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Browsing: Bhaktāmara-stotra (Or. 13478)

Image: Text starts – Ṛṣabha meditating

Title: Text starts – Ṛṣabha meditating

The British Library Board
Or. 13478
Date of creation:
Folio number:
1 verso
Total number of folios:
Place of creation:
western India
25.5 x 11.5 cms
CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
Image copyright: Creative Commons Public Domain


Manuscripts of the Bhaktāmara-stotra are often artefacts with noteworthy aesthetic features, which underline the particular value and presence of this hymn in the Jain tradition. The song has magic powers and is part of the Jain tantric tradition, associated with mantras and yantras.

Each recto and verso page of this manuscript has a central vignette. All different from each other, they depict auspicious symbols or figures.

Here the painting shows a Jina seated cross-legged, in padmāsana. This is one of the two meditation poses in which a Jina can be shown. The Jina is represented in the typical Śvetāmbara style, as he is depicted with a garland, a crown and an ornamental tilaka on the forehead. Here the crown has five spikes.

The Jina is seated on a raised throne with a back. This is a painting of a Jina image in the cella of a temple, as the background shows.

There is no identifying emblem as such, but this is most likely to be the first Jina, Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha also called Ādinātha as the Bhaktāmara-stotra is dedicated to him.

On the other hand, this hymn can be viewed as a praise for the nature and power of a Jina in general, since it does not include individual characteristics. So it is appropriate that the opening image does not focus on an individual Jina.

Selected pages of this manuscript are digitised on JAINpedia.

Other visual elements

There are several notable things about this page.

  • The bottom right-hand lower corner has ‘1’ between the ornamental motifs, which is the folio number.
  • Verse numbers are at the end of each stanza and are often written in red between two vertical lines, like here.
  • The margins are decorated with an ornamental motif of flowers and leaves.


The elaborate script is the Jaina Devanāgarī script, here written in a form which recalls calligraphy. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here for Sanskrit.

The red vertical lines – daṇḍas – within the text are used to divide the parts of a verse. Single ones mark the end of a pāda, a verse part. Double ones mark the end of the whole verse.

On this page red ink is also used for some words. Red is used to write:

  • the beginning of verse 2 and a large part of verse 4. These are haphazard choices from the scribe, without any apparent motivation.
  • the word yugmaṃ, towards the end of line 4, which means ‘pair’ and is used at the end of two verses that have to be read together to make sense.


One of the most popular devotional hymns of the Jain hymns is the Bhaktāmara-stotraDevoted Gods Hymn. With either 44 or 48 stanzas, it is accepted by both main sects of Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras. It is dedicated to the first Jina, Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha, frequently known as Ādinātha, meaning ‘First Lord’. The title comes from the first verse, which says that 'his feet enhance the lustre of the jewels set in the crowns lowered by the devoted gods'.

The Bhaktāmara-stotra is written in Sanskrit in an elaborate poetical style. Many followers know the original text by heart and may daily recite or meditate upon it. This hymn of praise belongs to the categories of Sapta Smarans – 'Seven Remembrances' – or Nava Smarans – 'Nine Remembrances'. These refer to seven or nine popular hymns that form the core of Śvetāmbara Jain liturgy.

Mānatuṅga is the author of this hymn, and a figure who is the starting point of several legends. Recent scholarship considers that he was 'a Śvetāmbara devotional poet who lived in the second half of the 6th century A.D' (Wiley 2004: 53).

The Bhaktāmara-stotra has generated a number of commentaries from the 14th century onwards. It is also part of the Jain tantric tradition and is often given a magical value. Manuscripts of this text are often artefacts with noteworthy features. This manuscript demonstrates vignettes in the middle of each side of every folio, showing Jinas, auspicious symbols or mystical diagrams.


1. //§O// Oṃ homage// They enhance the lustre of the jewels set in the crowns lowered by the devoted gods they shine, they have destroyed the mass of darkness of evil.
2. I have [literally 'having'] duly bowed to the feet of the Jina, a support for people falling in the ocean of rebirths in the beginning of the era //1// He has been praised [literally 'he who has been praised']
3. by the lords of the gods, who have become proficient on account of the insight they acquired by the understanding of the true principles of all sciences in hymns which captivate the three worlds,
4. which are excellent. I too wish to praise this first Jina //2// Although devoid of intelligence,
5. I made my mind to praise you, whose foot-stool is adored by the gods, shameless as I am. Except for a child,
6. who else would wish suddenly to catch the disc of the moon reflected in water? //3//
7. Ocean of qualities, who, even if he compares to Bṛhaspati [the tutor of gods] in intelligence, is able to tell your qualities, [which are] as beautiful as the moon?
8. When the ocean is full of crocodiles stirred by the wind typical of the period marking the end of a kalpa, who is capable of crossing it
9. by swimming? //4// Even then, I, here, out of devotion for you, Lord of ascetics, I have started to write this praise, even though I have no power.
10. Out of affection, without thinking about its strength, the antelope rushes towards the king of animals, doesn’t it, in order to protect its child. //5// I am not learned,
11. I am an object of laugh[ter] for the learned. It is only my devotion for you that forces me to talk. If the cuckoo is said to [sing sweetly] in spring, [it has only one cause: the beautiful bunches of mango-seedlings].

