Jabali in the Ramyan.  He had accompanied Bharat to request Ram to come back to Ayodhya after Dasharath's death.  As was usual with all Charvakas he was not tactful and said something, which was against the conventional wisdom.  Jabali had told Ram that it was foolish to suffer the troubles of banishment just to honor the words of a dead father.  Again, in the Mahabharat a Charvakas told Yudhisthir her that he was a sinner for he had killed most of his kinsmen.25


            Three of the six teachers, viz.  Purana Kassapa, Pakudha Kachchayana and Makkhali Goshala gave answers, which were not very dissimilar.  Makkhali Goshala later became leader of the Ajivika sect.  He answered the king Ajatashatru,  "There is, O king, no cause either ultimate or remote, for the depravity of being; they become depraved without reason and without cause.  The attainment of any given condition, of any character, does not depend either on own acts, or on the acts of another or on human effort.  There is no such thing as power or energy or human strength or human vigor........"


            It will be seen that the views of Makkhali Goshala, the leader of the Ajivikas, were a sort of determinism (Niyativada).  The Ajivikas sect survived for many centuries. Ashok mentions them in one of his pillar edicts.  Ashoka's successor Dasrath dedicated a cave in the Barabar hills (in Gaya district) to this sect.  It is likely that the remnants of the Ajivikas were absorbed in the Digambaras Jain community.  In fact, Hoernle in his famous essays on the Ajivikas in Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics had suggested that one group of the Ajivikas had broken away from Makkhali Goshala when he had abused Mahavira.  This breakaway group according to Hoernle had formed the nucleus of the Digambara sect of the Jains.


            The answer given by Nigantha Nataputta to King Ajatashatru was "A Nigantha (a man free form bonds), O king is restrained with a fourfold restraint.  He lives restrained as regards all water, restrained as regards all evil; all evil has he washed away; and he lives suffused with the sense of evil held at bay.  Such is his fourfold self-restraint. And since he is thus tied with this fourfold bond, therefore is he, the Nigantha (free from bonds), called Gatatto (whose heart has gone; that is, to the summit, to the attainment of his aim), Yattatto (whose heart is kept down; that is under command) and Hitatlo (whose heart is fixed).27


            Nigantha Nataputta has been identified with Mahavira, the Jain Tirthankara.  There is, however, little in the above reported statement of Nigantha Nataputta which can be exclusively related to the Jain principle.  The only possible one is the first "restraint" mentioned above viz., the restraint as regard water. This is perhaps the well-known Jain rule not to drink cold water on the ground that there are "souls" in it.  There is no doubt that the exact words of Nigantha Nataputta have been greatly distorted as the words passed from one person to another.  The Buddhists also would not be too careful to report the beliefs of a rival sect. They might have deliberately distorted the words of the leader of the rival sect.  At the same time it has to be remembered that the Jains claim Ajatashatru as quite friendly towards Mahavira.  He himself would be expected to report faithfully Nataputta's words in his talks with the Buddha.


            In fact, on closer examination it will be found that the answers given by Makkhali Goshala and Nigantha Nataputta, however enigmatic they might appear, bring out the essential philosophic difference between the views of the Ajivikas and the Jains.  The Ajivikas deny the existence of free-will, for as Goshala said, "The attainment of any given condition... Does not depend... on nay human effort". Nigantha Nataputta, on the other hand, stresses again and again that the restraints Nigantha practices are self- imposed.  In other words, the asceticism of a Nigantha is of his own free will.


            We thus find that in Magadh in the sixth century BC ., two important things were present in the religious atmosphere.  The first is that the most venerated persons in the area were the ascetics.  It did not matter to what order or sect the ascetics belonged.  All were equally respected. Secondly, the ascetics were not practicing their austerities to gain paradise or any other pleasurable objects.  All that they gained in this word was the respect that the people from the king downward paid them.


Asceticism, however, was meant for the wholly committed persons.  An ordinary man had to take recourse to the worship of Gods and Goddesses for satisfying his religious instinct. The most popular deities in Magadh at that time were the Yakshas.  Both Buddhist and Jain canonical works mention the existence of temples of Yakshas both of the male and female species.  In fact according to the ancient Jain works there were temples dedicated to various Yakshas in every town in northern India.  A temple of Bahuputta is mentioned in the Buddhist as well as the Jain texts.  This temple had been, according to the Bhagavati-Sutra, the fifth Anga of the Jains, visited by Mahavira himself.


            Now, Yakshas were non-Vedic Gods.  The term Yakshas, no doubt occurs six times in the Rigveda, but its meaning there is not clear.  The Vedic Index28 says that according to Ludwig it means a feast or a holy practice.  The term also occurs several times in the Atharva-Veda.  Whitney had translated the term as monster or prodigy.  In any case the Vedic people never thought of the Yakshas as Gods.


            In the later history of Jainism the Yakshas became attendants of the Tirthankara.


            The traditional Jain belief is that Jainism had existed in the same form from the hoary past, and Mahavira the 24th Tirthankara had carried on the religion exactly as it existed in his time, without any change.  It would appear from the Jain canonical works themselves, that the traditional answer is not wholly correct.  It is true that at the time of Mahavira there was an older religion, whose ideals and methods were almost the same as that of Mahavira's and which even his followers called the older section of the Church, but at the same time it is also true that Mahavira did introduce two important changes in the practices of this older section.


            The people who are known as Jains to-day were called Nigganthas in the Svetamber canonical works.29  Along with the Nigganthas there was in Magadh another sect who were known as the followers of Parshva.  In fact the parents of Mahavira were themselves followers of Parshva.  The Buddhist describe both the groups as the Niganthas, but the Jain canonical works never say that the Nigganthas and the followers of Parshva were the same people.  There were two important differences between the two.  The monks among the followers of Parshva could wear clothes, and they had to observe only four vows against the five, which the followers of Mahavira had to observe.  At the same time they were not hostile to each other; they were pursuing, as they said, the same ends.  Later, the followers of Parshva joined Mahavira's group.  The Uttaradhayana (23rd lecture) describes how Gautama, the most important disciple of Mahavira's converted Keshi the leader of the followers of Parshva to Mahavira's sect;


1. There was a Jina, Parshva by name, an Arhat worshipped by the people, who was enlightened and omniscient, a prophet of the law and a Jina.


2. And, there was a famous disciple of this Light of the World the young Shaman Keshi, who had completely mastered the sciences and right conduct.


5. Now at that time there lived the Prophet of the Law, the Jina, who in the whole world is known as the venerable Vardhamana. ................................


6. And there was a famous disciple of this Light of the World the venerable Gautama by name that had completely mastered the sciences and right conduct.


10. The pupils of both, who controlled themselves and practiced austerities, who possessed virtues, and protected their self, made the following reflection.


11. Is our Law (i.e., the law of Parshva) the right one, or is the other Law (the Law of Mahavira) the right one?  Are our conduct and doctrines right or the other?


12. The Law as taught by the great sage Parshva, which recognizes but four vows, or the Law taught by Vardhamana which enjoins five vows?


13. The Law that forbids clothes (for a monk) or that which (allows) an under and an upper garment?  Both pursuing the same end, what has caused the difference?


14. Knowing the thoughts of their pupils both Keshi and Gautama made up their minds to meet each other.


15. Gautama, knowing what is proper and what is due to the older section (of the Church), went to Tinduka Park accompanied by the crowd, his pupils.


            The Uttaradhayana Sutra then describes the long but friendly discussions that took place between Keshi and Gautama.  Ultimately Gautama's arguments prevailed and Keshi with his followers accepted Mahavira's teachings.  Thus the older section of the Church (vide verse 15 above) was absorbed in the section of Mahavira.


            In a similar manner the Sutrakritanga 30, describes how Gautama converted Udaka, another follower of Parshva to the creed of Mahavira:


40. Then the Venerable Gautama went with Udaka, the son of Pedhala, to the Venerable Ascetic Mahavira. Then Udaka, the son of Pedhala solemnly circumambulated the Venerable Ascetic Mahavira three times from the left to right, and having done so he praised and worshipped him, and then spoke thus: `I desire, Reverend Sir, in your presence to pass from the creed which enjoins four vows and the Pratikramna.  May it please, beloved of the Gods, do not deny me'


            Thus even though the Jain canonical works do not explicitly mention the term `Niggantha' for them, the followers of Parshva appear to be the older section of the Niggantha Church.


Jacobi, however, puts forward a view that the followers of Parshva and not the followers of Mahavira were the original Nigantha mentioned by the Buddhists.  His argument is as follows:


"In the Majjnima Nikaya 36 (a Pali text), one Shachchaka, the son of a Nigantha explains the meaning of the term Kayabhavana, bodily purity, by referring to the conduct of the Achelakas.  These Achelakas used to remain stark naked Sabbaso apatichchanna while the Nigantha used some sort of cover.  Many of the practices of the Achelakas were identically the same as those observed by the Jains.  "And still Sachchaka does not quote the Nigantha as a standard or bodily purity, though he was the son of a Nigantha, and therefore, must have known their religious practices.  This curious fact may most easily be accounted for by assuming that the original Niganthas, of whom the Buddhist records usually speak, were not the section of the Church, which submitted to the more rigid rules of Mahavira but those followers of Parshva, who, without forming a hostile party, yet continued to retain within the united Church some particular usage's of the old one".


            Jacobi's arguments are not very convincing.  In any case it does not explain why, if Mahavira was not a Nigantha according to the Buddhists, their records, continued to call him Nigantha Nataputta till his death.  It would appear that so for as the Buddhists were concerned they called both the sections of the Jain Church, the followers of Parshva, as well as the followers of Mahavira, Niganthas.


            We may conclude, therefore, that at the time of the Buddha there existed in Magadh a religious sect known to the Buddhists as the Niganthas.  The monks of the older section of this sect observed four vows of asceticism and wore clothes.  Mahavira reformed this religion by making two changes: he introduced a fifth vow, and forbade the use of clothes by the monks.  All the members of the older section accepted these reforms and thereafter there was only one Jain Church.





1 Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXII, p. xxii fn. gives the reference to Weber, Ind. Stud. XVI, p.469


2 The Uttaradhayana Sutra XXIII mentions Keshi as a disciple of Parshvanatha. This is one of the several indications that Parshvanatha was a historical person.


3. Uttaradhayana Sutra XXIII, 87, in Sacred Books of the East, Vol.XLV, p. 128


4. A.A.Macdonell, India's Past, pp. 70-71


5. Rigveda, IX, 113. 9-11


6. Rigveda, IX, 104.2.


7. A late hymn in the Rigveda (X, 136) mentions the existence of munis. The meaning of the hymn is not clear. Perhaps a Muni was a person with supernatural power.


8. Sacred Books of the East, Vol. XV, p. 163


9. The Brihadarnyka Upanishad (II.I.I) also mentions an Ajatashatru, contemporary with Janak but he belonged to Kashi, not Magadh.


10. Kosala and Videh do not appear in the early Vedic literature. They are first mentioned in the Satapatha Brahman (I.4.1.10ff) which relates the story of the spread of the Aryan (Vedic?) culture. Vedic Age p. 258


11. Vedic Index, Vol. II, p.342


12. Ibid., p.343


13. Goetz in Encyclopedia of World Art, VIII, p. 792.


14. Studies in the Origin of Buddhism, p.317


15. The Wonder that was India, p. 246


16. R. N. Dandekar, Some Aspects of the History of Hinduism, p.28


17. Ibid., pp.1-2


18. Samanna-Phala Sutra in sacred Books of the Buddhist, Vol. II, p.77.


19. These incidents are given in Jinadasa's Churni, a 7th century commentary on the Avashayaka Sutta. Thought a late work, the description appears to be reliable.


20. The sacred Books of the Buddhist. Vol. II, pp.108-136


21. Sacred Books of the East, Vol. xiv, p.417


22. Jacobi in the Sacred Books of the East Vol. XLV, xxix


23. Jacobi in the Sacred Books of the East Vol. XLV, pp. xxvii- xxxiii


24. History of Philosophy, Eastern and Western. VolI., p.133


25. Mahabharat, Shanty P. ch.38


26. This point has been examined in greater detail in chapter VII.


27. Rys Davids, the translators of the above passage has suggested that the series of riddles in this difficult passage were probably intended to be ironical imitation of the Niganthas's way of talking. (Sacred books of the Buddhists Vol. II, p.75 fn).


28. Macdonell and Keith, Vedic Index, Vol. II, p. 182


29. For instance, in the Acaranga Sutra in Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXII, p.28. In Jain Prakrit the word is written as Niggantha and in Pali , as Nigantha. In Sanskrit form is Nirgrantha.


30. Sacred Books of the East, : Vol. XLV, pp. 419-35


31. Ibid., Vol. XLV, pp. xxx-xxxi


32. Ibid., Vol. XLV, pp. 419-35


33. Ibid., pp. xxx- xxxii



Legendary History

            In the Jain conception, the world has neither beginning in time nor any end.  The world and the Jain Church exist eternally.  The Jains liken time to a wheel with twelve spokes.  The Wheel is going round and round since time began and will go on doing so for all time.  At any moment half the wheel is descending.  The descending half of the wheel is called Avasarpini, and the ascending half is called Utsarpini.  We are living in the Avasarpini half or the descending half of the Time Wheel when the human life and manners are becoming worse year by year.  Each of these halves is divided in to Aras (spokes) or Ages.  The Aras in the Avasarpini are the following:


             Name of the Age                 Duration


1.         Susama Susama          Four crore crore Sagaropama year


2.         Susama                        Three crore crore Sagaropama years


3.         Susama Dusama         Two crore crore Sagaropama years


4.         Dusama susama          One crore crore Sagaropama years

                                                less 42,000 ordinary years

5.         Dusama                       21,000 ordinary years


6.         Dusama Dusama         21,000 ordinary years.


            Sagaropama or "comparable to ocean" is a number too large to express in words.


            The same Ages occur in the Utsarpini period but in the reverse order.


            In the first Age, in the Susama susama Age, man lived Three palyas or palyopamas a long period not to be expressed in a definite number of years (one crore-crone palyas make one "comparable to ocean years). The Nirvana of Rishabha the first Tirthankara occurred 3 years and 8 1/2 months before the end of the third Age.  The other 23 Tirthankara were born in the fourth age.  Mahavira the last of the Tirthankara died 3 years and 8 1/2 months before the beginning of the fifth age which began in 527 BC We are thus living in the fifth, that is, the Dusama Age.


            The mythical history of Jainism starts from a period near about the end of the third Age, i.e., the Susama Dusama Age.  In this period the first of the sixty-three supermen of the Jain mythology, Rishabhanatha, appeared.  The other sixty-two supermen appeared in the fourth, i.e., Dusama-susama Age. The Svetambaras call these supermen Shalakapursha, while the Digambaras call them Lakshana-purusha.1  Mahavira was the last of the sixty-three supermen.


            Both the Svetambaras and the Digambaras have written a number of works giving the lives2 of these sixty-three persons.  One of the most famous of these works is the Trishashti- shalakapurusha- charitra by Hemachandra.  Generally speaking, there is not much difference in the versions of the lives given by the two sects.  In fact the notable differences occur in the case of the two Tirthankara Malli and Mahavira only.  In all other cases the two sects are in agreement about the mythology of their religion.


The sixty-three supermen were the following:


Shvetambara names               Digambara names


Thirhankaras                          Tirthankara                 24


Cakravartins                          Cakravartins              12


Baladevas                               Baladevas                   09


Vasudevas                               Nrayanas                    09


Prativasudevas                      Pratinarayanas             09

                                                                                    ------                                                                                                                                                                                                                           63



            In addition to these sixty-three supermen there were some kulagaras or legislators.  They all arrived in the third Age.  The first Tirthankara Rishabha was also the last of the kulagaras.  The kulagaras were the persons who first introduced punishment in the world.  These, however, consisted in not more than admonition, warning and reprimands hakkara, makkara and dhikkara.3  A kulagara was something like Manu, the legislator of the Hindus.


            Among the Baladevas and Vasudevas, the most interesting are Balaram and Krishna (Kanha in Prakrit). They appeared at the time of Nemi, the 22nd Tirthankara.  In fact Krishna was Nemi's cousin, We get here the Jain version of the Mahabharat The Story of the Kauravas and Pandavas and the descendants of Krishna and Balaram is described.  The Kauravas and Pandavas are converted to the Jain religions. Finally the Pandavas also become ascetics and like Nemi, attain Nirvana.4  One interesting point is that the main battle here is not the one described in the Hindu Mahabharat.  Krishna, the Vasudeva, fights a battle with Jarasandha, the Prativasudeva, and kills him.  This is the main battle in the Jain version.  In this battle between Krishna and Jarasandha, the Pandavas take the side of Jarasandha.  In fact, the main story in this Jain version is the life of Krishna, and this is nearly the same here as given in the Bhagavati Purana of the Hindus.  Even otherwise the Krishna is the only Vasudeva who plays some part in the Jain canonical works- Antakriddasah and Jnatadharma Katha.


            The Jain version of the Ramyan is given in Padmacaritras or Padma - Puranas.  Padma is actually the Jain name of Ram and his story in the Jain version differs in many particulars from that of Valmiki.


Hemachandra in this Trishashti-shalakapurusha- charitra gives the legend of Ram in detail.  According to him, Dasharath, king of Saketa had four queens: Aparajita, Sumitra, Suprabha ad Kaikeyi.  These four queens had four sons.  Aparajita's son was Padma, and he became known by the same name of Ram also. Sumitra's  son was Narayana: he became to be known by another name, Lakshmana.  Kaikeyi's son was Bharata and Suprabha's son was Shatrughna.


            Sita was the daughter of Janak. She had a twin brother Bhamandala who was kidnapped while still an infant.   Once Janak was attacked by barbarians. Ram was sent to help Janak, and he easily repulsed the enemies.  Janak was delighted and wanted Ram to marry his daughter Sita.


            Dasharath had married Kaikeyi in a svayanvara festival where she had selected him as her husband out of the many kings who had attended the festival.  The other kings who were rejected attacked Dasharath.  In the battle that ensued, Kaikeyi had acted as the charioteer of Dasharath. She did her job so skillfully that Dasharath had promised her any boon that she desired.  She had said that she would ask for her boon on a suitable occasion.


            When Dasharath became old he wanted to abdicate and become a beggar.  When Kaikeyi heard this she demanded her boon, and this was that her son Bharata should take over the kingdom as Dasharath's successor.  Ram readily agreed to this proposal but said that if he stayed on in the capital, Bharata would not accept the throne.  He therefore thought that he should leave the capital and live in the forest. Sita and Lakshmana accompanied him.  The rest of the legend is more or less the same as in Valmiki's Ramyan  There is, however, an important difference.  It is Lakshmana and not Ram who actually kills Ravana.  In the Jain system therefore it is Lakshman who is Vasudeva, Ram is Baladev, and Ravana is Prativasudeva.


            There is another and perhaps an older version of the Jain Ramyan.  This version is given in the 14th Chapter of Sanghadasa'a Vasudevahindi and also in the Uttarapurana of Gunabhadracarya.  This version is not popular and is in fact not known to the Svetambaras at all.  The story in brief is as follows: Dasharath was a king of Varanasi.  Ram was his son by his queen Subala, and Lakshman by Kaikeyi.  Sita was born to Mandodari, wife of Ravana, but since there was a prophecy that she would be the cause of her father's death, Ravana had sent her through a servant to be buried alive in Mithila.  She was accidentally discovered by the king Janak when was plowing the field, and brought up as his daughter. When Sita grew up, Janak performed a yajna where Ram and lakshman were invited.  Janak was impressed by Ram's personality and he gave his daughter Sita to him in marriage. Ravana had not been invited to this yajna, and when he heard that Sita was a beautiful girl, he decided to abduct her. There is no mention in this version of the Ramyan of the exile of Ram.  Ravana in fact abducts Sita from Citrakuta near Varanasi. Ram recovers her by killing Ravana in Lanka. Therefore Ram and Lakshman come home and rule over their kingdom.


            All the Chakravartins have more or less similar careers. Their lives are spent in obtaining the fourteen imperial crown treasures or jewels. After long reigns, they perform the act of purging known as apurva-karma obtain kevala knowledge and enter Nirvana.  The first of the Chakravartins was Bharata, son of the first Tirthankara Rishabha.


            Rishabha's name occurs in the Hindu Visnu-purana and Bhagavat Purana also.  It is stated there that the emperor Rishabha handed over his empire to his son Bharata and went to the forest where he practiced severe penance and died.  He was nude at the time of his death.  (This suggests that the Purana story might have come originally from the Jain sources) From the time Rishabha gave away his empire to his son Bharatta, they started calling this country Bharata- Varsa.  Formerly this country was called Himavarsa.  Name of no other Tirthankara is mentioned in the Hindu religious literature.


            The detailed lives of the twenty four Tirthankara were given in the various Caritras and Puranas written in the later part of the first millennium AD the earlier books such as the Kelp Sutra of the Svetambaras give little details about most of them. In fact the Kalpa Sutra gives some particulars only about the lives of Parshva, Arishtanemi and Rishabha in a stereotyped manner.  It gives the life of Mahavira in some detail, and so far as the other twenty Tirthankara were concerned, mentions only the periods when they appeared.


            There is some uniformity in the lives of the Tirthankaras.  All of them were born of Kshatriya mothers and lived princely lives before they renounced the world, and nearly all of them attained Nirvana in the Sammeta mountain (Parasnatha) in Bihar.  There were only four exceptions in regard to the place of Nirvana.  The place of Nirvana of the following four Tirthankaras were as below:


1.   Rishabha in Kailasa

12. Vasupujja in Champa

22. Arishtanemi on the Girnar Hills

24. Mahavira in Pava


            The twenty-third Tirthankara Parshvanatha is said to have died 250 years before Mahavira, while Parshva's predecessor Arishtanemi is said to have died 84,000 years before Mahavira's Nirvana.  Naminatha died 5,00,000 years before Arishtanemi and Munisuvrata 1,00,000 year before Naminatha.  The intervals go on lengthening until they reach astronomical periods.


            It thus goes without saying that all the Tirthankaras, except Parshva and Mahavira are mythical figures.  We thus need not discuss their lives given in the various Puranas and Charitras.  It will, however, be clear from what has been stated above that the Jains have a philosophy of history (i.e. the theory of the wheel of time) and this is distinct from the philosophy of history of any other people. Also the Jains throughout the last fifteen hundred years or so, have taken great delight in writings about the history of their Church up to Mahavira.  In fact the Digambaras have practically ignored the history of their church after Mahavira.  Except for some pattavalis, which gives the names of their successive Patriarchs, the Digambaras section of the Church has no other history after Mahavira.  For Jain sources of the history of the Church after Mahavira we have therefore to depend on the Svetambaras works only.





1. Schurbing, The Doctrine of Jains p. 23.


2. The Digambaras call these lives Purana whereas Svetambaras call them Charitras.


3. Schubring op. cit. p.20


4. Winternitz, A History of India Literature Vol. II, p.495


5. A reference to the Chakravartins possessing 14 is found in the Hindu Vishnu Purana also. Of these 14 Jewels, 7 are inanimate, viz. Cakra (wheel), rath (chariot), khanga (sword), charm (shield), dhvaja (flag), nidhi (treasury), and 7 are animate, viz. wife, priest, commander of the army, charioteers foot soldiers, troops mounted on horses, and troops mounted on elephants. Other books give other lists.


6. Bk.2. ch.1


7. The term "Aristameni", which occurs sometimes in the Vedic literature, for instance, in Rigveda X. 178.1, is not the name of any person.



Life of Parshva


            Parshva was the twenty-third Tirthankara of the Jains.  His historicity is sought to be established by the fact that at the time of Mahavira there were a number of people who were followers of his teaching.  In fact the parents of Mahavira himself were followers of Parshva.  In Mahavira's time the leader of this sect, which was called Miganthas by the Buddhists, was Keshi.


            The Jain canonical books do not mention much about the life of Parshva.  A short account of his life appears in the Kalpa-Sutra of Bhadrabahu.  Kalpa Sutra was written perhaps in the 4th or 5th century AD. In the last paragraph of this account it is mentioned that since the time the Arhat Parshva died twelve centuries has elapsed, and of the thirteenth century that was the thirtieth year.  Similarly in the case of Mahavira the Kalpa Sutra mentions that since the time of his death nine centuries has elapsed, and of the tenth century that was the eightieth year.  From this we gather that Parshva died 250 years before Mahavira and thus perhaps belonged to the 9th century BC


            Apart from this, all the other events in the life of Parshva are written in the stereotype manner in which the Jains describe the lives of all their Tirthankaras.  For instance, it is said that the five most important moments of Parshva's life happened when the moon was in conjunction with the asterism Vishakha.  These five events are his conception in the womb of his mother, his birth, his renunciation of the world, his obtaining of supreme knowledge and his death.


            Parshva according to the Kalpa Sutra was the son of king Ashvasena of Varanasi.  His mother's name was Vama.  Parshva lived as a householder for thirty years.  He renounced the world at the age of thirty and then practiced severe asceticism for eighty-three days.  On the eighty-fourth day, he became a Kevalin, i.e. obtained supreme knowledge. Thereafter he built up a large community of followers both shramnas and householders male as well as female.  He died at the age of 100 at Sammeta Sikhara (Parsanath in Bihar).





1. Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXII, pp. 271-272



Life of Vardhamana Mahavira


            Vardhamana Mahavira, the twenty-fourth and last Tirthankaras of the Jains is the most important figure in the history of Jainism.  It was he who consolidated the Jain Church and laid such a firm foundation for it that it has existed almost unchanged for more than twenty-five centuries.  As already mentioned, his name, Nigantha Nataputta, occurs in the early Buddhist records.  Since these sources are independent, they establish the historicity of Mahavira. The Buddhist records do not give any details about the life of Mahavira, except to state that he was a leader of the Nigantha sect.  The Buddhist also record the time of his death.


            The Jain sources also do not give any particulars about his life as a teacher.  The events before his birth, such as the dreams his mother had when he was conceived are described in great detail, but few details are given about him after he was born.  At the age of thirty Mahavira became an ascetic, and wandered about for twelve years.  But of Mahavira's life as a teacher for nearly thirty years until his death at the age of 72, the sources are reticent.


            The life of Mahavira as we can gather from the Svetambaras sources is as follows:


            Mahavira was Kshatriya of the Jnatri clan and a native of the (Kshatriya) Kundagram, a suburb of the town of Vaishali (near Patna).  He was the second son of Siddhartha and Trishala, a highly connected lady.  In fact Trishala was the sister1 of king Chetaka of Vaishali whose daughter Chellana was married to Shranik Bimbisara king of Magadh. Mahavira's family tree can be drawn up as follows.2



Suparshva----Siddhartha          Trishala or----Cetaka                 Subhadra

                                                  Videhadatta    king of Vaishali





                                                                                       Cellana          Bimbisara

                                                                                                                 King of                   





                                                                                            Kunika or Ajatashatru




                                                                                    Founder of Pataliputra             




Nandivardhana                                                                                 Sudarshan             


                   VARDHAMAN married to YASHODA




                    Anojia or Priyadarshana married to Jamali








            The Svetambaras say that the soul of this Tirthankara had first descended into the womb of the Brahman Devananda. There after his fetus had been, by the order of Shakra (Indra) removed thence to the womb of Trishala who actually gave birth to Mahavira.  One may rightly ask how people came to know of this incident of the transfer of the fetus. According to the Svetambaras it was Mahavira himself who revealed this to his disciples when Devananda once came to see him.  This is how it is described in the Bhagavati Sutra.


 (The Brahman Rishabhadatta and his wife Devananda went on pilgrimage to Mahavira).  Then milk began to flow from the breast of Brahman woman Devananda, her eyes filled with tears, her arms swelled inside her bangles, her jacket stretched, the hairs of her body stood erect, as when a Kadamba unfolds itself in response to a shower of rain; thus she gazed at the holy monk Mahavira without averting her eyes.  "Why master, " said the venerable Gautam to the holy monk Mahavira, "does the Brahman woman gaze... (Thus).... without averting her eyes?" "Hear, Gautama" Said Mahavira, "The Brahman Woman Devananda is my mother, I am the son of the Brahman woman Devananda.  That is why the Brahman woman Devananda gazes at me with tender love, the cause of which is that I first originated in her."3


            All the five important events in the life of Mahavira, his conception, birth, renunciation of home life, attainment of supreme knowledge, and death occurred when the moon was in conjunction with the asterism Uttaraphalguni.  His parents who were pious Jains (i.e. worshippers of Parshva4) gave him the name Vardhamana.  (Vira or Mahavira is an epithet used as a name).  He married Yashoda and by her had a daughter Anojja (also known as Priyadarshana).  His parents died when he was 30 years old; and his elder brother Nandivardhana succeeded of his father in whatever position he had held.  With the permission of his brother and other authorities, he carried out along cherished resolve and became monk with the usual Jain rites.  Then followed 12 years of self-mortification. Mahavira wandered about as a mendicant friar bearing all kinds of hardships; after the first 13 months he even discarded clothes.  At the end of this period dedicated to meditation and travels, he reached the state of omniscience (kevala) corresponding to the bodhi of the Buddhists.


            We have some details of Mahavira's itinerary during the twelve years that he roamed about in eastern India before he reached the state of omniscience.  Mahavira's life during these twelve years was spent in great difficulties. Sometimes he was taken for a thief by the villagers. Sometimes he and Goshala, his companion for six or seven years were suspected to be spies.  The details of his journeys during these twelve years are given in Jinadasa's churni to the Avashayaka Sutra.  This churni according to Schubring cannot be dated earlier than the 7th century AD, but it is generally taken to be more or less reliable.


            Within a few days of Mahavira's renunciation of the world, he went to a village called Kummara.  He stood there in meditation for sometime.  One cow- herder took him to be a thief and wanted to hit him, and Mahavira had to leave the village.  Mahavira spent the first rainy season of his ascetic life in Atthiyagama.


            During the second year, while Mahavira was crossing the river Suvannakula, his garment was caught in the thorns on the bank of the river.  From this time onwards he remained naked.  Mahavira passed his second rainy season in a weaver's shed in Nalanda near Rajagriha.  Here Makkhali Goshala met him and became his companion.  The two of them left for Kollaga.  The third rainy season was passed by Mahavira and Goshala in Champa.


            While Mahavira and Goshala were traveling through Coraga Sannivesa they were suspected to be hostile spies, and thrown into well. They were however recognized by two female followers of Parshva and were released.  They passed the fourth rainy season in Pitthichampa.


            The next year of their ascetic lives was very difficult for Goshala and Mahavira.  Goshala was apt to mock at people and therefore, was beaten up by them many times.  They also traveled to Ladha (south-west Bengal) in this year and were ill-treated by the people.  They spent the fifth rainy season in Bhaddiya.


            In their travels in this year the two were again taken as spies at a place called Kuviya Sannivesa.  They were later released by the intervention of two sisters called Viyaya and Pragalbha.  At this time Goshala refused to move in the company of Mahavira, saying that since he was made to bear insults every now and then he would prefer to travel alone. They parted company for the time being, but after about six months, when Mahavira was in Salsisygama, Goshala joined him again. They passed the sixth rainy season in Bhaddiya.


