DIVISIONS IN JAINISM
(B) Minor Points of Differences
Leaving aside the trivial differences in rituals, customs and manners, the
following are some of the minor points on which the two sects of
Digambaras and Svetimbaras do not agree:
(i) Embryo of Mahavira
The Svetambaras believe that Mahavira was born of a Ksatriya lady, Trisala,
though conception took place in the womb of a Brahmana lady, Devananda.
The change of embryo is believed to have been effected by God Indra on the
eightythird day after conception. The Digambaras, however, dismiss the
whole episde as unreliable and absurd.
(ii) Marriage of Mahavira
The Svetambaras believe that Mahavira married Princess Yasoda at a fairly
young age and had a daughter from her by name Anojja or Priyadarsana and
that Mahavira led a full�fledged householder�s life till he was thirty,
when he became an ascetic. But the Digambaras deny this assertion
(iii) Tirthankara Mallinatha
The Svetambaras consider Mallinatha, the 19th Tirthankara. as a female by
name Malli but the Digambaras state that Mallinatha was a male.
(iv) Idols of Tirthankaras
The Svetambara tradition depicts the idols of �Tirthankaras as wearing a
loin-cloth, bedecked with jewels and with glass eyes inserted in the
marble. But the Digambara tradition represents the idols of Tirthankaras
as nude. unadorned and with down�cast eyes in the contemplative mood.
(v) Canonical Literature
The Svetimbaras believe in the validity and sacredness of canonical
literature, that is, the twelve angas and sutras, as they exist now, while
the Digambaras hold that the original and genuine texts were lost long
ago. The Digambaras also refuse to accept the achievements of the first
council which met under the leadership of Acharya Sthu-labhadra and
consequently the recasting of the angas.
(vi) Charitras and Puranas
The Swetambaras use the term `Charitra� and the Digambaras make use of the
term `Purana� for the biographies of great teachers.
(vii) Food of Ascetics
The Svetambara monks collect their food from different houses while the
Digambara monks take food standing and with the help of knotted upturned
palms and in one house only where their sarikalpa (preconceived idea) is
(viii) Dress of Ascetics
The Swetambara monks wear white clothes, but the Digambara. monks of the
ideal nirgrantha type are naked.
(ix) Possessions of Ascetics
The Svetambara ascetic is allowed to have fourteen posses�sions including
loin-cloth, shoulder-cloth, etc. But the Digambara ascetic is allowed only
two possessions (viz., a the pichhi, a peacock-feather whisk-broom) and a
kamanctalu (a wooden water-pot).
4. THE DIGAMBARA SUB-SECTS
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�sects
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
The Digambara sect, in recent centuries, has been divided into the
following sub-sects :
(A) Major sub-sects :
(ii) Terapantha, and
(iii) Taranapantha or Samaiyapantha.
(B) Minor 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 Bisapanthis, 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 `agara-battis�, 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 Bisapatha.
Terapantha arose in North India in the year 1683 of the Vikrama 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 instal 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 Arati 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
Terspanthis believe in nudity and idol-worship, the Svetambara Terapanthis
are quite opposed to both.
