The next two centuries appear to be quite dark so far as any information
about the Jains is concerned. There are no contemporary epigraphs or
literary records. The later Jain historians say that Jainism had spread to
Ujjayini at the time of Ashoka's grandson Samprati. Hemachandra (12th
century) wrote that Suhastin the head of the Jain Church at that time was
living in Ujjayini 25 when ruled from his capital there, and Samprati was
a patron of the Jains. This might have been actually so but there is no
epigraphic or other independent proof of Samprati's affinity to Jainism.
Ujjayini, however, was the scene of an important event which is said to
have occurred in the first century BC This legend is connected with the
Shaka conquest of Ujjayini and the origin of the Vikram era.
The legend mentions Gardabhilla, a king of Ujjayini. He had abducted the
sister of Kalakacharya, a celebrated Jain teacher (Kalaka was a king's son
and had later become Jain. His sister whose name was Saravati was herself
a Jain nun). Kalakacharya approached one of the Scythian kings, the Shahis,
in Shakasthana for help. But that king was afraid of attacking Gardabhilla,
a powerful ruler enjoying the protection of the goddess Rasabhi, who by
the spell of her voice made it impossible for an enemy to approach within
24 kilometers of the king. On his part Kalaka had magic powers and could
produce wealth at will. He persuaded the Shaka king to raise an army and
march against Ujjayini. When he encamped at a distance of 24 kilometers
from Ujjayini, the goddess began to raise her voice for the protection of
Gardbhilla, but the shaka army stopped her mouth with their arrows, and
she became unable to utter a sound. The Gardabhilla was easily made
captive and Kalaka's sister was recovered. When he was later forgiven and
released, Gardabhilla retired to a forest where he was devoured by a
tiger. Some years afterwards, the son of Gardabhilla, according to some
accounts the glorious Vikramditya, came up from Pratisthana with an army,
expelled the invaders from Ujjayini, and ruled there for many years in
great splendor and established the era that goes by his name (58-57 BC).
Though the exact historical foundation for this legend cannot easily be
ascertained, its setting fits the first century BC very well, as it was
clearly a period of Shaka inroads into India and of the attempts of Indian
rulers, particularly the Satavahanas to resists them. The Hindu Puranas
which describe the Satavahanas as Andhras, count Gardabhilla among the
feudatories (bhrityas) of the Andhras.26 Thus the Jain story is partly
corroborated. There might thus be some historical truth in this legend of
It is possible that the legend existed in some form since the first
century but its first recorded form is found in Kalakacharya Kathanaka, a
work by Mahesara Suri 27 who probably existed at the time of Hemachandra
Suri (12th century). Thus the legend or history of Kalakacharya was put
down in writing about 1200 years after the alleged event.
The inroads of the Shakas into northern India was followed by those of
other foreigners such as the Greeks, and the Kusanas, and these inroads
continued for a few centuries from the beginning of the Christian era. The
political center of northern India moved to Mathura. It was in Mathura
that we find the existence of a large prosperous Jain community at this
A large number if Jain relics have been dug up from a mound called
Kankali-tila in this town. The relics include one Jain stupa, two temples,
and many inscriptions recording the dedication of images of Tirthankaras,
and other religious things by pious Jains. Some of these inscriptions bear
dates, which mention the years in Kusana era. These dates lie between year
5 and year 98 of this era. Since we do not know the year in which this era
started, it is possible only to assign an approximate period of these
Scholars hold different opinions about the beginning of the Kusana era.
Some hold the opinion that it is the same as the Shaka era and started in
AD 78. Other dates given for the beginning of the Kusana era are AD 102,
AD 128, AD 144, etc., R. C. Majumdar has, however, suggested 29 the date
AD 244 and this suggestion appears to be getting more and more support. If
this is correct then the years in which a flourishing Jain community lived
in Mathura lie between AD 250 and AD 350.
Mathura during the rule of the Kusanas was the most important city of
northern India. There were in Mathura rich people of many communities,
Buddhist, Jain and Brahman. The inscriptions dug out in many localities in
Mathura show that religious monuments were built and grants were given by
all these communities. So far as Kankali-tila was concerned, it seems to
have been at this period the exclusive preserve of the Jains. Some
centuries before that period, the Buddhists, who had built a stupa here,
perhaps occupied the tila. One Jain inscription (59) 30 clearly mentions
that the Jain image was established on a Vodve (Buddhist?) stupa, which
had been built by the gods. It has been conjectured that the stupa at that
time was already so old, that people had forgotten who its builders were.
They, therefore, thought that the Gods built it. 31 In the Kusana period,
the Buddhists seem to have moved on to the Jamalpura mound in Mathura.
We may now consider the Jain inscriptions of Mathura belonging to the
Kusana period. (Altogether 78 inscriptions have been given in the Jain
Shila-Lekha Sangraha, Vol. II. It appears that the compiler of this volume
might have missed a few more inscriptions. For instance, the Lucknow
Museum Jain Image Inscriptions 32 of Havisha ---year 48 appears to have
been missed. In any case, the total number of Jain inscriptions discovered
here should not be many more than 90).