            They passed their seventh rainy season in Alabhiya.  In the next year Goshala was again beaten-up by the people for his mocking behavior.  At one time while the two were in Lohaggala, a place described as the capital of king Jiyasattu, the royal servants took them to be enemy spies and tied them up.  Later they were set free by Uppala who is said to have arrived there from Atthiyagama.  The eighth rainy season was passed by Mahavira and Goshala in Rayagiha (Rahagriha).


            From Rahagriha, Mahavira and Goshala proceeded to Ladha and traveled in Vajjabhumi and Subbhabhumi where Mahavira had to undergo all sorts of torture.  These have been described in detail in the Acharonga Sutra.  An extract is as follows:


            "He traveled in the pathless country of the Ladhas in Vijjabhumi and Subbhabhumi; he used there, miserable beds and miserable seats.  In Ladha (happened) to him many dangers. Many natives attacked him.  Even in the faithful part of the rough country the dogs bit him, ran at him.  Few people kept off the attacking, biting dogs.  Striking the monk, they cried "Chhuchchhu" and made the dogs bite him.  Such were the inhabitants.  Many other mendicants, eating rough food in Vijjabhumi, and carrying about a strong pole or a stalk(to keep off the dogs), lived there.  Even thus armed they were bitten by the dogs, torn by the dogs.  It is difficult to travel in Ladha".


            They passed the ninth rainy season in this country.


            In the tenth year while the two were in Siddhatthapura, Goshala finally severed all connections with Mahavira, and went to Savatthi.  Mahavira then traveled alone for the rest of the year and passed his tenth rainy season in Savatthi.


            The exact reason why Mahavira and Goshala parted company is not clear.  Perhaps the reason was that Goshala did not care much for chastity and this Mahavira did not like.  We have in the Sutrakritanga a statement which Goshala, made to Ardraka, a disciple of Mahavira.  "As your Law makes it no sin for Mahavira to surround himself by a crowd of disciples, so according to our Law an ascetic, who lives alone and single, commits no sin if he uses cold water, eats seeds, accepts things prepared for him, and has intercourse with women."


            Goshala spent the last days of his life in Shravasti in the house of a potter woman called Halahala.


            It was perhaps after seeing this sort of behavior that Mahavira thought it prudent to make the vow of Brahmacharya as one of the necessary conditions of monk-hood, and added it to the list of the four vows of Parshva.


            The eleventh year of Mahavira was one of his most difficult years.  At Tosali he was taken for a robber and hit hard.  Then he went to Mosali where he was arrested as a robber but was released by king's court.  When he went back to Tosali the people tried to hang him but he was rescued by a Tosali Kshatriya.  The whole of the year was a period of torture and humiliation.  He passed his eleventh rainy season in Vesali.


            The nest year was of comparative peace.  Mahavira passed his twelfth rainy season in Champa.


            From Champa Mahavira reached Jambhiyagama, and then journeyed to Mendhiyagama.  Then he proceeded to Chammanigama where a cowherd is said to have thrust iron nails into his ears.  Mahavira arrived at Majjhima Pava in this condition where the nails were removed from his ears.  From here he traveled towards Jambhiyagama, where on the northern bank of the river Ujjuvaliya, in the farm of the householder Samaga, under a Shala tree, in the north-east of Veyavatta shrine, after a period of 12 years 6 months and 15 days, Mahavira attained omniscience (kevala) on the bright tenth day of Vaishakha.


            After Mahavira attained Kevala, a Samavarsana (religious conference) was held on the bank of the river Ujjuvaliya, but it is said that the first preaching of Mahavira remained unsuccessful.  Then after traversing twelve Yojanas, Mahavira is said to have returned to Majjhima Pava where the second Samavarsana was convened in the garden of Mahasena. Here, after a long discussion on various religious and philosophic points, Mahavira ordained eleven learned Brahmans.7


            These eleven Brahmans later became the eleven ganaharas  (Ganadhara) of Mahavira.  Nine of them died within the life time of Mahavira and only two of them Indabhui Goyama (Indrabhuti Gautama) and Suhamma (Sudharman survived him. Schubring remarks: There can be scarcely any doubt that the other nine ganaharas are fictitious."8  In fact in the Jain canonical books there is scarcely any mention of these nine ganaharas.


            Mahavira lived for about 30 years after attaining omniscience at the age of forty-two.  The Jain rules prescribe that during eight months of the summer and winter seasons a monk may stay in a village for one night only and in a town for not more than five nights.  During the four months of the rainy season he should stay at one place.  The places where Mahavira spent his forty-two rainy seasons are given in the Kalpa Sutra.  These were as follows:


Places of Rainy Season Stay


1.  Atthiyaggama                       - 1 (The first rainy season)

2.  Champa and PitthiChampa  -  3

3.  Vesali and Vaniyagama        -12

4.  Rayagiha and Nalanda         -14

5.  Mithila                                - 6

6.  Bhaddiya                            - 2

7.  Alabhiya                              - 1

8.  Paniyabhumi                       - 1

9.  Savatthi                              - 1

10. In the town of Pava - 1 (this was his last rainy season.)

       in the office the clerk

      of  king Hattivala    





            The area which Mahavira covered during his ascetic life of 42 years, e.g. from the time he left home and until his death, was roughly Bihar, a part of western and northern Bengal and some parts of eastern Uttar pradesh.  Tosali is also mentioned in some works as a place to which Mahavira went.  If this Tosali was in Orissa then Mahavira had gone to that region also.


            Most of the early Jain works do not take much interest in describing the life of Mahavira after he attained omniscience and became a teacher.9  There are, however, scattered references here and there.  The Bhagvati Sutra is the only early work giving comparatively more details of Mahavira's life both before and after he attained omniscience.  The later Jain writers collected these and other bits of stories about his life and put them in the works called the "Lives of the sixty-three Supermen."  Among these works the most well known is the Trishashti-  Shalakapurushacharitra of Hemachandra.10  Mahavira's life is given in the tenth book of this work.  Since Hemachandra was one of the most learned persons among the Jains, it may be presumed that he has given in his work, only those parts of the myths and legends connected with Mahavira's life which he found most believable.  For mahavira's life.  He had, therefore, filled-up most of his work with the histories of other important people such as the contemporary rulers and their spouses.  Sometimes it is difficult to find relevance of these stories to the life of Mahavira).


            Shortly after attaining omniscience Mahavira started wandering in villages, mines, cities, etc., to give help to souls capable of emancipation.  Many people would come to see him.  Among the first people to him were his natural parents Rishabhadatta and Devananda.  It was during this visit that Mahavira recognized Devananda as his mother in whose womb he had first descended from heaven and stayed on for eighty-two days before being transferred to Trishala's womb.


Among the early visitors to Mahavira during his wandering were Jamali, his sister's son as well as his son-in- law.  Jamali met Mahavira  while the latter was in Kshatriya- Kundagram, the village where Mahavira was born. Priyadarshana, Mahavira's daughter, and wife of Jamali had heard a sermon and obtained his parents consent; he took the vow together with five hundred of the warrior caste. Priyadarshana, Jamali's wife, the Blessed one's daughter, together with one thousand women took initiation under the Master.  Then the Blessed one went elsewhere to wander, and Jamali followed him with the warrior-sadhus.  In the course of time Jamali, as he wandered, learned the eleven Angas and the Lord made him the head of his fellow-mendicants.  He practiced penance’s, two-day fasts, etc. Priyadarshana followed Candana.


This Candana was the daughter of Dadhivahana, king of Champa.  He had been defeated in a battle and his daughter Candana had been enslaved.  Once Candana had given half the food that had been given to her while she was nearly starving to Mahavira as alms.  At that time Mahavira had still not attained omniscience.  He had taken a vow that he would fast for a long time.  It was predicted by the gods, "This girl, who has her last body (before emancipation), averse to desire for worldly pleasures, will be the first female disciple, when Mahavira's omniscience had developed".


One day Jamali bowed to the Lord and said: "With your permission I and my group shall proceed with unrestricted wanderings."  The Blessed One knew by the eye of knowledge that evil would result, and gave no answer to Jamali asking again and again.  With the idea that what is not forbidden is permitted, Jamali and his group separated from the Lord to wander.


While thus wandering along with his followers Jamali once fell ill.  He wanted to lie down and asked his men to spread a bed for him.  After some time, he asked them whether the bed was spread or not.  They were still spreading the bed and replied that the bed was spread.  When Jamali saw that the bed had not until then been spread, he got annoyed with his followers.  They replied that according to the teachings of Mahavira "What is being done is done".  But now they realized their mistake and knew the truth that "What is being done is not done".  This in fact was the sole point in the schism on which Jamali and his group separated from Mahavira. Jamali started boasting that he had attained omniscience.  He told Mahavira that he had become all knowing, all perceiving, an Arhat here on earth.  His wife Priyadarshana also joined him in his heresy.  She, however, realized her mistake by a personal experience.  Once a person had intentionally allowed a spark of fire to drop on her habit, which caught fire.  When she saw that her habit was burning Priyadarshana said, "Look Dhanka, my habit is burnt by your carelessness". Dhanks said, "Do not speak falsely, Sadhvi, for according to your doctrine, it is proper to say such a thing when the whole habit has been burnt." Being burnt is burnt' the teaching of Mahavira.  "Priyadarshana realized her error in following Jamali's teaching and came back with her followers to her father.


Jamali, however, continued with his false doctrine and at last died without confessing his sin.  Jamali's doctrine died with him.


The next important episode described by Hemachadra, is the death of Goshala, the leader of the Ajivikas (Hemachandra spells it Ajivaka).


In his wanderings Mahavira had come to Shravasti and stopped there in the garden of one Kosthanka.  Goshala had come there earlier and was staying in Shravasti in the shop of a potter woman called Halahala.  Goshala used to call himself omniscient. Once while he entered Shravasti for alms, Gautama, one of the chief disciples of Mahavira heard that Goshala was making these claims.  Gautama asked Mahavira whether Goshala was right in this matter.  Mahavira said: "The son of Mankha, Mankhali, thinking himself a Jina though he is not a Jina, Goshala is a house of deceit.  Initiated by me myself, taught by me, he resorted to wrong belief about me.  He is not omniscient, Gautama".


When Goshala heard Mahavira's opinion about him, he was greatly annoyed.  When he saw Ananda, another disciple of Mahavira, he threatened that he had a hot flash with which he would consume an enemy.  He would destroy Mahavira and his disciples with his flash.  When Ananda reported this to Mahavira, he remarked that Goshala indeed had this dangerous flash, with which he could consume anybody except the Arhat, who would only feel some discomfort.  That is why Goshala should not be teased.


Ananda reported this to the people of Shravasti.  This made Goshala angrier, and he came and started abusing Mahavira.  Indeed, he was able to kill two of Mahavira's disciples with his hot flash when they tried to remonstrate.


Mahavira tried to pacify Goshala, but Mahavir's words made Goshala angrier, and he discharged his hot flash at Mahavira.  "Powerless against the Master like a hurricane against a mountain, it (the flash) circumambulated the Lord, resembling a devotee.  From the hot flash there was only warmth in the Master's body..... The hot flash, as if angry because he had used it for a crime, alas! Turned and entered Goshala's body forcibly".


"Burned internally by it, Goshala had recourse to audacity and said arrogantly to the Blessed Mahavira: "Consumed by my hot flash, you will die at the end of six months succumbing to a bilious fever, still an ordinary ascetic, Kashyapa".


"The Master said: "Goshala, your speech is false, since I, omniscient, shall wander for sixteen years more.  But you suffering from a bilious fever from your own hot flash, will die at the end of the seven days.  There is no doubt about it".


"The miserable Goshala, burned by his own hot flash drank wine to allay the great heat, accepting a bowl of wine. Intoxicated by the wine he sang and danced and frequently bowed to Halahala (the potter woman), making an anjali..... He spoke disconnected and contradictory speeches; and he passed the day nursed by his sorrowful disciples".  Thus he suffered for a week.


At the end of seven days, Goshala repented, confessed his errors and died.


 (The story of Goshala, taken by Hemachandra mostly from the Bhagavati-Sutra probably gives the history of a serious quarrel between the sects of Ajivikas led by Goshala and the Nigganthas led by Mahavira.  As described later, Hoernle say in it the signs of the beginning of the Digambara Community).


In the course of a few days, Mahavira also became weak from dysentery and bilious fever from the effects of Goshala's hot flash, but he did not use any medicine.  Rumour spread that he would, as predicted by Goshala, die within six months.  His disciples became greatly alarmed, and requested Mahavira to take some medicine.  At last, Mahavira agreed and said that his disciples should bring that had been cooked by Revati, a housewife, for the household.


"Sinha (one of the disciples) went to Revati's house and got the prescribed remedy which she gave.  Immediately delighted gods made a shower of gold.  Lord Vardhamana made use of the excellent medicine brought by Sinha and at once regained health, the full moon to the partridge (chakora) of the congregation.


Mahavira lived for sixteen years more after this.  He wandered about north Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, teaching people the ethics of his religion.  Perhaps nothing very much noteworthy happened during these years.


Mahavira died twenty-nine and half years after he had attained omniscience.  The death took place in the house of king Hastipala's scribe in the town of Pava, near Rajagriha. Out of the eleven Ganadharas, nine had already died.  Only (Indrabhuti) Gautama and Sudharman survived him.  A day before his death, Mahavira had sent away Gautama for a day. Perhaps he had feared that Gautama might be too demonstrative of his grief.  However, Gautama attained omniscience instantly on the death of Mahavira.  He remained in this state for twelve years and on his death Sudharman attained omniscience.  Sudharman was the first leader of the Jain Church after Mahavira, for Gautama never acted as a teacher.


Svetambaras place the year of the death of Mahavira, which is the initial point of their era, 470 years before the beginning of the Vikram era, or in 527 BC.12


On the death of Mahavira, "The light of knowledge having been extinguished, all the kings made material lights.  From that time among the people also a festival called Dipotsava, takes place everywhere on that night by making lights".


(Hemachandra in this last part of his Trishashtishalakapursha- charitra has covered nearly all the facts known to the Jains about the life of Mahavira. It is, however, interesting to note that he has not mentioned the second schism of the Jain Church.  This was started y Tissagutta during Mahavira's lifetime, sixteen years after the latter had attained omniscience).


What kind of man was Mahavira?  We do not know much about his character from the Jain canon, but some conclusions can be draw from his behavior and sayings.  He must have been a man of strong will power and patience. Otherwise he could have not withstood the tortures and privations he suffered during the period of twelve years he was travelling either alone or with Goshala.  His constitution must also have been quite strong.


He was evidently not of a cheerful disposition, and disliked mirth among his disciples.  We have in the Acharanga-Sutra, "A Nirgrantha comprehends (and renounces) mirth, he is not mirthful.  The Kevalin says: " A Nirgrantha who is moved by mirth, and is mirthful, might utter a falsehood in his speech."13


He must have also had charisma and the quality of attracting people.  This conclusion can be drawn from the success he obtained in combining the Nigrantha Church into one, and creating a religious system, which has lasted almost unchanged these 2500 years.  His power of attracting people was a cause of envies to his one time companion and later his rival Makkhali Goshala who complained to Ardraka.  "Listen, Ardraka, to what (Mahavira) has done.  At first he wandered about as a single monk; but now he has surrounded himself by many monks, and teaches every one of them the Law at length."14


As Jacobi says, "Mahavira must have been a great man in his own way, and an eminent leader among his contemporaries; he owed the position of a Tirthakar because of the sanctity of his life and his success in the propagating of his creed"15.


The report about Mahavira's death is also recorded in the Buddhists texts.  In fact the report appears at three places. These are Majjhima Nikaya, Samagama Sutta, 3.14;  Digha Nikaya, Pasadika Sutta 3.6; and Digha Nikaya, Paryaya  Sutta 3.10. The purport of these records is as follows:


Chunda Samanuddesa, a Buddhist monk was passing his rainy season in Pava.  At that time the Buddha was dwelling among the Shakkas at Samagama.  "Now at that time Nigantha Nataputta had just departed from life at Pava.  After his death the Niganthas were divided into two groups. They were making quarrels, making strife, falling into disputes were wounding each other, "You do not know this law of discipline, I know this law of discipline.....You are having false beliefs, I am having true beliefs" etc. Thus the Niganthas of the Nataputta were as if warring with each other.


Chunda Samanuddesa after passing the rainy season at Pava went and reported the whole matter to Ananda. Thereupon the venerable Ananda said to him: "Reverend Chunda, this news is worthy to be presented to the Blessed One.  Come let us go to the Lord".


Then, the venerable Ananda and Chunda Samanuddesa approached the Buddha, and saluted and sat down at one side and so seated, the venerable Ananda said to the exalted one: "Lord: this Chunda Samanuddesa says "Nigantha Nataputta has just departed...."


This record in the Buddhist text is so vivid, that the obvious inference from it that the Buddha was living at the time of Mahavira's death ought to be accepted.  The belief among some scholars, on the other hand, is that it was the Buddha who had died earlier.  This later hypothesis is supported among others by Snhalese Buddhist tradition that the Buddha died in 544 BC Since the Jains believe that Mahavira died in 527 BC, this would put the year of death on the Buddha 16 to 17 years earlier than the year of Mahavira's death.  Things are, however, not free from complications.  Hemchandra, the historian of the Jain Church, has written that Chandragupta Maurya became emperor 155 years after the death of Mahavira.  This would bring the years of the death of Mahavira to 468 BC There are other traditions also about the years of death of Mahavira and the Buddha.




1. The fact that Trishala, the mother of Mahavira, was a sister of king Chetaka is not mentioned in the canon. We learn about this only from Avashayakachurni of Jinadasagani (7th century AD)


2. Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXII. p. xv


3. Winternitz, op. cit. 443


4. Acaranga Sutra in Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXII, p. 194


5. Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXII. p.84


6. Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXII, p.411


7. The account of Mahavira's travel as given in the Avashakchurni has been summarized above from J. C. Jain Life in Ancient India, pp. 257-261


8. Schubrihg, op. cit. P. 44


9. There is some similarity here with the life of the Buddha. The Lalitvistara describes the life of the Buddha in some detail to the time he attained Buddhahood and traveled to Sarnath to preach his first sermon. This was when he was 36. For the remaining 44 years of the Buddha’s life we have little connected details.


10. Helen M. Johnson has translated this work by Hemachandra in six volumes. The Oriental Institute, Baroda, published the translation. Vol. VI, which is used here extensively, was published in 1962.


11. That Jamali was Priyadarshna's husband, is not mentioned in the canon though his name occurs several times in the canonical texts. The later commentaries however say that Jamali was the husband of Priyadarshana, daughter of Mahavira.


12. H. Jacobi mentions in his article on Jainism in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. VII, that 527 BC was the date given by Shvetambera of Mahavira's Nirvana, while Digambers place the event 18 years later. This does not seem to be correct. Trilokasara (shloka 850), a Digambra's work mentions that Mahavira's Nirvana took place 605 years and 5 months before the shaka king

(AD 78). This gives 527 BC as the date of Mahavira's Nirvana. Another Digambera work Tiloypannati gives three dates dates for Mahavira's Nirvana . Two of them absurdly give old dates, but the third one (sl. 1499) agrees with Trilokasara.


13. Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXII, p.205


14. Sutrakritanga in Sacred Books of the East, Vol. XLV, p.409


15. Sacred Books of the East Vol. XLV, p. xxxii


16. See chapter v



The Jain Church After Mahavira 

The Shvetambara Version


So far as we know, Jainism was confined, during the first one or two centuries after Mahavira, within the area in which he had preached the religion.  Mahavira's principal disciple Sudhamma succeeded him as the head of the Church.  His name was later Sanskritized to Sudharman.  Mahavira is said to have had eleven principal disciples or Gangdharas.  Nine of them had died during the lifetime of Mahavira and only two, namely Sudharman and Indrabhuti Gautama, are said to have survived him.  But apart from Sudharman we know nothing about the other ten Ganadharas.  The historicity of these ten has been questioned.  However, it is quite clear that in the history of Jainism, it is not important to establish the fact that they existed.  These ten Ganadharas have left no successors, and they did not make any contribution, so far as we know, to the development of Jainism after Mahavira.


Sudharman on the other hand was an important figure. We know many of the teachings of Mahavira in the version in which Sudharman taught them to his principal disciple Jambusvamin.  Many lessons in the Jain canonical works start with the words of Sudharman: "Now Jambusvamin...."


Sudharman survived Mahavira by twenty years.  He is said to have become a Kevalin (omnipotent) twelve years after Mahavira's Nirvana, and then lived on for eight years more, reaching the age of 100 at the time of his death.  Jambu, his principal disciple, succeeded him to the pontificate. Jambu's principal disciple Prabhava succeeded him on his death forty-four years later in 64 AV. Thus, for several generations, the supreme dignity and power of the Jain Church devolved from teacher to disciple.


It must be pointed out that the above is the Shvetambara tradition.  Some Digambaras maintain, on the other hand, that the first two successors of Mahavira were Gautama and Lohacharya, and Jambu had succeeded Lohacharya.  Some other Digambaras think that Sudharman succeeded Gautama and Lohacharya was another name of Sudharman.  However, for the history of the Jain Church, we have to rely on the Shvetambara version.  Digambaras have not written any history of the Church and apart from some pattavalis and inscriptions, we do not know their version of the story for a few centuries after Mahavira.


The list of the successors of Mahavira in the pontificate, as known to the Svetambaras, is given in the Kalpa Sutra in the chapter known as Theravali (or Sthaviravali), and also in two of their canonical works. The lists of the patriarchs given in these two Sutras are in agreement with that given in the Kalpa Sutra up to Mahagiri and Suhastin, the pair of patriarchs in the eighth generation after Mahavira.  At that point, the succession diverges in two lines, one start from Mahagiri, the other from Suhastin. The first is recorded in Nandi and Avashyaka Sutras, and the second in the Kalpa Sutra.  Both lines are entirely independent of each other and have no members in common. Almost all those who figure in the ancient legends (Kathanakas) belong to the line of Suhastin.  As far as I am aware there is but one legend related to a member of the Mahagiri line, viz. Mangu, see Abhidhanarajendra Kosha, s.v. Mangu".1


Thus, for all practical purposes, the list given in the Kalpa Sutra is the only authentic list, so far as the Svetambaras are concerned.  The Kalpa Sutra, however, does not give, apart from the succession list, any other information about the patriarchs of the Jain Church.  This history is contained in Hemachandra's Parishishtaparvan or  Sthaviravali and in the last part of Bhadreshvara's Kathavali, a huge work in Prakrit prose.  Both these are legendary histories or rather hagiographies, i.e. they give mostly the legends connected with the lives of these patriarchs and the contemporary kings.  The "history" of the Jain Church as given below is mostly based on Hemachandra's Sthaviravali.  A large part of the Sthaviravali describes the good deeds done by the patriarchies in their previous births as a result of which they were rewarded with saintly lives in their present births.  The work also describes the political events of the period, especially in reference to the influence that the Jain had on these events.  These descriptions are of general interest.  (The events are perhaps described as the Jains would like them to have happened, and not necessarily as they actually happened).


The first six patriarchies after Mahavira were:

1. Sudharma(n)             4. Sayyambhava

2. Jambu                      5. Yashobhadra

3. Prabhava                  6. Bhadrabahu and





"Sudharman entered the order at the age of fifty; thirty years he was the disciple of Mahavira, twelve years after whose death he reached kevalam.  He died eight years later, having accomplished his 100th year".




"Sudharman's successor was Jambu.  It is related that once Sudharman, surrounded by his disciples, Jambu etc., arrived in Champa, and took up his abode in the part outside the town. As was usual, a crowd gathered to hear his preaching.  King Kunika (Ajatashatru) saw the crowd and came to hear the sermon.  When the sermon was at an end, the king asked Sudharman who Jambu was, for the king greatly struck with the beauty and the remarkable appearance of Jambu. Sudharman related to him Jambu's history, and foretold that he would be the last kevalin.  After him nobody would reach Manahpayaya and the Paramvadhi stages of supernatural knowledge; the JinaKalpa would be abandoned together with other holy institutions and practices, while on earth the sanctity of men would go on decreasing". (IV, 1-54)2


Here perhaps we get the first hint of the schism between the Shvetambara and the Digambara Churches.  One of the practices of Jina Kalpa is the complete nudity of the monks. The Shvetamabara monks have abandoned this practice and follow what is known as sthavir-Kalpa.  It is interesting to note that the name of Jambu's successor Prabhava who presumably followed the sthavira Kalpa does not appear in any of the lists of patriarchs of the Digambaras.




"Jambu reached beatification 64 years after Mahavira's Nirvana, having appointed Prabhava of the Katyayana gotra as the visible head of the Church". (IV-55-61)




Shayyambhava was born a heretic and at first he studied the Vedic religion under his guru.  Once he met two monks who said: "Ah, you know not the truth." This unsettled his mind and a few days later he took farewell of his guru and went in search of the two monks.  At lasts, he came to Prabhava from whom he asked for instruction in the Jain religion. Prabhava explained to him the five vows of the Jains; and when Shayyambhava had renounced his former heretical views, he received Diksha and became a zealous ascetic.  He learned the fourteen Purvas and became, after Prabhava's death, the head of the Church". (V, 36-54)


The Dashavaikalika


When Shyyambhava took Diksha, he had left his young wife behind.  They had as yet no children.  The circumstances made the forsaken woman's case appear still more miserable, so that people compassionately asked her if there was no hope of offspring.  She answered in Prakrit, "manayam" i.e. "a little". Hence the boy to whom she eventually gave birth, was called Manaka.  When Manaka was eight years old, and became aware that his mother was not dressed like a widow, he asked her who his father was.  He then learned that his father was Shayyambhava, who, becoming a monk, had left before he, Manaka, was born, and never returned.  Manka who yearned for his father secretly left his mother and went to Champa.  There he met his father, and as he did not recognize him as such, he inquired of him about his father by whom he wanted to be ordained.  Upon which Shayyambhava gave himself out as the most intimate friend of his father in whose stead he would ordain him.  Manaka agreeing to this Shayyambhava brought him to the monks without explaining the relation subsisting between the boy and himself.  The boy was ordained. Shayyambhava by means of his supernatural knowledge perceived that his son would die in six months.  The time being too short for mastering the whole sacred lore, in extensor, Shayyambhava condensed its essence in ten lectures, which he composed in the afternoon.  Hence the work is called Dashavaikalika.  For thought to make abstracts of the Law is allowed to none but the last Dashapurvin, yet under certain circumstances a Shrutakevalin may do so.  Manaka learned the Dashavaikalika, and thus he was well instructed in the religion.  When the six months were over and he died, Shayyambhava wept so much at Manaka's death that his disciples were at a loss to comprehend his deportment which appeared so unbecoming of a world-renouncing monk, and said as much.  He then told them Manaka's history, and declared that he wept for joy because his son had died a saint.  The disciples learning then that Manaka was their acharya's son wondered why he had not told them this before.  Shayyambhava replied that if they had known Manaka to be his son, they would not have exacted the obedience, which is the duty of every novice, and the most meritorious part of his moral exercise.  He added that for the sake of Manaka's instruction, he had composed Dashavaikalika, but now the object being attained, he would cause his work to disappear. The disciples, however, moved the Sangha to solicit Shayyambhava that he should publish the Sashavaikalika. Shayyambhava complying with their wishes, that work has been preserved." (V 55-105)




At last Shayyambhava died, having appointed Yashobhadra as his successor". (V 106-107)



Bhadrabahu and Sambhutavijaya


"After a most exemplary life of an ascetic and a teacher, Yashobhadra died leaving the management of the Church to his disciples Bhadrahu and Sambhutavijaya".


Hemchandra in his Sthaviravali now goes back about a hundred years to the time when Pataliputra, the new capital of Magadh, was founded.  Later he describes the political history of the period of Nandas and the Mauryas and then comes back to the history of the Jain Church.


Founding of Pataliputra


"Kunika was the king of Magadh at the time of Mahavira. Kunika's capital was Champa.  When he died, his son Udayin succeeded him.  Everything in his residency brought back to him the memory of his deceased father, and rendered him exceedingly sad.  His Ministers, therefore, persuaded him to found a new capital, just as Kunika had founded Champa, after leaving Rajagriha on the death of his father.  In order to find a site suitable for the future capital, Udayin dispatched men versed in the interpretation of omens.  When they had reached the bank of the Ganga, they came upon a magnificent Patali tree.  On a bough of this tree was perched a Chasa bird.  The bird opened from time to time its bill in which insects fell by themselves.  The augurs noticing this remarkable omen, returned to the King, and recommended the spot for erecting the new Capital.  An old auger then declared that the Patali tree was not a common tree, for he had heard from wise men a story about it.  The story was about one Annikaputra who had even in a painful situation succeeded in concentrating his thoughts, and thus at last reached Nirvana, which event was duly celebrated by the gods near this place.  This place henceforth became a famous tirtha called Prayaga.  The skull of Annikaputra was drifted down by the river and landed on the bank.  There the seed of a Patali tree found its way into it, and springing up it developed into the tree that was to mark the site of the new capital.  In the center of this city a fine Jain Temple was raised by the order of the monarch who was a devout Jain. (VI, 21-174)


How Nanda became king of Magadh


"Udayin the king of Magadh was murdered by the agent of a rival king.  Udayin was childless.  His ministers, therefore, sent the Royal Elephant in a procession through the main street for searching out the next king.  At that moment Nanda was coming from the opposite side in his marriage procession.  Nanda was the son of the courtesan by a barber.  When the two processions met, the State Elephant put Nanda on his back, the horse neighed, and other such auspicious omens were seen.  In short, it was evident that the royal insignia themselves pointed him out as the successor of Udayin.  He was accordingly proclaimed king and ascended the throne.  This event happened sixty years after the Nirvana. (VI, 231-234) The name of Nanda's minister was Kalpaka.





Seven descendants of Nanda succeeded each other.  The ministers of these Nanda monarchs were the descendants of Kalpaka.  The minister of the ninth Nanda was also a descendant of Kalpaka. His name was Sakatala. Sakatala had two sons, Sthulabhadra and Shriyaka.  Shriyaka was in the service of the king whose confidence and love he had gained.


On the death of Sakatala, the king offered Shriyaka the seal of the Prime Minister, but he refused it in favor of his brother Sthulabhadra. Accordingly the same offer was made to Sthulahbadra, who said that he would take the matter into consideration.  Ordered to make up his mind without delay, his reflections took an unexpected turn; for perceiving the vanity of the world he resolved to quit empty pleasures, and plucking out his hair he acquainted the king with his resolution.  He later took Diksha under Sambhutavijaya.


