Article: Bhaktāmara-stotra

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

One of the most popular devotional hymns of the Jains is the Bhaktāmara-stotraDevoted Gods hymn. Both main sects of Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras accept it, counting 44 and 48 stanzas respectively. It is dedicated to the first Jina, Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha, frequently known as Ādinātha, meaning ‘First Lord’. The title comes from the first verse, which says that ‘his feet enhance the lustre of the jewels set in the crowns lowered by the devoted gods’.

Both sects claim Mānatuṅga, author of the Bhaktāmara-stotra, yet little is known about him. Recent scholarship considers that he was ‘a Śvetāmbara devotional poet who lived in the second half of the 6th century A.D.’ (Wiley 2004: 53). Mānatuṅga is the main character in several legends surrounding the hymn's composition. Though they may vary, the stories all stress the supernatural powers created by reciting the Bhaktāmara-stotra.

The hymn is written in Sanskrit in an elaborate poetical style. The Bhaktāmara-stotra focuses on the characteristics and traits of a Jina. Most prominent are the Jina's radiance and absolute serenity, which are features of his utter perfection.

As a favourite Jain hymn, the Bhaktāmara-stotra has generated a number of commentaries, the earliest dating from the 14th century. Many of these include the stories involving Mānatuṅga and other tales associated with the hymn, which is often given a magical value. These tales tend to emphasise the freedom from fear and life's difficulties that reciting it brings to devotees.

Many Jain followers know the original text by heart and may daily recite or meditate upon it. The hymn is also part of the Jain tantric tradition, in which worshippers chant mantras and reflect on mystical diagrams – yantras. Unusually for a Jain hymn, the Bhaktāmara-stotra is the object of worship in a dedicated ceremony, called Bhaktāmara-pūjā. It is commonly the focus of a collective rite, a popular approach especially among Jains outside India.

Translated into many languages from the original Sanskrit, the hymn continues to be popular among contemporary Jains. Long the subject of illustrations to aid religious concentration, the Bhaktāmara-stotra has recently also been honoured in the construction of dedicated temples.

Befitting its status as a fundamental Jain hymn, the text is often recorded on manuscripts that are frequently noteworthy artefacts. JAINpedia has two digitised examples of the Bhaktāmara-stotra, held in the British Library in London, including one complete manuscript. Because of their beauty and importance in the literature and practice of the Jain faith, these items are highlights of the manuscripts on the website.

Author and legends

Gods compose hymns of praise dedicated to the first Jina, R̥ṣabha, and devotees do the same. This illustration of the second verse of the Bhaktāmara-stotra is from the 1992 edition of the 'Illustrated Bhaktamar Stotra'.

Gods composing hymns of praise
Image by Diwakar Prakashan / Padma Prakashan © Diwakar Prakashan / Padma Prakashan

The composition of the Bhaktāmara-stotra is unanimously ascribed to an author named Mānatuṅga, who was a Jain monk. The titles ācārya – ‘teacher’ – or sūri – ‘pontiff’ – may be attached to his name. But historical information about him is scarce, and his date remains a matter of hypothesis or controversy.

With both major sects claiming him as a member, Mānatuṅga and his famous composition are accorded authority among all Jains. Various tales relating to the creation of the hymn share the episode that demonstrates the power of the hymn and belief in the Jain doctrine. This features Mānatuṅga’s recitation of the Bhaktāmara-stotra freeing him from the chains that bind him.

All available sources date back to the 13th century or later. They are:

Of the bio-hagiographical writings, two have accounts of Mānatuṅga:

  • Prabhācandra's Prabhāvaka-carita, completed in 1277 CE
  • the 1304 Prabandha-cintāmaṇi by Merutuṅga.

All types of sources present Mānatuṅga as an ‘ancient teacher’ (Jacobi 1932: VII):

Different sources pretending to be based on tradition yield the following approximate dates of Mānatuṅga A.D. 300, 420, 630, 850, 925 or 1050

Jacobi 1932: VII

According to recent Indian scholarship (Dhaky 1997), Mānatuṅga could have lived in the 6th century CE. The earliest commentary on the hymn, however, dates back only to the 14th century. This gap is difficult to explain if the hymn were composed so early.

