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.

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

More details

This manuscript painting is of 20 identical Jinas, who are very probably those between Ṛṣabha, the first one, and Nemi, the 22nd. Omniscient and seated in the lotus pose of meditation, they are Śvetāmbara spiritual rulers, symbolised by their jewellery.

Twenty Jinas
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Besides the basic information, the sources provide more details on various topics. These are almost infinite and vary depending on the sources. Such information differs between Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras. Here are only a few instances of extra detail.

All of the princes who become Jinas are carried on a palanquin to the park where they perform the ritual gesture of initiation into monastic lifedīkṣā. The palanquin of Puṣpadantanātha or Lord Puṣpadanta is named Suraprabhā. On this occasion, he is accompanied by numerous kings.

He performs a two-day fast. The next day he breaks his fast at the house of King Puṣpa in the town of Śvetapura.

Puṣpadanta wanders for four months as an ordinary ascetic and reaches omniscience under a tree of the mālūra variety.

Events, stories and hymns

The life of the ninth Jina is almost eventless. In the 9th-century Lives of the 54 Jain Great MenCauppaṇṇa-mahāpurisa-cariya – written in Prakrit by the Śvetāmbara monk Śīlānka, where he is known only under the name Puṣpadanta, the relevant chapter about the 11th Jina has only a few paragraphs.

The 12th-century Sanskrit text Tri-ṣaṣṭi-śalākā-puruṣa-caritra, written by Hemacandra, has become the standard Śvetāmbara version of the Jinas' lives.In this text the chapter about the ninth Jina is amplified by the preaching he delivers after he has reached omniscience.

Puṣpadanta is mainly praised alongside other Jinas in hymns dedicated to the 24 Jinas. One instance is the devotional song dedicated to this Jina in the Gujarati set of hymns composed by Yaśo-vijaya in the 17th century. This example can be found among the manuscripts digitised on JAINpedia.

Temples and images

A 15th-century Śvetāmbara metal altarpiece has the ninth Jina at its centre. Though there is no identifying emblem, he is named in an inscription on the back. Known as both Suvidhi or Puṣpadanta, this Jina is surrounded by symbols of royalty

Suvidhi or Puṣpadanta image
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Puṣpadantanātha or Lord Puṣpadanta is not one of the most popular Jinas. Yet he is known through a number of sculptures (Shah 1987: 145), such as:

  • an early image of the 4th century preserved in the Vidisha Museum, Madhya Pradesh, where the Jina is identified through an inscription but has no emblem
  • rock-cut sculptures in caves 8 and 9 at Khandagiri, in Orissa, where he is shown with his emblem
  • a figure in cell 9 of the Pārśvanātha temple at Kumbharia in Gujarat
  • an image in the Bhaṇḍāra Basti at Shravana Belgola, where he stands with his yakṣa and yakṣī.

Metal images showing Puṣpadanta alone or with other Jinas are also available in temples and museums.

Images

  • Marble Jina idol This 12th-century statue has no identifying emblem – lāñchana – but the endless knot – śrīvatsa – on his chest marks him as a Jina. Sitting in the lotus meditation pose, the sculpture also demonstrates typical symbols of wisdom and renunciation, such as a bump on the crown and elongated earlobes.. Image by British Museum © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Mount Sammeta There are numerous temples on Pārasnāth Hill in Jharkhand, which is identified with legendary 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. As one of the holiest sites for Jains, Mount Sammeta attracts thousands of pilgrims. Named after Pārśvanatha or Lord Pārśva, the 23rd Jina, who gained emancipation there, Pārasnāth Hill has a large temple dedicated to him on the summit.. Image by Takeo Kamiya © Takeo Kamiya
  • A Jina meditating This painting from a 16th-century manuscript shows a Jina in the lotus position of meditation. His jewellery and headdress show that he is a spiritual king, a status underscored by the elephant, parasol and pedestal, standard symbols of royalty in Indian art. Jinas are always pictured in a very stylised way so they are hard to tell apart. In this case the Jina's personal emblem, which can be used to identify him, is not visible. Around the Jina, various figures stand or sit in postures of worship.. Image by Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford © Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
  • Preaching monks 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 bookstands in front of each monk symbolise teaching, which is an important role of mendicants. The lay men raise their hands in gestures of respect.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Twenty Jinas This manuscript painting is of 20 identical Jinas, who are very probably those between Ṛṣabha, the first one, and Nemi, the 22nd. Omniscient and seated in the lotus pose of meditation, they are spiritual rulers, symbolised by their jewellery. Their elongated earlobes are reminders that they gave up earthly riches to become mendicants while the bumps on the crowns of their heads signify the great wisdom they gained instead. Their jewellery and open eyes are typical of Jina images created by the Śvetāmbara sect.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Suvidhi or Puṣpadanta image A 15th-century Śvetāmbara metal altarpiece made in Gujarat, India has the ninth Jina at its centre. Though there is no identifying emblem, he is named in an inscription on the back. Known as both Suvidhi or Puṣpadanta, this Jina is surrounded by symbols of royalty and his eyes and the śrīvatsa on his chest are inlaid in silver. Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh. Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Further Reading