Chanakya and Chandragupta


Chanayka was the son of the Brahman Chanin, a devout Jain.  Once Chanakya was thrown out of the court of the ninth Nanda.  It was Chanakya's fault, for he had behaved quite impertinently, but he was very sore at the insult and wanted his revenge.  He met Chandragupta and induced him to attack Pataliputra, the capital of the Nandas.  But every time Chandra Gupta did this he was defeated.  Chanakya then adopted the policy of subduing the outlying districts first. One of these towns was defending itself very resolutely. Chanakya learned that the town was protected by the idol. Chandragupta then conquered the town.  One by one Chandragupta captured all the outlying towns and was able finally to take Pataliputra, where he ascended the throne. This event happened 155 years after Mahavira's Nirvana.


Chandragupta chooses Jain teachers at Chanakya's instance


In the beginning Chandragupta preferred the heretic teachers.  In order to prove that heretic teachers were worthless, Chanakya once invited them to the palace.  He placed some dust on the floor near the window overlooking the royal seraglio.  When no palace servant was there, the heretic teachers went and looked through the window. Chanakya showed their footprints to the king, and thus proved that these heretic teachers were looking at women.  The Jain teachers, however, who were invited the next day, remained in their seats from the beginning till the end of their visit, and this time, of course, the dust on the floor in front of the windows was found untouched.  Chandragupta seeing the proof of the sanctity of the Jain teachers henceforth made them his spiritual guides.(VIII, 415-435)



Birth of Bindusara and death of Chandragupta


Chanakya served Chandragupta as his minister throughout the life of later.  "On Chanakya's order, the food of Chandragupta was mixed with a gradually increased dose of poison, so that in the end even the strongest poison had no effect on him.  Once the queen Durdhara who was big with child was dining with the king, when Chanakya came upon them.  Observing that the poison almost instantly killed the queen he ripped open her womb and extracted the child.  He had been nearly to late; for already a drop of the poison had reached the boy's head, who, from this circumstances was called Bindusara.  In ripe age he was placed on the throne by Chanakya on the decease of his father who died by samadhi." (VIII, 437-445)


Ashoka and Samprati


"On Bindusara's decease, his son Ashoka Shri ascended the throne.  Ashoka sent his son and presumptive heir, Kunala, to Ujjayini, there to be brought up.  When the prince was eight years old, the king wrote (in Prakrit) to the tutors that Kunala should begin his studies.  One of Ashoka's wives who wanted to secure the succession to her own son being then present took up the letter to read it, and secretly putting a dot over the letter ‘a’, changed Adheeyu into Andheeyu another word, meaning he must be blinded. Without rereading the letter, the king sealed and dispatched it.  The clerk in Ujjayini was so shocked by the contents of this letter that he was unable to read it aloud to the prince.  Kunala, therefore, seized the letter and read the cruel sentence of his father.  Considering that as yet no Maurya prince had disobeyed the chief of the house, and unwilling to set a bad example, he stoutly put out his eyesight with a hot iron".3  (IX 14-29)


“Years later Kunala came to Ashoka's court dressed as a minstrel and when he greatly pleased the king by his music, the king wanted to reward him.  At this the minstrel was Prince Kunala and he was demanding his inheritance.  Ashoka sadly objected that being blind Kunala never could ascend the throne.  Thereupon the latter said that he claimed the kingdom not for himself but for his son.  "When", cried the king, "has a son been born to you?" "Just now Samprati) was the answer.  Samprati accordingly was the name given to Kunala's son, and though a baby in arms, he was anointed Ashoka's successor, after whose demise he ascended the throne and became a powerful monarch.  Samprati was a staunch Jain".


Hemachandra then describes the manner in which the ten Purvas were preserved by Sthulabhadra.  The principal character in this famous incident was Bhadrabahu, and as Bhadrabahu died 170 years after the Nirvana of Mahavira, i.e. fifteen years after the accession of Chandragupta, it is clear that the incident described below happened during the reign of Chandragupta.


Sthulabhadra learns the Purvas from Bhadrabahu


"A dreadful dearth prevailing about this time forced the monks to emigrate as far as the seaside.  During these unsettled times they neglected their regular studies, so that the sacred lore was on the point of falling into oblivion. The Sangha, therefore, reassembling at Pataliputra when the famine was over, collected the fragments of the canon which the monks happened to recollect, and in this way brought together eleven Angas.  In order to recover the Drishtivada,the Sangha sent monks to Bhadrabahu in Nepal commanding him to join the Council.  Bhadrabahu, however, declined to come, as he had undertaken the Mahaprana vow, which it would take 12 years to carry out; but after that period he would in a short time teach the whole of the Drishtivada.  Upon receiving the answer, the Sangha again dispatched two monks to ask Bhadrabahu what penalty he who disobeyed the Sangha incurred.  If he should answer excommunication, then they should reply that such was his punishment.  Everything coming about as foreseen, Bhadrabahu requested some clever monks to whom he would daily deliver seven lessons at suitable time.  Accordingly 500 monks with Sthulabhadra as their leader,  were sent to Bhadrabahu.  But all of them except Sthulabhadra, becoming tired by the slowness of their progress, soon fell off; Sthulabhadra alone stayed out the whole term of his master's vow.  At the end of it he had learned the first ten Purvas.(IX, 55-76)


Sthulabhadra and Bhadrabahu, it appears, then went back to Pataliputra.  Sthulabhadra had seven sisters.  These sisters of Sthulabhadra paying their reverence to Bhadrabahu after his arrival in Pataliputra, asked him where their brother stayed, and were directed to some temple.  On their approach Sthulabhadra transferred himself into a lion, in order to gratify his sisters with the sight of a miracle.  Of course the frightened girls ran back to their guru to tell him that a lion had devoured their brother. Bhadrabahu however assured them that their brother was alive, and so they found him on their return to the temple".


"When his sisters had left Sthulabhadra, he went to Bhadrabahu for his daily lesson.  But the latter refused to teach him any more, as he had become unworthy of it. Sthulabhadra then replied that he remembered no sin since his ordination, but being reminded by him of what he had done, he fell at his feet and implored his forgiveness.  Bhadrabahu, however, would not take up his instruction.  Even the whole Sangha could only with great difficulty overcome his reluctance.  He at last consented to teach Sthulabhadra the rest of the Purvas on the condition only that they (viz. He should not hand down the last four Purvas) to anybody else.  On Bhadrabahu's death, 170 years after Mahavira's Nirvana, Sthulabhadra became the head of the Church.)(IX,101- 113).


Mahagiri & Suhastin


"Sthulabhadra had two disciples, Mahagiri and Suhastin. As Yaksarya brought them up,5 the word arya was prefixed to their names.  Sthulabhadra taught them the ten Purvas, for the last four Purvas he was forbidden to teach.  After their teacher's decease they succeeded to his place."(X,36-40)


"After some time, Mahagiri made over his disciples to Suhastin and lived as a Jinakalpika, though the Jina Kalpa had by that time fallen into disuse."(XI,1-4)


Hemchandra had stated earlier that Jina Kalpa was abandoned after Jambu.  Does Mahagiri's acceptance of Jina Kalpa signify the break up of the Jain Church into the two sects Digambara and Shvetambara?  This does not appear to be the case, for Mahagiri's name does not figure in any list of sthaviras of the Digambras. Also, Hemacandra's statement that Mahagiri had handed over  his disciples to Suhastin is perhaps not correct , for Nandi Sutra, a Svetambra text gives the succession list6 of Mahagiri's  disciples, and this list is completely different from the list of successors of Suhastin given in the Kalpa Sutra.


In other words, when Mahagiri started living as a Jina Kalpa, he either had not made over his disciples to Suhastin, or if he had done so, then he might have had picked up a new group of disciples later.  One thing is clear: Mahagiri's successors did not leave many impresses on the history of Jainism.  Except for the Nandi Sutra list, their names have practically disappeared.  As stated earlier the only one whose name occurs in the legends composed in the later times was Mangu.


Spread of Jainism


Buddhism had spread all over India and to some places outside India due to the missionary efforts of Ashoka.  A similar role in the case of Jainism was played, according to Hemachandra, by Ashoka's grandson Samprati.  Hemachandra continues.


"The king (Samprati) looking up to Suhastin as his greatest benefactor, was converted by him to the true faith, and hence forth strictly performed all duties enjoined to the laity.  He further showed his zeal by causing Jina Temples to be erected over the whole of Jambudvipa". (XI, 55-65)


“The example and advice of Samprati induced his vassals to embrace and patronize his creed, so that not only in his own kingdom, but also in the adjacent countries, the monks could practice their religion.”  


"In order to extend the sphere of their activity to uncivilized countries, Samprati sent there messengers disguised as Jain monks.  They described to the people the kind of good and other requisites which monks accept as alms, enjoining them to give such things instead of the usual taxes to the revenue collectors who would visit them from time to time.  Of course, these revenue collectors were to be Jain monks.  Having thus prepared the way for them, he induced the Superior to send monks to these countries, for they would find it in no way impossible to live there.  Accordingly, missionaries were sent to the Andras and Dramilas, who found everything as the king had told.  Thus the uncivilized nations were brought under the influence of Jainism". (XI, 89- 102)


"Such was the religious Zeal of the king (Samprati) that he ordered the merchants to give the monks gratis all things they should ask for, and to draw on the royal treasury for the value of the goods.  It may be imagined that the merchants did not hesitate to obey the king's order". (XI, 103-112).


All this necessarily had a corrupting effect on the Jain monks, and Mahagiri, the ascetic-minded patriarch protested.  Hemachandra continues:


"Although the alms with which the monks were supplied are expressly forbidden by the rules of the Church, Suhastin, afraid to offend the zealous king, dared not make any opposition.  Mahagiri, therefore, severely blamed Suhastin, and resolved definitely to separate from him.  For as he said, there was an old prophecy that after Sthulabhadra, the conduct of the Jains would deteriorate.  Accordingly after saluting the image of Jivantasvamin, he left Avanti and went to the Tirtha Gajendrapada.  There, starving himself to death, he reached Svarga.  Samprati dying at the end of his reign, during which he continued a patron of the Jains, became a God and at last he will reach Siddhi". (XI, 113-127)


The Temple of Mahakala in Ujjayini


There was a merchant's son called Avantisukvmala.  Once he heard the preaching of Suhastin and was thus greatly attracted towards Jainism.  He became a monk, but as he was of a delicate constitution, he could not stand the rigor and died while starving.  His son built a magnificent temple at the spot where his father so manfully had faced death.  This temple is still famous in the world as the temple of Mahakala.


(Hemachandra does not say so specifically, but the implication clearly is that this temple was originally a Jain temple, and was later converted into a Hindu temple by the Shaivites.  In the thirteenth century (AD 1234) Iltutmish destroyed this temple.  Ramchandra, Diwan of the Peshwa built the present temple of Mahakala on the same site, in 1745.)


"In the course of time Suhastin left this world starving himself to death, and entered heaven". (XI.176-178)


Hemachandra then leaves out the next four patriarchs from Suhastin onwards are as follows: 8 Suhastin.  9 Susthita- Supratibuddha.  10 Indra.  11 Dinna.  12 Sinhagiri.  13 Vajra.


Hemachandra does not mention Susthita, Indra and Dinna at all, and mentions Sinhagiri only as the guru of Vajra.


Vajra was the son of Dhanagiri, a disciple of Sinhagiri. Dhanagiri had left his house soon after his wife became pregnant.  The child who was born to this abandoned woman was very troublesome and her relations gave him away to Sinhagiri when he had come to the area on a preaching mission.  Since the child was very heavy in weight Sinhagiri named him Vajra. He was then educated in the sacred literature.  Sinhagiri wanted Vajra to be master in the knowledge of the sacred books, so he sent Vajra to Bhadragupta in Ujjayini. Bhadragupta was master of ten Purvas.


"Soon afterwards Vajra arrived, and was most cordially received by Bhadragupta, who readily imparted to him the knowledge of the Purvas.  The object of Vajra's mission being accomplished in a short time, he returned to Dashapura and joined his guru.  The latter permitted him to teach the Purvas, which event the Gods celebrated by showering down a rain of flowers.  Sinhagiri, after having made over to Vajra, his gana, put an end to his earthly career by self- starvation.  Vajurasvamin, then traveling about in company with 500 monks preached the Law; wherever he went he was admired and praised by all."


How the knowledge of the later part of the 10th Purva was lost


There was a person called Aryarakshita.  He went to great acharya to learn the Drishtivada.  The acharya asked him to become a monk first.  Aryarakshita was willing to do so at once, but he induced the monks to remove their residence; for he was afraid that the king and the people would importune him to leave the order.  (This was the first case that Jains were guilty of seducing disciples of other sects.)  Aryarakshita became a pious monk and he readily acquired all knowledge that the acharya possessed.  But when he was told that Vajra in Puri knew more of the Drishtivada than his teacher, he went and joined Vajra.


Then Aryarakshita began his studies and in a short time had mastered nine Purvas.  It was when he learned the yamakas of the 10th Purva that the course of his studies was interrupted.  For about this time a letter arrived from his parents entreating him to return home.  Vajra was at first reluctant to let him go without learning all the Purvas, but when more such letters came requesting Aryaraksita to go back home, "Vajra at last permitted him to go, because his intuition told him that he (Vajra) should soon die, and with him the knowledge of the complete 10th Purva."  (XIII, 134)


"With Vajra died out the knowledge of the complete 10th Purva, and the fourth Samhanana came to its end."  (XIII, 179)


"From Vajra are derived all the divisions of the Church which exist at the present time."  (XIII, 201-203).


Thus Hemachandra ends the Sthaviravali, the history of the patriarchs of the Jain Church.  In the 13th canto of his work he mentions one or two incidents from the life of Vajrasena who was the successor of Vajra, but these are not important in the history of the Church.  (Aryarakshita whom Vajra had taught most of the Purvas never became a patriarch, but his pupil Gotthamahila was the person who started the seventh schism of the Jain Church in 584 AV.).


It appears from the account given by Hemachandra that generally it was one person who occupied the top place in the Church, and this person was the one who knew the Jain sacred literature in full. There was up to that time no written record of this literature and everything had to be committed to memory.  People with such good memory are not easy to find at any time, and the Jains had to find such men among the limited number of people who would accept the strict rules of the Jain monk-hood.  Only twice there were two heads of the Church living simultaneously.  The second of this occasion was during the reign of king Samprati in Ujjayini.  At that time Mahagiri and Suhanstin headed the Church simultaneously. Of the two, Mahagiri was conservative.  He wanted the Jain monks to live strictly in the manner prescribed in the Law. Since he was unable to enforce this, he went away and starved himself to death.


The headquarters of the Jain Church was generally in the capital city of the most powerful ruler of that time. When Udayin, founded his new capital city at Pataliputra, the head quarters of the Church was moved there.  It remained there throughout the period of the Nandas and the first three Mauryas.  When the fourth Maurya king Samprati (one of Ashoka's grandsons) set up his capital to Ujjayini, the headquarters of the Jain Church also moved there.


As noted earlier Hemachandra does not describe the lives of the four patriarchs between Suhastin and Vajra.  These four patriarchs are named in the Kalpa Sutra. A question may be raised as to whether even this Kalpa Sutra list is a complete one, for the possibility is that the number of patriarchs between Suhastin and Vjra was more than four.  Jacobi arrives at this conjecture on the following basis;7


Hemachandra mentions that Bhadrabahu died 170 years (170 AV.) after the Nirvana of Mahavira.  As Bhadrabahu was the sixth patriarch, this gives an average period of a little less than thirty years for each patriarch up to Bhadrabahu.


On the other hand if we accept the usual date given for the sixth schism to be 544 AV., then we find the difference between the lifetime of its author Rohagutta and the death of Bhadrabahu as 374 years.  Now Rohagutta8 was a prashishya of Suhastin, the eighth patriarch, e.g., he belonged to the generation of the tenth patriarch.  This gives only four patriarchs in an interval of 374 years that means 94 years for each patriarch.  This according to Jacobi is an absurd figure.  It may be question whether the date of the sixth schism, viz. 544 AV. is correctly recorded.  Jacobi has also examined this point.  The first seven schisms of the Jain Church have been described in the Avasyaka Nirykti, but it does not mention the eighth schism (the Shvetambara- Digambara split) which is said to have taken place in 609 AV.), or, say, 50 to 60 years after the 6th schism (544 AV.).  So there is not much possibility that the date of this schism could have been forgotten by that time.  "To sum up, if we base our inquiry on the well established date of the schisms,9 we arrive at the conclusion that the list of Theras  (patriarchs) is imperfectly handed down; there must have been far more theras than are contained in the Theravalis."


"In other words the Theravalis do not furnish a connected list of patriarchs succeeding each other as teacher and disciple, but a patched up list of patriarchs whose memory survived in oral and literary tradition, while the rest of them had fallen in utter oblivion."10


It will be noticed that Hemachandra ends his Sthaviravali in an enigmatic manner.  "From Vajra are derived all the divisions of the Church which exist at the present time."  What these divisions were, are not stated.  It may be conjectured that Vajra had supported chaityavasa (dwelling by monks in temples a practice that led later to corruption among the Svetambaras.  An inscription of about the 1st century AD on the Son Bhandara (Rajgir, Bihar) shows that Acharya Vaira (Vajra) excavated two caves that were suitable for dwellings of monks and in which Jain images were installed for worship.




1. H. Jacobi in his Introduction to Hemachandra's Parishishtaparyam, p. xiv.


2. The figures in the brackets refer to the canto and shloka numbers in the Asiatic Society edition of Hemchandra's sthaviravali. The portions within inverted commas are Jacobi's summaries of these shlokas.


3. The Buddhist version of how Kunala was blinded is different. It is said that Tishyaraksha, the chief queen of Ashoka, fell in love with Kunala who tried to desist his stepmother. In her fury she caused him to be blind; or Kurala tore out his own eyes to prove his innocence. Cambridge History of India, Vol. I. P. 451)


4. Ashoka's successor, according to some Buddhist sources, was Konala whose successor, according to some Buddhist sources, was Kunala whose successor was his son Samprati. Cambridge History of India, Vol. I, p. 461


5. "Evidently Sthulabhadra's eldest sister is meant."(Note by Jacobi)


6. Appendix V.


7. Introduction to the Sthaviravali, p. xvii


8. "Rohagutta was a disciple of Suhasti." (Jacobi's note). This does not appear to be correct. According to the Kalpa Sutra Rohagutta was a disciple of Mahagiri, colleague of Suhastin. This makes the matter more confusing.


9. Jacobi himself questions the dates of the various schisms given in the Avashyak Nirukti. The 4th schism was started by Assamita, who was a disciple of Kodinna, a disciple of Mahagiri, in 220 AV. and the 5th schism was started by Ganga who was the disciple of Dhanagutta, disciple of Mahagiri in 228 AV. Thus the difference between the periods of the two heresies both started by prashishyas of Mahagiri is eight years. But the 6th schism that was since we know that Mahagiri and Suhastin were contemporaries, the difference between the ages of their prashisyas could not be as much as 300 years.


10. Ibid., p. xix.


Extension of Jainism -Early Period

The Epigraphic Evidence

Eastern India - Bengal

We consider Bengal first, not because it was an important center of Jainism, but because it is easy to trace the growth and extinction of this religion in this part of the country.  We have seen that Mahavira himself had gone to Ladha (West Bengal) in his pre-Kevalin days and had met with uncivil behavior from the inhabitants.  It is likely that during Mahavira's time the cultural level of the people in that part of the country was not high enough.


The conditions seemed to have changed dramatically only two centuries later.  At the time of Chandragupta Maurya, Bhadrabahu was the head of the Jain church in Magadh.  One of Ghadrabahu's disciples Godasa had formed the Godasa Gana. This Godasa Gana according to the Kalpa Sutra had been divided into four Shakhas.  It is interesting to note that three of these four Shakhas were named after three important cities of ancient Bengal.  These Shakhas were Tamraliptika (after Tamralipta in south Bengal), Kotivarisiya (after Kotivarsha in north Bengal).  It seems that the center of Jainism must have shifted towards Bengal at that time.  Otherwise the Shakhas would not have been named after these Bengal cities.


Some of the Shakhas, Ganas, kulas, etc., mentioned in the Kalpa Sutra have been found to occur in the inscriptions discovered in Mathura.  These inscriptions belong to the first a few centuries of the Christian era.  This proves that the Shakhas, etc., mentioned in the Kalpa Sutra actually existed.  It is likely therefore, that the Shakhas named after the Bengal cities were also actual ones, and not later fictitious additions.


The first epigraphic evidence of the existence of Jainism in Bengal is a copper plate inscription at Paharpur in the Rajshahi district of Bengal.  The date of the inscription is Gupta year 159 (AD 479.)  It mentions the existence of a Vihara established by the disciples of the Nirgrantha Guhanandi.  Hiuen Tsang who stayed in India between AD 629 to 645 also visited Bengal.  He wrote that among the non-Buddhists in Pundravardhana the majority were Digambara Nirgranthas.


This strong influence of Jainism appears to have abruptly declined immediately after this time for none of the copperplate inscriptions of the Pala and Sena kings of Bengal mentions Jainism.  It is to be noted that practically no stone images of Gods of a date prior to the ninth century have been found in Bengal.  By that time Jainism had almost disappeared from Bengal and, therefore, very Jain stone images have been found in this area.  Among the Jain stone images found in Bengal the following are note worthy:


(1) An image of Rishabhanatha has been found in the Dinajpur District.  The image built perhaps in the early Pala period, is one of the most beautiful images found in Bengal.  Rishabhanatha is shown here in the sitting position of dhyanamudra.


(2) Another image of Rishabhanatha was found in the Barabhum village in the Midnapur district.  Here the image is in standing, e.g., kayotsarga-posture.


(3) A dhyana- Mudra image of Parahvanatha has been found in the Deulbhir village of the Bankura district.


(4) A kayotsarga image of Parshvanatha has been found in Datta-Benia village of the Twenty-four Parganas district.


(5) A kayotasarga image of Shantinatha has been found in Ujani village of the Bardhamana district.


All these images have been identified definitely as those of Jain Tirthankaras.  Kshitit Mohan Sen3 however thought that, there were many other Jain images in West Bengal.  These have lost their identification marks.  Their Jain connection has been forgotten and, the villagers worship these images to day as Bhairavas .4


Sen also traces some Bengali words to their Jain origin.  For instance the upper garment of the Jain monks is called `pachheri'.  This in Bengali has become `pachhari'. Similarly the broom used by the Jain monks is called `pichhi'.  In East Bengal a broom is a `pichha'.


It must, however, be admitted, that Jainism which was quite strong in Bengal fifteen hundred years ago, has now disappeared from this area leaving few traces among the indigenous population.



From a reading of the Parishishtaparvan of Hemachandra it would appear that Jainism nearly disappeared from Bihar when Smaprati the grandson of Ashoka started ruling from Ujjayini in the 3rd century BC.  This is not so.  The Jains continued to exist in Bihar, and carried on building their temples and images all over South Bihar for many centuries. Many Jain images have been found in Bihar especially in the Manbhum district.  "Among the other old Jain remains in Manbhum district, particular mention need be made about the Jain temples and sculptures at the small village Pakbira, 32 km.  North-east of Bara Bazar or 50 km.  by Purulia- Ranchi road in Manbhum district.  They had attracted the attention of the archaeological department in the last century.  Report of the Archaeological Survey of India, Vol.  VIII, mentions about the remains at Pakbira as follows: `Here are numerous temples and sculptures, principally Jain; the principal object of attention here is a colossal naked figure, with the lotus as symbol on the pedestal, the figure is 2.25 meters high;...'"


It is surmised that Jainism was quite active in Bihar up to the 12th century.  Since most of the images found are nude it is possible to conjecture that the majority of the Jains then in Bihar were Digambaras.  Also since they have left behind no literature we may assume that they were ordinary people with no intellectual pretensions.  The community must have been financially well off.  Otherwise they would have been able to build so many images.



It is difficult to say whether Jainism had ever been a strong force in Orissa.  Our evidence from the early period is the two inscriptions found in the Udayagiri caves near Bhubaneswar.  One of these is by King Kharavela in the Hathigumpha cave.  The other is by his chief Queen (Aghamahisi) in the Manchapuri cave.  On paleographic evidence D. C. Sircar had suggested that the inscriptions belong to the first century BC.6


The Queen's inscription is a short one dedicating the cave for the use of the Jain shramnas.  Thus it may be concluded that she was respectful towards the Jain religion. The Hathigumpha inscription of King Kharavela has been the subject of many learned comments by eminent historians. Among other reasons for the interest in this inscription is the fact that the inscription is quite a long one, and gives details of a number of occurrences of historical interest. Here, however, only those aspects of this inscription that relate to Jainism need be discussed.


The inscription starts with the benediction Namo  arhantam namo sava-sidhanam.  This is the Jain formula7 of veneration and therefore, Kharavela was either a Jain by religion or he had great respect for this religion.  In the 12th year of his reign Kharavela brought back the (image of) Kalinga Jina8 to Orissa, this had been taken away by Nandaraja of Magadh.


This was either a religious act or a matter of prestige for Kharavela.  In the thirteenth year of his reign he mentions the erection of a shrine in the vicinity of the relic depository9 of the Arihanta on the Kumari Parvata.


These exhaust the list of references to Jainism in the Hathigumpha inscriptions.


Except for these inscriptions' one by Kharavela and the other by his queen, we know nothing about Jainism in Orissa in that period.  Schubring is not inclined to give much importance to the Kharavela inscription from the Jain point of view.  He said:  "This much mutilated inscription it is true, begins with a Jinist formula of veneration, but what tangible deeds in favor of the Jains the scholars were inclined to interpret from it have turned out to be untenable or remained inexplicable.  We may presuppose that Jain communities flourished within Kharavels's reign.”10 One is inclined to agree with this view of Stubbing, for if Kharavela, an important king of Kalinga according to his own reckoning, was a Jain, he would surely find mention in the old Jain  literature.  But Jain literature does not contain even a hint that Kharavela existed.


Another significant thing about the Hathigumpha remains is that "except for Kharavela's inscriptions we could not attribute these to the Jains, for nothing of the decoration reveals their Jain character: the deities depicted are early Hindu, e.g. the sun-God Surya and the lotus Goddess Gaja- Laksmi (Padma-Shri); the figural relief in the Rani-Gumpha have been interpreted by some as scenes from the life of Parshvanatha and by others as episodes from the popular stories of Vasavadatta and Shakuntala; and the whole building is even thought to have been a theater......"11


In short, we know that Kharavela's chief queen was a patron of the Jains and Kharavela himself also had a friendly attitude towards them.


There is positive evidence that in the 11th century some caves of the Khandagiri group, specially Cave no. 11, were used as Jain sacred places.  "......a few of the old cells were converted into sanctuaries by the carving of relief of Tirthankaras and the Shasanadevis on the walls"12.  A large number of nude chlorite images of the different Tirthankaras all belonging to this period have also been found here.  "The prolonged Digambara association of the Khandagiri caves during the reign of the Gangas and their successors, the Gajapatis, is proved by the crude relief of the Tirthankaras on the walls of the cave, which are not earlier in date than the 15th century and may be even later.  Evidence regarding the cells being tenanted in this period and monastic fraternities is, however, lacking."13


Influence of Jainism seems to have disappeared from Orissa after the sixteenth century.


We thus know that Jainism existed in Orissa for a Period of about seventeen hundred years from the first century BC to the 16th century.  For a large part of this period the Khandagiri caves were used as a religious center by them, as resting places of the monks and perhaps also as temples, but we do not know whether the occupation of these caves by the Jains was continuous or intermittent.  The Existence of the nude images of the Tirthankaras in the eleventh century proves that at least in the later days the Jains who occupied the caves belonged to the Digambara sect.


Spread of Jainism in South India-Early period

We do not know when and how Jainism entered South India. Traditionally Shravana Belgola in South West Karnataka is said to be the earliest Jain center in South India. Unfortunately, however, there is no epigraphic evidence to support this theory.  The Earliest Jain inscription found at this place is believed to be about AD 600,14 though some Jain inscriptions older than this have been found in areas near about this place.  One of them, a copper plate inscription found in Mercara (Coorg) and dated AD 466- 67 mentions the gift of the village Badaneguppe to the Shrivijaya Jain-temple at Talvananagara.15 This proves that Jains were established in this area in the 5th century, but Shravana Belgola itself might not have been their first center in South India.


The inscription of AD 600 found at Shravana Belgola, is one of the most important records in the history of Jainism.  A summary of this inscription is as below:


"After Mahavira the succession of pupils was Gautama, Lohacharya, Jambu, Vishnudeva, Aparajita, Govardhana, Bhadrabahu, Vishakha, Prothila, Kritikarya (?), Jaya, Siddhartha, Dhrtisena, etc.  Bhadrabahu who belonged to this list, with his knowledge of the past, present and future, came to know that a twelve-year famine (vaisamya) was about to occur in Ujjayini.  The whole Sangha then moved towards the South (Daksinapatha). They reached a prosperous area. Acharya Prabhachandra knowing his end was near stayed on the Katavapra hill with one disciple, and asked the rest of the Sangha to proceed further.  Prabhachandra then started his samadhi aradhana....16


Thus it would appear that it was Prabhachandra who had led the first (?) Jain Sangha to South India and the Sangha, which went there, started from Ujjayini.  In later Digambara works the story was modified.  "The Bhadrabahu- Katha (about AD 800) and the Brihatkatkosha (AD 931) report that towards the end of his life Bhadrabahu ordered his followers to move away to Punnata (South-Karnataka), whereas Bhadrabahu- Charitra (2nd half of the century) says that he himself took the lead and died on the way".17 Since the Digambaras believe that there were two Bhadrabahus, the first of whom died 162 years after Mahavira's Nirvana  (i.e. in 365 BC), and the second 515 years after the Nirvana (i.e. in 12 BC),18  it is not clear which Bhadrabahu these later authors were talking about.


The Shvetambara tradition as recorded in Hemachandra's Parishishtaparvan was, as we have seen, quite different. There the Sangha was said to have moved to the seacoast when a dreadful dearth prevailed in the Magadh area, and came back to Magadh when the famine ended.  Bhadrabahu himself did not go to the seacoast with the Sangha but had actually gone to Nepal where he undertook the Mahaprana vow.  He came back and joined the Sangha in Magadh after performing the austerities.


Also it was Samprati, the successor of Ashoka, who according to Hemchandra prepared the ground for the spread of Jainism in South India (Andras and Dramilas).  Ujjayini was at that time the capital of Samprati.  Hemchandra's version appears to be more plausible than the later Digambara traditions.


Epigraphic evidence available so far would tend to show that Jainism entered the Deccan through the West.  Halsi, known in ancient times as Palasika in the Belgaum district was the most important Jain center in the Deccan in the fifth century.  The Kadamba kings of Palasika were patrons of Jainism at that time.  They themselves were Brahmans, but some of them made grants of land to Jains, and erected Jain temples.19 This also supports the view that Jainism entered South India through the west and perhaps from Ujjayini itself.