Ācārya Mānatuṅga is associated with Bhojpur, located 30 kilometres from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. The tale of the composition of the hymn always involves the poet’s release from chains. The story continues with Mānatuṅga’s staying in this locality, where he practised penance and ended his life by fasting to death. Mānatuṅga’s association with Bhojpur has led to the establishment of artefacts and memorials here, such as:

  • a shrine
  • an ‘emancipation-rock’ – siddha-śilā
  • holy footprints – pādukās.

The neighbouring village of Ahu has the ruins of 48 pillars, which are supposed to represent the jail where Mānutuṅga was kept. Their number is the same as the number of stanzas in the Digambara hymn.

The Prabhāvaka-carita story has an interesting feature. It says that Mānatuṅga was the son of a businessman. He renounced the world and became a Digambara monk, taking the name Mahākīrti. Later on, his sister converted him to the Śvetāmbara path. Whether historical fact or not, this successive affiliation to the two principal Jain sects explains why both groups consider:

  • Mānatuṅga to be theirs
  • the Bhaktāmara-stotra to be authoritative and famous.

Creation of the hymn

This highly decorated manuscript page is from an 18th-century copy of the Bhaktāmara-stotra, one of the most popular Jain prayers. The figure in the centre is the first Jina Ṛṣabha. An auspicious image of a Jina or god often appears at the start of a text

Bhaktāmara-stotra opening
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

There is no doubt that the Jain tradition regards Mānatuṅga as an important figure with great charisma. The composition of the Bhaktāmara-stotra has attracted attention in the various commentaries and profiles of Mānatuṅga. The poet gains his freedom and demonstrates the supremacy of the Jinas, especially compared with the deities of Hinduism, the majority faith in India.

According to one version of the tale behind the hymn, three poets were called to the court of King Vr̥ddhabhoja in Avanti, in central India. When they were asked to demonstrate the marvels of their poetical art:

  • Bāṇa recited a hymn called the Caṇḍikā-śataka, which is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Caṇḍikā, ‘the Terrible’
  • Mayūra, also a Hindu, recited the Mayūra-śataka
  • Mānatuṅga asked to be put in chains, then started to recite the Bhaktāmara-stotra, whereupon the chains fell off and the locks broke.

As a result, the king paid due attention to the poet and the Jain faith.

In a slightly different version, Vṛddhabhoja, the king of Avanti, jailed the Jain teacher Mānatuṅga and held him in chains. This was meant as a test, for the king wanted to witness a miracle. The monk meditated for three days and on the fourth day composed this hymn. He chanted the second-last stanza. This is numbered 42 in the Śvetāmbara version while it is 46 for Digambaras.

Second-last stanza of Bhaktāmara-stotra

Sanskrit text

English translation

āpāda-kaṇṭham uru-śr̥ṅkhala-veṣṭitâṅgā

Their bodies wrapped in large chains from head to foot,

gāḍhaṃ br̥han-nigaḍa-koṭi-nighr̥ṣṭa-jaṅghāḥ

Their legs strongly rubbed by thousands of wide chains,

tvan-nāma-mantram aniśaṃ manujāḥ smarantaḥ

the men who always remember the magic formula of your name

sadyaḥ svayaṃ vigata-bandha-bhayā bhavanti

immediately and spontaneously become free of the bonds of fear

The chains broke instantly and Mānatuṅga walked freely out of the prison. The king was astonished, and convinced by the power of devotion to the Jina. Vṛddhabhoja became Mānatuṅga's follower.

Yet another variant of the story says that Mānatuṅga was kept in a prison with 48 locks. When he recited each of the 48 stanzas of the hymn, each lock broke in turn.

A slightly different version in the Digambara tradition is found on the HereNow4U website.

The setting of the story may show variants, but the main motif is identical. The chains or locks binding the poet break after he recites one or all stanzas in the hymn. Whether the story sets the Jain poet in competition with non-Jain colleagues or not, it is also clearly meant to show the superiority of Jainism and the Jinas over Hindu gods and goddesses.

Mānatuṅga's works

The ascetic Mānatuṅga is known to have composed several works, all of them hymns of praise.

