Contributed by M. Whitney Kelting
The siddhacakra is the mystical diagram – yantra – associated with the Navkār-mantra in the Śvetāmbara tradition. Digambara Jains call it the navpadjī. It consists of nine parts, representing each of the Five Highest Beings and 'three jewels' of Jain tradition, along with a quality often called the 'fourth jewel'.
The yantra is venerated in a variety of ceremonies, including those associated with the Āyambil Oḷī festival and fast. The siddhacakra is particularly linked with the story of Śrīpāḷ and Mayṇāsundarī. It is the most commonly used yantra in contemporary Jainism.
The Jain siddhacakra is a stylised flower with eight petals surrounding a central circle. The centre and four of the petals bear depictions of the five highest beings in Jain theology. These alternate with petals showing the symbols of the 'three jewels' of:
The last petal contains the sign for what is frequently thought of as the ‘fourth jewel’ – 'right austerity'. These nine features are essential to reaching liberation, which is the ultimate aim of all Jains.
In the grander siddhacakra mahā-pūjā the siddhacakra yantra is surrounding by rings of protector deities including the gods of the directions and the nine planetary deities. Digambara Jains have a yantra called the 'nine deities' – nava-devatā – which is similar in form and use.
There are several rituals involving the siddhacakra. It is especially linked with the festival of Āyambil Oḷī and its associated fast. The worship of the siddhacakra is a key part of the tale of Śrīpāḷ and Mayṇāsundarī and partly accounts for the yantra’s popularity among contemporary Jains.
The siddhacakra is the central object of veneration in the ritual practices associated with the Āyambil Oḷī festival. The festival and the associated fast are believed to promote marital wellbeing and good health.
During the Āyambil Olī, the yantra is installed separately and worshipped daily by those who are performing the fast. On some occasions, the yantra is created out of grains in a mandala form on the temple floor and worshipped, though not bathed.
Preceptor, teacher. A title given to a Jain religious teacher, usually one who is a head monk.
Sanskrit term meaning 'destroyer of enemies'. The enemies are the inner desires and passions. It is also a synonym for Jina. An Arhat is a liberated soul who has not yet left his fleshly body, but, as an omniscient being, is 'worthy of worship'.
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.
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
A donor gives freely. He or she may give alms to a mendicant or money to an institution. This donation may be for specific items or purposes, such as the creation of art. A donor, sponsor or patron may be named or pictured in the artwork.
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:
A public commemoration of a religious ritual. Often a celebration that involves holding a religious ceremony to mark an important event in a religion's history.
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
From the Sanskrit for 'circle', a maṇḍala is a geometric design that symbolises the spiritual universe. It is used in religious rituals and to help meditation.
Sanskrit for 'homage formula', the Namaskāra-mantra is the fundamental religious formula of the Jains. A daily prayer always recited in the original Prākrit, it pays homage to the supreme beings or five types of holy being:
Note that chanting the mantra is not praying for something, material or otherwise. Also known as the Pañca-namaskāra-mantra or 'Fivefold Homage mantra', it is also called the Navakāra-mantra or Navkār-mantra in modern Indian languages.
Sanskrit for 'worship' or 'homage'. All Jains perform rites of honour to the 24 Jinas. Rites of worship take place daily, with more elaborate ceremonies performed on holy days. Mendicant and lay Jains perform different rituals. Some sects worship images – mūrti-pūjaka – and others do not, and different sects have various practices. Focused on images or not, worship can be:
The ‘three jewels’ that form the fundamentals of Jainism, without which spiritual progress is impossible. They are:
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.
'Right insight' or the proper view of reality, which means faith in the principles of Jainism taught by the Jinas. The first of the Three Jewels of Jainism and a necessary first step in spiritual progress.
'Right knowledge'. Once one believes the principles of Jainism, one has to learn them and know them properly. The second of the Three Jewels.
A fragrant wood from trees in the Santalum genus, which is often made into oil, paste, powder or incense. Widely used in religious ceremonies across Asia, sandalwood paste and powder are used to mark or decorate religious equipment, statues or images, priests and worshippers. Also used for carvings, sandalwood produces a highly prized oil used in cosmetics and perfumes.
An omniscient soul that has achieved mokṣa. All liberated souls live in the siddha-śilā, at the top of the universe, in perpetual bliss.
The most common mystical diagram – yantra – in Jainism, which is believed to destroy karma and bring prosperity and good luck. There are nine parts, usually arranged in the shape of a lotus flower. The Five Highest Beings are depicted on five parts of the yantra. On the four other parts, there are sectarian differences.
Digambaras call it the navadevatā or navdevata or navpad. The other four elements for them are:
For Śvetāmbaras it is the siddhacakra or navapada or navpad, which has representations of:
Austerity or asceticism in general. A tapas is an act of austerity or self-discipline that produces bodily heat – tapas – that burns up karma. Austerities may be internal – mental – or external – physical. Both lay and mendicant Jains practise austerities. Fasting is the most common external austerity for lay people these days.
A building reserved for public worship or prayer, usually dedicated to one religion and run by members of that religion's clergy.
Sanskrit for 'instrument' or 'machine', a yantra is a mystical diagram used in religious rituals. Yantras are typically formed of symmetrical, concentric circles and may also have the diagram of a lotus in the middle of numerous squares. Containing the names of the Jinas and sacred mantras, such as oṃ, yantras are meditation aids.
British Library. Or. 2126 ms. A. Ratnaśekhara. 1467
British Library. Or. 13622. Vinaya-vijaya and Yaśo-vijaya. 17th to 18th centuries