The sub-sect Taranapantha is known after its founder Tarana-Svami or
Tirana-tarana-Svami (1448-1515 A.D.). This sub-sect is also called
Samaiya-Pantha because its followers worship Samaya, i.e., sacred books
and not the idols. Tirana-Svami died at Malharagarh, in former Gwalior
State in Madhya Pradesh, and this is the central place of pilgrimage of
The Taranapanthis strongly refute idolatry but they have their own temples
in whcih 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, thev also worship the fourteeen sacred
books written by their founder Tirana-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, Tirana-Svami was firmly against the caste-distictions
and in fact threw open the doors of his sub-sect even to Muslims and
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 Tirana-svami might have formulated these principles under the
direct influence of Islamic doctrines and the teachings of Lorikashaha,
the founder of the non�idolatrous Sthanakvasi sub-sect of the Swetambara
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
This pantha became famous in the name of suddha 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 Sadhesolaha
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 `Kanaji-pantha�,
consisting of the followers of Kanaji Svami is being formed and is getting
popular especially among the educated sections. Saint Kanaji Svami (from
whom the name `Kanaji-pantha� is derived), a Swetambara-Sthanakavasi by
birth, largely succeeded in popularising the old sacred texts of the great
Digambara Jaina saint Acharya Kundakunda of South India. But Kanaji Svami
s efforts, while interpreting Acharya Kunda kunda�s writings, to give more
promi�nence 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 Kanajipantha is
steadily increasing and Sonagarh town in Gujarat and Jaipui in Rajasthan
have become the centres of varied religious activities of the
5. THE SVETAMBARA SUB-SECTS
Like the Digambara sect, the Swetambara sect has also been split into
three main sub-sects:
(ii) Sthanakavasi, and
The original stock of the Swetambaras is known as Murtipuja Swetambaras
since they are the thorough worshippers of idols. They offer flowers;
fruits, saffron, etc. to their. idols and invariably adorn them with rich
clothes and jewelled ornaments.
Their ascetics cover their mouth with strips of cloth while speaking,
otherwise they keep them in their hands. They stay in temples or in the
specially reserved buildings known as upasrayas. They collect food in
their bowls from the sravakas or householders� houses and eat at their
place of stay.
The Murtipujaka sub-sect is also known by terms like (i) Pujera
(worshippers), (ii) Deravasi (temple residents), (iii) Chaitya-vasi
(temple residents) and (iv) Mandira-margi (temple goers)
The Murtipujaka Swetarnbaras are found scattered all over India for
business purposes in large urban centres, still they are concen�trated
mostly in Gujarat .
The Sthanakarasis arose not directly from the Svetambaras but as reformers
of an older reforming sect, viz., the Lorika sect of Jainism. This Lorika
sect was founded in about 1474 A.D. by Lorikasaha, a rich and well-read
merchant of Ahmedabad. The main principle of this sect was not to practise
idol-worship. Later on, some of the members of the Lorika sect disapproved
of the ways of life of their ascetics, declaring that they lived less
strictly than Mahavira would have wished. A Lorika sect layman, Viraji of
Surat, received initiation as a Yati, i.e., an ascetic, and won great
admiration on account of the strictness of his life. Many people of the
Lorika sect joined this reformer and they took the name of Sthanakavasis,
meaning those who do not have their religious activities in temples but
carry on their religious duties in places known as Sthanakas which are
The Sthanakavasis are also called by terms as (a) Dhundhiya (searchers)
and (b) sadhumurgis (followers of Sadhus, i.e., ascetics). Except on the
crucial point of idol-worship, Sthanakavasis do not differ much from other
Swetambara Jainas and hence now-a-days they invariably call themselves as
However, there are some differences between the Sthanakavasi and the
Murtipujaka Svetambaras in the observance of some religious practices. The
Sthanakavasis do not believe in idol-worship at all. As such they do not
have temples but only sthanakas, that is, prayer halls, where they carry
on their religious fasts, festivals, practices, prayers, discourses, etc.
Further, the ascetics of Sthanakavasis cover their mouths with strips of
cloth for all the time and they do not use the cloth of yellow or any
other colour (of course, except white). Moreover, the Sthanakavasis admit
the authenticity of only 31 of the scriptures of Swetambaras. Furthermore,
the Sthanakavasis�s do not have faith in the places of pilgrimage and do
not participate in the religious festivals of Murtipujaka Swetambaras.
The Swetambara Sthanakavasis are also spread in different business centres
in India but they are found mainly in Gujarat, Punjab, Harayana and
It is interesting to note that the two non-idolatrous sub-sects, viz.,
Taranapanthis among the Digambaras and Sthanakavasis among the Swetambaras,
came very late in the history of the Jaina Church and to some extent it
can safely be said that the Muhammedan influence on the religious mind of
India was greatly responsible for their rise. In� this connection Mrs. S.