Hymns by Mānatuṅga

Title

Meaning

Object of praise

Language

Stanza

Bhaktāmara-stotra

Devoted Gods

first Jina, Ādinātha or Lord Ṛṣabha

Sanskrit

44 or 48

Bhaya-hara-stotra or Namiūṇa-stotra

Remove the Fear or After Bowing Down

23rd Jina, Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva

Prakrit

21

Bhatti-bhara or Pañca-parameṣṭhi-stavana

A Load of Devotion or Hymn to the Five Entities

Five Entities worthy of Devotion

Prakrit

35

Mahāvīra-jina-stavana

Hymn to the Jina Mahāvīra

24th Jina, Mahāvīra

Sanskrit

18

Two versions

A 20th-century poster showing 48 yantras – mystical diagrams – that correspond to each of the stanzas in the Digambara Bhaktāmara-stotra. This poster is on the wall of the Digambara temple in Pondicherry.

Digambara yantras
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

Mānatuṅga is recognised as a Jain religious teacher of great prestige in both the Śvetāmbara and Digambara traditions. The Bhaktāmara-stotra, which is his most celebrated work, is also famous among lay devotees and mendicants of both sects.

The only difference lies in the number of stanzas in the versions of each sect. They total 44 for the Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjaks and 48 for the Digambaras. The non-image-worshipping Śvetāmbaras of the Sthānaka-vāsins and Terāpanthins also admit 48 verses. See for instance the Illustrated Bhaktamar Stotra, produced by Śvetāmbara Sthānaka-vāsins.

The four additional verses found in the 48-verse version lie between stanzas 31 and 36. Verses 28 to 31, which both sectarian versions have, describe four objects associated with the state of a Jina, underlining his royal status. The extra stanzas add four more attributes. The total list of eight qualities corresponds to what is known as ‘miraculous phenomena’ – prātihārya. These are present when a Jina reaches omniscience – kevala-jñāna – and preaches during the general assembly – samavasaraṇa.

The ‘miraculous phenomena’ – prātihārya – of the Bhaktāmara-stotra

Verse number

44-verse version – Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjaks

48-verse version – Digambaras, Śvetāmbara Sthānaka-vāsins and Śvetāmbara Terāpanthins

28

aśoka tree

aśoka tree

29

lion-throne – siṃhāsana

lion-throne

30

fly-whisks – cāmara

fly-whisks

31

triple umbrella – chattra-traya

triple umbrella

32

drums – dundubhi

33

rain of flowers – puṣpa-vṛṣṭi

34

halo – prabhā

35

divine speech – divya-dhvani

The prātihāryas form a clear set in the Digambara tradition. In the older Śvetāmbara tradition, however, the term is not used, although the elements do exist. This has resulted in a number of positions regarding the Bhaktāmara-stotra, including:

  • Śvetāmbaras arguing that the other sect has added four verses to complete the set that exists elsewhere in the Digambara tradition
  • Digambaras holding that the original number of verses is 48, citing the fact that the number of diagrams associated with the hymn is always 48
  • recent Indian scholarship (Dhaky and Shah) asserting that the absence of four verses is a sign that the hymn was composed when the concept of prātihāryas was not fully developed in Śvetāmbara sources.

The situation is even more complicated because each term in the eightfold set is allotted one stanza in the Kalyāṇa-mandira-stotra. This is a famous hymn dedicated to the 23rd Jina, Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva, that is quite close to the Bhaktāmara-stotra in style.

Hymn of devotion to the first Jina – to a Jina

This detail from an 18th-century manuscript of the Bhaktāmara-stotra shows the first Jina, R̥ṣabha, in meditation. Dedicated to R̥ṣabha, the hymn is attributed to Mānatuṅga. The story of the hymn's composition demonstrates the power it bestows.

R̥ṣabha meditating
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The poet has composed a hymn of praise to the first Jina, who is specified at the beginning. However, the hymn pays more attention to the general attributes of the Jina concept than to the individual qualities of Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha, the first Jina.

In the opening stanzas Mānatuṅga pays homage ‘to the two feet of the Jina, who is like a support in the beginning of the era’ – yugādau – and then says ‘I will praise the first Jina’ – prathamaṃ Jinendraṃ.