Another important Jain center in the Deccan was Altem in the Kolhapur district.  We have there an epigraph of Shaka 411 (AD 489) which records the erection of a Jain temple by a feudatory of the Calukyas.  He is styled as Samiyar.20


Tamil Nadu

No definite evidence of the existence of Jainism in the early period has been found in Tamil Nadu.  "A large number of caverns have been discovered in the hills and mountainous regions in the Pudukkottai area and Madura and Tinnevelly districts.  The two last named areas are particularly rich in these antiquities and the Madura district is known to possess numerous monuments of this kind.  These caverns are found generally containing inscriptions.  These epigraphs are in the Brahmi characters of the 3rd century BC. These antiquities and records are attributed to the Jains."21


This point that the caves perhaps belonged to the Jains, was made by K. V. Subramnia Iyer,22 a few decades ago. At that time the inscriptions had not been deciphered.  In 1966 I. Mahadevan 23 was able to read most of these inscriptions (which number about 75).  The inscriptions mention the dedication of the caves by the rulers or their servants to religious people.  What exactly was the religion of these people to whom the caves were dedicated is not clear.  Some of the terms used in the inscriptions are `Asiriyan' (archarya), `Upasakam', `Palli' (non-Hindu temples), etc. In one place viz., Pukalur, the word `Ammanam'  (naked one) is also found. It will not perhaps be correct to attribute the dedication of the caves to the Jain monks on the basis of these few words only.  Clearly the Donees were religious people, but they could have belonged to any of the non-orthodox sects such as the Buddhists, Ajivakas or the Jains.  The `naked one' could in fact be an Ajivika monk, for we know that according to their rules the monks had to remain naked.  Thus this cave could have been dedicated to the Ajivikas.


Jainism, however, in later centuries became an important religion of the Tamil Land, and left its mark on the Tamil literature.




Andhra is virtually devoid of all traces of Jainism in the first few centuries AD 24


Northern and Western India

The earliest epigraphic evidence of the existence of the Nigantha sect in northern India comes from a solitary inscription of Ashoka (3rd century BC). This is the Seventh Pillar Edict Ashoka and it is recorded on the pillar Firoze Shah Kotla in Delhi.  This pillar was originally in Topra in the Ambala district of Haryana, and was brought to Delhi by Firoze Shah Tughlak.  Ashoka mentioned in this edict that he had appointed senior officers to look after the affairs of the religious people of the various sects.  These officers had been directed to occupy themselves with matters concerning the (Buddhist) Sangha the Brahmans, the Ajivikas, and the Niganthas.  (There are other edicts of Ashoka that mention the Sangha, the Brahmans and the Ajivikas, but Niganthas have not been mentioned in any other Ashokan inscription.)  Since the officers were directed to look after the Niganthas, clearly this sect existed in this area in sufficient number.  Otherwise the specific mention of this community was not necessary.  However, we have no Jain literary records to show the existence of this community in Haryana at that time, and Mahavira himself, perhaps never traveled west of Shravasti that is in eastern Utter Pradesh.  But the epigraphic evidence is clear. The Jain religion had by the time of Ashoka spread in northern India at least as far as Haryana.


It appears from the genealogy of the pontiffs given in the Kalpa Sutra that within a hundred years of Ashoka, Jainism had spread as Far West as Pathankot.  The Jain pontiff at the time of Samprati, the grandson of Ashoka, was Suhastin.  Suhastin's disciple Rohana who became the next pontiff had founded the Uddeha gana that was divided into four Shakhas.  One of these shakhas was Udumbarika.  Now the country of Audumbara is the present district of Gurudaspur, and its capital was Pratisthana (Pathankot).  Thus we know that a substantially large group of Jains was settled in the Pathankot area by the 2nd century BC



The next two centuries appear to be quite dark so far as any information about the Jains is concerned.  There are no contemporary epigraphs or literary records.  The later Jain historians say that Jainism had spread to Ujjayini at the time of Ashoka's grandson Samprati.  Hemachandra (12th century) wrote that Suhastin the head of the Jain Church at that time was living in Ujjayini 25 when ruled from his capital there, and Samprati was a patron of the Jains.  This might have been actually so but there is no epigraphic or other independent proof of Samprati's affinity to Jainism.


Ujjayini, however, was the scene of an important event which is said to have occurred in the first century BC This legend is connected with the Shaka conquest of Ujjayini and the origin of the Vikram era.


The legend mentions Gardabhilla, a king of Ujjayini.  He had abducted the sister of Kalakacharya, a celebrated Jain teacher (Kalaka was a king's son and had later become Jain. His sister whose name was Saravati was herself a Jain nun). Kalakacharya approached one of the Scythian kings, the Shahis, in Shakasthana for help.  But that king was afraid of attacking Gardabhilla, a powerful ruler enjoying the protection of the goddess Rasabhi, who by the spell of her voice made it impossible for an enemy to approach within 24 kilometers of the king.  On his part Kalaka had magic powers and could produce wealth at will.  He persuaded the Shaka king to raise an army and march against Ujjayini. When he encamped at a distance of 24 kilometers from Ujjayini, the goddess began to raise her voice for the protection of Gardbhilla, but the shaka army stopped her mouth with their arrows, and she became unable to utter a sound.  The Gardabhilla was easily made captive and Kalaka's sister was recovered.  When he was later forgiven and released, Gardabhilla retired to a forest where he was devoured by a tiger.  Some years afterwards, the son of Gardabhilla, according to some accounts the glorious Vikramditya, came up from Pratisthana with an army, expelled the invaders from Ujjayini, and ruled there for many years in great splendor and established the era that goes by his name (58-57 BC).


Though the exact historical foundation for this legend cannot easily be ascertained, its setting fits the first century BC very well, as it was clearly a period of Shaka inroads into India and of the attempts of Indian rulers, particularly the Satavahanas to resists them.  The Hindu Puranas which describe the Satavahanas as Andhras, count Gardabhilla among the feudatories (bhrityas) of the Andhras.26 Thus the Jain story is partly corroborated.  There might thus be some historical truth in this legend of Kalakacharya.


It is possible that the legend existed in some form since the first century but its first recorded form is found in Kalakacharya Kathanaka, a work by Mahesara Suri 27 who probably existed at the time of Hemachandra Suri (12th century).  Thus the legend or history of Kalakacharya was put down in writing about 1200 years after the alleged event.




The inroads of the Shakas into northern India was followed by those of other foreigners such as the Greeks, and the Kusanas, and these inroads continued for a few centuries from the beginning of the Christian era.  The political center of northern India moved to Mathura.  It was in Mathura that we find the existence of a large prosperous Jain community at this time.


A large number if Jain relics have been dug up from a mound called Kankali-tila in this town.  The relics include one Jain stupa, two temples, and many inscriptions recording the dedication of images of Tirthankaras, and other religious things by pious Jains.  Some of these inscriptions bear dates, which mention the years in Kusana era.  These dates lie between year 5 and year 98 of this era.  Since we do not know the year in which this era started, it is possible only to assign an approximate period of these Mathura relics.


Scholars hold different opinions about the beginning of the Kusana era.  Some hold the opinion that it is the same as the Shaka era and started in AD 78. Other dates given for the beginning of the Kusana era are AD 102, AD 128, AD 144, etc., R. C. Majumdar has, however, suggested 29 the date AD 244 and this suggestion appears to be getting more and more support.  If this is correct then the years in which a flourishing Jain community lived in Mathura lie between AD 250 and AD 350.


Mathura during the rule of the Kusanas was the most important city of northern India.  There were in Mathura rich people of many communities, Buddhist, Jain and Brahman. The inscriptions dug out in many localities in Mathura show that religious monuments were built and grants were given by all these communities.  So far as Kankali-tila was concerned, it seems to have been at this period the exclusive preserve of the Jains.  Some centuries before that period, the Buddhists, who had built a stupa here, perhaps occupied the tila.  One Jain inscription (59) 30 clearly mentions that the Jain image was established on a Vodve (Buddhist?) stupa, which had been built by the gods.  It has been conjectured that the stupa at that time was already so old, that people had forgotten who its builders were.  They, therefore, thought that the Gods built it. 31 In the Kusana period, the Buddhists seem to have moved on to the Jamalpura mound in Mathura.


We may now consider the Jain inscriptions of Mathura belonging to the Kusana period.  (Altogether 78 inscriptions have been given in the Jain Shila-Lekha Sangraha, Vol. II. It appears that the compiler of this volume might have missed a few more inscriptions.  For instance, the Lucknow Museum Jain Image Inscriptions 32 of Havisha ---year 48 appears to have been missed.  In any case, the total number of Jain inscriptions discovered here should not be many more than 90).


The Rulers named in the Inscriptions

Mathura before it came under the Kusanas was a part of the Shaka-Pahlava empire.  The provincial governors under these emperors were called Mahakshatrapas.  We have only one Jain inscription (5) of a Mahakshatrapa, the one belonging to Mahakshatrapa Sodasa in Mathura.  It is dated year 72 33 but we do not know the era.  It appears that Mathura came under the Kusanas after Sodasa.  These are three inscriptions (19, 24 and 25) of Kaniska, six of Huviska (37, 39, 43, 45, 50 and 56) who succeeded Kaniska's immediate successor Vasika who had a very short reign, and three of Huviska's successor Vasudeva (62, 65 and 69) in the Kankali-tila group.  The names of the rulers in the other inscriptions at this place were either not recorded or are unreadable.




The following Tirthankaras are mentioned by name:


1. Vardhamana --- eleven inscriptions (5, 8, 9, 19, 30, 34, 36, 37, 75, 79 and 84);

            Mahavira -- one (16); Mahavira and Vardhamana--- One (67).


2. Sambhava --- One (in the Lucknow Museum Jain image inscription of Huviska -- year 48).


3. Rishava --- One (56); Usabha -- One (82).


4. Arishtanemi --- One (28).


5. Shantinatha  -- One (29).


Apart from these there are donative inscriptions, one to Nemesa (13), who may be Negamesa, 34 and one to Nand (ya) varta (59) which is said to be meant for the 18th Tirthankara Arantha, Nandyavarta being his symbol.  There are four donations (22, 26, 27, and 41) to the sarvatobhadra images. These are four-sided sculptures with images of one Tirthankara on each side.


It is quite clear from the above that Mahavira was the most popular Tirthankara among the Jains in Mathura at that time.  Absence of Parshva's name is noticeable.


Many of the donors have mentioned their professions.  In the case of the women donors, the professions of their husbands are sometimes mentioned.  We know from these that most of the donors belonged to the trader class, though some of them were artisans such as goldsmiths or (iron) smiths. The list of professions or occupations and the inscription numbers where they occur are these:


Profession or Occupation           Number in the Jain

                                                Shila-lekha Sangraha

 1.  Shresthi (Merchant)                       19, 26

 2.  Vanika (Trader)                             71

 3.  Manikara (Jeweller)                         31

 4.  Lohavaniya (Iron trader)                  31

 5.  Hairanyaka (Gold smith)                  67

 6.  Sarthavaha (Caravan guide)            33

 7.  Gandhika (Perfume seller)               41, 42, 62, 69

 8.  Lohikakaraka (Smith)                    54, 55

 9.  Ganika (Courtesan)                       08

10.  Na(r)taka (Dancer)                         15

11.  Vacaka (Reciter, Priest?)                22

12.  Gramika (Village headman)            44

13.  Cotton dealer (35)                         56


We thus get an idea as to how people of all such occupations as were common in a large provincial capital were living in Mathura in those days.  At least one courtesan was not ashamed to disclose her profession as a stone tablet. Not much can be gleaned about social customs from these inscriptions.  Inscriptions' number 14 is interesting.  Here a woman named (Ba) Lahastini declares that she along with her parents and parents-in-law, had put up a religious arch. According to the present Indian custom, a woman for all religious purposes belongs to her husband's family and she has nothing to do in religious matters with her parents. Performance of a religious act of a married woman with her own parents in Mathura at that time perhaps shows that these people were foreigners (Shakas or Kusanas) newly converted to Jainism and were still maintaining some of their old customs.


The names of a few of the donors also show foreign influence.  Some of these names are Mosini (22), Bubu (52), Vadhara (31), Huggu (31), Jabhaka (35), Nada (08), etc.


Another Shaka influence is shown in the mutilated Sarasvati image found at Kankali-tila.  Two small figures of attendants are shown on each side of the Goddess.  One of these attendants is in Shaka.36


The present Jain custom of women keeping long fasts was known in Mathura of Huviska's days also.  We have in inscription number 52, the statement that one Vijayasiri who was the wife of Rajyavasu had kept a fast for a month.


One Jain iconography practice had already been standardized in Mathura.  The images of Tirthankaras all bear the shrivatsa 37 symbol on the chest as an auspicious mark (and perhaps also to distinguish them from the Buddha images that do not bear such marks on the chest).


It is perhaps not possible to state definitely whether the people who donated the images and the other religious objects at Mathura were Svetambaras or Digambaras.  The donors have mentioned their ganas, kulas, etc., in the accompanying inscriptions.  Some of these ganas, kulas, are similar to those found in the Kalpa Sutra. 38 Now the Kalpa Sutra is a Shvetambara work and is not recognized by Digambaras.  Similarly, it is the Svetambaras only who believe that the God Harinegamesi transferred the embryo of Mahavira to the womb of Trishala.  The Digambaras completely reject this story.  If, therefore, the name Nemesa read in one of the Mathura inscriptions, is the short form of "Harinegamesi", the Jains of Mathura would definitely have to be called Svetambaras.  On the other hand, all the images of the Tirthankaras found at Kankali-tila are nude. All the Jain images of these centuries, for instance, those found at Kahaum (AD 460) in the Gorakhpur district, depict the Tirthankaras as nude.  Added to this is the fact, that most of the Jains of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar today are Digambaras.  Thus it is difficult to be sure about the sect of the Jains of Mathura in the Kusana period.  It is likely, however, that the Shvetambara-Digambara split had not become clear-cut by that time.  In any case the Svetambaras even if they existed, as a separate sect had not started worshipping non-nude images of the Tirthankaras, for no non-nude image of a Tirthankara prior to the fifth century has been found so far.


Mathura continued to be a center of the Jains for a long time.  Many Jain sculptures belonging to the Gupta and the early medieval period have been discovered there.




1.  Sacred Books of the East, Vol. XXII, p. 288.


2.  Select Inscriptions, p. 360.


3. Pravasi (Bengali), Vaishakha B. S 1327 (AD 1934), pp. 63, 72.


4. At Pakbira in the Manbhum district, a colossal naked figure of Vira under the name of Bhiram is still worshipped by the people.  (Distt.  Gasetteer of Manbhum, p. 51).


5. P.C. Roy Choudhary, Jainism in Bihar, Patna, 1956, P. 46. A photograph of the 2.25 meters high image has been reproduced in a plate facing P. 56 of this book.  The caption there says that it is the image of Bahubali. This does not appear to be correct.  Bahubali has creepers entwining his legs.  There are no creepers in this image.  The lotus symbol on the pedestal shows that the image is either of the Tirthankara Padmaprabhanatha whose symbol is Red Lotus or of the Tirthankara Naminatha whose symbol is blue Lotus.  So far as is known Bahubali is not worshipped in North India.


6. P.C. Roy Choudhary, Jainism in Bihar, Patna, 1956, p. 46. A Photograph of the 2.25 meters high image has been reproduced in a plate facing p. 56 of this book.  The caption there says that it is the image of Bahubali. This does not appear to be correct.  Bahubali has creepers entwining his legs.  There are no creepers in this image.  The Lotus symbol on the pedestal shows that the image is either of the Tirthankara Padmaprabhanatha whose symbol is Red Lotus or of the Tirthankara Naminatha whose symbol is Blue Lotus.  So far as is known, Bahubali is not worshipped in North India.


7. Select Inscriptions, p. 213.


8. `Arhant' is the term for saints both in Jainism and Buddhism.  The reference here is clearly to the Jain saints, for the Jain formula of Namokkara or nokara is:

Namo arihantam

namo sidhanam

Namo ayariyanam

namo uvajhayanam

Namo lo-e savva sahunam.


The Buddhist formula of vandana in the Petakoppadesa is:


Namo Sammasambuddhanam  Paramthadassinam



9. This line in the inscription has been read by Jayaswas as "Nandaraja-nitam ca kalinga-Jinam sannivesa..., B.M. Barua, on the other hand reads here Nandaraja-jitan ca Kalingajanasan (n)i(ve)sam......  (Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol.  XIV, p.468.)  He translates the relevant passage as "...and compelled Brihaspatimitra, the king of the Magadh people, to bow down at his feet, (did something in connection with) the settlements of the Kalinga people subjugated by the king Nanda,...... carried the wealth......"  Barua's reading would thus demolish the theory of the Kalinga-Jina' completely.


10. Barua thinks that Jayaswal's translation here of "relic depository" is wrong.  Barua reads here, "the Arhat resting place," for fulfilling the rainy season vow.


11. Schubring, the Doctrine of the Jains, p. 48.


12. H.  Goetz, in the Encyclopedia of World Art, Vol. VIII, p 788.


13.  Debala Mitra, Udayagiri and Khandagiri, 1960, p. 6.


14. Ibid., pp. 6-7.


15. This date has been suggested on paleographic evidence.


16. Though the year Shaka 388 (AD 466-67) is clearly mentioned in this inscription, the writing is of the 8th or 9th century.  From this it has been conjectured that it is a forged document.  It is likely, however, that it is the copy of a 5th century document.  (A. K. Chatterjee, A Comprehensive History of Jainism, pp. 137- 38 and 324).


17. Jain Shilalekha Sangraha, Vol. I, pp. 1-2.


18. W. Schubring, op. cit., p 52.


19. M. Winternitz, A History of Indian literature, P. 476.


20. J. P. Singh, op. Cit., p. 101.


21. Ibid.


22. Ibid. p. 98.


23. K. A. Nilakanta Sastri & V. Ramsub Ramniam, "Aundy," in Mahavira and his Teachings, Bombay, 1977, p. 302.


24. I.  Mahadevan, Corpus of the Tamil Brahmin Inscriptions, madras, 1966.


25. P. B. Desai, Jainism in South India, Sholapur, 1957, p. 24.


26. Hemchandra mentions nothing about Dasharath, another grandson of Ashoka.  That Dasharath was a historical person is proved from his three inscriptions bestowing on the Ajivika sect some caves in the Nagarjuni hills (Gaya district).  Dasharath perhaps ruled over the eastern part of the Empire.


27. Different Puranas give different versions of the lists of kings.  Thus Vishnu Purana says that after the reign of Andhra-Bhrityas, there would be seven Abhira and ten Gardhabhila kings who would be followed by sixteen Shaka kings (Vishnu-Purana, Part IV, Ch. 24, SL. 51-52).


28. Winternitz, op. Cit., p. 589.


29. Papers on the Date of Kuniska, Leiden, 1968, pp. ix, 150-154.


30. This number in the bracket is the inscription number in the Jain-Shila-lekha Sangraha, Vol. II.


31. Hiven Tsang, when he passed through Mathura in the seventh century mentioned, that there were good numbers of Buddhist stupas in Mathura.  "One of them built by the venerable Upagupta was on a hill, the sides of which have been excavated to allow the construction of cells. The approach is by a ravine."  Hiuen Tsang's description has been doubted on the basis that there are no hills near about Mathura, Growse has suggested.  "Upagupta's stupa may well have formed the raised center of the Kankali-tilla."  (F. S. Growse, Mathura, a District Memoir, 2nd Ed.  Allahabad, 1880, p. 110).  Cunningham (1871) gave a description of the Kankali-tila `hill' the higher portion of which at that time "had been repeatedly burrowed for bricks:”  The "mound (was) 400 feet in length from west to east, and nearly 300 feet in breadth, with a mean height of 10 or 12 feet above the field.  At the eastern end it (rose) to a height of 25 feet with a breadth of 60 feet at top, and about 150 feet at base.  Kankali-tila contains without exception pure Jain Monuments” Archaeological Survey of India, report 3, 1983, P. 19).  It appears, therefore, that either Growse's conjecture that Kankali- tila was formally in Buddhist possession is wrong, and thus it was not this place which Hiuen-Tsang had visited; or if Growse is correct then the Jains had in later days i.e. after the visit of Hiuen Tsang removed all Buddhist remains from Kankali-tila.


32. Sircar, Select Inscriptions, pp. 156-157.


33. Not `42' as mentioned in the Jain Shila Lekha Sangraha, Vol. II, p. 12.  See D. C. Sircar,  Select Inscriptions, P. 120.


34. Negamesa or Harinegamesi was the God who under the orders of Shakra removed the embryo of Mahavira from the womb of Devandanda to that of Trishala: (Kalpa Sutra, in S. B. E., Vol. XXII, p. 229).


35. In Jain Shilalekha Saringraha, Vol. II, this profession is not mentioned.  Luders, however, reads the word as "Ka (r) ppas (i) kasya", as the profession of the donor's husband.  (Luders, Mathura Inscriptions, pp. 46- 47).


36. J. Prasad, Jain Sources of the History of India, p. 101.


37. Shrivatsa in the earlier images is generally a vertical line with an S- shaped mark on its left, and its mirror image on the right.  Later the symbol changed into a lozenge shaped four-petalled flower.  In Hinduism it represents "Shri" the Goddess of fortune.  It is the special mark of Vishnu.  In Jainism Shrivatsa is found on the chests of Tirthankaras all over Northern India but not in South India. The symbol appears sometimes on the images of the Buddha also, but not on the chest. (C. Siva Ram Murti in Ancient India, No.  6, pp. 44-46).


38. See Appendix IV.


39. Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol. III, No. 15.




The Schisms

The First Seven Schisms

            The Main schism of the Jain Church was the one between the Svetambaras and the Digambaras.  The Svetambaras believe that even before this schism, there had been seven other schisms.  These schisms had started when certain important leaders of the Church had disagreed with the views of the Main Church on some points of philosophy or ritual. These leaders had then taken away their followers and established what one might call separate sects.  However, these schisms had little permanent effects, for the newly formed sects had either disappeared or had joined the main Church again on the death of their leaders.  The seven schisms have been all described together in Avashyaka Niryukti, VIII, 56-100.  (The Digambaras do not know of these seven schisms at all.)


            The first of these schisms, as we have already seen, happened during the life of Mahavira himself.  Its leader was his own son-in-law Jamali.  Jamali broke away with his followers from Mahavira fourteen years after the latter had attained omniscience.  The point on which Jamali differed from Mahavira would appear to an outsider to be a mere quibble.


            The second schism was started by Tissagutta in Rajagriha.  This happened also during the life time of Mahavira and only two years after Jamali's schism. Tissagutta's followers were called Jivapaesiyas.  They controverted Mahavira's view that the soul is permeated in all the atoms of the body.


            The third schism was led by Asadha at Seyaviya, 214 years after the death of Mahavira.  Asadha's followers were called Avattiyas, and they held that there was no difference between Gods, saints, kings and other beings.


            The fourth schism was started by Assamitta in Mihila 220 years after Mahavira's death.  Assamitta was a disciple of Kidinna who was a disciple of Mahagiri.  Assamitta's followers were called Samuchchheiyas and they held that after the end of all life will come one day, the effects of good or bad deeds are immaterial.


            The fifth schism was started by Ganga at Kullakatiriya, 228 years after the death of Mahavira.  Ganga was a disciple of Dhanagutta, another disciple of Mahagiri.  His followers were called Dokiriyas, and they held that two opposite feelings such as cold and warmth could be experienced at the same time.


            The sixth schism arose in Antaranjiya and was started by Sadulaya, otherwise known as Rohagutta, 544 years 1 after the death of Mahavira.  Sadulaya is said to have been the author of the Vaisheshika Sutras.  His followers were called Terasiyas and they held that between life (Jiva) and non-life (Aliv), there is a third state `no-Jiva'.  According to the Kalpa-Sutra, the Terasiya sect was founded by Rohagutta a disciple of Mahagiri. 2


            The seventh schism was led by Gotthamahila at Dashapura, 584 years after Mahavira's death.  His followers were called Abaddhiyas and they asserted that Jiva was not bounded by karma.


            No trace of these seven schisms is now left in the Jain religion.



The Eighth Schism --- Digambaras and Svetambaras

            The Jain community is divided into two sects Digambara and Shvetambara.  Both the sects have exactly the same religious and philosophical beliefs and practically the same mythology.  The only noticeable difference in the mythology of the two sects is regarding the sex of the nineteenth Tirthankara Mali.  The Svetambaras believe that Mali was a woman, while Digambaras think that Mali was a man.  This difference of opinion about Mali arises out of the few differences in the beliefs of the two sects.  The Digambaras think that it is not possible for a woman to achieve salvation, and as all Tirthankaras do achieve salvation, the nineteenth Tirthankara could not have been a woman.  Another difference between the two sects is that the Digambaras think that all Jain ascetics should follow the example of Mahavira and remain nude, while the Svetambaras think that the practice of remaining nude known as JinaKalpa was given up by the great teachers of the church within a few generations after Mahavira (i.e. after Jambu) and they had started wearing white garments.  This practice was known as sthaviraKalpa.  the present-day ascetics according to the Svetambaras need follow only these great teachers (sthaviras), and it was necessary to practice the JinaKalpa. The third point on which the two sects differ is regarding the food of the kevali (omniscient).  The Digambaras maintain that a kevali does not need any intake of food, while the Svetambaras think that they do.  The point is academic, for both the sects are unanimous that nobody is going to become a Kevali in the foreseeable future.


            Digambaras also deny two of the Shvetambara beliefs about Mahavira, viz., that Mahavira's embryo was taken from the womb of the Brahman woman Devananda and transferred to the womb of Trishala, and also that Mahavira had married and had a daughter.  (Other minor differences between these two communities are given later).


            It will be noticed that these and similar other differences are of a minor nature and do not affect the main tenets of the religion which were essentially same for both the sects.  On the  other hand, these differences minor though they might be, have cleaved the Jain community into two distinct groups with practically no inter-mixing on the religious or even social plane; for even inter-marriage between the two sects is not ordinarily permissible.  This was because the two communities have necessarily their own temples, the Digambaras having the images of the Tirthankaras nude, and the Svetambaras clothed.  The monks or ascetics who are the religious leaders of the sects are similarly nude, and clothed in white respectively.  Also, due to some reasons mentioned later, the Digambaras refuse to recognize the canonical books of the Svetambaras, and have their own texts.


            Thus we see that the two sects both swearing allegiance to Mahavira and his teachings, behave in their practical religious life as two different societies.  How a community with the same religious philosophy started behaving at some point of time as two distinct communities is not clearly known.  The early religious literature of both the sects is practically silent on this point.  It is thus possible to conjecture that the Church was undivided in the beginning, the more orthodox ones among the monks practicing nudity (JinaKalpa), and the others not discarding clothes (sthaviraKalpa).  Indeed we have in the Parishishtaparvam of the Shvetambara polymath Hemchandra, the narration that during the time of king Samparti in Ujjaini, the Church had two leaders Mahagiri and Suhastin.  After some time "Mahagiri made over his disciples to Suhastin and lived as a Jinakalpika, though Jinakalps had by that time fallen into disuse". 3  Thus perhaps while nudity was optional in the beginning, it became later the fixed manner of all those who adopted it, considering it to be the orthodox way of Jainism. The separation of the Digambaras and Svetambaras according to this thinking was thus a gradual process, and there was no point of time when there was any actual schism.  This appears to be a plausible theory.


            A slight modification of this theory would be that Hemchandra was wrong, and the jinkalpika was never given up. One group of Jain ascetics continued to practice it throughout, and this group was later called Digambara.  The Great scholar of Jainism Hoernle has argued in his essay on the Ajivikas in the Encyclopedia of religion and Ethics, that originally the Digambaras were those Ajivikas who were unhappy at the behavior of their leaders Makkhali Goshala at the time of his death.  After leaving his sect they had joined Mahavira and had become the latter’s followers.  Thus the Digambaras as a group were separate from the time of Mahavira himself.  Hoernle's conjecture is based mainly on two grounds.  Firstly, not only did the Ajivikas practice strict nudity (they were achelakas), but also a few of their other customs resembled those of the Digambara monks to some extent.  On this latter point Hoernle has cited some instances which do not seem to be borne out by facts.  For instance,  Hoernle says that Ajivikas used to carry a stick (ekadandi), and so do the Digambara monks now-a-days.  As a matter of fact, it is the Shvetambara monk who may carry a stick, and not a Kigambara monk who can have practically no earthly possession.  The second point on which Hoernle bases his arguments is that many ancient authors and lexicographers have confused the Ajivikas with the Digambaras.  A. L. Basham in his Ajivikas4 has shown that Hoernle has mis-read most of these ancient authorities, and there was no such confusion in them as Hoernle alleges.  But Basham fails to explain one comment of the Shvetambara Pandit Shilanka (9th century).  In his commentary on the SutrakritAnga, speaking about those ascetics who revile the followers of Mahavira, Shilanka said that these revelers were the Ajivikas or the Digambaras.5  Is it possible that such a learned Jain author as Shilanka would by mistake equate Ajivikas with the Digambaras?  It is possible to think with Hoernle that Shilanka really thought that the Ajivikas were the same as Digambaras.  The bulk of the evidence however, is against Hoernle's conjecture, and the theory that some Ajivikas formed the nucleus of the Digambara sect cannot be built upon this one stray reference by Shilanka.


            (In the same commentary Shilanka makes another enigmatic reference6 to the Ajivikas.  This time he equates the followers of Goshala (i.e. the Ajivikas) with the Terasiyas the followers of Rohagutta, the leader of the sixth schism of the Jain Church).


            The Jains themselves both Svetambaras and Digambaras have their own versions as to how the schism between them occurred.  These appear in their later books composed long after the alleged occurrences.  As stated earlier these are mere legends and cannot be verified as history.  The Shvetambara version is given in Avashyakabhashya a work of about 500 AD  The legend is as follows:


            There was a person called Shivabhuti who had founded a sect called the Bodiya in the city of Rathavirapura.  The occasion for doing this arose in this manner:


            Shivabhuti had won many battles for his king, and the latter showered honors on him.  Naturally, Shivabhuti became very proud and used to return home late at night.  His mother on the complaint of her daughter-in-law refused to open the door one night, and asked him to go to any place the door of which he was likely to find open.  Getting wild Shivabhuti entered such a place that, however, turned out to be monastery.  He asked the head priest to initiate him but the priest refused to do so, where upon Shivabhuti himself plucked out his hair and wandered as a monk.


            After some time this self-initiated monk Shivabhuti happened to come to the same place.  The king, his former friend came to know of his arrival, and sent him a costly garment (ratnakambala) as a gift.


            Shivabhuti's superior protested and disallowed him to use such a garment.  When Shivabhuti did not listen to his advice the teacher tore off that garment and used it as a mattress.  Getting wild and excited Shivabhuti gave up all clothing.

            (A slightly different version of this says that the occasion for it arose when once, his teacher, expounding the texts to a class, came up against the following, alluding to a special stage of JinaKalpa.)


            "Jinakalpia ya...  ... ... ...  ...  duviha".  It meant that Jinakalpias were of two kinds.  Some of them might have the necessary requisites, and others not.  On hearing it Shivabhuti asked his teacher, “While there is the system of JinaKalpa, why should there be the bondage of clothes?  A monk following JinaKalpa and living in solitude should follow the principles of austerity, including nudity".  The teacher tried to bring him round, but Shivabhuti would not be persuaded, and gave up all clothing.  He thus created a schism in the community.