Stevenson observes: �If one effect of the Muhammedan conquest, however,
was to drive many of the Jainas into closer union with their fellow
idol-worshippers in the face of iconoclasts, another effect was to drive
others away from idolatry altogether. No oriental could hear a fellow
oriental�s passionate out�cry against idolatry without doubts as to the
righteousness of the practice entering his mind, Naturally enough it is in
Ahmedabad, the city of Gujarat, that was most under Muhammedan influence,
that we can first trace the stirring of these doubts. About 1474 A.D. the
Lorika sect, the first of the non-idolatrous Jaina sects, arose and was
followed by the Dhundhiya or Sthanakavasi sect about 1653 A.D., dates
which coincide strikingly with the Lutherian and Puritan movements in
Europe.� (vide Heart of Jainism , p. 19).
The terapanthi sub-sect is derived from the Sthanakavasi section. The
Terapanthi sub-sect was founded by Svami Bhilckanaji Maharaja. Svami
Bhikkanaji was formerly a Sthanakavasi saint and had initia�tion from his
Guru, by name Acharya Raghunatha. Svami Bhikkanaji had differences with
his Guru on several aspects of religious practices of Sthanakavasi
ascetics and when these took a serious turn, he founded Terapantha on the
full-moon day in the month of Asadha in the year V.S. 1817, i.e., 1760
As Acharya Bhlckanaji laid stress on the 13 religious principles, namely,
(i) five Mahavratas (great vows), (ii) five samitis (regulations) and
(iii) three Guptis (controls or restraints), his sub-sect was known as the
Tera (meaning thirteen)-pantha sub-sect. In this connection it is
interesting to note that two other interpretations have been given for the
use of the term Terapantha for the sub-sect. According to one account, it
is mentioned that as there were only 13 monks and 13 laymen in the pantha
when it was founded, it was called as Tera (meaning thirteen) pantha.
Sometimes another interpretation of the term Terapantha is given by its
followers. Tera means yours and pantha means path; in other words, it
means , �Oh! Lord Mahavira! it is Thy path�.
The Terapanthis are non-idolatrous and are very finely organised under the
complete direction of one Acharya, that is, religious head. In its history
of little more than 200 years, the Terapantha had a succession of only 9
Acharyas from the founder Acharya Bhikkanaji as the First Acharya to the
present Acharya Tulasi as the 9th Acharya. This practice of regulating the
entire Pantha by one Acharya only has become a characteristic feature of
the Terapantha and an example for emulation by other Panthas. It is
noteworthy that all monks and nuns of the Terapantha scrupulously follow
the orders of their Acharya, preach under his guidance and carry out all
religious activities in accordance with his instructions. Further, the
Terapantha regularly observes a remarkable festival known as Maryada
Mahotasava. This distinctive festival is celebrated every year on the 7th
day of the bright half of the month of Magha when all ascetics and lay
disciples, male and female, meet together at one predetermined place and
discuss the various problems of Terapanthi.s.
The penance of Terapanthis is considered to be very severe. The dress of
Terapanthi monks and nuns is akin to that of Sthanakavasi monks and nuns.
But there is a difference in the length of murimhapatti, i.e., a piece of
white cloth kept always on the mouth. The Terapanthis believe that
idolatry does not provide deliverance and attach importance to the
practice of meditation.
Further, it may be stressed that the Terapantha is known for its
disciplined organisation characterised by one Acharya (i.e., religious
head), one code of conduct and one line of thought. The Terapanthis are
considered reformists as they emphasise simplicity in religion. For
example, the Terapanthis do not even construct monasteries for their
monks, who inhabit a part of the house which the householders build for
themselves. Recently their religious head, Acharya Tulasi, had started the
Anuvrata Andolana, that is, the small vow movement, which attempts to
utilise the spiritual doctrines of the Jainas for moral uplift of the
masses in India.
The rise of Terapantha is the last big schism in the Svetambara sect and
this Pantha is becoming popular. The Terapanthis are still limited in
number and even though they are noticed in different cities in India, they
are concentrated mainly in Bikaner, Jodhpur and Mewar areas of Rajasthan.