But no name as such appears in the poem. The Jina is first referred to as 'him' and later, as devotion increases closeness, is addressed as ‘you’. No individual reference or name relating to the life of the first Jina, Ṛṣabhanātha or Ādinātha, ‘the Lord of the beginning’, is found otherwise. There is no mention of a specific feature except allusions to ‘his sun-like colour’, which can be understood as referring to the golden colour of this Jina. Even so, other Jinas are associated with the colour gold.

The Bhaktāmara-stotra is, rather, a hymn to any Jina because it deals primarily with the nature and attributes of a Jina as a supreme entity. Beyond karma and rebirth, he is dispassionate, representing infinite knowledge as well as bliss. The hymn is thus a celebration of the liberated soul. It is the result of full devotion – bhakti – to a spiritual being. Many other Jain hymns narrate a specific Jina’s life in the form of a praise, but not this one. Here the poet explicitly states that devotion justifies his undertaking and gives it any quality it might have.

Two features are repeatedly underlined in the devotional song. These following qualities make a Jina distinctive and create a special atmosphere:

  • radiant light and perfect brightness, which are unequalled
  • perfect serenity and peace, also unmatched.

To demonstrate the first point, the poet systematically compares with the Jina other well-known standards of light or brightness, particularly the sun and the moon.

The second characteristic is compared with the three main Hindu gods of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva. The Bhaktāmara-stotra does not go into polemics, but verse 15 clearly states the common idea that these Hindu deities are liable to be attracted by female beauty and thus may lose their steadiness.

Another recurring theme of the hymn is the emphasis on the Jina’s perfection. He has only positive qualities, with no defects or impurities. These qualities are beyond expression.

Demonstrating devotion in the Jain faith involves mentioning, remembering or reciting a particular name, because it is credited with a special power. It is significant that the name is described as a mantra. It can remove all kinds of physical fears or dangers, which are duly described in the latter stanzas as fear of:

  • elephants
  • lions
  • fire
  • snakes
  • war
  • water or sea-travel
  • disease
  • imprisonment.

As such, the Bhaktāmara-stotra is part of the ‘Seven Remembrances’ – Sapta-smaraṇas – or ‘Nine Remembrances’ – Nava-smaraṇas. These are the groups of hymns that make up the heart of Jain liturgy among Śvetāmbaras.

In modern times this hymn has been seen as containing a definition of divinity in the Jain sense of the word. In the late 19th century Muni Ātmārām argued that it proves Jains are not atheists (Cort 2006: 99).

Contents

An act of devotion, the Bhaktāmara-stotra is also a masterpiece of Sanskrit poetry, demonstrating skill and clarity without pedantry. It is rich in imagery and alliteration, making it a powerful song of devotion and a favourite of many Jains.

All the stanzas are composed in the same metre, known as vasantatilakā. Each of the four lines that makes up a stanza has 14 syllables. Each set of 14 syllables has exactly the same rhythm:

long long short long short short short long short short long short long long

Far from being dry, the hymn is suffused with images, lightly suggested by the numerous comparisons found throughout. Alliteration appears frequently, as the first words immediately show:

bhaktāmara-praṇata-mauli-maṇi-prabhāṇām

[the feet of the Jina which enhance] the brightness of the jewels in the crowns lowered by the devoted gods.

The poet often appears to select words for that purpose from the vast repertory of Sanskrit synonyms.

All these features make the Bhaktāmara-stotra a good piece to recite and listen to. Indeed, numerous Jains know it by heart or read it in the original Sanskrit, even though they are not otherwise conversant with the language.

