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Browsing: Mahāniśītha-sūtra (Prakrit d. 18)

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Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
Prakrit d. 18
Date of creation:
Folio number:
142 verso
Total number of folios:
Place of creation:
Surat, Gujarat
ink on paper
24,5 x 11 cm.
Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
JAINpedia Copyright Information


The Mahā-niśītha-sūtra is one of the Cheda-sūtras, a class of scriptures in the Śvetāmbara canon. It is written in Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit, though it is clearly influenced by the later variety of Prakrit known as Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī. It is a book with a disputed place in the canon. The Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjaks recognise its authority and include it among their 45 canonical scriptures. The sect of the Sthānaka-vāsins, however, excludes it because they believe it is later and not authoritative.

The Mahā-niśītha-sūtra’s eight sections mainly deal with confession, contrition and atonement, monastic hierarchy and definitions of the perfect ascetic and the imperfect monk. These topics are found in other Cheda-sūtras. The title Mahāniśītha-sūtra echoes the Niśītha-sūtra, which belongs to the same category, and suggests that this is a full version of it, because its title means ‘great niśītha-sūtra’. But its style is quite different. Instead of the expected concise aphoristic style, it alternates discursive parts in prose and long verse portions. On the other hand, several chapters are narrative in character. These qualities may explain why the Mahā-niśītha-sūtra has aroused suspicions of its credibility, both among Sthānaka-vāsin Jains and modern scholarship.


The Sanskrit phrase meaning ‘hall-dwellers’ is used for a Śvetāmbara movement that opposes the worship of images and the building of temples. The term Sthānaka-vāsī, whose origin remains unclear, came into widespread use in the early 20th century. The movement's roots can be traced to the 15th-century reform movement initiated by Loṅkā Śāh, from which the founders of the Sthānaka-vāsī traditions separated in the 17th century. Sthānaka-vāsīns practise mental worship through meditation. The lay members venerate living ascetics, who are recognisable from the mouth-cloth – muhpattī – they wear constantly.
A voluntary action undertaken to make up for a sin or breach of a religious principle, frequently an act of self-punishment or physical hardship.
Set of sacred texts that believers accept as authoritative within a religion. Synonymous with canon.
An organised group of believers in a religion, often distinguished from other groups within the same religious faith who have differences of doctrine or practice.
Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit
A dialect of the Prākrit language used for many Śvetāmbara Jain scriptures.
Māhārāṣṭrī Prākrit
A dialect of the Prākrit language used in some Jain writings.
Acknowledgement or declaration of the truth of a statement. In religious terms, it usually refers to admitting sin or wrongdoing to at least one other person in a ritual. It is normally a necessary step before absolution, which is formal release from guilt or consequences of wrongdoing. - All text is © JAINpedia / Institute of Jainology 2021 under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 licence The Jain universe online at

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