            His sister Uttara also followed him and she also became naked.  But when the courtesans of the city complained that nobody would go to them seeing the ugly nature of the female body, Shivabhuti disallowed his sister to accept nudity. Thus nudity was started by the Bodiyas under Shivabhuti.  The Bodiyas presumably were  later called the Digambaras.  This, the eighth schism according to the Svetambaras occurred in 609 AV. or AD 83.


            The Digambara version of how the Svetambaras broke away from the main Church that the Digambaras call the Mulasangha is completely different.  It was also recorded much later. The first record is found in Harisena's Brihatkathakosa of AD 931.  This is as follows:


            In the reign of Chandragupta Maurya, Bhadrabahu had predicted a terrible famine in the country of Magadh, for a period of 12 years.  Hence a part of the community emigrated to South India under his leadership, while the rest remained in Magadh.


            When after some time the leaders met together in Ujjayini, the famine was still there, and hence they allowed the monks to wear a piece of cloth (ardhaphalaka) to hide shame while on the begging tour.  But even when the famine was over these monks refused to give up the use of the piece of cloth.  The conservative elements protested against this. And thus these Ardhaphalakas proved to be the forerunner of the Shvetambara sect.


            The final separation came later due to Chandraledha, queen of king Lokapala of Valabhipura.  It is related that these Ardhaphalaka monks were invited by her; but seeing them neither clothed nor naked, the king was disappointed, and the queen, therefore, asked them to dress completely. Thenceforth the Ardhaphalakas began to put on white clothes and came to be called Shvetapatas.  This happened in AD 80.


            (There is a reference to a Shvetapata community in a grant issued in his fourth regnal year by the Kadamba king Mrigeshavarma, (AD 475-490).  The grant of a village was made to a community of Jains living in the city of Vaijayanti.  The Village was divided into three shares, the first to the holy Arhat, the second to the eminent ascetics called Shvetapatas, who were intent on practicing the true religion (Sad-dharma), and the third for the eminent ascetics called Nirgranthas.  Thus the Shvetapatas and Nirganthas in this city in Karnataka were worshipping the same image of Arhat in a temple.  Whether the Shvetapatas referred to in the inscription and the Shvetapatas sect referred to in the above Digambara legend were the same is not known).


            There is a serious weakness in this Digambara version: It is not supported by the earliest Digambara epigraph that mentions this famine.  This epigraph, at Shravana Belgola, says that Bhadrabahu had predicted the famine in Ujjayini and not in Magadh,  moreover he himself is not recorded to have accompanied the community to South India.  Thus there are contradictions in the Digambara versions.  On the other hand the Shvetambara version as to how the Church split into two is a bit too puerile for such an important event.  It appears that all these stories were invented long after the actual split which in the beginning must have been a gradual process that was completed some time at the end of the 5th century. We do not know when actually the two sects finally separated but we have epigraphic records to prove that even in the 3rd century AD the difference, if any, within the community was not sharp.  The images found at Kankali-tila in Mathura belong to this period.  They depict the Tirthankaras in a nude state.  Yet the donors of these images presumably belonged to the Shvetambara sect for the Shakhas and Ganas to which they belonged are the same as those which are mentioned in the Shvetambara Kalpa Sutra.  Moreover it appears from a few of the inscriptions that some of the donors were nuns or the disciples of nuns.  Thus though the images were in the Digambara style the worshipers did not observe the Digambara orthodoxy about disallowing women to become nuns.  The exact dates of the Mathura inscriptions cannot be determined.  They are dated in the Kusana era and the dates mentioned are from 5 to 98 of this era.  However, the controversy as the when the Dusana era started is not yet over, and if we go by the date suggested by R. C. Majumdar then this era started in AD 244, and, therefore, the Mathura Jain inscriptions belong to a period from the middle of the 3rd century to the middle of the 4th century.  Similarly, the other Tirthankara images of this period found in northern India are also nude.  The Inscription8 of Kahum in the Gorakhpur district refers to the installation of five images of Adikartris.  This inscription is dated AD 460.  The images found here are nude.  The conclusion would be that the difference in beliefs of the two sects, if they had at all parted company by that time, was not up to then clear-cut and both of the sects worshipped nude images.


            The actual parting of the ways perhaps came some time near the middle of the 5th century, when the Valabhi Council was held.  It is said that the canon of the Svetambaras had been reduced to a state of disorder and was even in danger of being lost altogether.  Hence in the year 980 (or 993) after the death of Mahavira (i.e. about the middle of the 5th century AD), a Council was held in Valabhi in Gujarat, presided over by Devarddhi Ksahmashramna the head of the shool, for the purpose of collecting the texts and writing them down.  The twelfth Anga containing the Purvas, had already gone astray at that time.  This is why we find only eleven Angas in the recension which has come down to us, and which is supposed to be identical with that of Devarddhi.


            The Digambaras completely deny the authority of the texts collected by this council.  They say that not only was the knowledge of the 14 Purvas lost at an early period, but that 436 years after Mahavira's Nirvana the last person who knew all the 11 Angas had died.  The teachers who succeeded him knew all the 11 Angas had died.  The teachers who succeeded him knew less and less Angas as time went on, until the knowledge of these works was completely lost 683 years after Mahavira's Nirvana.  Thus the Valabhi Council marks the final split between the Svetambaras and Digambaras.


            There is some iconographic evidence that supports the theory that it was the period of the Valabhi council when the two sects actually parted company.  As stated earlier all the Tirthankara images found at Mathura and datable up to the Kusana period depict the Tirthankaras either in the standing position and nude, or, if seated, in the crossed legged position, are sculptured in such a way that neither garments, nor genitals are visible.  Thus up to the Kusana period both the sects worshipped nude images.  The earliest known image of a Tirthankara with a lower garment, is a standing Rishabhnatha discovered at Akota in Gujarat.  The date of his image has been fixed at the later part of the fifth century.9 This was shortly after the period of the Valabhi Council.


            The geographical distribution of the two sects also would give some support to the theory that the Valabhi Council was the chief reason of the schism.  It is found that the main concentration of the Svetambaras is round about and within 500 kilometers of Valabhi. Most of the Jains in Gujarat, and western Rajasthan are Svetambaras, while most of the Jains of eastern Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and the Jains of South India are Digambaras.


            It is possible that so far as the Jains of Northern India were concerned, they might have had a Council of their own at Mathura.  Its president was Skandila.  This name does not occur in the list of Sthaviras of the Kalpa-Sutra, but the name of Shandilya occurs 33rd in the list.  Jacobi remarks10 in this connection:  "I think Shandilya is the same as Skandila, who was president of the Council of Mathura, which seems to have been the rival of that in Valabhi."


            In other words, those who accepted the literature edited and collected at Valabhi as canonical were later called Svetambaras, and those whom either had their own Council at Mathura, or did not have any Council at all, as in South India, were later called Digambaras.


            The Digambaras of South India, long before the time the Valabhi Council of the Svetambaras had met, had started developing their own sacred literature.  They had to do this because according to them the last of the acharyas who knew even a part of the Angas had died 683 years after the death of Mahavira.  The Name of this acharya was Bhutavali.  Nobody was left who knew even a part of the original canon.  The next pontiff according to some Digambara lists was Bhadrabahu II.  Kundakunda who claimed to be a disciple of this Bhadrabahu, therefore, started writing the sacred books for the Digambaras.  He is said to have written altogether 84 such books.  The names of all the works composed by Kundakunda are not known.  But three of his works, viz., Samayasara, Pravachanasara, and Panchastikayasara are considered so important by the Digambaras that together they are called Prabhritatraya or Saratraya, a name that reminds one of the Prasthanatraya of the Vedantists. Indeed Kundakunda is considered so important a personality in the Digambara hagiology that a popular Digambara benedictory runs thus:


MAngalam Bhagavana Viro, mAngalam Gautamogani,

 MAngalam Kundakundyadyau, Jain dharmostu mAngalam.


To the Digambaras thus Kundakunda is as important a teacher as Sudharma is to the Svetambaras.


            Kundakunda was followed by many other Digambara writers such as Vattakera, Kartikeya Svamin, etc.  Practically all these authors belonged to South India.  Thus by the early centuries of the Christian era while the intellectual center of the Svetambaras was developing in western India, the Digambaras had their own intellectual center in south-west Karanataka.  Perhaps this geographical separation of the intellectual centers was the main reason why the two sections of the Jains drifted.  The Digambaras had their own intellectual center in south-west Karanataka.  Perhaps this Geographical separation of the intellectual centers was the main reason why the two sections of the Jains drifted.  To some extent even the Gods began to differ:  The Digambaras in south-west Karnataka made Bahubali, a son of the first Tirthankara, one of the most important deities and built colossal statues for him. Bahubali on the other hand is scarcely, if at all, mentioned in the Shvetambara mythology.


            The Digambaras called their Church, the Mula Sangha or the Main Church.  The Mula Sangha is then said to have branched off into Nandi, Sinha, etc.  But all Digambaras to whatever gaccha (sub-sect) they might belong, claim the descent of their gaccha ultimately from the Mula Sangha.


In the few centuries of the Christen era, the dominant sect among the Jains of the Deccan and South India were the Digambaras. Only one inscription - a grant - has been found in these parts of India, which refers to the Shvetapatas (Svetambaras) by name.  This is the Devagiri (Dharwar district)  inscription11 of king Mrigeshavarmana referred to earlier.  His period according to Saletore­12 was AD 475-490.


The difference between the Svetambaras and the Digambaras


            The total number of points by which the Digambaras differ from the Svetambaras are eighteen. These are listed below:


            The Digambaras do not accept the following Shvetambara beliefs:


1.  A kevali needs food;


2.  A kevali needs to evacuate (nihara);


3. The women can get salvation.  (In order to get salvation a woman has according to the Digambaras to be born again as a man).


4.  The Shudras can get salvation;


5.  A person can get salvation without forsaking clothes;


6.  A house holder can get salvation;


7. The worship of images having clothes and ornaments is permitted;


8. The monks are allowed to possess fourteen (specified ) things;


9. The Tirthankara Mali was a woman;


10. The eleven of the 12 original Angas (Canonical works) still exist;


11. Bharat Chakravarti attained kevali hood while living in his palace;


12. A monk may accept food from a Shudra;


13. The Mahavira's embryo was transferred from one womb to another; and Mahavira's mother had fourteen auspicious dreams before he was born.  The Digambaras believe that she had actually 16 such dreams;


14. Mahavira had a sickness due to the tejolesya of Goshala.


15. Mahavira had married and had a daughter.


16. A cloth offered by the Gods (devadusya) fell on the shoulders of a Tirthankara.


17. Marudevi went for her salvation riding an elephant;


18. A monk may accept alms from many houses.






1. For a discussion on the dates of these Schisms, see at the end of Chapter V.


2. Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXII, p.290.


3. Parishishtaparvam, Canto XI, SL. 1-4.


4.  The Ajivikas, London, 1951.


5.  Sacred Books of the East, Vol. XLV, p. 267n.


6. Sacred Books of the East, Vol. XLV, p. 245n.


7. Saletore, Medieval Jainism, p. 32.


8. Inscription No. 15 in Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol. III.


9. Encylopedia Britannica, 15th Edn., Vol. 10, p.8.


10. Sacred Books of the East, Vol. XXII, p. 294n.


11. Jain Shila Lekha Sangraha, Vol. II, pp. 69-72.


12. Medieval Jainism, p. 32.



History of the Digambaras

            The history of the Digambara Church after Mahavira can generally be divided into four periods.  These periods differ from one another not because each of them necessarily had any special characteristic, but mainly because each of the preceding period from the last is shrouded in more and more obscurity, with the result that we know practically nothing substantial about the first of these four periods, know a little more about the second, and so on.  These periods are as follows:


     a) The first five or six centuries after Mahavira. i.e. the period between Mahavira and the beginning of the Christian era.


     b) The eight centuries from the beginning of the Christian era.  This may be called the period of the Acharyas.


     c) The period of the dominance of Bhattarakas, i.e. up to the 17th/18th century.


     d) The period of reformation - 17th/18th century to the present day.


The First Six centuries


            As stated above, the first five or six centuries in the history of the Digambara sect are hidden in obscurity.  We know almost nothing about the history of this sect as a separate Jain Church in these centuries. (The reason most probably was that the two Churches had not till then separated, and as such they had no separate history.)  The Digambaras unlike the Svetambaras have not written any history of their sect, and all that we have are some lists of successive patriarchs.  Not much reliance can be placed on these lists for they were compiled many centuries later.  In fact the first list that we possess is the one inscribed in Sravana Belgola in about AD 600, that is almost eleven centuries after Mahavira. This Sravana-Belgola succession list is as follows:  Mahavira-Gautama-Lohacharya-Jambu- Vishnudeva- Aparajita- Govardhana-Bhadrabahu- Vishakha- Prosthila - Karttikarya (Kshattrikarya)-Jaya- Nama (Naga)- Siddhartha- Dhritisena- Buddhila, etc.


            It will be noticed that the difference with the Shvetambara list starts almost from the very beginning.  The name of Gautama as successor of Mahavira is not mentioned in the Shvetambara list as given in the Kalpa-Sutra.  In fact the Kalpa Sutra explicitly mentions that only two Ganadharas,  Indrabhuti and Sudharma, survived Mahavira, and it was Sudharma who succeeded Mahavira as head of the Church and no other Ganadhara left any spiritual descendants.  Indrabhuti who was a Gautama by gotra is the person mentioned in the Digambara list as the first successor of Mahavira.  Both the sects are in agreement in asserting that Indrabhuti Gautama was a kevalin, but the Svetambaras deny that he ever headed the Church, or left any disciples.


          The confusion is carried on to the next name also.  Many Digambara lists including the Sravana Belgola inscription say that Gautama's successor as the head of the Church was Lohacharya.  The name Lohacharya is not known to the Svetambaras.  Other Digamabara lists (e.g. the one in the Harivansha Purana) mention Sudharma as the successor  of Gautama.  Fortunately,  Lohacharya and Sudharma are the names of the same person.  This is explicitly stated in Jambuddvita  Pannati (I. 10).


            In the Digambara list Lohacharya's and in the Shvetambara list Sudharma's successor is Jambusvami.  Here for the first and last time the Digambara and Shvetambara lists agree in regard to the order of succession.


            (Digambaras and Svetambaras both agree that after Mahavira, only three persons, namely, Gautama, Sudharma and Jambu became kevalins.)


            The next three names in the Sravana Belgola list (AD 600) are Vishnudeva, Aparajita and Govardhana.  Later Digambara works such as the Harivanshi Purana (late 8th century) include the name of Nandimitra between Vishnudeva and Aparajita.  The present day Digambaras accept this later list of four names.  However, none of these names are known to the Svetambaras.  They have instead the following three names:  Prabhava, Shayyambna (or Shayyambhava) and Yashobhadra.


            Shayyambhava as we have seen was the author of the Dashavaikalika, one of the most important texts of the Svetambaras, but the Digambaras neither know his name, nor recognize the book.


            The successor of Govardhana in the Digambara list is Bhadrabahu.  In the Shvetambara list, the corresponding place  is occupied by two persons:  Bhadrabahu and Sambhutavijaya who were joint patriarchs of the Church.  Bhadrabahu is an important name for the Digambaras.  It was Bhadrabahu who had according to the Sravana Belgola inscription (AD 600) had predicted a famine in Ujjayinai which led the Jain community there to leave for South India under the leadership of one Prabhachandra (or, according to the later versions, he himself led the Jain community (of Magadh?) to South India). The difficulty can be solved if we accept that it was another Bhadrabahu who had taken the community there. This second Bhadrabahu appears as the 27th acharya in the Digambara list (the Svetambaras do not know him) and was an Upangi i.e. knower of one Anga only, and not a Shrutakevali  like Bhadrabahu I, who knew all the 12 Angas.  Bhadrabahu II died 515 years after the Nirvana (i.e. in 12 BC) and we know that he belonged to South India, for the great Kundakunda who undoubtedly belonged to South India calls himself the pupil of Bhadrabahu.1


            The matter is slightly confusing here for according to the pattavalis of the Digambaras, Kundakunda was not the first but the fourth acharya after Bhandabahu II.  The actual list is as follows:  1, Bhadrabah II.  2.  Guptigupta.  3. Maghanandi.  4.  Jinacandra I.  5.  Kundakunda.


            Perhaps the solution of this problem is that all these four persons from Guptigupta to Kundakunda were pupils of Bhadrabahu II, and became acahryas one after another.


            Now to go back to Bhadrabahu I, he was as we know the last Shrutakevali.  The acharyas who came after him were dashapurvis that is, they knew the 11 Angas and the 10 Purvas. Their names were:

1.  Visakha

2 Prosthila

3.  Kshatria 

4. Jayasena

5, Nagasena

6.  Siddhartha

7. Dhritisena

8.  Vijaya

9.  Buddhilinga

10.  Deva I

11.  Dharasena. 


Except for their names we know nothing about them.


            They were followed by ekadashangis, who knew only the eleven Angas.  Their names were:

1. Nakshatri

2.  Jayapalaka 

3.  Pandava

4.  Dhruvasena and

5.  Kansa.


            Then came the upangis, who knew only one Anga.  They were

1.  Subhadra

2.  Yashobhadra

3.  Bhadrabahu II and

4. Lohacarya II.


            Lastly there were the ekangis.  They had only fragmentary knowledge of the canon.  Their names were: 

1. Arhadvali

2.  Maghanandi

3.  Dharasena

4.  Pushpadanta and

5. Bhutavali.


            It is from the period of the ekangis, that is , Arhadvali, Maghanandi, Kharasena, Pushpadanta and Bhutavali onwards that we get some material facts about the Digambara acharyas. All these five were perhaps the disciples of Bhadrabahu II.


            It is said that it was Arhadvali who had divided the Original Church (the Mula Sangha) into four different sanghas, namely, Sinha, Nandi, Sena and Deva.  "This we learn from the inscriptions dated 1398 and 1432, and from the Nitisara composed by Indranandin between 1524 and 1565 and from the pattavalis of the last century."2  It is, of course, not possible to say whether this story of Arhadvali dividing the Mula Sangha into four branches is correct or not.  None of these branches exist, and even the first mention of this division is almost thirteen hundred  years after the alleged event.


            It is said that Dharasena, the third among the ekangis named above was the last master3 of the Astanga Mahanimitta  the "eightfold Mahanimittas."  What these Mahanimitta were, is not clear, but they seem to have something to do with astrology or clairvoyance, for it was with this power that Bhadrabahu had predicted the 12 year famine in Ujjayini as we know from the Sravana Belgola inscription (AD 600): "Bhadrabahu-svamina Ujjayinyam astanga-mahanimitta-tatvajnena-   trailokya- darshina, nimittena dvadasha samvatshara-kala  vaisamyam uplabhya." (By Bhadrabahu-svamin, who possessed the knowledge of the Eight Mahanimittas, the seer of the past, present and future, was foretold by the signs a dire calamity in Ujjayini, lasting for a period of 12 years).


            Dharasena also had a partial knowledge of the canonical works like the Angas, Purvas, etc. According to the legend, Dharasena lived in Girnar Saurastra.  He sent a message to the Digambaras of South India warning them against the disappearance of the knowledge of the canons.  The monks of Dakshinpatha then sent two intelligent persons to Dharasena. Dharasena passed on his knowledge to these two persons whose names were Pushpa Danta and Bhutavali.  These two then returned home and wrote an important work Shat-Khandagama-  Sutra based on that teaching.  This work thus is revered among the Digambaras almost as a canonical work.4  The work was completed on the fifth of the bright fortnight of Jyestha:  and that day is thus celebrated every year as Shruta-panchami.


The Period of the Acharyas




            Evidence either literary or in stone inscriptions about the existence of Jainism in South India before the Christian era has not been found.  However, we can by inference presume the existence of the Jains at that time in Karnataka. Kundakunda, the great acharya and prolific writer of books on Jainism was living in the first century AD5  It is quite inconceivable that such a writer could have flourished unless there was an old tradition of Jains in that area, there must have been enough well read Jains in south Karnataka to provide a readership for Kundakunda's works. Moreover, Kundakunda wrote in Prakrit (which was akin to Shauraseni6  i.e., the language of the Mathura region) and this would be a language quite unfamiliar to the local people other than the learned among the Jains.


            As we have seen, it was Kundakunda who provided some of the philosophical texts of the Digambara Church.  In fact he is venerated7 almost as a Ganadhara, that is as if he was as knowledgeable as one of the immediate disciples of Mahavira. As time passed he gained in miraculous powers, and in an inscription8 at Sravana-Belgola dated AD 1398, it is said that when Kundakunda walked his feet would be four fingers above the ground.


    Many places claim Kundakunda as their own. There is a village called Konda Kumda or Konka Kunda 9 few kilometers from the Guntakkal railway station (that is, practically on the borders of the Andhra and Karnataka states), and this village is said to have been the place where he was born. This would substantiate the claim that Kundakunda belonged to Karnataka. On the other hand it has also been suggested that he lived in Kanchi, because his place of work was said to have been in that area.


 In fact, there is also some difficulty about his exact name.  He is said to have had the following names: Vakragriva, Elacarya Gridhrapincha, Padmanandi and Kundakunda, but so far as the first four names are concerned, there have been other ancient Jain authors with the same or similar names in the later centuries.  Thus it will be safer to call him by the name of Kundakunda only.


Umaswami or Umasvati


The most celebrated acharya among the Digambaras after Kundakunda was Umasvami. In the South Indian inscriptions he is mentioned immediately after Kundakunda, l0 which implies that he was a disciple of Kundakunda. Umasvami had the epithet Gridhrapincha or Gridhrapiccha, “ Vulture's feather”, which Kundakunda had too. According to most of the Digambara pattavalis, he lived from about AD 135 to 219.


The Svetambaras on the other hand think that his name was Umasvati. He was so called because his mother's name was Uma Vatsi, and his father's Svati.1I The name of his teacher was Ghosanandi Kshamashramna. About his period the Shvetambara traditions differ, but in any case none of them is in agreement with the Digambara tradition.


It is not certain that he belonged to South India, for he wrote his great work Taftvarthadhigama-Sutra "the Manual for the Understanding of the True Nature of Things" in Pataliputra. This manual in Sanskrit is recognized as an authority by both Digambaras and Svetambaras.  Winternitz wrote, “Even at the present day (this work) is read by all Jains in private houses and temples. By reading this book once though one is said to acquire as much merit as by fasting for one day. The logic psychology, cosmography, ontology and ethics of the Jain, are treated in these Sutras and in the commentary appended by the author himself, in the closest possible agreement with the Canon, more specially with Anga VI (Jnatadharmakathah).  Even today it may still serve as an excellent summary of Jains dogmatic. It is true that the commentary, which expresses views that are not in harmony with those of the Digambaras is not recognized by this sect as the work of Umasvami. It is doubtful, therefore, whether the Digambaras are justified in claiming him as one of their own.”12 However, Umasvami is an important writer for the Digambaras. They honour him as an equal of the Shrutakeavlins of old (Shrutkevaldesya)   and would not like to SUI render him to the Svetambaras.13 The Svetambaras also greatly respect Umasvati, and give him the epithets puravit knower of ancient texts and vacakaearya "master reciter".


Umasvami or Umasvali is said to have been a prolific writer and said to have written about 500 books. Very few of these are known today. The Digambars think that the 14 Pujaprakarna Prasamarati, and Jambudvipasamasa are his works.


Among the early commentators of Umasvami's Tatvartha- dhigama-Sutra was Siddhasena Divakara. He too like Umasvami is regarded by both Digambaras and Svetambaras as one of their own.14 He is perhaps the last acharya to be claimed by both the scats. However, his name does not appear in the Digambaras pattavalis of south India).




According to a pattavalli given in an inscription of 1163 AD at Sravana Belgola, Umasvati's disciple was Balakapiccha, and his disciple was Samantabhadra. He is also styled 'Svami' and referred to with reverence by later acharyas. Digambaras place the period in which he flourished as between AD 120 and 185.15 Samantabhadra was definitely a Digambara. He wrote among other books, a commentary of Umasvami's Tattvartha DhigamaSutra.  The main part of the commentary is no longer extant but the introductory part of the commentary exists.  It is known as Devagama-Sutra or  Aptamimansa.  The Jain philosophy of Syadvada was, perhaps for the first time, fully explained in this book.  The work was therefore, discussed by non-Jain philosophers such as Kumarila (8th / 9th centuries ) and Vachaspatimishra respectively. Few Jain authors except Samantabhadra and Akalanka have been found worthy of such notice by non-Jain philosophers.




            Some inscriptions16 mention that Samantabhadra was succeeded by Sinhanandi. In that case he should belong to the 2nd century according to the pattavali reckoning.  Sinhanandi is not known as the author of any work.  His fame rests on the legend that he was instrumental in the foundation of the Western Ganga kingdom in Karnataka.  The legend is as follows:17


            "Two princes of the Ikshaku family, Dadiga and Madhav, migrated from the north to south India.  They came to the town of Perur (in the Cuddapah district in the Andhra State). There they met a Jain teacher whose name was Sinhanandi. He trained them in the art of ruling.  At the behest of the teacher Madhav cut asunder a stone pillar which barred the road to the entry of the Goddess of sovereignty."  Thereupon Sinhanandi invested the princes with royal authority, and made them rulers of a kingdom".


            The fullest version of the story is met with in a stone inscription from the Karnataka state, dated the first quarter of the 12th century.  The nucleus of the story or a few bare allusions to its main incidents, however, occur in the epigraphic records ranging from he 5th century onwards.18  Thus, is believed generally that with the foundation of the Ganga kingdom, but there is no independent inscription to prove that Madhav, the founder himself became a Jain as the later Jain inscriptions claim.


            If Sinhanandi was the successor of Samantabhadra then the above incident should have happened by the first half of the 3rd century, but most authorities believe that the Western Ganga dynasty was founded in the second half of the 4th century.  Thus Sinhanandi was not perhaps the immediate successor of Samantabhadra.  In fact most Digambara pattavalis do not mention Sinhanandi at all.


            According to one tradition the successor of Sinhanandi was one Davi Parmeshvara19 and his successor was Devanandi whose epithet was Pujyapada.  However, the several Pattavalis of the Digambaras, all of which generally start with Bhadrabahu II, give conflicting names of the succeeding patriarchs.  The pattavali given in the inscription No. 4020  in Sravana Belgola is as follows:


- Umasvati (sic)

- Banlakapichchha

- Samantabhadra

- Devanandi

- Akalankat


            Some other pattavalis give the following list-


- Bhadrabahu II

- Guptigupta

- MaghanandiI

- Jina Chandra I

- Kundkunda

- Umasvami

- Lohacharya II,

- Yasakirti

- Yasonandi

- Devanandi

- Pujyapada

- Gunanandi I.


            According to the first list above Devanandi was the successor of Samantabhadra.  In the second list.  There is no Smantabhadra, and at the same time Devanandi and Pujyapada are two different persons.


            However, it is generally agreed that Pujyapada was the epithet of Devanandi.  Hehad is another epithet, Jinendrabuddhi. He is generally known for this grammar called Jainendra Vyakarana.  Vopadeva, in the 13th century, mentions him among the eight great grammarians of the country.  Pujyayada had also written a commentary on Umasvami's work.  This was called the Sarvarthasiddhi.


            We come next to Akalanka with whom the period of the great Jain acharyas ends in the Karnataka region.  According to one of the pattavalis given above he was the disciple of Pujayapada Devanandi.  Winternitz, however, believed that he was a near contemporary of Samantabhadra and both of them lived in the first half of the 8th century.  Apart from writing a commentary called the Tattvartharajavarttika on the great work of Umasvami, Akalanka wrote a number of works on logic, viz., Nyasavinischaya Laghiyastarya, and  Svarupasambodhana.  He was thus called a Master of Jain logic- Syadvada - Vidyapati.  He as opposed, as stated earlier, by Kumarila, the great philosopher of Brahmanical orthodoxy.  Akalanka wrote many other treatises also.


            Thus beginning with the 1st century and up to the end of the 8th century, the Jains of the Karnataka region produced a number of distinguished scholars.  The Jain community of Karnataka at that time must have been large and prosperous enough to provide for the maintenance of these scholars and their pupils.


Tamil Nadu


            It has been surmised from the various references in the Tamil literature22 that Jainism was quite important in Tamil Nadu in the period 5th to 11th century.  Jainism is not mentioned in the Sangam literature (4th century AD), but mention of the people professing Jainism is found in the two Tamil epics Silappadikaram and Manimekhalai.23  Both these epics belong to the 6th or 7th century AD.  Manimekhalai is a Buddhist work and refers to the Jains as Ni (r) granthas. It gives a reasonably good exposition of the Jain religious philosophy.  But naturally, being a Buddhist work refutes it. Silappadikaaram is the story of a wife's devotion to her husband.  It mentions Uraiyur a Chola capital, as a center of Jainism.  Both the classics relate that the Ni (r) granths lived outside the town in their cool cloisters.  The walls of which were surrounded by small flower gardens.  They also had monasteries for nuns.24  This description of Jain monasteries leads one to doubt its authenticity, for the Jains unlike the Buddhists do not favor living in monasteries.  Also since the Jains of south India were Digambaras, there should not have been nuns among them, to say nothing of there being monasteries for them.


            Another Tamil work, the Pattinapalai, speaks of the Jain and Buddhist temples being in one quarter of the city of Pugar, while in another quarter the Brahmans with plaited hair performed sacrifices and raised volumes of smoke.25


            These references show that the number of Jains in Tamil Nadu was sufficiently large to be noticed in the popular literature of the period.  One cannot avoid the suspicion, however, that there was a tendency on the part of these writers to mix up the Jains and the Buddhists.  But Hiuen Tsang who was  in Kanchi in the middle of the 7th century also reported that he saw numerous Nirgranthas at this place:  and since he is not likely to have confused between the Buddhists and the Nirgranthas, is certain, that the Jain population of Tamil Nadu at that time was quite large.


            The Jain population of Tamil Nadu was apparently larger in the 8th and 9th century than in the 7th century, for in the latter period there are very few Jain inscriptions. Most of the inscriptions in Tamil (about 80 or so), belong to the 8th and the 9th centuries, and these have been found mainly in the Madurai Tirunelveli area.26  [In the Salem district also there was a Jain temple or religious place in Tagdur (Dharmapuri) in AD 878.] Thus Jains were quite numerous in Tamil Nadu in the 9th century.  Thereafter there was perhaps a slow reduction in the Jain population.


            Many large and small Jain temples still survive in Tamil Nadu..  Two of these are important Jain centers even today.  One is a Tirumalaipuram, and  the other is a Tiruparuttikunram.  The latter is a suburb of Conjeeveam, about three kilometers from the center of the town, and is in fact still called Jain Kanci.  The presiding deity here is Vardhamana who is also styled trailokya nathasvami.  The temple is one of the biggest in the taluk.


