Article: Soḷ satī

Contributed by M. Whitney Kelting

References in Jain writings

Jains label many virtuous Jain women satīs but the soḷ satī or 16 satīs form a special class. The group of 16 satīs is the subject of several well-known texts.

The category of soḷ satī probably derives from a short hymn listing 16 satīs, routinely called Brāhmī Candanbālikā after its first line. Śvetāmbara Jain mendicants often recite it in the morning.

In the early 18th century Udayratna wrote a longer hymn, the Soḷ Satī no Chand. It includes one verse for each of the 16 satīs and suggests that their names should be recited in the morning. This hymn is widely published in hymnbooks.

In addition, the concept of the 16 satīs is often used as an organising principle for collections of satī stories.

Other lists of virtuous Jains

A Jain lay woman holds up her hands and bows her head in devotion. Jains do not ask for things when they pray. For Jains praying is always joyful and means reverencing the qualities and example of the Jinas

Woman praying
Image by Chandu Shah © Chandu Shah

Although over time popular satīs are added to fresh lists and collections, the members of the 16 satīs remain the same. The notion of the 16 satīs has led to the creation of similar lists of virtuous figures in Jain literature.

The traditional Bharahesara nī Sajjhāy includes a list of virtuous men followed by a list of 47 virtuous women, called satīs. It includes all of the 16 satīs and forms an important part of the morning confession.

There is an extensive commentary written for this text, the Bharateśvara Bāhubalī Vṛttiḥ. Composed in 1453, the commentary includes separate accounts for each person named in the text.

The Bharahesara nī Sajjhāy must have been created before this commentary but could be considerably older.

There are later hymns listing virtuous men and women that are clearly modelled on these earlier lists. One example is Jñānvimal-sūri's Satāsatī nī Sajjhāy, dating back to the late 17th or early 18th century.

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