Article: Writings on the universe

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Sanskrit manual – the Loka-prakāśa

Written in Sanskrit verse in the 17th century, the Loka-prakāśa by Vinaya-vijaya is a comprehensive cosmological treatise. It has numerous quotations from earlier works on Jain cosmology, which are also discussed in detail, and its popularity is shown by the relatively large number of illustrated manuscripts in existence.

Unfortunately, none is available among the manuscripts currently on JAINpedia. However, as well as a multitude of copies in India, Mette 2010 (392ff.) lists:

  • one in the National Library and the University of Strasbourg in France
  • one in the National Library of Florence in Italy
  • one in the Bavarian National Library, in Munich in Germany.

Digambara tradition

The Śvetāmbara and Digambara sects agree broadly on Jain cosmology but have developed distinct traditions in cosmological writings. The most notable Digambara works are the Tiloyapannatti and the Trilokasāra in Prakrit verse and the Sanskrit-language Trailokyadīpikā. The last is the standard handbook for the Digambara tradition on Jain cosmology but does not seem to have been published.

Tiloyapannatti

This 17th-century manuscript painting illustrates the elements of the armies of the Bhavanavāsin. Dancers and musicians entertain the king on campaign while the others are always ready to fight for their master and to serve him.

Armies of the Bhavanavāsin gods
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The earliest available Digambara text on cosmology is the Tiloyapannatti. In Śaurasenī Prakrit, it is a verse treatise written by Yativṛṣabha. It is difficult to date, with some scholars placing it in the second century CE while others date it to the sixth century CE. This comprehensive work is a mathematical treatise as much as a cosmological work, full of calculations, rules and definitions.

It is divided into nine chapters, named:

  1. General nature of the universe
  2. Hellish regions
  3. Regions inhabited by the Bhavana-vāsins
  4. Human world
  5. Sub-human world
  6. Regions inhabited by the Vyantaras
  7. Regions inhabited by the Jyotiṣkas
  8. Heavenly regions
  9. The realm of liberation.
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Related Manuscripts

Related Manuscript Images

  • Sun and eclipses

    Sun and eclipses

    With commentary by Pārśva-candra. British Library. Add. 26374. Ratnaśekhara. 1769

  • Continent with mountains

    Continent with mountains

    With commentary by Pārśva-candra. British Library. Add. 26374. Ratnaśekhara. 1769

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