Jain Shrines in U. P.: Soul Searching Sojourns
Uttar Pradesh Tourism

Full details

Jaina Temple Architecture in India: The Development of a Distinct Language in Space and Ritual
Julia A. B. Hegewald
Monographien zur Indischen Archäologie, Kunst und Philologie series; volume 19
Stiftung Ernst Waldschmidt, G+H Verlag; Berlin, Germany; 2009

Full details

Vividhatīrthakalpa
Jinaprabhasūri
edited by Muni Jinavijaya
Singhi Jain series; volume 10
Shantiniketan; Bombay, India; 1934

Full details

The Jain Saga: 63 Illustrious Persons of the Jain World, Brief History of Jainism
Hemacandra
translated by Helen M. Johnson
edited by Muni Samvegayashvijayji Maharaj
Acharya Shrimad Vijay Ramchandra Suriswarji Jain Pathshala; Ahmedabad, Gujarat and Mumbai, Maharashtra, India; 2009

Full details

Jaina-Rūpa-Maṇḍana
Umakant Premanand Shah
Abhinav Publications; New Delhi, India; 1987

Full details

Triṣaṣṭiśalākapuruṣacaritra: Lives of the Sixty-three Illustrious Persons
Hemacandra
translated by Helen M. Johnson
Gaekwad's Oriental series; volume 2
Oriental Institute; Baroda, Gujarat, India; 1937

Full details

Historical Dictionary of Jainism
Kristi L. Wiley
Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies, and Movements series; series editor Jon Woronoff; volume 53
Scarecrow Press; Maryland, USA; 2004

Full details

Glossary

Ascetic

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.

Auspicious

Favourable or lucky. Auspicious objects bring good fortune and may predict good events or a bright future. 

Basadi

A term for a Jain temple common in Southern India.

Caste

Hindu society is traditionally divided into numerous jātis or classes, which are usually grouped into the four varṇas – often called 'castes' – of:

  • Brāhmaṇa – priest
  • Kṣatriya – warrior
  • Vaśya – merchant or farmer
  • Śūdra – labourer.

Relating to ritual purity, castes are hereditary and probably based on occupation. Members of different castes performed particular socio-economic roles and did not mix or eat the same food. People outside the caste system were usually looked down upon.

Caturvidha-saṅgha

The ‘fourfold society’ of Jain tradition, which is made up of ascetics and the laity, and of males and females.

Cosmology

A belief system about the universe that covers its origin, structure and parts, and natural laws and characteristics such as space, time, causality and freedom.

Deity

A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.

Dhyāna

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.

Digambara

'Sky-clad' in Sanskrit, used for one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which monks are naked. 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.

Disciple

An active follower of a religion, especially one who passes on teachings to others.

Fast

Giving up or limiting food or specified foods for a period of time, usually as part of a religious practice. Fasting is a key part of Jainism, chiefly because it is believed to:

  • help destroy karmas that bind to the soul
  • gain merit – puṇya.

Gaṇadhara

'Supporters of the order'. This term is used for the first mendicant disciples of a Jina. They are able to understand his teachings properly and can pass them on. A gaṇadhara leads his own group of ascetics until he becomes enlightened.

Gujarāt

The westernmost state in India, which is a stronghold of Śvetāmbara Jainism.

Gujarati

The language that developed in Gujarat, in western India. It is also spoken in neighbouring states. Also a term for someone or something associated with or coming from Gujarat.

Hindi

The most widely spoken group of languages in India, originating in the northern part of the subcontinent. Local dialects and Hindi languages are spoken all over northern India and in surrounding countries. Standard Hindi is used in administration by the central government of India, along with English.

Hymn

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.

Idol

An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.

Initiation

Formal or ceremonial admission into an organisation or group.

Jain

Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.

Jina

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.

Jinaprabha

(1261–1333) Kharatara-gaccha monk famous for writing Vividha-tīrtha-kalpaGuidebook to Various Pilgrimage Places. He also visited the court of the Delhi Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq.

Kalyāṇaka

An auspicious moment in a Jina's life. There are five pañca-kalyāṇakas:

  • garbha – conception
  • janma – birth
  • vairāgya – renunciation
  • kevala-jñāna – enlightenment
  • mokṣa or nirvāna – liberation.

Kāyotsarga

'Absence of concern for the body'. This commonly refers to a standing or sitting posture of deep meditation. In the standing position the eyes are concentrated on the tip of the nose and the arms hang loosely by the body. The individual remains unaffected by whatever happens around him.

Kevala-jñāna

Omniscience, enlightenment or perfect knowledge – the highest of the five types of knowledge, where one knows everything wherever and whenever it is. It is extremely difficult to attain, equivalent to the 13th stage of spiritual purity in the guṇa-sthāna. Digambaras believe only men can achieve it whereas Śvetāmbaras believe that both men and women can become enlightened.

Kṣatriya

The Indian caste of warriors and kings, with the role of 'protectors'. Jinas are born into this caste.