There are several points about the hymn that are worthy of note.

The title of the hymn comes from its very first words, which are bhaktāmara – ‘the devoted gods’.

The identity of the Jina praised in this hymn is not given straightforwardly. Instead, it is mentioned indirectly in the phrase ‘in the beginning of the era’ – yugādau. This refers to the first Jina, Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha, who is often called Ādinātha. Meaning ‘First Lord' or ‘Lord of the Beginning’, Ādinātha’ uses the word ādi – beginning. Using this title emphasises the inaugural position of this Jina. Yugādīśa – ‘Lord of the beginning of the era’ – is another of his titles that also underlines this point.

The author's habit of expressing humility and incapacity for the task he has set for himself is expressed here in particularly extreme terms. This is a way to stress the power of devotion – bhakti – and hence the greatness of the Jina. If the author has any right and capacity to compose a hymn of praise – stotra – it is only because he is devoted to the Jina. Thus he as an individual has no importance.


1. //§O// oṃ namaḥ // bhaktâmara-praṇata-mauli-maṇī-prabhāṇā / m udyotakaṃ dalita-pāpa-tamo-vitānaṃ / sa-
2. myak praṇamya Jina-pāda-yugaṃ yugādā /v ālaṃbanaṃ bhava-jale patatāṃ janānāṃ //1//  yaḥ saṃstutaḥ sa-
3. kala-vāṅmaya-tatva-bodhā/ d udbhūta-buddhi-paṭubhiḥ sura-loka-nāthaiḥ / stotrair jagat-tritaya-cittaharai-
4. r udāraiḥ / stoṣye<ḥ> kilâham api taṃ prathamaṃ Jineṃdraṃ //2// yugmaṃ // buddhyā vināpi
5. vibudhârcita-pādapīṭha / stotuṃ samu*dyata-matir vigata-trapo ‘haṃ / bālaṃ vihāya ja-
6. la-saṃsthitam iṃdu-bimbaṃ / m  anyaḥ ka icchati janaḥ sahasā grahītuṃ //3// vaktuṃ /
7. guṇān guṇa-samudra  śaśāṃka-kāntān / kas te kṣamaḥ sura-guru-pratimo ‘pi bu-
8. ddhyā / kalpāṃta-kāla-pavanôddhata-nakra-cakraṃ / ko vā tarītum alam aṃbu-nidhiṃ bhu-
9. jābhyāṃ //4// so ‘haṃ tathāpi tava bhakti-vaśān munīśa / kartuṃ stavaṃ vigata-śaktir api pravr̥tta / prī-
10. tyâtma-vīryam avicārya mr̥go mr̥geṃdraṃ / nâbhyeti kiṃ nija-śiśoḥ paripālanârthaṃ //5// alpa-śrutaṃ
11. śrutavatāṃ parihāsa-dhāma // tvad-bhaktir eva mukharī-kurute balān māṃ / yat kokilaḥ kila madhau

The asterisk symbol * indicates obvious scribal errors in this manuscript.

In line 5 the syllable mu had been omitted originally, and has been added in the margin, probably by a later user of the manuscript.


