History of Jain Sects
The Jain religion is one of the oldest religions in the
world. The Jain religion was also known as Shraman Dharma, Nirgranth Dharma,
etc. It is not an offshoot of any other religion but is an independent
religion recognized by these various names during different time periods. It
was has been taught by Tirthankaras also called Jina. A follower of a Jina is
called a Jain and the religion followed by Jains is called Jainism. Each
Tirthankara revitalizes the Jain order. The Jain Order is known as the Jain
Sangh. The current Jain Sangh was reestablished by Lord Mah�vira, who was the
24th and last Tirthankar of the current time period. The Jain Sangh
is composed of the following four groups:
1) S�dhus (Monks)
2) S�dhvis (Nuns)
3) Shr�vaks (Male householders)
4) Shr�vik�s (Female householders)
The first Tirthankar of the current time period was Lord
Rushabhdev, who is also known as �din�th. Names of other popular Tirthankars
are Lord Sh�ntin�th (the 16th Tirthankar), Lord Nemn�th (the 22nd
Tirthankar), Lord P�rshwn�th (the 23rd Tirthankar), and
Lord Mah�vira (24th Tithankar). Lord Mah�vira is the most popular
Tirthankar of our time.
Mah�vira attained nirv�n (liberated from the worldly existence) in 527 B. C.
He had eleven ganadharas (disciples). Nine ganadharas attained liberation
(salvation) during the lifetime of Lord Mah�vira, while aother two Gautamsw�mi
and Sudharm�sw�mi survived him. Gautamsw�mi attained perfect knowledge and
perfect perception and became Arihant the very night of Lord Mahavira's nirv�n.
The remaining ganadhar, Sudharm�sw�mi, was the next to attain perfect
knowledge and perfect perception and became Arihant. Jambusw�mi, the disciple
of Sudharm�sw�mi was the last Arihant of the present half time cycle. After
Jambusw�mi none attained perfect knowledge and the knowledge declined slowly
as time went on.
Lord Mahavira's teachings were
carried on by his ganadharas to us in the form of scriptures (Agams). They
were compiled into twelve separate parts, known as the dwadashangi (twelve
parts). These twelve compositions were acceptable to all followers. However,
the dwadashangi were not put in writing for a long time. The Jain pupils
learned them by memorizing them. About 150 years after the nirvana of Lord
Mahavira, there was a drought for 12 years. During this time, some monks along
with Bhadrabahuswami migrated to South. After the drought was over, some monks
came back to North. They observed that there was some inconsistency in oral
recollection of the Jain scriptures by different monks. That made them to
compile scriptures. To accomplish that, the first council (conference) of
monks was held in Patliputra about 160 years after Lord Mahavira�s nirvana.
Monk Bhadrabahu, who had the knowledge of all 12 Angas, could not be present
at that meeting. The rest of the monks could compile only the first eleven
Angas by recollection and thus, the twelfth Anga was lost. The monks from the
South did not agree with this compilation, and the first split in Jainism
started. Jains divided into two main groups, Svet�mbaras and Digambaras.
Svet�mbara monks wore white clothes. Digambara monks did not wore any clothes
Jain order had divided into two
The Digambara sect
The Svetambar sect
The Digambara sub-sects
The Digambara sect, in recent
centuries, has been divided into the following sub-sects:
Taranapantha or Samaiyapantha.
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 '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
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 institution of Bhattarakas lost
respect in North India, however in South India the Bhattarakas continue to
play an importent role. 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 both.
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
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
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
The Svetambara sub-sects -
Like the Digambara sect, the
Svetambara sect has also been split into three main sub-sects:
The original stock of the
Svetambaras is known as Murtipujaka Svetambaras 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 jeweled 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) Chaityavasi (temple residents) and (iv)
Mandira-margi (temple goers)
The Murtipujaka Svetambaras are
found scattered all over India for business purposes in large urban centers,
still they are concentrated mostly in Gujarat.
The Sthanakvasi arose not
directly from the Svetambaras but as reformers of an older reforming sect,
viz., the Lonka sect of Jainism. This Lonka sect was founded in about 1474
A.D. by Lonkashaha, a rich and well-read merchant of Ahmedabad. The main
principle of this sect was not to practice idol-worship. Later on, some of the
members of the Lonka sect disapproved of the ways of life of their ascetics,
declaring that they lived less strictly than Mahavira would have wished. A
Lonka 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 Lonka sect joined this reformer and they took the
name of Sthanakvasi, meaning those who do not have their religious activities
in temples but carry on their religious duties in places known as Sthanakas
which are like prayer-halls.
The Sthanakvasi are also called
by terms as (a) Dhundhiya (searchers) and (b)Sadhumargi
(followers of Sadhus, i.e., ascetics). Except on the crucial point of
idol-worship, Sthanakvasi do not differ much from other Svetambara Jainas and
hence now-a-days they invariably call themselves as Svetambara Sthanakvasi.
However, there are some differences between the Sthanakvasi; and the
Murtipujaka Svetambaras in the observance of some religious practices. The
Sthanakvasi 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 Sthanakvasi cover their mouths with strips of cloth
for all the time and they do not use the cloth of yellow or any other color
(of course, except white). Moreover, the Sthanakvasi admit the authenticity of
only 31 of the scriptures of Svetambaras. Furthermore, the Sthanakvasi do not
have faith in the places of pilgrimage and do not participate in the religious
festivals of Murtipujaka Svetambaras.
The Svetambara Sthanakvasi are
also spread in different business centers in India but they are found mainly
in Gujarat, Punjab, Harayana and Rajasthan.
It is interesting to note that
the two non-idolatrous sub-sects, viz., Taranapanthis among the Digambaras and
Sthanakvasi among the Svetambaras, came very late in the history of the Jaina
Church and to some extent it can safely be said that the Mohammedan 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 Mohammedan
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 outcry 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 Mohammedan influence, that
we can first trace the stirring of these doubts. About 1474 A.D. the Lonka
sect, the first of the non-idolatrous Jaina sects, arose and was followed by
the Dhundhiya or Sthanakvasi sect about 1653 A.D. dates which coincide
strikingly with the Lutheran and Puritan movements in Europe." (vide Heart
of Jainism, p. 19).
The terapanthi sub-sect is
derived from the Sthanakvasi; section. The Terapanthi sub-sect was founded by
Swami Bhikkanaji Maharaj. Swami Bhikkanaji was formerly a Sthanakvasi saint
and had initiation from his Guru, by name Acharya Raghunatha. Swami
Bhikkanaji had differences with his Guru on several aspects of
religious practices of Sthanakvasi 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 A.D.
As Acharya Bh1kkanaji 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 organized 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 Terapanthis.
The penance of Terapanthis is
considered to be very severe. The dress of Terapanthi monks and nuns is akin
to that of Sthanakvasi monks and nuns. But there is a difference in the length
of muhapatti, 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 organization characterized by
one Acharya (i.e., religious head), one code of conduct and one line of
thought. The Terapanthis are considered reformists as they emphasize
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 utilize 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.
S�dhus (monks) and S�dhvis
(nuns) are people who have voluntarily given up their household lives and
worldly affairs and have accepted the five major vows to uplift their souls on
the spiritual path. They strictly follow the rules laid down for them.
Shr�vaks and shr�vikas, on the other hand, continue to lead worldly lives.
They may observe in full or to a limited extent, twelve minor vows laid down