Laity

Believers in a religion who are ordinary worshippers, not clergy or members of religious orders. In Jainism, lay people are often called 'householders', indicating that they live in houses and have domestic responsibilities, unlike ascetics.

Lāñchana

The distinctive emblem of a given Jina. For example Ṛṣabha has a bull while Mahāvīra has a lion. These are commonly depicted under statues of the Jinas. Since this practice does not seem to have been known early on, perhaps it was influenced by the Hindu environment, where each god has his typical vehicle or emblem.

Monk

A man who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to formally enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, monks perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.

Nemi

The 22nd Jina of the present age, also called Ariṣṭanemi. His symbolic colour is blue or black and his emblem the conch. There is no historical evidence of his existence.

The Jains hold that Nemi is the cousin of the Hindu god Kṛṣna. The tale of his renunciation and jilting of his fiancée Princess Rājīmati are famous among the Jains.

Padmāsana

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.

Palanquin

A bed or seat attached to poles, which are carried by bearers on their shoulders. The palanquin is usually a closed box or has curtains sheltering the person within.

Pārśva

The 23rd Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is green and his emblem the snake. Historical evidence points to his living around 950 to 850 BC.

Pilgrimage

A journey to a place of religious significance. Some religions encourage pilgrimage as ways to advance spiritual progress and deepen the faith of those who make the trip – pilgrims.

Prākrit

A term for any of the dead vernacular languages of ancient and medieval India. It may be contrasted with classical Sanskrit, the language used by priests and the aristocracy. The Jains used a large variety of Prakrits, with the Jain canon written chiefly in Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit.

Preach

To deliver a speech on a religious topic, usually given by a prophet or member of the clergy. It may be a formal task of a religious office or open to all believers in a religious faith. Often covering social and moral subjects, preaching may be intended to:

  • remind hearers of religious principles and rules
  • encourage piety
  • persuade non-believers of the correctness of the preacher's religious beliefs.

Rite

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.

Sāgāra

Sanskrit term meaning 'with a home’ – that is, a ‘householder’ or lay Jain. A synonym for a lay person, emphasising that he or she is a member of a household, with responsibilities to the family, community and society that a Jain mendicant does not have.

Śalākā-puruṣa

'Great man' – also known as a mahā-puruṣa – whose story is told in Jain Universal History. Born in each progressive and regressive half-cycle of time, there are five types of 'great men':

  • 24 Jinas
  • 12 Cakravartins
  • 9 Baladevas
  • 9 Vāsudevas
  • 9 Prati-vāsudevas.

Samavasaraṇa

Literally, Sanskrit for 'universal gathering'. A holy assembly led by a Jina where he preaches to all – human beings, animals and deities alike – after he has become omniscient. In this universal gathering, natural enemies are at peace.

Sanskrit

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.

Sect

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.

Sermon

A speech on a religious topic, usually delivered by a member of the clergy. Frequently a sermon has a moral lesson or is based on a sacred text.

Shrine

A small structure holding an image or relics, which may be within a temple or building designed for worship. A shrine may be a portable object. Worshippers pray and make offerings at a shrine, which is often considered sacred because of associations with a deity or event in the life of a holy person.

Śrāvaka

'Hearer’ of the teaching. This commonly refers to the Jain lay man, who follows the teachings of the 24 Jinas and is not a member of the clergy or a religious order. The feminine form is śrāvikā.

Śrāvikā

'Hearer’ of the teaching. This commonly refers to the Jain lay woman, who follows the teachings of the 24 Jinas and is not a member of the clergy or a religious order. The masculine form is śrāvakā.

Śvetāmbara

'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.

Temple

A building reserved for public worship or prayer, usually dedicated to one religion and run by members of that religion's clergy.

Vrata

Vows are extremely important in Jain religious life. Mendicants take the compulsory Five Great Vows – mahā-vratas – as part of their initiation – dīkṣā

Lay people can choose to take 12 vows, which are divided into:

  • aṇu-vratas – 'Five Lesser Vows'
  • guṇa-vratas – three supplementary vows
  • śikṣā-vratas – four vows of spiritual discipline

All of these vows are lifelong and cannot be taken back. The sallekhana-vrata is a supplementary vow to fast to death, open to both ascetics and householders. 

Yakṣa

The male attendant of a Jina, one of the pair of guardian or protector gods for each Jina. The śāsana-devatā protect his teachings – śāsana – and can appease evil powers. The yakṣa and yakṣī's closeness to the Jina and their divine powers mean they are popular subjects of worship.

Yakṣī

The female attendant of a Jina, also called yakṣinī. One of the pair of guardian or protector gods for each Jina. The śāsana-devatā protect his teachings – śāsana – and can appease evil powers. The yakṣa and yakṣī's closeness to the Jina and their divine powers mean they are popular subjects of worship.

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Related Manuscripts

  • Text

    Text

    Victoria and Albert Museum. IS. 83-1963. Unknown author. 15th century

  • Birth of Mahāvīra

    Birth of Mahāvīra

    Victoria and Albert Museum. IM 8-1931. Unknown author. Second half of the 15th century

Related Manuscript Images

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