            It is adorned with artistic splendor, and it has a large number of icons of the Jain pattern.  From the inscriptions (about 17 in number)  found at this place it appears that it was built by the Chola emperors Rajendra I (c.  1014-44) and Kulottunga I (c.  1070 -1120), and added to by Rajendra III (c. 216-46).  Later additions were made by the Vijayanagar emperors Bukka II (in 1387-88) and Krishna Deva Raya (in 1518).  There are some remarkable murals on the temple.  These date from the 16th and the 18th century.


            The fact that this large and beautiful Jain temple is the heart of the Tamil country was being adorned even in the 18th century proves that a sufficiently numerous and prosperous Jain community existed in the part of the country till then.  Otherwise the temple could not have been maintained.


            What happened to the Jains of the Tamil Nadu after that?  The possibility is, that most of the richer sections of the Jain population got slowly absorbed in the dominant Shiv and Vaishnava community surrounding them, and the poorer section took to farming. In fact most of the 50,000 indigenous Jain that exist in Tamil Nadu today are farmers,29 and a majority of them live in the North Arcot district. It is perhaps the lack of many rich people among them, that has made the Jains inconspicuous in the Tamil Nadu.  It is also possible, that their proportion in the total population is less than, it was a thousand years ago, when they started building the numerous temples still seen all over the place.


            One story goes that there was a sudden reduction in the number of Jains specially in the Madurai area in the 7th century.  This story is found in the Shaivite books.  It starts with the story of the Shiv saint Gnanasambandha (end of the 7th century) as given in the Periyapuranam (AD 1150.)  There was a Pandya king of Madurai.  He was hunched backed.  The boy saint Gnanasambandha cured him of his infirmity and the grateful king embraced Shiv region. This emboldened the Shiv population of the city who challenged the local Jains to prove the superiority of their religion.  The wager was that each sect would throw a palm- leaf manuscript of its sacred text in the river, and the party whose text lose would be annihilated by the other party.  The Jain text was washed away, but the Shiv text floated against the current.  The 8,000 Jains of Madurai were then killed by impalement by the Shivs.  This alleged incident proved by the evidence of a work composed almost 500 years later and also by the evidence of some frescoes on the walls of the Golden Lily Tank of the Minakshi temple (17th century) recorded 1,000 years later.


            The story is not found in any Jain source, the Jains evidently know nothing about it;  and so do not accuse the Shivs of this massacre.  The Hindu historians on the other hand are at pains to prove the absurdity of the story by such arguments as that (1) the Jains would never enter into a wager where if they won they would have to kill human beings, (2) the king would not permit 8000 of his innocent subjects to be killed;  (3) the Jain learned men continued to compose important works on grammar and lexicography in Mandurai itself even after the alleged incident.  Among these works are cited the sendan Divakaram a Tamil dictionary of Divakara; the Neminatham and Vachchamalai, two Tamil grammars by Gunavira Pandit, etc.  Lastly, if all the Jains of Madurai were massacred in the 7th century, there would not be, as we have seen earlier.  A concentration of Jains in the same area in the 8th and 9th centuries.


            The truth of the matter is that such stories of the annihilation of one sect by a rival sect, were a common feature of Tamil literature in those days.  These were required to prove the superiority of one's own sect above that of the other.  In fact in one such story a Jain king of Kanchi gave the Buddhists a similar treatment, and in another the Vaishnava apostle Ramnuja treated the Jains similarly by instigating the Hoysala king Vishnu Vardhana against them.30  Hagiography need not be taken as history.


The Ninth to the Seventeenth Century in Karnataka


            This period was the most significant in the history of the Digambara Church.  Throughout this long period Jainism was a prominent religion of south India, and especially of Karnataka.  The Jains held important positions in the government.  Much of the commerce of the country was controlled by the Jains. All these prosperous people spent lavishly for the construction of temples and monuments of their religion.  While the rulers spent their wealth in building the Hindu temples at Ellora, Halevid, etc., the Jain commercial classes filled the region with gigantic statues of Bahubali and Magnificent stambhas (towers) and temples.  Going by the number of the archaeological remains alone, it might be inferred that some parts of Karnataka, specially the area round about Sravana Belagola, and Karakal were entirely Jain areas.


            This period may also be called the period of the Bhattarakas.3 The Bhattarakas could be compared with the abbots or Mahants of monasteries, but in place of monasteries that do not exist in Jainism, the Bhattarkas were the person who managed the temples and also the estates endowed to the temples by the rulers, and the rich devotees.  Though these jobs were of a secular nature, the Bhattarakas were actually religious persons. They were the religious leaders of the community.  Among the Svetambaras, such leadership was provided by the monks; but on account of the rule of strict nudity, few people became monks among the Digambaras, and the Bhattarakas thus necessarily had to assume this leadership.  Another important function that the Bhattarkas performed was to lead the members of the community to various places of pilgrimage.  The Bhattarakas were not strictly munis or ascetics, and therefore they did not go about naked, as Digambara munis were expected to live.  According to a legend32 Sultan Firoze Shah Tughluq (1351-1388) invited some Digambara Jain saints and entertained them at his court and palace.  Hearing of the great fame and learning of their chief, his queen desired to see him.  For her sake the saint put on a piece of cloth to his nakedness when he appeared before her.  He made religious atonements for this undue liberty, but the example set by him was adopted by his followers.  Since then a new sect of yatis the Bhattarakas, started among the Digambaras.  The legend has no historic basis for the mention of the Bhattarakas, is found in the 9th century in the Satkhandagamatika of Virasena, but the system must have started much earlier. For even in the inscriptions of the 5th century we find mention of the gifts of land to Jain temples, and there must have been some body to manage the properties so received.


            The Digambara Jain Community was divided during this period into various sanghas and ganas.33  The Sena gana and the Balatkara gana claimed that they belonged to the Mula sangha.  Similarly Mathura, Ladabagada, Bagada and Nanditata ganas claimed kastha as their sangha.  The kastha sangha is said to have been established in 697 by Kumarasena in Nanditata (the present Nanded in Maharashtra).  On the other hand the documents of these four ganas prior to the 12th century do not mention that they had any connection with the Kastha sangha.  It has been conjectured therefore that perhaps the sangha itself was formed by the coming together of these four ganas.


            All these speculations, however, are of little importance, for, the difference between one gana and another was negligible.  When we come to the exact difference in the beliefs of the various ganas and sanghas, it appears that they mainly lie in the matter of using the various kinds of pichchhis (sweeps) by the monks and in nothing else.  While the Sena gana and the Balatkara gana prescribed the peacock's tail for their pichchhi, the Ladabagada and the Nanditata prescribed the camara (yak's tail).34   The Mathura gana on the other hand did not use any pichchhi at all.  Schubring, however, mentions an important point, that the kastha sangha allowed women also to take diksa.35  Perhaps this has affected the praxis of the northern Digambaras, for the Digambara Jains of northern India do allow the women at the present time to become nuns.  (The nuns are allowed a long piece of white cloth to be worn as sadis.  A Digambara nun does not expect to get salvation in this birth.  She only expects to go to heaven as a reward for her religious life. When her allotted period of stay in heaven is over, she would be born as a man.  He can then try for the final salvation.)




            The Rashtrakutas ruled over a large area in the center of India for two centuries beginning with the middle of the 8th century.  One of the important patrons of learning among them was Amoghavarsha Nripatunga (815-877).  He was himself a scholar, and wrote an important Kannada work on poetics.  One of his ecpithets was Atishayadhavala.36  Jinasena wrote the Jain Adipurana during his period.  The commentary on the certain parts of the Shatkhandagama was also perhaps prepared during his period.  This commentary is known as Jayadhavala.


            It was during Amoghavarsha's time that Ugraditya wrote a treatise on medicine called Kalyanakaraka.37 It is a voluminous work in Sanskit containing 8,000 slokas. Ugraditya says that the original author of this work was Pujyapada, and he had only revised and enlarged it.  Who this Pujyapada was is not clear?  The famous Pujyapada was not known to be a writer on medicine.


            Ugraditya divides the book in eight chapters, as was usual with other contemporary Ayurvedic works.  However his main attempt was to eliminate the use in medicine of meat and other similar animal products and all types of intoxicants. In other words, it prescribed only those medicines that a Jain could safety take.  The author refers to Agnivesha, Kashyapa and Charaka among the ancient authors but does not mention Susruta or Nagar Juna.  Mercury and other metals are important ingredients medicine in the Kalyanakaraka.  This was perhaps due to the introduction of Arabic influence, for, mercury and other metals though mentioned are not very important as medicines in earlier Indian works.


            Another scholar who flourished during this period was the Jain mathematician Mahaviracharya, who wrote his Ganitasarasangraha 38 in c. 850. Mahavira found out the rule for calculating the number of combinations of n things taken r at a time (problem number VI, 218).  This can be put in the modern notation as




                         r! (n-r)!


            It is, however, not certain that it was his discovery, for Mahvira never refers to any earlier mathematicians, not even to Brahmagupta whose famous rule for the area of the (cyclic) quadrilateral he mentions. 39


            A mathematical discovery of this period was the use of logarithms for calculations with large numbers.  These logarithms were with the bases 2, 3, and 4. Reference to the use of logarithms occurs for the first time in the Dhavala commentary mentioned above.  Use of logarithms for the ease of calculations with large numbers that occur in Jain cosmology, continued at least for a hundred years, for Nemichandra at the end of the tenth century mentions the rule of logarithm (which he called ardhacchheda, i.e., logarithm at the base 2), as:


            "The ardhachheda of the multiplier plus the ardhachheda of the multiplicand is the ardhachheda of the product" Trilokasara, Gatha 105)

or, in modern notations,


                                log2A + log2B = log2 A.B


Later Gangas


            In the later centuries of Ganga rule in southern Karnataka we see evidence of great material prosperity of the Jains.  Epigraphic records indicate that these rulers were all patrons of the Jains and made grants to various Jain temples. Indeed, some of them might have themselves become Jains.  These were Nitimarga I (853-870), Nitimarga II (907- 935), Marasinha III ((960-974), etc.  In fact, Marasinha III died by the Jain vow of starvation, known as Sallekhana in the presence of Ajitasena Bhattaraka in AD 974. 40


            Some ministers and generals of these Ganga rulers also were devout Jains and spent large sums of money in building temples and other architectural monuments.  The 17 meter high statue of Bahubali was built at Sravana Belgola by Chamundaraya in 983.  Chamundaraya was the minister and general of Rachamalla, a king of the Ganga dynasty.


            Nemichandra, the famous Digambara scholar was a friend of this minister.  Three of Nemichandra's works are still considered quite important for the sect.  These are Trilokasara, Labdhisara and Gommatasara.  The first is a work on Jain cosmography.  Nemichandra displayed his mathematical talent in writing this book.  The other two works are on Jain philosophy.  (All these three works of Nemichandra were translated into Hindi prose by Todarmal of Jaipur, in the 18th century).


            The Gangas ruled over south Karnataka from the fourth to the 10th century and all through their period they were helpful towards the Jains.




            Karnataka entered its period of artistic glory with the establishment of the Hoysala dynasty in the 12th century. The capital of the Hoysalas was at Dorasamudra.  They attained great power under Vishucardhana (1111-52) and his grand son Vira Ballala II.  The last notable ruler of this dynasty was Vira Ballala III. He sustained defeats at the hands of Kafur, the general of Ala-ud-din Khailji, and finally perished in or about 1342.


            The Hoysala kings built many beautiful temples in south Karnataka.  These temples are the glories of Indian art. While the kings built temples of the Shiv and Vaishnava faiths, their ministers and the merchant princes among their subjects built Jain temples.  Ganga Raja, a general and minister of Visuvardhana the greatest of the Hoysals, built the Parshvantha basadi (basadi in Karnataka means a Jain temple) at Chamarajanagar near Mysore.  Gangaraja also built the surrounding enclosure to the statue of Bahubali in Sravana Belgola.  In 1116 Hulla who was treasurer or bhandari  for three successive years, Hoysala rulers built the Chaturvinsati- Jinalaya (also known as the Bhandari-basadi) in Sravana Belgola.  Another basadi in the vicinity is the Viraballabha- Jainalya built in honor of the Hoysala king Viraballabha II by a merchant in 1176.


            We thus see that all these dynasties that ruled over Karnataka were friendly to the Jains.  Schubring has well summarized the situation:  "Individually as well as in their subsequent members quite a number of princely houses such as the Ganga, Rashtrakuta, Chalukya, Hoysala have proved friendly to the Jains.  And yet taking into account the well-known versatility of the Indian princes in religious affairs, we must be careful not to overrate the role acted by Jainism in political life, and it is rather bold to speak of       "adeptes ad jainism"  (initiated into Jainism) in this connection.  It may be assumed, that more often than not it was for reasons of prudence, that it was thought necessary to suit the order so influential owing to its wealthy laymen."41  Schubring is generally correct in his assessment.  Some later Ganga kings it appears actually were initiated into Jainism. But the evidence for this was not available to Schubring when he wrote in 1934.


Viyayanagara Empire


            This empire was known among other things for the revival of Brahmanic learning but if we go by the number of existing monuments spread throughout the empire, it was also a period of great building activity of the Jains.


            In fact the large building activity seen among the Jains was due to the fact that the main commercial class of Karnataka, the Vira Banajigas had become ardent Jains.  As Saletare puts it, "The real clue to the understanding of the high position which Jainism held in the land is seen in the ardor and devotion of the commercial"42  classes;  and again, "with the immense wealth of which Vira Banajigas were the traditional custodians, the Jain sages had magnificent Jinalayas and images constructed".43


            If we take the period from the 10th to the early 17th century, we find that the main center of constructional activity of the Jains in the first half of this period was Sravana Belgola, but by the second half of this period the center had shifted westwards towards Karkala, almost on the sea-coast near Mangalore.  Karkala itself was the seat of the Bhairarasa Wodeyars,44 a powerful Jain family (of which no representatives are now left.)  The second largest image of Gommatadeva (or Bahubali) about 12.5 metres high was built here in AD 1431.  It was built by Vira Pandya Bhairarasa Wodeyar.  At Haleangadi, close by is the finest Jain stambha  in the district.  It has a monolithic shaft 33 feet (10 metres) high in eight segments, each beautifully and variously ornamented, supporting an elegant capital and topped by a stone shrine containing a statue.  The total height is about 50 feet (15 metres)". 45


            Another very large Bahubali statue was built in Yenur (or Venur) now a village in the Mangalore Taluk.  The statue is 37 feet (11.1 metres) high and was built in 1603.  At that time the place must have been quite important, for besides this statue there are numerous other Jain remains there.46


            The place nearby which became the center of Jainism in South India in the period 13th to the early 17th century is Mudabadri, about 16 kilometers from Karkala.  The place is so important that it is described as Jain-Kasi.  This Jain center is said to have been started near about AD 714 when a monk from Sravana Belgola established the first Jain temple, the Parshvanatha-basadi  here.  The place became important after 1220, when an important acharya Charukirti Panditcharya arrived here from Sravana Belgola.47


            From then on wards till the early 17th century this whole area was a scene of large constructional activity of the Jains.  The architectural style adopted was also peculiar.  As Fergusson remarks, "When we descend the Ghats into Kanada, or the Tulava country, we come on a totally different state of matters.  Jainism is the religion of the country, and all or nearly all the temples belong to this sect, but their architecture is neither the Dravidian style of the south, nor that of northern India, and indeed is not known to exist anywhere else in India proper, but recurs with all its peculiarities in Nepal.


            "They are much plainer than Hindu temples generally are. The pillars look like logs of wood with the angles partially chamfered off, so as to make them octagons, and the sloping roofs of the verandas are so evidently wooden that the style itself cannot be far removed from a wooden original...


    "The feature however which presents the greatest resemblance to the northern (i.e. Nepalese) styles, is the reverse slope of the eaves above the varandah.  I am not aware of its existence anywhere else south of Nepal, and it is so peculiar that it is much more likely to have been copied than reinvented".48


            Most of the Jain religious buildings in and near about Mudabadri were built by the wealthy merchants of the area. The thousand pillared basadi or temple, known as the Tribhuvana-tilaka-chuda-mani' was built by a group of Jain merchants (settis) in 1430, and this is the most magnificent Jain shrine in south India.49


            Mudabadri temples also became depositories of Jain literature.  Indeed the famous commentaries Dhavala and Jayadhavala were found only in the Siddhanta-basadi here.50


            As the Mudabadri-Karkala area, also known as the Tuluva country, became more and more important, the influence of Jainism declined in the rest of South India.  The one reason for this was the revival of the Brahmanical religion under the kings of the Vijayanagar  empire.  The Vijayanagara kings were not against the Jains.  In fact, they were always consoling just when any civil dispute arose between the Jains and others. Saletore51 cites two cases, one in 1363 and the other in 1368, where the disputes between the two antagonistic groups of Jains and non-Jains were amicably settled by the Vijayanagara rulers.  These settlements were duly recorded in stone inscriptions.  The cause of the decline was thus not the hostility of the kings.  It has to be looked some where else.


            Of all the places in South India, it was Karnataka where Jainism was strongest.  Two things happened there, which in the course of a few centuries, reduced the influence of Jainism in the greater part of the region. Ultimately by the 16th century its stronghold was left only in one corner of the region.  That is in the Tuluva country, round about Karkala, Mudabadre, etc.  The first of this was the rise of the Vira-Shiv or the Lingayat religion under the leadership of Basava in the 12 century.  He himself being a minister was able to convert many of the local chiefs such as the Santaras, rulers of Coorg, etc., to Vira-Shaivism.52


            The second and perhaps the decisive reason was the conversion of the main mercantile class the Vira Banajigas from Jainism to Vira-Shaivism.53  By this one stroke the main patrons of Jainism were lost to a rival religion.  Added to this was the fact that after the period of the acharyas, say, by the end of the 9th century, there were no out standing Jain leaders in Karnataka to give fresh intellectual life to this community.


            Jainism, therefore, slowly became extinguished in south India, leaving comparatively small pockets of devotees in the centers, which were great at one time.  These were, for instance, Sravana Belgola and Mudabadre.  Jain religious groups have survived there to this day.  So far as the other scattered Jain populations were concerned the richer people among them were converted to some Brahmanical religion such as Vaishnavism or Shaivism, and the poorer mostly took to farming and thus became inconspicuous.


            The indigenous Jains who are left in South India today are endogamous clans and so do not intermarry with the Jains of North India.  They are all Digambaras and are dividend into four main castes, viz.  Setavala (not found in Karnataka), Chaturtha, Panchama, and Bogara or Kasara, and three small castes, Upadhyayas, Kamboja and Harada.  Their priests are Brahmans.


            "Each of the four main castes in the South is led by its own spiritual leader (bhattaraka), who occupying intermediary positions between  ascetics and laymen can individually resolve disputes between the members of the caste and expel from it whom so ever he considers it necessary."54  The Chaturthas are mainly agriculturists, the Setavalas are agriculturists as well as tailors, the Kasaras or the Bogaras are coppersmiths, and the members of the Panchama caste follow any of these professions.55



The Digambaras of North India


            Thanks to the numerous stone inscriptions and religious literature found in South India, more or less a continuous history of the Digambaras Jains can be traced from the 5th to 17th century AD. We know much less about the Digambara communities in the north during the corresponding period.  As stated earlier, most of the statues of the Tirthankaras that have been found in the 4th and 5th  century in the area now covered by Uttar Pradesh, were nude.  The majority of the Jains in this area today are Digambaras. We may thus conclude that when finally the great schism occurred (and this might have been a gradual process) the Jains of north India found themselves in the Digambara camp. Later monuments also support the view that most of the Jains of eastern and northern Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa were also Digambaras.  Mention has already been made of the Digambara images found in Bihar (12th century), and Orissa (11th to 15th centuries).  Much more important is the Jain group of temples in Khajuraho (10th-11th century).  These are all Digambara temples and must have been built by the rich merchants living in the capital city of Chandela Rajput kings of Bundelkhand.  One temple in this group, that of Parshvanatha, has even been compared favorably56 with the renowned Kandarya Mahadev temple of this place.  Another important group of Digambara Temples is in Deogarh in Jhansi district.  The Jain merchants of Bundelkhand were perhaps as well looked after by the Chandela rulers as their counterparts were in Karnataka.


            A few Kegambara inscriptions have been found in Gwalior also.  These are fragmentary and do not give much information.


            Chittorgarh, like Khajuraho, was a stronghold of the Digambaras in the 12th and 13th century.  This is proved by a number of Jain inscriptions found there.  Four of them57  are by one Shaha Jijaka.  It was he who had raised the famous Kirtistambha of Chittorgarh in 1300 AD  Shaha Jijaka claimed to belong to the Kundakundanvyaya.  This proves that not only was the tower raised by a Digambara merchant, but also that the practice of claiming descent from the line of Kundakunda, a practice quite common in South India, had spread to north by the 13th century.


            However, the fact remains that it is difficult to build up a history of Digambaras of north India on the basis of the available epigraphic evidence.  The number of inscriptions found so far are too few.  In the five volumes Jain Shila  Lekha Sangraha, a Digambara collection, the number of Digambara inscriptions recorded from north India after the 6th century would no be more than 20.


            There is a paucity of literary sources also.  The Digambaras of North India, unlike their counterparts in the South, composed very few works at least up to the 17th century.  In fact in the early medieval period there was perhaps only one important Digambara writer in north India. Harisena who wrote is quite informative about the social and religious condition of India of this period.  As mentioned earlier, the Shvetambara sect according to Harisena originated in Valabhi.


            In the absence of sufficient epigraphic and literary evidence, one has to depend on the legendary materials for reconstructing the history of the Digambaras of north India.


            One thing immediately becomes clear.  The Digambaras, unlike the Svetambaras did not break up into large number of groups and sub-groups in north India.  Most of them belonged to the Bisapanthis sect.  The origin of this sect is not clearly known. "It probably originated in the 13th century. Glasenapp remarks that one Vasantakirti held the view that so long as the monks lived among the people, they should wear one garment.  The believers of this opinion were called Vishvapanthis.  This was corrupted into Bisapanthis.  The monks of this pantha live in a cloister under the headship of a Bhattaraka.  They install the image of Tirthankaras along with that of Kshetrapala deities such as the Bhairavas and others.  They worship the images by offering fruits, flowers and other foodstuffs."58


            Whatever might be the origin of the Bisapanthis, the descrition of their religious practices as given above is substantially correct.  In fact the majority of the Digambara Jains of northern India followed these practices.  As the days passed the Bhattarakas, who managed the properties of the temples and monasteries became more and more powerful. The popularity of the Kshetrapala deities (who for all practical purposes were folk Gods)  continued to increase.  A protest against such laxity in the Jain religion which by its nature is puritan was inevitable.  Such a movement started some time in the 17th century in the Agra region. One of the leaders of this protest was Banarasidasa Jain. In course of time the movement grew stronger, and it was named Terapantha.  According to Bakhtaram Shah, an 18th century author who was himself against this movement, the Terapantha sect originated in Sanganer, near Jaipur, sometimes in the early 18th century.


            As it has always happened in the Jain reformist movements, the Terapanthis did not try to introduce any change in the basic tenets of the Jain religion.  Their reforms were connected with small details of rituals only. For instance, this sect believed that one should not worship in the temples at night, that while worshipping one should be standing and not sitting, that kesara (saffron) should not be offered to image, etc.


            Starting from the Agra-Jaipur region the Terapantha movement spread among all the Digambra Hainas of northern India.  Those who did not accept the views of this sect were called Bisapanthis.  As to which is the original sect and which the offshoot, remains a matter of perennial dispute.


            In the 18th century, there was a learned Digambara Jain in Jaipur.  His name was Todarmal.  He translated into Hindi prose all the voluminous Prakrit works of Nemichandra (10th century)  of Karnataka.  In those days of the infancy of Hindi prose, Todarmal’s writings show a refreshing clarity and rhythm.  Todarmal belonged to the Terapantha sect.  His son Gumaniram was very orthodox in his religious opinions; and he thought that Terapantha had not gone back far enough to the original pristine Jain religion.  He, therefore started a new sect which was named after him as Gumana- pantha.  But as it happens with too puritan a sect, Gumana- pantha never became popular.  Its adherents were always few in number.  Some temples belonging to this sect in the Jaipur city and its neighborhood prove that the sect still survives.





1.         "Sisena ya Bhaddabahussa" - at the end of his work Bodhapahuda (quoted by J. P. Jain, op. cit., p.121).


2.  Schubring, op. cit., p. 63.


3.  S. K. Rao, op. cit., p. 12.


4.  See Appendix II.


5. The conjecture that Kundakunda lived in the first century AD was made by Winternitz (op. Cit., p. 476) on the basis of Pattavalis.  The earliest inscription that mentions Kundakunda's anvaya is the Mercara cooper plate inscription of S. 388 (AD 466).  Since it is now believed that this plate is a forgery of the 8th or 9th century, not much reliance can be placed on this inscription.  The plate mentions 6 persons in the anvaya of Kundakunda, starting with Gunacandra-bhatara and ending with Chandranandi-bhatara.  It has been argued that even if this plate was a copy of a genuine 5th century plate, and we assign 25 years to each person, Gunachandra, the first person named would belong to early 4th century AD  If he was a disciple of Kundakunda himself, then Kundakunda also belonged to the some period.  (A.K. Chatterjee, Comprehensive History of Jainism, pp. 137, 139 & 324-25).  All other inscriptions which mention the anvaya of Kundakunda were inscribed after AD 900.


6.  S.K. Rao, Jainism in South India, P.20.


7.  Jain Siddhanta Kosha, Vol. II, P.126.


8.  Jain Shila Lekha, Snagraha, Vol, I, pp. 197-98.


9. The discovery was made in the Epigraphic Report of the Southern circle for 1916; p. 134 Saletore. Op, cit., p.571.


10.       S. K. Rao, op. cit., p.21; also Winternitz, op. cit., p. 578.


11. Winternitz, op. cit., p578.


12. Ibid., p. 579.


13. Nathuram Premi, the Digambara Scholar, wanted to solve this difficulty by maintaining that Umasvami was neither a Shvetambara nor a Digambara but that he belonged to the third sect- the Yapaniyas ( vide his Jain Sahitya aur Itihasa, p. 537);  but there is nothing in Umasvami's writings to suggest this.


14. Winternitz, op. cit., p. 580.


15. Winternitz places him in the first half of the 8th century AD (Ibid., p.580).


16. e.g.  Epigraph Carnatica II, No. 59.


17. P. B. Desai, Jainism in South India, pp. 9-10,


18. See Saletore, op. cit., pp. 10-11,


19.  Rao, op. Cit., p. 25.


20.       The number is that of the Jain Shila Lekha Sangraha, Vol. I.


21. Winternitz, op. Cit., pp. 580-81.


22. Some Jain technical words entered the Tamil language also.  A list of 25 such words is given in the Comprehensive History of India, Vol. II, p. 683n.


23. A gist of the stories in these two works is given in A. L. Basham's The Wonder that was India, pp. 471-477.


24. Saletore, Medieval Jainism, pp. 241-42.


25. Ibid.


26. Chakravarti, Jain Literature in Tamil, p. 139


27. Saletore, op. cit., p. 245.


28. Goetz. op. cit., p 790.


29. Lakshmi Narayan, "Jains of South India," in the Times of India dated 16-1-1977.


30. S. Krishnasvami Aiyangar, Some Contributions of South India to Indian Culture, p. 238.


31.  V. P. Johrapurkas, Bhattaraka Sampradaya, pp. 1-2.


32.  Bhattaraka Sampradaya, p.  1.


33. We do not know when exactly the divisions started. According to the Jain Siddhanta Kosa, they had started in the 1st century AD  "The original Mulasangha was allowed to break up by Acharya Arhadvali in 593 AV. and it broke up into many sanghas, such as nandi, Vira, Aparajita, Sena, etc.  None of these sanghas exist today."  (Vol. I, p. 340).


34.  Bhattaraka Sampradaya, p. 211.


35.  Schubring, op. cit., p. 62.


36.  S. K. Rao, op, cit., p. 41.


37. A manuscript of this work was identified and first brought to general notice in the Mysore Archaelogical Report, 1922.  A detailed essay on this work was published in the Bulletin of the Department of the History of Medicine, Hyderabad, 1964, Vol. II, pp. 203ff.


38. Three incomplete manuscripts of this work were discovered by Professor Rangacharya in 1912 in the Government Oriental Manuscript Library, Madras. Sometime later a complete copy in Kannada script was found in the Government Oriental Library, Mysore.


39. Like Brahmagupta, Mahavira also fails to mention that the formula was applicable to cyclic quadrilaterals only.


40. Chatterjee, op. cit., pp. 186-190, gives the details about these kings.


41. Schubring, op. cit., p. 55.


42.  Op. cit., p. 174.


43.  Ibid.,  p. 173.


44.  S.K. Rao, op. cit., p 55.


45.  Imperial Gazetteer, Vol. XV, p. 44.


46.  Ibid., Vol. XXIV, p. 422.


47.  S. K. Rao, op. cit., p. 56.


48. James Fergusson, History of Indian and Eastern Architecture, pp. 270-72.


49. S.K. Rao. op. cit., p. 57.


50. Ibid., p. 31.


51. Saletore, op. cit., pp. 287-289.


52. Ibid., p. 280.


53. Ibid., p. 282.


54. N. R. Guseva, Jainism, p. 73.


55. N.R. Premi, Jain Sahitya aur Itihasa, pp. 504-506.


56. Fergusson, op. cit., p. 456.  (Fergusson perhaps never saw the temples;  the comparison was made on the basis of Photographs.  Ibid., p. 245n.).


57. Nos. 152-155 in the Jain Shila-Lekha Sangraha, Vol. V.


58. U.K. Jain,  Jain Sects and Schools, p. 137.


59.       Banarasidasa Jain is generally known as the writer of the Ardhakathanaka, the first autobiography in an Indian language.




            Apart from the Digambaras and the Svetambaras there was, in the past another sect of the Jains.  This sect, known as the Yapaniyas existed in Karnataka at least from the 5th to the 14th century.  This we know from the epigraphic evidence. The first and the last inscriptions that mention them and which have been discovered so far, belong to these centuries respectively and all the inscriptions which mention them have been found in Karnataka only.


            The first inscription that mentions the Yapaniyas is by Mrigesavarman (AD 475-490) a Dadamba king of Palasika.  The Kadambas themselves were Brahmans, but this king erected a Jain temple in the city o Palasika, and made a grant to the sects of Yapaniyas, Nirgranthas, and the Kurchakas.  (The Nirgranthas were, of course, the Digambaras, but who the Kurchakas were, is not clear).


            The last inscription which mentions the Yapaniyas was found in the Tuluva country- southwest Karnataka. It is dated Saka 1316 (AD 1394).


            Thus we know that the sect existed for at least a thousand years.  We can also make the guess that the sect was ultimately absorbed in the Digambara community.  The Yapaniyas worshipped nude images of the Tirthankaras in their temples.  Some of these temples with their images still exist and the people who worship in these temples nowadays are Digambaras.  The Yapaniya monks themselves also used to remain nude.  There was perhaps, therefore, not much difficulty in such absorption, specially if the sect ultimately dwindled to a small number.