Sanskrit for 'meditation', one of the six internal austerities or tapas that help purify the soul of karma. Meditation is deep thought about religious doctrine or mental focus on spiritual matters over a period of time. An important part of many religions, meditation is especially important in Jain belief because it forms key elements of religious practice and spiritual development.
A 'victor' in Sanskrit, a Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma and teaches the way to achieve liberation . A synonym for Tīrthaṃkara, which means 'ford-maker' or one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience through asceticism. The most famous 24 – Ṛṣabha to Mahāvīra – were born in the Bharata-kṣetra of the middle world , but more are found in other continents. There have been Jinas in the past and there will be some in the future.
A sacred sound, syllable, word or phrase that is believed to produce spiritual change if recited correctly. A mantra can be recited aloud or silently, and is often repeated. Mantras are closely associated with religions that originated in India, such as Hinduism and Buddhism as well as Jainism. The chief Jain mantra is the Namaskāra-mantra, which is recited daily, while another mantra very popular in Indian culture generally is Auṃ.
Sacred syllable commonly written as 'Oṃ' or 'Om', which is also used in Hinduism and Buddhism. Jains use it, for instance, in the Namaskāra-mantra. The letters in the word are significant:
  • 'A' refers to Arhats, siddhas and ācāryas
  • 'U' refers to preceptors or teachers
  • 'M' refers to mendicant.
The terms stavan, stavana, stava, stotra and stuti are all used for a prayer, song, chant or hymn to a Jina, a god or any other holy figure. Religious songs are always hymns of praise in Jainism. These devotional songs may be performed during daily rites or on special occasions, such as completion of a fast or a wedding. The hymns may be performed:
  • solo or in groups
  • as a form of meditation
  • as a rite offered as part of worship.
'White-clad’ in Sanskrit, the title of one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which both male and female mendicants wear white robes. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.
First Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is gold and his emblem the ox or bull. There is little historical evidence of his existence. Jains believe that he established many social institutions, such as marriage and the caste system, and introduce crafts and agriculture to the people.
Someone who withdraws from ordinary life to meditate and practise physical hardships in order to advance spiritually. Jain ascetics or mendicants beg for food from devout lay followers and wander the land. Also used as an adjective to describe the practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition.
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
A sequence of actions that must be followed to perform a religious ceremony. The set of actions is largely symbolic, for example offering food to statues symbolises sacrificing to a deity. The ritual actions are often accompanied by set phrases.
The most sacred area of a temple, church or religious building, often where the image of a deity is housed and worshipped. An outdoor space that is associated with a deity may also be considered a sanctuary.
From the Sanskrit for 'devotion', the bhakti movement originated in the late medieval period. It revolved around the emotional experience of devotion to religious figures and gods, stressing that caste, ritual and complex religious philosophy were unimportant compared to expressing overwhelming love for the deities. Showing this by repeatedly chanting the deity’s name is a powerful devotional practice, because the chanter both praises the god and moves nearer to spiritual self-realisation. These emotional experiences were often recorded in poetry and hymns, which became a repertoire of devotional hymns for later devotees.
One of the few hymns accepted by both Śvetāmbara and Digambara sects, the Bhaktāmara-stotra is a Sanskrit hymn praising the first Jina, Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha. Its name means Devoted Gods, which comes from the first verse, in which the deities pay homage to Ṛṣabha. It is attributed to the medieval poet Mānatuṅga. The Śvetāmbara version has 44 verses and the Digambara one 48.
A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.
Jaina Devanāgarī
The distinctive version of the Devanāgarī script found in Jain manuscripts.
Said to resemble the petals of a lotus, the lotus position involves sitting cross-legged with each foot on the opposite thigh. The soles face upwards while the knees rest on the ground. This posture is associated with meditation. Jinas and other enlightened figures are often depicted in this pose.
A mark worn on the forehead and other parts of the body for religious reasons. It symbolises the third eye, which is associated with spiritual enlightement and meditation. Historically, only deities, priests, ascetics and worshippers wore tilakas. It is usually a paste or powder made of sandalwood, ashes, coloured powder (kumkum) or clay and may be applied in various lines, dots and U shapes.
Sanskrit for 'instrument' or 'machine', a yantra is a mystical diagram used in religious rituals. Yantras are typically formed of symmetrical, concentric circles and may also have the diagram of a lotus in the middle of numerous squares. Containing the names of the Jinas and sacred mantras, such as oṃ, yantras are meditation aids.
A single sheet of paper or parchment with a front and a back side. Manuscripts and books are written or printed on both sides of sheets of paper. A manuscript page is one side of a sheet of paper, parchment or other material. The recto page is the top side of a sheet of paper and the verso is the underside.
Known as a folio, a single sheet of paper or other material has a front and a back side. The recto page is the top side of a sheet of paper and the verso is the underside.
Favourable or lucky. Auspicious objects bring good fortune and may predict good events or a bright future. 
The red symbol between vertical red lines often found at the start of Jain manuscripts. It is an auspicious symbol known as bhale and is transliterated in JAINpedia as //§O// 
An essay explaining a text. Commentaries on the scriptures are common in the Jain tradition and there are various types, including the:
  • bālāvabodha
  • bhāṣya
  • cūrṇi
  • niryukti
  • ṭīkā.
Someone who copies manuscripts for a living. Scribes are common in societies where literacy is rare. In the past, however, scribes could not always read and write fluently.
Jain Tantric worship aims to control other people or counter evil influences. Tantric rituals try to placate the aggressive side of a deity 's nature, encouraging the divinity to behave benevolently. If not worshipped correctly, the vengeful deity may cause harm. The devotee invokes the deity under his or her various names, places images of the deity on yantras – mystical diagrams – and meditates, repeating mantras.

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