Article: Śreyāṃsa

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

More details

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 Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa is named Vimalaprabhā. On this occasion, he is accompanied by one thousand kings.

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

Śreyāṃsa wanders for two months as an ordinary ascetic and reaches omniscience under a tree of the aśoka variety.

Events, stories and hymns

The central statue is Lord Śreyāṃsa, to whom this Śvetāmbara temple is dedicated. The temple is in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh. This is where four out of five auspicious events in the life of the 11th Jina took place and is closely associated with him.

Statue of Śreyāṃsa and other Jinas
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

The life of Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa is almost eventless. In the 9th-century Lives of the 54 Jain Great MenCauppaṇṇa-mahāpurisa-cariya – written in Prakrit by the Śvetāmbara monk Śīlānka, the chapter about the 11th Jina is hardly more than one page.

The 12th-century Sanskrit text Tri-ṣaṣṭi-śalākā-puruṣa-caritra, written by Hemacandra, has become the standard Śvetāmbara version of the Jinas' lives. This text gives Śreyāṃsa's life more substance because the story of the triad of Acala, Tripṛṣṭha and Aśvagrīva is inserted within the general frame of the story and told at length. As usual with such triads, it is a tale of war and fighting. The two main enemies are the Vāsudeva Tripṛṣṭha and the Prati-vāsudeva Aśvagrīva, whose hatred continues from their previous births.

Śreyāṃsa 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 Yaśovijaya in the 17th century. This example can be found among the manuscripts digitised on JAINpedia.

Temples and images

The Digambara emblem of the 11th Jina, the rhinoceros is found at the foot of the image of Lord Śreyāṃsa in Sarnath. Each Jina has an emblem – lāñchana – identifying him in art, which is usually found on the pedestal on which he stands or sits.

Emblem of Śreyāṃsa
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa is not one of the most popular Jinas. Yet he is known through a number of stone sculptures, such as those:

  • in caves 8 and 9 at Khanda-giri in Orissa
  • at Shravana Belgola, Venur and Mudbidri in Karnataka, along with sculptures of other Jinas
  • now preserved at the Provincial Museum in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, the Shivpuri Museum in Madhya Pradesh and the Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai (Shah 1987: 146–147).

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

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