            Nothing authentic is known about how the Yapaniya sect originated.  Devasena records a tradition in his Darshanasara (mid-11th century that the Yapaniya-sangha was started by a Shvetambara monk in the year 205 after the death of king Vikram.  Since however, the tradition is very late, not much reliance can be placed on it.  However, one thing is clear. The Digambaras believed that the original affiliation of the Yapaniyas was with the Svetambaras, and the Digambara author Indranandi counted  them as one of the five improper or false sects (Jainbhasa) of the Jains.  The five included the Svetambaras also.


            The Shvetambara author Gunaratna (15th century) on the other hand makes the definite statement that the Digambaras were divided into four sanghas namely, Kastha, Mula, Mathura, and Gopya or Yapaniya.  These last, that are the Gopyas or the Yapaniyas differed from the other three sects in three matters:  they used the salutation dharma-labha (the other three used dharma virddhi,) they believed that the kevalin lived on food, and they allowed women to find salvation. (These last two beliefs would put the Yapaniyas definitely in the Shvetambara camp.)  The net result was the neither the Digambaras nor the Svetambaras wanted to own the Yapaniyas. Indeed this is how Monier Williams2 would derive the word

"Yapaniya"  From the root ya meaning expelled:  The yapaniyas were perhaps those who wandered away after being expelled by both the communities.


            It is not clear whether the Yapaniyas had any separate sacred texts of their own.  There is some references to Yapaniya tantra by the Digambara author Harighadra.  But no such tantra is found at present.  Perhaps,  for religious purposes, the Yapaniyas used the Shvetambara sacred texts, for there is nothing against their principal dogmas in these works.


            The Yapaniyas are a matter of only historical curiosity now.  Indeed, except for their one great grammarian, Shadatayana, there is no reason to remember them.  That Shaktanayana who was a contemporary of the Rashtrakuta king Amoghavarsa (c. 817-877), was a Yapaniya we know from the note by Malayagira in his commentary on the NandiSutra.


            All the available commentaries on the Shubdanushasana  (grammar) of Shakatayana are by Digambara authors who appear to have taken this grammar for their own.  On the other hand two other works the Stri-mukti-prakarana and the Kevali- bhukti prakarana which are also said to be by Shakatayana are found only in the Shvetambara collections.  Thus while one work of Shakatayana is accepted by the Digambaras, his two other works are accepted by the Svetambaras only.  It will be recalled that the position is somewhat similar in the case of Umasvami or Umasvati also.  While both the main sects of the Jains accept his great work the Tattvarthadhigama-Sutra, the author's own commentary on this work is acceptable to the Shvetambaras only. It is on this analogy that Nathuram Prami has conjectured that Umasvami was a Yapaniya,2 for there is nothing else to support Premi's conjecture.





1.  Kurchakas ( and no other sect ) are again mentioned in a copper plate grant of Havirvarma of the same dynasty. Nathuram Premi thought that Kurchaka was a Digambara sect (op. cit., pp. 559-563).


2. Monier Williams, Sanskrit English Dictionary, p.  849. He also gives the term Yapana as the name of a Jain sect.  Perhaps this was another name of the Yapaniyas.


3.  Premi, op. cit., pp. 533ff.


4. All the available information on the Yapaniyas was summarized by A.N. Upadhyaya in his essay "Yapaniya Sangha-a Jain Sect"  in the Bombay University Journal of May 1933.  Some more epigraphs which mention the Yapaniyas have been discovered since then.  The additional informations available from these epigraphs are only the names of a few more ganas into which the Yapaniya sangha was divided.




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.


            Haribhadra started a tradition of learning among the Svetambaras of Gujarat and the neighboring areas, mainly Rajasthan.  UdyotanaSuri completed his Kubalayamala in AD 778 at Javalipura (Jalor in South west Rajasthan).  About a century later, sometime between 862 and 872, Shilanka wrote his commentaries on the first two Angas.  He translated all the Prakrit sources he had used, including the narratives, into Sanskrit.  He also wrote a work on the Jain mythology in 869.  This work is called Chaupannamahapurisachariyam. Shilanka, it appears also belonged to Gujarat.  In the 9th century Jayasinha wrote his Dharmopadeshamala in Nagapura (Nagor in Rajasthan).


            It was the learning of Jain monks, that make their entry in to the court of the Chaulukya kings of Gujarat easy. The Jains flourished in the Chaulukya court and both the Chaulukyas and the Jains gained;  Later the greatest of the Chaulukyas, Jayasinha Siddharaja, and the greatest of the Svetambaras pandits, Hemachandras were contemporaries and friends.


            Gujarat in the early 11th century was divided into a number of petty states.  The Chaulukya king Durlabharaja 1002-1022 who admitted the Jain pandit Jineshvara Suri in his court was the ruler of Anahilavada (near modern Patan) and Kutch.  His son Bhim succeeded him. By that time the Jains had started occupying important administrative posts in this kingdom.  Bhima's minister Vimala Shaha built the famous Adinanth temple at Abu in 1032.  It is quite apparent that Vimala Shaha must have been an immensely rich person.


            The Jain religion proved attractive to the mercantile community. This was perhaps because this rich class did not like to be placed in a position inferior to the Brahmans (quite often illiterate at that) who were placed higher than the merchants in the orthodox Hindu hierarchy.  Many sub-castes of the mercantile community such as the Osavalas, the Poravalas, the Shrimalis and the Shri-Shrimalis were almost entirely converted to Jainism.


            Bhima's grandson Jayasinha Siddharaja (ruled 1094-1143) was the greatest king of Gujart.  He conquered the whole of Gujarat and became its first emperor. In 1135 he invaded Dhara and returned at the end of his triumph to his capital in 1136.  Among the citizens who went out to welcome him home was a delegation of learned people.  The leader of this delegation was Hemachandra.  It is said that it was the first time that Jayasinha saw Hemachandra.




            Hemachandra was born in 1089 in a place called Dhandhuka about 100 kilometers south west of Ahmedabad.  His father's name was Chachiga and his mother was Pahini Devi.  They were Vania by castes.  The boy was named Changadeva.  (The name Hemachandra was given to him much later, when he became a Suri).  Hemachandra's father was most probably a Shiva by religion but his mother was a Jain.  The boy was unusually intelligent.


            Once when Hemachandra was still a child, one Devachandra a Jain acharya came to Dhandhuka on his way to pilgrimage. He saw the boy and was struck by his precocity.  He thought of bringing up the boy as a Jain monk, for he surmised that when he grew up he would prove to be an asset to the Jain religious community.  So, accompanied by the local Jain merchants he went to the house of Chahiga but Chahiga had gone away to some other place.  He, therefore, asked the mother to give him the boy so that he could be educated and brought up as a Jain monk.  On the request of the acharya, and the merchants, the mother agreed to give away8 her son.


            Devachandra then took away the boy with him to some other town.  Meanwhile Chachiga returned home and when he found that his son had been taken away, he went to search for him.  He found the boy in the custody of Udayana who was the governor of Cambay, and Jain by religion.  Udayana again requested Chahiga to allow Devachandra to keep the boy, and also offered a considerable sum of money to him as compensation.  It is said that Chadhiga was at last persuaded to leave the boy with Devachandra, but he refused to accept the money.


            The boy Changadeva was ordained  in 1097, and a new name Somachandra was given to him.  His education was then started, and by the age of 21 he became so learned that the epithet of Suri was conferred on him, and he was also given a new name Hemachandra at this time for they said that his countenance shone like hema (gold).


            Hemachandra does not mention his guru often in his writings.  In fact, there is only one instance known, in the tenth book of the Trishashtishalaka purusa-carita, where he definitely mentions his guru Devachandra.  From this it has been surmised that his relations with his preceptor were perhaps not happy.  In fact even the story of his life as given above is not accepted by everybody.  There are some other versions of his life-story also.


            Only on one point there is unanimity, that is, that Hemachandra was one of the greatest polymaths of this country.  He was called Kalikala-sarvajna - the Omniscient of the Kali-age.  In the variety of his writings his only possible rival was Rafa Bhoja of Dhara, but many of the works that go by the name of Bhoja were probably ghost writings of his court-pandits.


            The works of Hemachandra are said to number three crores (30 million).  In other words they were many.  Some of his works might have disappeared.  Of these that exist the following are noteworthy:


1.  Epic


            Hemachandra, like many other Jain authors wrote the life of the 63 great persons of Jain mythology.  It is a huge work and is known as the Trishashtishalaka-purusha-  carita.  This work has standardized the Shvetambara version of the Jain mythology.  What is more important is that Hemachandra wrote an appendix to this work.  This appendix known as the Parishishtaparvam9  gives the history of the Jain Church for nearly 14 generations after Mahavira, and as stated earlier is one of the only two histories that the Jains have written of their Church after Mahavira.


2.  Grammar


            Hemachandra's famous grammar Sidha-hema-shabda-nushasana  is said to have been written at the instance of the ruler Jayasinha Siddharaja who wanted to make his capital as well known in the learned circles as Dhara the capital of Bhoja. (Bhoja had also written grammar, the Sarasvati-Kanthavarana.)


            Hemachandra's grammar has eight chapters.  The first seven chapters deal with the grammar of the Sanskrit language, and the eighth with that of the Prakrit language. This eighth chapter is the earliest work10 of the Western school of Prakrit grammarians, and as such may be considered a pioneering work.  Hemcandra deals with practically all varieties of Prakrit, viz. Maharashtri, Sauraseni, Magadhi, Ardha-Magadhi, Paishrachi, Chulika Paishachi:  and also with Apabhransa.11


            In the first seven chapters that deal with the Sanskrit language, Hemchandra shows his acquaintance with nearly all the previous grammars of this language.  His method is illicit and it is found that he made use of both the systems, Panini as well as Katantra equally,12 his object being, all the time, to make the grammar as easily understood by the reader as possible. It is altogether strange that Hemachandra's Sanskrit grammar never became popular outside Gujarat.


3.  Kavya


            Hemachandra wrote a long poetical work called Kumarapala Caritra.  It is a life of Kumarapala who succeeded Jayasinha as the ruler of Gujarat.  The work is also called Dvayashraya Kavya, for it is not only written in two languages, Sanskrit and Prakrit, but it also serves two purposes:  besides describing the life of Kumarapala, it also illustrates the rules of Hemachandra's grammar.


4.  Lexicons


            Hemachandra compiled four lexicons:  1 Abhidhanachintamani a lexicon in the same style as the Amarakosa:  2.  Anekarthasangraha, a dictionary of homonyms:  3.  Nighantu, a dictionary of medicinal plants:  4.  and Deshinamamala, and dictionary of (native) words not derivable by the rules of Sanskrit of Prakrit grammars.


            Besides these, Hemachandra also wrote on Poetics Kavyanushasana, Prosody (Chandonushasana) Naya,  (Pramnamimansa).  Yogashastra, etc.  He also composed some devotional songs.


            Jayasinha, the ruler of Gujarata, did not have a son; and therefore, there was no direct heir to the throne of Gujarat.  Until his last days, however, he hankered for a son.  For this purpose he had once gone to the temple of Somanath on pilgrimage.  Hemachandra had accompanied him to this temple.  Hemachandra and the Jain ministers of Jayasinha wanted that in the absence of a son, Kumarapala who was a descendant of Jayasinha's father's step brother, should succeed him.  All the Jain ministers and rich merchants were therefore secretly helping Kumarapala whom Jayasinha himself disliked.  When on the death of Jayasinha (AD 1143) Kumarapala actually succeeded him, he was deeply grateful to the Jains.


            Hemachandra became a life long friend and adviser of Kumarapala.  All the Jain historians of the period say that under his advice Kumarapala prohibited the killing of animals in his Kingdom, and became a Jain himself.  It is quite apparent that he loved Jainism:  but as K. M. Munshi says, "Kumarpala never foreswore his ancestral faith" and "all the epigraphical evidence describe him as a devotee of Shiv".14


            However, the fact remains that in northern India there have been few kings as friendly to the Jains as Kumarapala.


            Kumarapala died in 1173.  Hemachandra had died six months before Kumarapala's death.


            The Jain influence has, however remained strong in Gujarat all these centuries.  The Jains have produced not only many learned men, but they have also continued to build magnificent temples all over the state at such sites where the hand of the idol breakers would not easily reach.


            In Abu, Vimala Shaha, the minister of the Chaulukya ruler Bhima had built the famous temple of Rishavanatha in 1032.  Exactly 200 years later, two brothers Vastupala and Tejapala, built the famous temple of Neminatha here in 1232 . The old temple of Neminatha at Girnar (3,000 ft) was restored in 1278.  The Shatrunjaya hill (about 2000 ft.) at Palitana was covered by innumerable Jain temples throughout the ages. One of them, the Chaumukah temple of Adinatha was built in 1618.


            The Svetambaras of the neighboring area of Rajasthan also were great builders.  The large and beautiful temple in Ranakpur near Sadri in the Pali district was built in 1439. It covers an area of over 4000 square meters. Dharanaka ordered to build it and is dedicated to Adinatha. In Osia (Jodhpur district) also they continued to build temples for many centuries.  Osia is said to be the original home of the Osavala Shvetambara Jains.


5.  Painting


            A school of miniature paintings flourished among the Jains of Gujarat from the 11th to the 16th century.  It consisted mainly in the illumination of manuscripts.  In the earlier centuries these manuscripts were on palm leaf, and later on paper.  The most popular work for illumination was the Kalpa-Sutra.  (Later the art was taken up by the non- Jains also and Krishnalila scenes became their favorite subjects.  Near about the 16th century secular subjects, mainly love scenes, were also painted.)


            In the earlier period the backgrounds of the paintings were brick-red, but from the 15th century there was lavish use of blue and gold.  The characteristics of the Jain paintings are:  angular faces in 3/4th profile, pointed nose, eyes protruding beyond the facial line and abundance of ornamentation.


            (The Gujarat painters in still later centuries became the fore-runners of the Rajput school of Paintings.)


Hira Vijay Suri


            Among the Jain learned persons of the 17th century the greatest was Hira Vijay Suri of Gujarat.  In Ain 30 of his Ain-i-Akbari, Abul Fazl gives a list of 140 learned persons of his time.  Of these 140, he places 21 persons in the first class:  "Such as understand the mysteries of both worlds." Nine of these 21 were non-muslims.  They were15 1.  Madhu Sarsuti 2.  Madhusudan 3.  Narayan Asram 4.  Hariji Sur 5. Damudar Bhat 6.  Ramtirth 7.  Nar Sing 8.  Parmindar 9. Adit.  Thus Hira Vijaya Suri (name wrongly transliterated by Blochman as Hariji Sur) was recognized as one of the 21 most learned people in the Mughal empire.


            Akbar heard of him from some local Jains of Fathepur Sikri and was anxious to meet him.  He sent orders to Sihabuddin Ahmad Khan, Governor of Gujarat that Hira Vijaya Suri should be sent to Fatehpur Sikri when it was possible, and all possible help such as escorts, and elephants and horses as conveyances should be provided to him.


            Hira Vijaya Suri16 was born in an Osavala family in Palanpur in Gujarat in 1527.  His parents had died when he was still an infant, and he was brought up by his two elder sisters.  He became the disciple of Vijayadana Suri in 1540 at the age of 13, and a new name Hira Harsh was given to him.  He was taken to Devagiri- a center of Sanskrit learning in those days, for further education.  He successively won the title of Pandit in 1550, Upadhyaya in 1552 and Suri in 1553.  This last title he won at Sirohi.  Hence-forth he was known as Hira Vijaya Suri.  In 1556 when his guru died, the Shvetambara community of Gujarat selected him as their bhattaraka.


            There was a great rejoicing among the Jains of Ahmedabad, when the Emperor's order was received.  Many other learned Jain sadhus decided to accompany the Suri to the capital.  The Jain rules for the ascetics provide that they should live only on that much cooked food that a householder would give him out of the good cooked ordinarily for his household.  But there would not be that many Jain households all along the way from Ahmedabad to Fatehpur Sikri to give alms to this large Group of sadhus (said to have been 67) accompanying Hira Vijaya Suri.  Some householders therefore also traveled with this group.  They would leave earlier than the sadhus in the morning, travel some distance and cook the daily food under a tree on the roadside, and wait for the party of sadhus to arrive there.


            Naturally, Hira Vijaya as a strict Jain ascetic did not avail of the elephants provided by the Governor of Gujarat but traveled on foot all the way.


            Hira Vijaya Suri entered Fatehpur Sikri on Jyestha Krishna 12, in AD 1582.  "The weary traveler was received with all the pomp of imperial pageantry, and was made over to the care of Abul Fazl until the sovereign found leisure to converse with him.  After much talk upon the problem of religion and philosophy, first with Abul Fazl and then with Akbar, the Suri paid a visit to Agra.  At the close of the rainy season he returned to Fatepur Sikri, and persuaded the emperor to release prisoners and caged birds, and to prohibit killing of animals on certain days.  In the following year (1583) those orders were extended, and disobedience to them was made a capital offense.  Akbar renounced his much loved hunting and restricted the practice of fishing.  The Suri, who was granted title of Jagad-Guru or world teacher returned in 1584 to Gujarat by way of Agra and Allahabad.".17


            One of the learned persons who had accompanied Hira Vijaya Suri to Fatehpur Sikri remained at court.  His name was Bhanu Chandra.  It may be mentioned, that Bhanu Chandra (as Bhan Chand) and an other Jain Vijayasena Suri (as Bijai Sen Sur) are included in Abul Fazl's list of "The learned Men of the Time".  He placed them in the fifth class.  "The fifth class are bigoted, and cannot pass beyond the narrow sphere of revealed testimony."  In other words, Bhanu Chandra and Vijya Sena were learned in the Jain Shvetambara texts, but did not have the width of vision which the learned men of the first class like Hira Vijaya Suri had.


Abul Fasl has quite a long18 and detailed chapter about the Jain religion in his Ain-i-Akbari.  He might have received much of this knowledge from Bhanu Chandra.  He wrote "The writer has met with no one who had personal knowledge of both orders and his account of the Digambaras has been written as it were in the dark, but having some acquaintance with the learned of the Shvetambara order, who are also known as the Sewra he has been able to supply a tolerably full notice."19


            It is noteworthy that until the beginning of the 17th century we do not hear of any learned Digambaras in northern India.  Learned Jains had been working in the court of Delhi even before the Mughals also.  One Thakkar Pheru was the assayer of the treasury of Alauddin Khalji (1316) and later became mint-master during the reign of Qutubuddin Mubarak (1320).  He wrote a treatise on astrolabes, the Yantra Raja. Writing his commentary on this book Mahendra Suri's disciple Malayendu Suri said, "The book was written by Mahendra Suri who was Chief Astronomer (Astrologer) of Firuz"  (Shah Tughluq, 1351-88).

            Both Thakkara Pheru and Mahendra Suri appear to have been Svetambaras.


Minor Divisions and Sub-Divisions of the Svetambaras


            From about a century prior to the advent of Hemchandra, we find evidence of Shvetambara sect being divided into various groups.  These groups, called gachchhas were formed by a number of group leaders, who were generally important monks.  The process of forming these gachchhas continued from the 11th to the 13th century, and ultimately it is said that altogether 84 gachchhas were thus formed.20  However it is likely that most of the gachchha did not survive their founders and perhaps got amalgamated with other gachchhas. At the present time most of the Svetambaras of Gujarat and Rajasthan belong to one of the following three gachchhas;


1. Kharatargahchhas. 

2.  Tapagachchha. 

3.  Anchala gachchha.


            If any other gachchhas still survive, they are not well known.  An important point about these various gachchhas is that there is no recognizable doctrinal difference among them.  What differentiates one gachchha from another is that each of them has its own temples, and also its own holy men. The gachchhas have not however, frozen into castes, in the sense that they are not necessarily endogamous.  In fact it is difficult to specify what purpose this division serves. At one point no doubt, a gachchha meant the group following a particular monk, which is no longer so.




            There is also no authentic history of the formation of these gachchhas, but there is one method by which we can determine the latest period by which the gachchhas had been formed.  It is the general rule among the Jains that they mention their gachchhas on a stone inscription when they donate a temple or other religious building.  By the evidence of such inscriptions (in so far as they are authentic ) we know that the Kharataragachchha had been formed before AD 1090, for the first epigraph which mentions this gachchha is dated 1147 in the corresponding Samvat year.


            The legend about the formation of the gachchhas vary. One legend had it that one Jinesvara Suri defeated the Chaityavasins.  (Monks who lived in temples) in a religious debate in the court of king Durlabharaja of Anahilavada in AD 1090, for the first epigraph that mentions this gachchha is dated 1147 in the corresponding Samvat year.


            The legends about the formation of the gachchhas vary. One legend had it that one Jinesvara Suri defeated the Chaityavasins.  (Monks who lived in temples) in a religious debate in the court of king Durlabharaja of Anahilavada in AD 1022 and won the title of Kharatara (a man of bold character) from him.21  His disciples were called Kharataragachchhyas.  Another legend says that this gachchha was started by Jinadatta Suri in AD 1147.  Yet another belief is that it was started by Jinavallabha Suri.


            Unlike the Digambaras who generally start the genealogy of their pontiffs from either Bhadraahu II or Kundakunda, the Svetambaras start their genealogy from Mahavira himself.  In one such genealogy22 belonging to the Brihat- kharataragachchha it is mentioned that the Jain sangha (the Svetambaras ignore the existence of Digambaras) broke up into two after the 37th  pontiff, Udyotana.  This Udyotana had two disciples:  Vardhamana and Sarvadeva.  The Kharataragachchha, and the tapagachchha originated with these two disciples respectively.  In any case, nothing definite can be said to-day about the originators of the gachchhas. Kharataragahchcha is the most popular gachchha nowadays in Gujarat, Kathiawad and Rajasthan.




            The legend about the origin of this gachchha is that one Jagachchhandra Suri had been given the epithet Tapa, in view of his severe penances, by king Jaitrasinha of Mewar Samvat, 1285 (AD 1228).23  Hence the line of his disciples is called Tapagachchha.  The members of this gachchha are found all over India, but are mainly concentrated in the Punjab and Haryana.  They run a number of educational and religious institutions.  The S.A. Jain College, Ambala City, an old institution of Haryana, is one of them.




            The earlier name of this gachchha was Vidhipaksha.  The term means "to uphold the sacred rites."  The monks of this group use a piece of cloth (anchala) in place of a full Mukhpatti to cover their mouth at the time of pratikramna  which gave them th name of Ancalagachchha.  Vidhipaksha is said to have been formed in AD 1156, but the earliest inscription recording the name of this gachchha are found from the 15th century onwards, from practically all over northern India.




            This is the most important protestant movement among the Svetambaras.  Later movements of a similar nature, that is Bijamata, Sthanakavasi, and Terapantha are all offshoots of Lonkagachchha.  The originator of this first protestant movement was Lonka-Shaha, after whom the gachchha is named.


            Lonka Shaha lived in the middle of the 15th century. This century is important in the religious history of northern India.  A fresh wind had started blowing at that time.  Kabir, Nanak, etc., established their sects or religions whose main principle was devotion to an attributeless God, or what is known in Hindi as nirguna  upasana.  (Obviously this was the result of Islamic influence, but the exact extent of this influence is a matter of debate).  This atmosphere of anti-image worship appears to have affected Jainism also.


            Lonka24 lived in Ahmedabad, but some people say that his original home was in Kathiawad.  He was a government servant under the Muslim rulers of Gujarat.  One day he saw some Muslim hunters killing birds with a trap called Chida.  He was so hurt when he saw this cruel act that he gave up his job under the Muslims, and started earning his living by copying Jain religious manuscripts.


            Once when a Jain layman gave him the Dashavaikalika Sutra for copying, he took it home and started reading it. Much impressed by it, he got two copies made with the help of his widowed daughter, and retained one copy for himself for further study.  Thereafter, he became a keen student of Jain scriptures.  He discovered to his amazement that though the worship of images was very popular among the Jains of his time, there was no mention of image worship in the scriptures.25


            He then started preaching what according to him was the authentic Jain religion which did not ordain image worship. His manners were so charming that he easily attracted sizeable audiences.  All this infuriated the established monks, for Lonka after all was only a layman, and had no right to preach.


            At about that time a sangha (a group of pilgrims) arrived in Ahmedabad.  The chief pilgrim among them was one Sambhuji.  His grand-daughter Mohabai was a child widow. Both Sambhuji and this girl were greatly attracted by the teachings of Lonka.  Other lay members of this group also started listening to Lonka's preachings.  This enraged the monks accompanying the sangha, and they left it in a huff. About 45 lay members of the sangha, however, stayed on in Ahmedabad and became the disciples of Lonka by formally accepting Diksha from him.  This happened on Jaishtha Sukla 5, V. 1531 or AD 1474.  Some say that it happened in AD 1476.


            Lonka did not become a monk, but remained a lay preacher throughout his life; but  a number of his disciples became munis.  Among them Muni Sarvaj, Muni Bhanaji, Muni Munaji, Muni Jagmalji became well-known preachers in later times. Lonka himself though a layman was called Muni Dayadharma by the people and sometimes the sect he had founded was called Dayagachchha.


Lonka was followed by his disciple  Rupa Rishi whom he had ordained in Surat.  The next hand of this group was Jiva Rishi, but by that time subgroups had already started forming.  One Bija started the Bijamata in 1513.  The main Lonkagachchha was perhaps later called  Sthanakavasi.  It is also said that the Sthanakavasi was a new group started in 1652 by Lavaji who belonged to the Lonkgachchha and was a resident of Surat.  The origin of the name Sthanakavasi is not clear.  It might be due to the fact that Stanakavasi  monks were resident at one place (Sthanaka).  Or again as Schubring says, "By this name such Jains are designated as practice their religious duties not in the temple but exclusively at some profane place (sthanaka) i.e. in a upasraya.  Another name of this group is Battisi (the 32- ists) for though they call themselves Svetambaras, they repudiate 13 of the 45 Shvetamara texts, including the Mahanisiha, for their attitude towards the images, Sthanakavasis are also called Dhundhiya or Dhundhak, meaning the futile "seekers" in the script.


The Terapanthis


            Whatever be its name, the original Lonkagachchha or Stanakavasi sect survived nearly intact up to 1760.  In that year was started the most important of the reform movements in the Shvetamara community in the recent years.  One Bhikhanji, an Osavala sakhu belonging to the Marwar area started the Terapanthi sect out of the Sthanakavasis.  Many legends are current about the origin of the name Terapanthi. The one that the Terapan this themselves like is that this sect believes firmly in the observance of the 13 principal tenets of Jainism, viz., the 5 Mahavratas (vows), the 5 Samitis (rule of Conduct) and the 3 Guptis (control of mind, body, and speech).


            The Sthanakavasis who did not accept the Terapanthi reforms were known as Va-is-tola.


            Terapanthism is still a vigorous movement.  One reason for its strength is the rule laid down by the founder Bhikhanji that there should be only acharya (leader) of the sect.  This has reduced the chances of schisms.  The present acharya Tulsiramji (b. 1914) is the ninth acharya of the sect.






1.  Winternitz, op. cit., p. 464.


2.  Sacred Books of  The East Vol. XXII, p. 294n.


3. For the lanchanas and the names of Yakshas and Yakshinis, See, appendix III.


4. M.  Stevenson, in Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethies, Vol. XIII, pp. 124-25.


5.         Vajrsharinkhala and Vajrankushi are the names of two Vajrayana (a tantrik from of Mahayana Buddhism) Goddesses.


6.  In Anekanta, III, 4, p. 289, quoted by J. P. Jain, op. cit., p. 190.


7.  Winternitz, op. cit., 470-481.


8. Buhler has hinted that she might have sold her son to the acharya due to her poverty. (life of Hemachandracharya, Hindi translation, p. 13).


9.  It has been quoted extensively in Chapter V, supra.


10.  D.C. Sircar, A Grammar of the Prakrit Language, p.3.


11.  Ibid., p. 5.


12.       N. C. Shastri, A Critical Study of Siddha Hema Shabdanushasana (in Hindi), p. 92.


13.       Munshi says that there is no epigraphical evidence for this.  Glory that was Gurjara Desa, p. 341.


14.  Ibid., p. 352.


15.  Ain-i-Akbari, Blochman's translation, p. 608.


16.       Most of the facts about Hira Vijaya Suri have been extracted from "Samrat Akbar O Jaincharyagana" by Amritalal Shil in the Bengali Magazine "Pravasi" of Jyestha 1923.


17.  Vincent Smith, Akbar the Great Mogul, p. 119.


18.       24 pages in the translation of Vol. III of the Ain-i- Akbari.


19.  Ibid., p. 222.


20.       Muni Uttar Kamal Jain in his Jain Sects and Schools gives lists of names of the Gachchhas.  The total number of Gachchhas listed by him is 117.  Much of the information about gachchhas given here is taken from this book.


21.       According to K. M. Munshi, it was on this occasion that the Jains first got admission to the Court of Gujarat.


22. Reproduced in Appendix VI.


23. The first epigraphical evidence of this sect bears the same date.  It is likely therefore that the gachchha was formed some-time earlier.


24. Much of the information about Lonka Shaha is taken from Kshiti Mohan Sen, "Jain Dharmer Pranashakti in the bengali Journal Pravasi of Vaishakha, 1934.


25. In this matter he was wrong.  Schubring has pointed out that there is not only a clear mention of the images of Tirthankaras in the canonical literature, but the method of their worship is also described there.  "It may be noted here that the effigies of the Jains (Jina-Padima) are spoken of in the canon Nayadhammakahao (Anga Vi) 210b ; Rayapasenaijja (Upanga II) 87b, 94a, etc.  In the course of its most detailed description of a Godly residence, the Rayapasenaijja refers to four sitting Jina Figures (Usabha, Vaddhamana, Chandanana, Varisena ) of natural size surrounding a stupa towards which they turn their faces, adding that a special building Siddhayayana contains 108 Jinapadima.  Their cult on the part of the God equals that of today consisting in that attendance of the figures by uttering devotional formulae".  Schubring, op. cit., p. 49.


26.  Schubring, op. cit., p. 65.





The Jains Today

            Of the two sects of the Jains the Svetambaras, as we have seen, belong mainly to western India, that is , to Gujarat and Rajasthan. They have spread from there for purposes of business to the rest of the country.  The Digambaras on the other hand can be divided into two distinct geographical groups.  The indigenous Jains of South India are all Digambaras.  Professionally they are artisans and farmers and not ordinarily businessmen.  They are tightly knit communities and their religious and social lives are controlled by the Bhattarakas.  They do not have any kind of social intercourse with the North Indian Digambaras who in their turn are hardly aware of their existence except perhaps when they see them during pilgrimages to South India. Educationally also the South Indian Digambaras are not very advanced.  Most of the Jains who write about their religious community thus ignore them.  They are remembered only when the past glories of Jainism in South India are considered. The Digambaras of North India are spread through-out eastern Rajasthan, Haryana, U.P. and Bihar, in small scattered communities.


