Article: Puṣpadanta or Suvidhi

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

The ninth of the 24 Jinas of the present cycle of time is known under two alternate names of Puṣpadanta and Suvidhi. The word Jina means 'victor' in Sanskrit. A Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma through practising extreme asceticism and teaches the way to achieve liberation. A Jina is also called a Tīrthaṃkara or 'ford-maker' in Sanskrit – that is, one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience.

Puṣpadanta or Suvidhi is not an historical figure. He is not singled out for individual biographies in the Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures. Treated like most of the other Jinas, he is provided only with basic biographical information. This information is fairly standardised and remains identical throughout later sources except for occasional variations, or confusions, in numbers.

The name Suvidhi means ‘expert in rules and rites’ in Sanskrit. Hence it is straightforward and has a positive connotation. The name Puṣpadanta literally means ‘flower-tooth’ in Sanskrit, but the explanations given for it are not transparent.

There are minor differences between the accounts and descriptions of this Jina among the two main Jain sects. According to Śvetāmbara biographies, he married princesses and governed the earth as a king before leaving worldly life for monastic initiation. According to the sect of the Digambaras, none of the Jinas assumed the responsibilities of a householder or king before becoming monks.

Basic information

This 12th-century statue has no identifying emblem – lāñchana – but the endless knot – śrīvatsa – on his chest marks him as a Jina. The sculpture also demonstrates typical symbols of wisdom and renunciation, such as a bump on the crown and stretched ears.

Marble Jina idol
Image by British Museum © Trustees of the British Museum

Each Jina has standard biographical information found in various sources. Among the earliest Śvetāmbara canonical sources that provide biodata of all the 24 Jinas is the final section of the fourth Aṅga, the Samavāyānga-sūtra and the Āvaśyaka-niryukti. Among the earliest Digambara sources is a cosmological work, the Tiloya-paṇṇatti.

The standard Digambara biography of Suvidhinātha or Lord Suvidhi is found on pages 66 to 70 of the 1968 edition of Guṇabhadra's Uttarapurāṇa in Sanskrit and Hindi. The standard Śvetāmbara biography is on pages 324 to 336 in volume II of Johnson's English translation of Hemacandra's work, Tri-ṣaṣṭi-śalākāpuruṣa-caritra.

The biographical data can be categorised in a standard manner, and includes numbers, which are significant in wider Indian culture. These standard details can also be used to identify individual Jinas in art, since they are usually depicted as stereotyped figures. Pictures or statues of Jinas present them in either the lotus position or the kāyotsarga pose. Both of these imply deep meditation.

Parents

The important feature of a Jina’s father is that he is a king, from the kṣatriyacaste.

A Jina’s mother has an important role because she gives birth to a future Jina, and in practice a Jina is often called ‘the son of X’. Another reason for her importance is that the names given to the various Jinas are said to originate either in pregnancy-whims or in a dream their mothers had, at least in Śvetāmbara sources. This dream is specific, and adds to the traditional auspicious dreams that foretell the birth of a child who will become a Jina.

For reasons that are unclear, the ninth Jina was given two names. The standard author for the Śvetāmbara Jina biographies, Hemacandra, explains:

Because his mother became expert in all religious rites, while he was in the womb, and because a tooth appeared from a pregnancy-whim for flowers, his parents gave the Lord two names, Su-vidhi [expert-rite] and Puṣpa-danta [flower-tooth]
Johnson’s translation, volume II, page 327

Only the name Suvidhi is known in earlier sources such as the Āvaśyaka-niryukti. Puṣpadanta is the only name used in another Śvetāmbara source, Śīlānka’s Cauppaṇṇa-mahāpurisa-cariyaLives of the 54 Illustrious Men.

Puṣpadanta tends to be favoured in Digambara sources. But Guṇabhadra’s Uttarapurāṇa, which is a Digambara classic, uses both. He uses the name:

  • Suvidhi at the opening of his chapter
  • Puṣpadanta in the course of the narration
  • Suvidhi and Puṣpadanta in the final verse.

He does not attempt a literal and strange explanation of the compound in the way Hemacandra does. He simply retains the component ‘flower’, and justifies it by the fact that the Jina’s body was as white as jasmine flowers – kunda.

So the choice of name in the sources is neither clear-cut nor strictly sectarian.

Puṣpadanta is otherwise attested as the proper name of various heroes or persons in Indian culture. Among Digambara Jains two famous Puṣpadantas are:

  • one of the monks to whom the Ṣaṭkhaṇḍāgama was taught
  • a 10th-century author of narrative works.
Parents of Puṣpadanta or Suvidhi

Mother

Father

Rāmā – Śvetāmbara
Mahādevī or Jayarāmā – Digambara

Sugrīva

Places

There are numerous temples on Pārasnāth Hill in Jharkhand, identified with Mount Sammeta – Sammeta Śikhara. Though most of the temples date back to the 18th century, the mountain has long been sacred because it is where 20 of the 24 Jinas were liberated.

Mount Sammeta
Image by Takeo Kamiya © Takeo Kamiya

Of the five auspicious events that mark a Jina’s life – kalyāṇakas – four take place on earth and are associated with a specific village or town in the sources. Archaeological evidence often helps to identify the old names with modern places. Even when it is lacking, there is a tendency to carry out this identification process. Associating auspicious events with certain locations makes these places sacred to Jains, so that they are potential or actual pilgrimage places and temple sites.

Places associated with Puṣpadanta or Suvidhi

Last incarnation and birth place

Initiation and omniscience

Emancipation

Kākandī

Sahasrāmravana

Mount Sammeta

Kakandi is a small site in Uttar Pradesh, which can be reached from the Kakandi to Bherpur road. This isolated place has remains of Jina images and other antiquities. The existence and connection of this place with the ninth Jina are recorded in the Vividha-tīrtha-kalpa, a 14th-century work on sacred places by the Śvetāmbara monk Jinaprabha-sūri. The place name appears in a list of those where a Jina was born, all of them praised as destinations for pilgrimage, but there is no specific information about any temple here.

A Jain temple was built in 1874 by Rai Bahadur Mulchand, 1.5 kilometres away from the village of Khukand in Uttar Pradesh. It has a shrine dedicated to the:

  • 22nd Jina Neminātha or Lord Nemi, made of black stone
  • 9th Jina Puṣpadantanātha or Lord Puṣpadanta, made out of white stone
  • 23rd Jina Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva.

The neighbouring forest of Kukubh Van is known as the place where Puṣpadanta took initiation.

EXT:contentbrowse Processing Watermark

Related Manuscripts

  • Text

    Text

    Victoria and Albert Museum. IM 161-1914. Unknown author. 16th century

  • Mahāvīra and 23 Jinas

    Mahāvīra and 23 Jinas

    British Library. Or. 13472. Unknown author. Perhaps 19th century

Related Manuscript Images

http://www.jainpedia.org/themes/people/jina/puspadanta-or-suvidhi.html - All text is © JAINpedia / Institute of Jainology 2017 under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 licence The Jain universe online at www.jainpedia.org

Unless images are explicitly stated as either public domain or licensed under a Creative Commons licence, all images are copyrighted. See individual images for details of copyright.