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.