            Talking of Jains, it appears that the one great fear that pervades throughout the community is that of being lost in the great ocean that is Hinduism.  This fear appears to be a recent one, and in any case perhaps not more than 50 years old.  Formerly, (and even today among the rich) it was quite common for Shvetambara Jain Agravales and non- Jain Agrawales to intermarry, the bride adopting the religion of the husband.  Indeed, the term Hindu was never used, the term for the religion of the non-Jain Agrawales being Vaishnava.  Among the Osavales of Rajasthan today some are Jains and the others call themselves Vaishnavas.  Things are, however, changing.  Inter-marriages between the Jains and the non-Jains are not very much liked by the leaders of the Jain society today.  "Now there is a growing tendency to eradicate every non-Jain element from the Jain community. As a result many Jains have stopped keeping marital relations with the Hindus."1


            There is one interesting difference between Hinduism and Jainism. The Hindus have no religious creed, but they have a large literature on social customs and civil law. These are known as the Dharmashastras. The Jains on the other hand, one might say, have a religious code of conduct enshrined in their five vows; but they do not have any ancient law book. Thus for instance, marriage among the Hindus is a religious matter, while for the Jains it is more or less a contract. "It is not ordained in Jain religion to marry for the emancipation of soul. Marriage is not concerned with life here-after! When no offerings are to be made to the forefathers, the question of discharging obligations due to departed ancestors does not arise. Jain scriptures do not lay down elaborate rules and regulations regarding marriage."2 The later day Jain religious books like the Adi Purana or the Trivarnikachara generally quote the corresponding Hindu rules for social matter.  For instance, such books mention the same eight forms of marriages as are mentioned in the Manusmriti. In theory, the Jains also allow the remarriage of widows and quote the same shloka that occurs in the Hindu Parashara-Smriti on the basis of which Ishvara Chandra Vidyasagar was able to get the law on the remarriage of the Hindu widows enacted. According to Nathu Ram Premi, the Jain work Dharmapariksha (11th century) supports the view that the word patau occurring in this shloka means a legally married husband, even though the grammatically correct form for such meaning should be patyau.3 In any case widows' remarriage among the Jains follow the regional caste customs. It is not uncommon in the South, while it not socially favored in North. In the matter of exogamy the Jains follow the same rules as their Hindu neighbors. For instance, in the Karnataka region marriages between cross-cousins and even marriages between maternal uncles and nieces are quite common, while in the North the Jains leave out the same number of gotras as their Hindu neighbors do; and also observe the same rituals. Thus the marriage ceremony is considered to have been completed as soon as the saptapadi or a similar ritual, has been performed.


            There is a big difference between the Hindus and the Jains in their manner of treating the ascetics. Among the Hindus an ascetic is for all practical purposes outside the society.  There is in theory no relationship between him and the lay society, unless of course, he becomes a God-man. This is not the position among the Jains. The Jain ascetic maintains a life-long relationship with the lay society, and is generally treated as a religious teacher. The society not only provides food and, if necessary, shelter to him but also maintains a constant watch on his behavior. No transgression of the ascetic vow is tolerated. For instance,  one Jinavardhana who had become the 55th leader of the Shvetambara Kharataragachchha was removed from the Suri ship for breaking the fourth vow.4 Thus, since a Jain sadhu need neither worry about his food nor is allowed to be away from the watch-full eyes of the society, so the only thing he can do to spend his time is to read and write. All through the ages, therefore, there have been innumerable writers among the Jain sadhus and the volume of writings they have produced is enormous.  The quality however has not, except in rare cases, been commensurate with the quantity. The Jain religious philosophy being practically frozen from the time of Mahavira, there is little scope of speculation. The later philosophical books written by the Jain monks are, therefore, dry. The Jain monks have also composed many works based on the Jain mythology, but since they had to avoid every-thing even remotely connected with sensual love, there is little of poetic value in these writings. Nearly the whole of the vernacular literature of the medieval period of India is devotional. Here also, the Jains were at a disadvantage, for the Jain religion has no place for devotional fervor.


            Even though their writings may not have any lasting value as literature, the studious life that the Jain ascetics had to lead meant that they had to be provided with libraries. Thus book collections, "Grantha Bhandaras", exist at every place where there are a group of Jain families living. Dr. K. C. Kasliwal has anumerated 100 such collections in Rajasthan alone, in his work the Jain Grantha Bhandaras in Rajasthan.  These collections contain not only Jain religious works but many secular books such as the works of Kalidas, and sometimes works on music also.


            One valuable contribution of the Jains to Indian culture is the innumerable beautiful temples that they have built all over the country. Some of them being in out of the way places have escaped the hands of the idol-breakers. But due to this very fact some of them are not well known even to-day. As examples, one might mention the temples at Ranakpur in the Pali district in Rajasthan, and the 31 Jain temples at Deogarh (Lalitpur Tehsil in Jhansi district). This latter place has more than a thousand Jina images. One of them has been described as "one of the greatest masterpieces ever created on Indian soil".


            The Jain merchants since the ancient times have been well- known for their wealth. Not everybody was rich, but a remarkable thing is that some of the families who were the richest in a city and were thus given the title of Nagara- Seth by the Mughals, remain rich even now. Two examples are, Seth Kus-Turbhai Lalabhai the Nagara-Seth of Ahmedabad, and Jivaraj Walchand Gandhi, the Nagara-Seth of Sholapur.6 Many Jains have utilized their wealth well. In building charitable hospitals, schools, colleges, dharmashalas, and other such institutions the contribution of the Jains has been proportionately many times higher than that of the rest of the population of the country.






1.V. S. Sangave, Jain Community--A Social Survey pp. 427-28.


2 Ibid., p. 140.


3 Premi, op. cit., p. 501.


4 Appendix VI.


5 Klaus Bruhn, The Jina-images of Deogarh.


6 Sangave, op.  cit., pp. 347-48 .



Canonical Literature of the Shwetambaras

            The canonical books of the Svetambaras (the Digambaras do not admit them to be genuine) are not works by Mahavira himself, but some of these are claimed to be the discourses delivered by Mahavira to Indrabhuti (also known as Gautama) and to Sudharman, and which the latter related to his own disciple Jambus-Vamin.


            The Jains think that originally, that is, since the time of the first Tirthankara, there was two kinds of sacred books. These were the Purvas that numbered 14, and the Angas that numbered 11 The 14 Purvas were, however, reckoned to make up a 12th Anga.  This was called the Drishtivada. The knowledge of the 14 Purvas continued down only to Sthulabhadra, the 8th patriarch after Mahavira. The next seven patriarchs down to Vajra knew only 14 Purvas, and after that the remaining Purvas were gradually lost, until, at the time when the canon was written down in the form of books (980 years after the Nirvana of Mahavira), all the Purvas had disappeared, and consequently the 12th Anga too. This is the Shvetambara tradition regarding the loss of the Purvas. (The Digambar tradion of the loss of the Purvas differs a little in detail, but in addition they contend that all the Angas were also  gradually lost after nine more generations).



The eleven Angas are the oldest parts of the canon, which at present embraces 45 texts. The other 34 texts are:

twelve UvAngas (Upangas); ten Painnas (Prakirnas);

six Chheyasuttas  (ChedaSutras); two independent texts, viz., Nandi-Sutra and Anuyogadvara; and four MulaSutras.


These are enumerated as follows :


I. The eleven Angas:


            1 Ayaramga-Sutra (AcharAnga- Sutra):

            2. Suyagadamga (SutrakritAnga):

            3. Thanamga (SthanAnga):

            4. Samavayamga:

            5. Bhagavati Viya-hapannatti (Bhagavati Vyakhya-  Prajnapti):

            6. Naya-dhmamakahao (Jnatadharmakathah):

            7. Uvasagadasao (Upasakadasah):

            8. Amtagadadasao (Antakriddasah):

            9.  Anuttarovavaiyadasao (Anuttaraupapatikadasah):

            10 Panhavagal aniam (Prasna-Vyakaran ani);

            11. Viva-gasuyam (Vipaka-Srutam).


II. The twelve Uvamgas (Upangas) or "secondary limbs":


            1. Uvavaiya (Aupaptika)

            2. Rayapasenaijja or  Rayasasenaiya ( Rajaprasniya)

            3. Jivabhigama

            4. Pannavana (Prajnapana)

            5. Suriyapannatti

            6. Jambuddivapannati (Jambudvipa-Prajnapti)

            7. Chamdapannatta

            8. Nirayavali

            9. Kappavadamsiao

            10. Pupphiao (Puspikah)

            11. Pupphachuliao (Pushpaculikah)

            12. Vanhidasao (Vishidasah)


III. The ten Painnas (prakirnas, i.e., scattered pieces;


            1. Chausarana

            2. Aurepacchakkhana (Aturapratyakhyana)

            3. Bhattaparinna (Bhaktaparijna)

            4. Samthara (Sanstara)

            5. Tamdulveyalia (Tandul avatalika)

            6. Chamdavijjhaya

            7. Devimdatthaa (Devendrastava)

            8. Ganivijja (Gani-Vidya)

            9. Mahapaccakkhana

            10. Viratthaa (Virastava)



IV. The six cheya-suttas (Cdeya-Sutras):


            1. Nisiha (Nisitha);

            2. Mahanisiha (Maha-Nisitha);

            3. Vavahara (Vyava- hara);

            4. Ayaradasao (Acharadasah) or Dasasuyakk-handha (Dasasrutaskandha);

            5. Kappa (BrihatKalpa); and

            6. Pamchakappa (Pancha-Kalpa).



V. Individual texts;


            l. Nandi or Nandi-Sutta (Nandi-Sutra);

            2. Anuogadara (Anuyogadvara).



VI. The four Mula-suttas (Mula-Sutras):


            1. Uttarajjhaya (Uttaradhyayah) or Uttarajjhayana (Uttaradhyayana);

            2. Avassaya (Avashyaka);

            3. Dashaveyaliya (Dashavai-kalika);

            4. Pindanijjutti (Pinda-Niryukti).


The third and the fourth Mula-suttas are also sometimes given as Ohanijjutti (Ogha- Niryukti) and Pakkhi (Paksika-Sutra) and sometimes the Pimdanijjutti and the Ohanijjutti appear in the list of cheya-suttas.





Sacred Books of the Digambaras

The Digambaras maintain that the original Angas containing the teachings of the Tirthankaras including that of Mahavira have gradually been lost, because the acharyas who know them passed away without ensuring that their disciples had mastered them. There is thus no way now of reconstructing the original words in which Mahavira taught his disciples.  The Digambaras, therefore, reject as canonical the works claimed as the original texts by the Svetambaras; and for religious literature they fall back upon the works that their early acharyas composed.


These early acrayas were







            Svami Kartikeya,

            Vattakera, etc.


Most of these acharyas wrote in South India. The only known exception is Umasvami whose Tattvarthadhigama-Sutra is said to have been composed in Pataliputra.


            However, there does not seem to be a unanimity of opinion as to which works should be considered the most sacred of sacred literature and in what manner they should be classified. Seventy years ago, when Winternitz,1 was writing, the usual custom was to put these works in four groups (they were also some-times called the four Vedas). The distribution then was as follows:


1. Prathamanuyoga:


Legendary works to which belong the puranas:





            Maha and



2. Karananuyoga:  Cosmological works:



            Chandra-prajnapti, and



3. Dravyanuyoga:


            Philosophical works of Kunda-kunda,

            Umasvami's 'Tattvarthadhigama-Sutra, and

            Samantabhadra's Aptamimansa.


4. Charananuyoga:


            Ritual works:

            Vattakera's Mulachara, and Trivarnachara; and

            Samantabhadra's Ratnakaranda-Shravakachara.


The present practice is to divide the most sacred of the Digambara literature into two groups as follows:


1. Karmaprabhrita;


            Chapters on Karman" This is also called Shatkhandagama,  and was composed by Pushpadanta and Bhutabali on the basis of the now lost Drishtivada, and is said to have been composed in the 7th century after Mahavira. A commentary on the first five books of Karmaprabhrita by Virasena (9th century AD) is equally respected .


2. Kashayaprabhrita


            "Chapters on passions". This work is by Gunadhara, and is also based on the Drstivada, and composed in the same age as the Karmaprabhrita. Its commentary by Virasena and his pupil Jinasena is also respected.






1. Winternitz, op. cit., p. 474.




The Tirthankaras

The list of the Tirthankaras of the Jains is given below.  In a Jain temple the Tirthankara is the central figure.  His image is shown either standing rigidly in the kayotsarga posture or sitting in the yogasana posture.  Since the images of the Tirthankaras look alike they have to be distinguished by their respective emblems.  The emblem, generally an animal, is depicted below the seat of the Tirthankara. The Tirthankaras are usually accompanied by tutelar deities or attendants, called Yakshas and Yakshinis.  The emblems of the Tirthankaras and the names of their attendants in the Digambara system are different, in a few cases, from those in the Shvetambara system. A tree, sometimes, shown with the image also distinguishes the particular Tirthankara. These trees are called Dikshavrikshas, for, it is said that the Tirthankaras gained their highest knowledge while meditating under their respective Diksha-vrikshas.


The emblems and the names of the attendants of the Tirthankaras were finalized near about the 8th century.1






l Jain, Hiralal, Bharatiya Sanskrti men Jain Dharma ka  Yogadana, p. 349.



Tirthankara         Color     Tree         Emblem



1.  Rishavanatha    gold      banyan     bull



2.  Ajitanatha      gold      shala      elephant


3.  Shambhavanatha  gold      prayala    horse


4.  Abhinandana     gold      priyangu   monkey


5.  Sumatinatha     gold      shala      curlew



6.  Padmaprabha     red       chatra     red lotus


7.  Suparshvanatha  green (D) shirisa    svastika &

                    gold (S)               snakehoods

                                         above head

8.  Chandraprabha         white       naga          crescent


9.  Pushpadanta     white     shali      makara



10. Shitalanatha   gold                priyangu    Shrivriksha

                                         (wishing tree)

                                         (D); Shrivatsa

11. Shreyamshanatha gold      tanduka    rhinoceros


12. Vasupujya       red       patali    buffalo or


13. Vimalanatha     gold      jambo      boar

14. Anantanatha     gold      ashoka     falcon

15. Dharmanatha     gold      dadhi      vajradanda


16. Shantinatha     gold      nandi      deer

17. Kunthunatha     gold      bhilaka    goat

18. Aranatha        gold      mango      fish (D); nandya

                                         varta (S)

19. Mallinatha      gold (D); ashoka    water pot or jar

                                         blue (S)

20. Munisuvrata     black     champaka   tortoise

21. Naminatha       gold      bakula     blue lotus

22. Neminatha       black     vetasa     conch


23. Parshvanatha    blue      dhataki    serpent on seat

                                         and 7 snake hood

                                         above head

24. Mahavira        gold      shala      lion




D-- Digambara

S-- Shvetambara



Tirthankara         Yakasha          Yakshini



1.  Rishavanatha    Gomukha          Chakreshvari (D);

    (Adinatha)                       Apratichakra (S)


2.  Ajitanatha       Mahayaksha      Rohini (D); Ajitabala (S)


3.  Shambhavanatha  Trimukha         Prajnapti (D):

                                     Duritarih (S)


4.  Abhinandana     Yaksheshvara (D);  Vajrashrakhala (D)

                    Yakshanayaka (S) Kalika (S)


5.  Sumatinatha     Tamburu          Purushadatta (D);

                                     Mahakali (S)


6.  Padmaprabha      Kusuma          Manovega, Manogupti (D);

                                     Shyama, Achyuta


7.  Suparshvanatha  Varanandi (D);   kali (D); Shanta

                    MatAnga (S)      (S)


8.  Chandraprabha   Shyama (D);      Jvalamalini (D);

                    Vijaya (D.S)     Bhrikuti (S)


9.                  Pushpadanta      Ajita Mahakali or Ajita (Suvidhinatha)      (D); Sutara (S)


10. Shitalanatha    Brahma, Brahme-  Manavi (D); Ashoka

                                     shvara, or (S)



11. Shreyamshanatha Ishvara (D);     Gauri (D); Manavi Yakset (S)  (S)


12. Vasupujya       Kumara           Gandhari (D);

                                     Chandra, Chanda (S)


13. Vimalanatha     Shanmukha or     Vajroti or

                                     Karttikeya Vairotya (D);

                                      Vidita (S)


14. Anantanatha     Patala           Anatamati (D);

                                      Ankusha (S)

15. Dharmanatha     Kinnara          Manasi (D);

                                      Kandarpa (S)


16. Shantinatha     Kimpurusha (D);  Mahamanasi (D);

                                     Garuda (S) Nirvani (S)


17. Kunthunatha         Gandharva    Vijaya or jaya (D) Nirvani (S)


18. Aranatha        Kendra (D);      Ajita (D); Yakshet, Yakshen-  Dharani, Dhana(S)

                                     dra (S)


19. Mallinatha         Kubera        Aparajita (D);

                                      Vairotya or

                                      Dharanapriya (S)


20. Munisuvrata     Varuna           Bahurupini (D);

                                      naradatta (S)


21. Naminatha       Bhrikuti         Chamunda (D);

                                      Gandhari (S)


22. Neminatha       Sarvahna (D);    Kushmandini or

    (Arishtanemi)   Gomedha (S)      Dharmadevi (D);

                                      Ambika (S)

23. Parshvanatha    Dharanedra or    Padmavati



24. Mahavira        MatAnga          Siddhayini or

(vardhamana)                         Siddhayika


D- Digambara

S- Shvetambara



The Sthaviravali of the Kalpa Sutra

The Kalpa Sutra of the Svetambaras gives a list of patriarchs of their Church. This is the generally accepted list of the Shvetambara Church. Hemachandra has followed this list, except in some cases where he has omitted details of some of the patriarchs named in the list. (Another list of patriarchs or pontiffs of the Svetambaras is given in the NandiSutra. See Appendix V.)


            Mahavira had eleven Ganadharas. They knew the twelve Angas, the fourteen Purvas, and the whole of the Siddhanta.  Except for Indrabhuti and Arya Sudharman all the others had died before the Nirvana of Mahavira. "The Nirgrantha Shramnas of the present day are all spiritual descendants of the monk Arya Sudharman; the rest of the Ganadharas left no descendants."


     "The disciples of Mahavira were:

l. Sudharman.

2. Jambu-Naman.

3. Prabhava.

4. Shayyambha, father of Manaka.

5. Yashobhadra."


     The Kalpa Sutra now continues the list in two forms: one in a short redaction, and the other giving the Gana-Kula, and Shakha founded by the various teachers. Gana designates the school which is derived from one teacher. It appears to be equivalent with the modern Gaccha. Kula designates the succession of teachers in one line, and Shakha the lines which branch off from each teacher.1


                In the short redaction the list of sthaviras after Arya Yasho-Bhadra is the following:


     6.    (a) Bhadrabahu and (b) SambhutaviaJya.

     7.    Sthulabhadra.

     8.    (a) Mahagiri and (b) Suhastin.

     9.    (a) Susthita and (b) Supratibuddha, surnamed

           (a) Kotika and (b) Kakandaka.

    10.    Indradatta.

    11.    Datta.

    12.    Sinhagiri.

    13.    Vajra.

    14.    Vajrasena.



     The Kalpa Sutra then continues with the detailed list of the names of the disciples, or the ganas, kulas and shakhas,  founded by these nine generations of sthaviras. Some of them are mentioned below:


6(a) Bhadrabahu had four disciples among which Godasa was the founder of the Godasa gana which was divided into four  Shakhas. These were: (i) Tamraliptika, (ii) Kotivarshiya, (iii) Pundravardhaniya and (iv) Dasikharbatika.


            It will be noticed that of the four shakhas founded by Godasa, three were named after places in west and north Bengal.  Names of none of these shakhas founded by Godasa, or by any other disciple of Bhadrabahu appear again in the history of Jainism.


            6(b) Sambhutavijaya had twelve male disciples, among whom was Sthulabhadra who was No. 7 in the short list.  Sambhulavijaya had seven female disciples also.


            8(a) Mahagiri who presumably was the senior of the two disciples of Sthulabhadra had eight disciples. Of these eight disciples, we need name only two: Kodinna and Rohagutta, Kodinna's disciple Assamitta is said to have started the fourth schism of the Church in 220 AV., while Rohagutta is said to have started the sixth schism in 544 AV. Since it is not possible, that two persons separated by one generation only will live more than 300 years apart, the Rohagutta of the sixth schism must have been a different person.  Among the eight disciples of Mahagiri we do not find the name of Bahula. Now Bahula according to the Nandi-Sutra2 was the pontiff of the Jain Church after Mahagiri.  The absence of his name from the Kalpa-Sutra list is therefore intriguing.


            8(b) Suhastin had twelve disciples, some of them founded a number of ganas, shakhas and kulas. Some of these ganas, kulas, etc. are found in the inscriptions on the Jain ruins at Kankalitila at Mathura. These prove that the long lists of names of the ganas, kulas, shakhas, etc., are not fictitious and some at least of these names, occurring in the Kalpa Sutra  actually existed.  Unfortunately, the Mathura inscriptions do not name any contemporary pontiffs. We are thus unable to establish the chronology of these leaders of the Jain Church from these independent sources.


            Among the twelve disciples of Suhastin, only 9(a) Susthita and 9(b) Supratibuddha who became joint Pontiffs after Suhastin, matter for this purpose because only the ganas,  kulas, etc., founded by them can be traced in the Mathura inscriptions. These two pontiffs founded the Kautika gana.  This gana finds the largest number of mention in the Mathura inscriptions. The gana itself was divided into four kulas. 


The names of the kulas are as below:


As mentioned in the                           As found in the Mathura                                              Kalpa Sutra inscriptions


Bambhalijja                                          Brahmadasika


 Vacchalijja                                          Vacchaliya


Vanijja                                                 Thaniya or Sthaniya


Panhavahanaya                                     Panhavahanava




Similarly for the shakhas, we have:


Uchchanagari                                        Uchchhenagari




Vajri                                                     Vajri or Veri


Majjhimilla                                            Majhima


            It will be noticed that the the shkahas is not found in the Mathura inscriptions.


Next to the Kautika gana, the largest number of thc Jain inscription of Mathura mention the Varana gana. Now no such gana is mentioned in the Kalpa-Sutra.  Kalpa-Sutra however mentions the Charana gana. It has been conjectured3 that since the Brahmi letters Cha and Va  look similar, the name of the gana should be read Varana, and there is copyist's error in the Kalpa-Sutra. If we accept this then we find the similarity in the names of the kulas of this gana as follows:


Kulas of the Charana gana                           Kulas of the Varana gana

the Kalpa-Sutra                                             mentioned in the Mathura



a. Vacchalijja                                                    i (Vacchali) yato 


b. Pritidharmika                                                ii. Petavamika 


c.  Halijja


d. Pushyamitrika                                               iii. Pushyamitriya 


e.  Malijja


f. Aryachetaka                                                  iv. Aryachetiya 


g. Kanhasahav. Kaniyasika                                vi. Arya-Hattakiya.




                                                                        viii.  Nadika


      The Charana gana of the Kalpa-Sutra was founded by  Shrigupta, one of the disciples of Suhastin. This gana also had four shakhas. Their correspondence with the Mathura inscriptions is as follows:


shakhas of the Charana                                 shakhas of the Varana gana gana of Kalpa Sutra                           of Mathura inscriptions


a. Haritamalakari                                              i Haritamalakadhi


b. Samkashika                                                  ii. Sam (kasiya)


c.  Gavedhuka                                                 

d.  Vajranagari                                                  iii. Vajanagari


                                                                        iv. Oda



The similarity in the names is striking. It seems, therefore, that the conjecture is correct, and the Charana gana of the Kalpa-Sutra should be read as Varana gana as found in the Mathura inscriptions.


The next two pontiffs of the Church were:


10. Indradatta who was one of the five disciples of the joint teachers Susthita and Supratibuddha, and-


11. Datta



Hemachandra in this Sthaviravali has completely ignored these two pontiffs. The Kalpa-Sutra also does not add anything more about them except to mention their gotras. In fact we are not even told whose disciple Datta was. The next two pontiffs were-


12. Sinhagiri who was a disciple of Datta, and -


13. Vajra who was a disciple of Sinhagiri.



We do not know whose disciple 14. Vajrasena was.

Vajrasena is the last pontiff named in the short list of the Kalpa-Sutra. The longer list gives 19 more names of successive pontiffs in a string, starting with Pushyagiri and ending with Shandilya. After this the Kalpa-Sutra has six  gathas giving the names of six more pontiffs. The last of these six is Kshamashra-Mana-Devarddhi the president of the Vallabhi Council. The canonical books of the Svetambaras were reduced in writing in this Council. The names of these 25 pontiffs are:


15. Pushyagiri 

16. Phalgumitra  

17. Dhanagiri

18. Sivabhuti  

19. Bhadr   

20. Nakshatra

21. Raksa      

22. Naga   

23. Jehila

24. Vishnu     

25. Kalka   

26. SamPalita and Bhadra

27. Vriddha    

28. Sanghapalita 

29. Hastin

30. Dharma     

31. Sinha

32. Dharma

33. Shandilya

34. Jambu

35. Nandita

36. KshamashRam Deshiganin .

37. KsamashRamna Sthira-gupta. 

38.  Dharma. 

39. KshamashRamna Devarddhi.





1.Note by Jacobi, in Sacred Books of the East. Vol. xxii, p. 288n


2. See Appendix V.


3 J. P.  Singh, Aspects of Early Jainism, p. 43.




Sthaviravali of the NandiSutra

A sthaviravali (list of successive pontiffs) is given in the first chapter of the Nandi-Sutra. The Nandi-Sutra sthaviravali agrees with the one given in the Kalpa-Sutra  up to Mahagiri and Suhatthi (9), but thereafter it differs completely from the one given in the latter. The Nandi-Sutra sthaviravali is not wel1-known among the Svetambaras, and in fact, except for Mangu (15), there is no legend known at present about any of these other pontiffs mentioned in the list.


The NandiSutra sthaviravali is as follows:


1. Suhamma of Aggivesanam gotta.

2. Jambu of Kasavam gotta.

3. Pabhaba of Kaccayana gotta.

4. Sijjambhava of Vaccha gotta.

5. Jasabhadda of Tungiya gotta.

6. Sambhuya, of Madharam gotta.

7. Bhaddabahu of Pa-innam gotta.

8. Thulabhadda of Goyama gotta.

9. Mahagiri and Suhatthi, of Vaccha gotta. 

10. Bahula of Kosiya gotta. 

11. Sayam of Hairya gotta. 

12. Samajja of Moha-i.gotta. 

13. Samdilla of Kosiya gotta. 

14. Ajja Samudda. 

15. Ajja Mangu. 

16. Ajja Dhamma. 

17. Bhaddagupta. 

18. Ajja Va-ira

19. Ajja Raksita. 

20. Ajja Nandila. 

21. Ajja Naga-hatti  

22. Revati (vai nakkhatta namanam).

23. Bambhaddivaga Sihe.

24. Khandila.

25. Nagajjuna.

26. Nagajjuna.

27. Govinda.




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


The dates of birth (b.) and accession (a.) are given in the Samvat year.

1.  Sudharma

2. Jambu                      

3. Prabhava

4. Sayyambhava

5. Yashobhadra

6. Sambhutavijaya

7. Bhadrabahu

8. Sthulabhadra               

9. Mahagiri

10. Suhasti                   

11. Susthita

12. Indra                     

13. Dinna

14. Sinhagiri                 

15. Vajra

16. Vajrasena                 

17. Chandra

18. Samantabhadra

19. Vriddhadeva

20. Pradyotana

21. Manadeva

22. Manatunga

23. Vira (2)

24. Jayadeva

25. Devananda

26. Vikram

27. Narasinha

28. Samudra

29. Manadeva

30. Vivudhaprabha             

31. Jayananda

32. Raviprabha                

33. Yasobhadra

34. Vimalacandra              

35. Deva

36. Nemichandra               

37. Udyotana



            Two disiples of Udyotana, viz., Vardhamana and Sarva-deva became heads of gachhhas which were later called Kharataragachchha and Tapagachchha respectively.


38. Vardhamana                 

39. Jinesvara

40. Jinachandra                

41. Abhayadeva

42. Jinavallabha               

43. Jinadatta (b. 1132)

44. Jinachandra                

45. Jinapati (b 1210. a. 1223)

46. Jinesvara (b.1245, a 1278) 

47. Jinaprabodha (b. 1285, a. 1331)

48.Jainchandra (b. 1326  a. 1341)

 49. Jainkusala (b. 1337,-a. 1377)

50. Jinapadma                  

51. Jinalabdhi

52. Jinachandra                

53. Jinodaya (b. 1375,

54. Jinodaya (a. 1432)         

55. Jinabhadra


            (Jinavardhanawho came between 54 and 55 lost his Suri-ship for breaking the fourth vow.)


56. Jinachandra (b. 1487 a, 1514)

57. Jinasamudra (b. 1506, a. 1530)

58. Jinahansa (b.1524, a.1555

59. Jinamanikya (b.  1549,  a. 1582)

60. Jinachandra (b. 1595 a 1612)

61. Jinasinha (b. 1615, a. 1670)

62. Jinaraja (b. 1647, a. 1674).

63. Jinaratna (a. 1699)

64. Jinachandra (a. 1711)      

65. Jinasaukhva (a. 1763)

66. Jinabhakti (b. 1770, a. 1780   

67. Jinalubha (b. 1784,   a. 1804)

68. Jinachandra (b.1809,a.1834)

69. Jinaharsha (a. 1856)





      From the Bengali Vishvakosha, article on 'Jain', edited by Narendranath Basu, Calcutta, 1896.




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



 1. Bhadrababu II

 2. Guptigupta             

3. Maghanadi

 4. Jinachandra I          

5. Kundakunda

 6. Umasvami               

7. Lohacharya II

 8. Yashahkirti            

9. Yashonandi

10. Devanandi              

11. Pujyapada

12. Gunanandi I            

13. Vajranandi

1 4. Kumaranandi           

15. Lokachandra I

16. Prabhachandra        

17. Nemichandra

1 8. Bhanunandi




84. Padmanandi (Delhi)     

85. Subhachandra (Delhi)

86. Prabhachandra (Delhi)  

87. Jinachandra Chittor

88. Dharmachandra (Chittor)


      After this there were Bhattarakas in Gujarat. Their names with their years of accession in Samvat year in brackets are as belows:


89. Lalitakirti (1603)       

90. Chandrakirti (1622)

91. Devendrakirti (1662)     

92. Narendrakirti (1691)

93. Surendrakirti (1722)     

94. Jagatkirti (1733)

95. Devendrakirti (1770)     

96. Mahendrakirti I (1792)

97. Semendrakirti (1815)     

98. Surendrakirti (1822)

99. Sukhendrakirti (1852)   

100. Nayanakirti (1879)

101. Devendrakirti (1883)   

102. Mahendrakirti II (1938)



    (Taken from the Hindi Vishvakosha, Vol. VllI, Calcutta, AD 1924. Pp. 441-443)




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