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.