Article: Writings on the universe

Contributed by Nalini Balbir


The Trilokasāra, by Nemicandra Siddhāntacakravartin, is also a cosmological verse work composed in Śaurasenī Prakrit.

It dates back to about the ninth to 10th century and is divided into six large chapters, the titles of which are often identical to those of the Tiloyapannatti. They are called:

  1. General nature of the universe
  2. Regions inhabited by the Bhavana-vāsins
  3. Regions inhabited by the Vyantaras
  4. Regions inhabited by the Jyotiṣkas
  5. Heavenly regions
  6. Human and animal worlds.


In this manuscript painting, beings in hell are tortured by animals, demons and other infernal beings. Suffering is the hallmark of the seven hells that make up the lower world of three in the Jain universe.

Tortures in the hells
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The Trailokyadīpikā by Indravāmadeva is a later work written in Sanskrit, which has become the model Digambara work on Jain cosmology. Although it came from Digambara circles, it gained popularity among the wider Jain community. Its material was largely used by Willibald Kirfel, whose detailed 1920 work in German is the standard on Jain cosmology in Western scholarship. The author was a lay man, not a monk, and introduces his work as a Sanskrit rendering of Nemicandra's Trilokasāra.The date of composition is unknown, but it is very likely to be earlier than the second half of the 15th century.

The work is divided into three sections, namely:

  1. Lower world
  2. Middle world
  3. Upper world.

Although it does not seem to have been published to date, manuscripts are available in Indian manuscript libraries in western and south India. A single incomplete copy is available at the British Library under the shelfmark of I.O. San. 2583.

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