The division of the Jaina
religion into two sects was only the beginning of splitting the religious
order into various sub-sects. Each of the two great sects, viz., the
Digambara sect and the Svetambara sect, got sub-divided into different
major and minor sub-sects according to the differences in
acknowledging or interpreting the religious texts and in the observance of
religious practices. These major and minor sub-sets gradually sprang up
for the most part on account of different interpretations the pontiffs put
on the canonical texts from time to time and due to revolt or opposition
by sections of people against the established religious authorities and
the traditional religious rites and rituals.
The Digambara sect, in
recent centuries, has been divided into the following sub-sects:
Major sub-sects -
The followers of Bisapantha
support the Dharma-gurus, that is, religious authorities known as
Bhattarakas who are also the heads of Jaina Mathas, that is.
religious monasteries. The Bisapanthas, in their temples, worship the
idols of Tirthankaras and also the idols of Ksetrapala, Padmavati and
other deities. They worship these idols with saffron, flowers, fruits,
sweets, scented 'agarabattis', i.e., incense sticks, etc. While performing
these worships. the Bisapanthis sit on the ground and do not stand. They
perform Arati, i.e., waving of lights over the idol, in the temple
even at night and distribute prasada, i.e., sweet things offered to
the idols. The Bisapantha, according to some, is the original form of the
Digambara sect and today practically all Digambara Jainas from Maharashtra,
Karnataka and South India and a large number of Digambara Jainas from
Rajasthan and Gujarat are the followers of Bisapantha.
Terapantha arose in North
India in the year 1683 of the Vikram Era as a revolt against the
domination and conduct of the Bhattarakas. i.e. religious authorities, of
the Digambara Jainas. As a result in this sub-sect. the Bhattarakas are
not much respected. In their temples, the Terapanthis install the idols of
Tirthankaras and not of Ksetrapala, Padmavati and other deities. Further.
they worship the idols not with flowers, fruits and other green vegetables
(known as sachitta things), but with sacred rice called 'Aksata',
cloves, sandal, almonds, dry coconuts, dates, etc. As a rule they do
not perform Arah or distribute Prasada in their temples.
Again, while worshipping they stand and do not sit.
From these differences with
the Bisapanthis it is clear that the Terapanthis appear to be reformers.
They are opposed to various religious practices. As according to them.
These are not real Jaina practices. The Terapantha had performed a
valuable task of rescuing the Digambaras from the clutches of wayward
Bhattarakas and hence the Terapanthis occupy a peculiar position in the
Digambara Jaina community. The Terapanthis are more numerous in Uttar
Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
It is pertinent to note
that even though the name Terapantha sub-sect appears both among the
Digambara and the Svetambara sects. Still the two Terapanthis are entirely
different from each other. While the Digambara Terapanthis believe in
nudity and idol-worship, the Svetambara Terapanthis are quite opposed to
The sub-sect Taranapantha
is known after its founder Tarana-Svami or Tarana-tarana-Svami (1448-1515
A.D.). This sub-sect is also called Samaiyapantha because its
followers worship Sarnaya, i.e., sacred books and not the idols.
Tarana-Svami died at Malharagarh, in former Gwalior State in Madhya
Pradesh, and this is the central place of pilgrimage of Taranapanthis.
The Taranapanthis strongly
refute idolatry but they have their own temples in which they keep their
sacred books for worship. They do not offer articles like fruits and
flowers at the time of worship. Besides the sacred books of the Digambaras,
they also worship the fourteen sacred books written by their founder
Tarana-Svami. Further, Taranapanthis give more importance to spiritual
values and the study of sacred literature. That is why we find a complete
absence of outward religious practices among them. Moreover, Tarana-Svami;
was firmly against the caste-distinctions and in fact threw open the doors
of his sub-sect even to Muslims and low-caste people.
These three main traits of
the Taranapanthis, namely, (a) the aversion to idol worship, (b) the
absence of outward religious practices, and (c) the ban on caste
distinctions, were evolved as a revolt against the religious beliefs and
practices prevailing in the Digambara Jaina sect, and it appears that
Tarana-Svami might have formulated these principles under the direct
influence of Islamic doctrines and the teachings of Lonkashaha, the
founder of the non-idolatrous Sthanakvasi sub-sect of the Svetambara sect.
The Taranapanthis are few
in number and they are mostly confined to Bundelkhand, Malwa area of
Madhya Pradesh and Khandesh area of Maharashtra.
The Gumanapantha is not so
important and in fact very little is known about it. It is stated that
this sub-sect was started by Pandit Gumani Rama or Gumani Rai, who was a
son of Pandit Todaramal, a resident of Jaipur in Rajasthan.
According to this Pantha,
lighting of candles or lamps in the Jaina temples is strictly prohibited,
because it regards this as a violation of the fundamental doctrine of
Jaina religion, viz., non-violence. They only visit and view the image in
the temples and do not make any offerings to them.
This pantha became famous
in the name of shuddha amnaya, that is pure or sacred tradition,
because its followers always stressed the purity of conduct and
self-discipline and strict adherence to the precepts.
Gumanapantha originated in
the 18th. Century A.D. and flourished mainly during that century. It was
prevalent in several parts of Rajasthan, and it is found now in some areas
of Rajasthan around Jaipur.
The Totapantha came into
existence as a result of differences between the Bisapantha and Terapantha
sub-sects. Many sincere efforts were made to strike a compromise between
the Bisa (i.e. twenty) Pantha and the Tera (i.e.. thirteen) pantha
and the outcome was sadhesolaha (i.e., sixteen and a half)-Pantha
or 'Totapantha'. That is why the followers of Sadheso!aha Pantha or
Totapantha believe to some extent in the doctrines of Bisapantha and to
some extent in those of Terapantha.
The Totapanthis are
extremely few in number and are found in some pockets in Madhya Pradesh.
In connection with the
account of the major and minor sub-sects prevailing among the Digambara
sect, it is worth while to note that in recent years in the Digambara sect
a new major sub-sect known as 'Kanji-pantha', consisting of the followers
of Kanji Swami is being formed and is getting popular especially among the
educated sections. Saint Kanji; Swami (from whom the name �Kanji-pantha'
is derived), a �Svetambara-Sthanakvasi� by birth, largely succeeded in
popularizing the old sacred texts of the great Digambara Jaina saint
Acharya Kunda-Kunda of South India. But Kanji Swami�s efforts, while
interpreting Acharya Kunda kunda's writings, to give more prominence to
nischaya-naya, that is, realistic point of view, in preference to
vyavahara-naya, that is, practical view point, are not approved by the
Digambaras in general as they consider that both the view points are of
equal importance. However, the influence of Kanjipantha is steadily
increasing and Sonagarh town in Gujarat and Jaipur in Rajasthan have
become the centers of varied religious activities of the Kanajipanthis.