The Rulers named in the Inscriptions
Mathura before it came under the Kusanas was a part of the Shaka-Pahlava
empire. The provincial governors under these emperors were called
Mahakshatrapas. We have only one Jain inscription (5) of a Mahakshatrapa,
the one belonging to Mahakshatrapa Sodasa in Mathura. It is dated year 72
33 but we do not know the era. It appears that Mathura came under the
Kusanas after Sodasa. These are three inscriptions (19, 24 and 25) of
Kaniska, six of Huviska (37, 39, 43, 45, 50 and 56) who succeeded
Kaniska's immediate successor Vasika who had a very short reign, and three
of Huviska's successor Vasudeva (62, 65 and 69) in the Kankali-tila group.
The names of the rulers in the other inscriptions at this place were
either not recorded or are unreadable.
The following Tirthankaras are mentioned by name:
1. Vardhamana --- eleven inscriptions (5, 8, 9, 19, 30, 34, 36, 37, 75, 79
Mahavira -- one (16); Mahavira and Vardhamana--- One (67).
2. Sambhava --- One (in the Lucknow Museum Jain image inscription of
Huviska -- year 48).
3. Rishava --- One (56); Usabha -- One (82).
4. Arishtanemi --- One (28).
5. Shantinatha -- One (29).
Apart from these there are donative inscriptions, one to Nemesa (13), who
may be Negamesa, 34 and one to Nand (ya) varta (59) which is said to be
meant for the 18th Tirthankara Arantha, Nandyavarta being his symbol.
There are four donations (22, 26, 27, and 41) to the sarvatobhadra images.
These are four-sided sculptures with images of one Tirthankara on each
It is quite clear from the above that Mahavira was the most popular
Tirthankara among the Jains in Mathura at that time. Absence of Parshva's
name is noticeable.
Many of the donors have mentioned their professions. In the case of the
women donors, the professions of their husbands are sometimes mentioned.
We know from these that most of the donors belonged to the trader class,
though some of them were artisans such as goldsmiths or (iron) smiths. The
list of professions or occupations and the inscription numbers where they
occur are these:
Profession or Occupation Number in the Jain
1. Shresthi (Merchant) 19, 26
2. Vanika (Trader) 71
3. Manikara (Jeweller) 31
4. Lohavaniya (Iron trader) 31
5. Hairanyaka (Gold smith) 67
6. Sarthavaha (Caravan guide) 33
7. Gandhika (Perfume seller) 41, 42, 62, 69
8. Lohikakaraka (Smith) 54, 55
9. Ganika (Courtesan) 08
10. Na(r)taka (Dancer) 15
11. Vacaka (Reciter, Priest?) 22
12. Gramika (Village headman) 44
13. Cotton dealer (35) 56
We thus get an idea as to how people of all such occupations as were
common in a large provincial capital were living in Mathura in those days.
At least one courtesan was not ashamed to disclose her profession as a
stone tablet. Not much can be gleaned about social customs from these
inscriptions. Inscriptions' number 14 is interesting. Here a woman named (Ba)
Lahastini declares that she along with her parents and parents-in-law, had
put up a religious arch. According to the present Indian custom, a woman
for all religious purposes belongs to her husband's family and she has
nothing to do in religious matters with her parents. Performance of a
religious act of a married woman with her own parents in Mathura at that
time perhaps shows that these people were foreigners (Shakas or Kusanas)
newly converted to Jainism and were still maintaining some of their old
The names of a few of the donors also show foreign influence. Some of
these names are Mosini (22), Bubu (52), Vadhara (31), Huggu (31), Jabhaka
(35), Nada (08), etc.
Another Shaka influence is shown in the mutilated Sarasvati image found at
Kankali-tila. Two small figures of attendants are shown on each side of
the Goddess. One of these attendants is in Shaka.36
The present Jain custom of women keeping long fasts was known in Mathura
of Huviska's days also. We have in inscription number 52, the statement
that one Vijayasiri who was the wife of Rajyavasu had kept a fast for a
One Jain iconography practice had already been standardized in Mathura.
The images of Tirthankaras all bear the shrivatsa 37 symbol on the chest
as an auspicious mark (and perhaps also to distinguish them from the
Buddha images that do not bear such marks on the chest).
It is perhaps not possible to state definitely whether the people who
donated the images and the other religious objects at Mathura were
Svetambaras or Digambaras. The donors have mentioned their ganas, kulas,
etc., in the accompanying inscriptions. Some of these ganas, kulas, are
similar to those found in the Kalpa Sutra. 38 Now the Kalpa Sutra is a
Shvetambara work and is not recognized by Digambaras. Similarly, it is the
Svetambaras only who believe that the God Harinegamesi transferred the
embryo of Mahavira to the womb of Trishala. The Digambaras completely
reject this story. If, therefore, the name Nemesa read in one of the
Mathura inscriptions, is the short form of "Harinegamesi", the Jains of
Mathura would definitely have to be called Svetambaras. On the other hand,
all the images of the Tirthankaras found at Kankali-tila are nude. All the
Jain images of these centuries, for instance, those found at Kahaum (AD
460) in the Gorakhpur district, depict the Tirthankaras as nude. Added to
this is the fact, that most of the Jains of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar today
are Digambaras. Thus it is difficult to be sure about the sect of the
Jains of Mathura in the Kusana period. It is likely, however, that the
Shvetambara-Digambara split had not become clear-cut by that time. In any
case the Svetambaras even if they existed, as a separate sect had not
started worshipping non-nude images of the Tirthankaras, for no non-nude
image of a Tirthankara prior to the fifth century has been found so far.
Mathura continued to be a center of the Jains for a long time. Many Jain
sculptures belonging to the Gupta and the early medieval period have been