Article: Puṣpadanta or Suvidhi

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Dates and numbers

This 16th-century manuscript painting shows a Jina in the lotus position of meditation. His jewellery and headdress show that he is a spiritual king. Jinas are always pictured in a very stylised way and this Jina has no identifying emblem.

A Jina meditating
Image by Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford © Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

The five auspicious events that mark a Jina’s life – kalyāṇakas – are traditionally associated with a specific date. This is given according to the system of the Indian calendar:

  • month
  • fortnight
  • day in the fortnight.

Astrological considerations also play a role here and the texts normally mention the constellations when an auspicious event takes place.

The dates associated with these events are potential or actual dates of commemoration. These may be marked in festivals, which determine the Jain religious calendar.

Dates associated with Puṣpadanta or Suvidhi

Last incarnation

Birth

Initiation

Omniscience

Emancipation

9th day of the dark half of Phālguna

5th day of the dark half of Mārgaśīrṣa

6th day of the dark half of Mārga

  • 3rd day of the bright half of Āśvina – Śvetāmbara
  • 2nd day of the bright half of Kārttika – Digambara
  • 9th day of the black half of Bhādrapada – Hemacandra
  • 9th day of the bright half of Bhādrapada – Śīlānka
  • 8th day of the bright half of Bhādrapada – Digambara

There may be variations in the dates in different sources, Śvetāmbara on one side, Digambara on the other. But there are also cases of differences within the same sectarian tradition.

There are also other numbers connected with the life of this Jina.

Other numbers associated with Puṣpadanta or Suvidhi

Height

Total lifespan

100 bows

200,000 pūrvas

Monastic and lay communities

This painting from an Ādityavāra-kathā manuscript shows monks preaching to lay men. The monks are of the Digambara sect even though their white robes resemble those of Śvetāmbara monks. Each monk sits on a dais and holds a scripture in a scroll. The books

Preaching monks
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

A Jina is not an enlightened being who exists alone after reaching omniscience. After perfect knowledge comes general preaching – samavasaraṇa. This sermon, which is attended by all, is reported in the scriptures as resulting in large numbers of listeners being inspired. Many turn to religious life, becoming monks or nuns, while many others make the vows that lay peopleśrāvaka and śrāvikā – can follow in their everyday lives. Further, the Jina’s teachings are preserved and passed on by his chief disciples – the gaṇadharas. This is why a Jina is also called a Tīrthaṃkara, meaning ‘ford-maker’ or ‘founder of a community’.

Each Jina establishes a 'fourfold community', led by the chief disciples. Made up of monks, nuns, lay men and lay women, the fourfold community follows the principles the Jina has set out in his preaching. How members follow the religious teachings vary according to whether they remain householders or take initiation into mendicancy. Individual figures relating to each Jina are thus important.

Puṣpadanta or Suvidhi's fourfold community

Chief disciples

Monks

Nuns

Lay men

Lay women

88, led by Varāha – Śvetāmbara
led by Vaidarbha – Digambara

200,000

120,000 led by Sulasā – Śvetāmbara
380,000 led by Goṣā – Digambara

229,000 – Śvetāmbara
200,000 – Digambara

472,000 – Śvetāmbara
500,000 – Digambara

Identification

All Jinas have individual emblemslāñchanas – and colours that help to identify them in artwork. They also have attendant deities known as yakṣa and yakṣī, who often appear flanking them in art.

Colour, symbol, yakṣa and yakṣī of Puṣpadanta or Suvidhi

Colour

Emblem

Yakṣa

Yakṣī

white

crocodile – makara – Śvetāmbara and Digambara
crab according to a Digambara tradition from Karnataka

Ajita

Sutārā – Śvetāmbara
Mahākālikā – Digambara

EXT:contentbrowse Processing Watermark

Related Manuscripts

  • Worship of R̥ṣabha

    Worship of R̥ṣabha

    British Library. Add. 26519. Unknown authors. Possibly 18th century

  • Text

    Text

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

Related Manuscript Images

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