Forty-eight stanzas of the Bhaktāmara-stotra

Verse number

Summary

1 to 2

The poet's respectful homage at the feet of the Jina of the ‘beginning of the era’, ‘the first Jina’ (stanzas 1 to 5)

3

The poet states his humility when facing this bold task

4

An attempt to express the Jina’s qualities is as bold as a plan to swim across the ocean

5

But devotion is the reason why the poet wants to praise him

6

Only this devotion gives him the ability to complete the task and will give the work any quality

7

The benefits that result from the praise

8

These benefits explain why he embarks on the task

9

Let alone the praise, the mere mention of the Jina is beneficial

10

People praising him may imagine becoming comparable to him

11

The sight of him offers full satisfaction, like consuming an elixir

12

The essence of the Jina is serenity

13

The perfection of his face surpasses that of the moon, who becomes pale during the day

14

He is the refuge of all good qualities

15

He is a paragon of steadiness, not subject to any disturbance from external factors. He is compared with Mount Meru

16

He is better than any lamp

17

He has a greatness that surpasses the sun, who can be hidden in clouds

18

He has more brightness than the moon, who can be obscured by eclipses (stanzas 18 to 22)

19

Thus there is no need for the sun and moon

20

Knowledge is far superior in him than in other gods like Śiva and Viṣṇu

21

After seeing what these gods are like, the poet finds the Jina provides satisfaction that cannot be found elsewhere

22

The mother of a Jina is superior to all other mothers, like the eastern direction where only the sun rises

23

The Jina is the supreme being, perfect. Having realised this, one conquers death. There is no other path to liberation

24 to 25

With knowledge as his essence, he gathers in him the qualities of the highest gods or saints – Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Śiva and Buddha

26

A simple and famous stanza: ‘Praise to you, O Lord, remover of the pain of the three worlds. Praise to you, stainless ornament of the earth’s surface. Praise to you, supreme lord of the triple world. Praise to you, O Jina, you dry up the ocean of rebirth'

27

The Jina is the refuge of all qualities. No fault goes to him – they have enough homes elsewhere!

28

The first miraculous phenomenon for a Jina – the aśoka tree

29

The lion-throne

30

The fly-whisks

31

The triple umbrella [of royalty]

32

The drum

33

The rain of flowers

34

The halo

35

The divine speech

36

Lotuses spring up where the Jina walks

37

His splendour in setting out the doctrine and his brightness are without parallel

38

People who take refuge in him have no fear of even the most powerful elephant

39

Even the most ferocious lion does not attack those who have taken refuge at the Jina’s feet

40

His name is like water, capable of extinguishing the fiercest forest fire

41

The man who has in his heart his name, which is like a snake-charm, can easily face a violent snake that comes towards him with bad intentions

42

By reciting his name, even the army of powerful kings is destroyed instantly, like darkness pierced by the rays of the sun

43

Those who have taken shelter at his lotus feet gain victory in the most terrible wars

44

By remembering him, even those who are in a boat tossed on agitated waves go on the ocean without fear

45

Those who are attacked by terrible diseases such as dropsy and have lost hope of survival become as beautiful as Kāma, the god of love, if their bodies are smeared with the pollen of his lotus feet

46

By always remembering the magic formula of his name, one is freed from the bonds of fear

47

As if scared away, all kinds of fear instantly vanish for the intelligent people who recite praise to him (stanzas 47 to 48)

48

Prosperity goes spontaneously to those who wear the garland of this hymn around their necks

Commentaries and translations

Pages of a miniature edition of the Bhaktāmara-stotra, showing verse 26 facing a modern illustration. The original Sanskrit is given in Devanāgarī script, with Gujarati translation in Gujarati script below. The picture shows a scene of homage

Pages of a modern Bhaktāmara-stotra
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

The popularity of the Bhaktāmara-stotra is evidenced by numerous commentaries in Sanskrit and vernacular languages, and by many poetic or prose translations. Contemporary Jains may know it in either Sanskrit or modern languages.

Scholar-monks wrote commentaries on the hymn probably soon after its composition, with the earliest surviving commentary dating from the 14th century. Commentaries are still being produced on this widespread song of devotion.

Examples of significant commentaries in Sanskrit on the hymn are in the table.

Important Sanskrit commentaries on the Bhaktāmara-stotra

Author

Date

Details

Guṇākara

1369 CE (1426 VS)

Written by a Śvetāmbara monk, who was a pupil of Guṇacandra-sūri of the Rudrapallīya-gaccha.
Besides word-to-word explanation of the verses, it includes mantras associated with each stanza plus stories showing the positive effects of reciting the hymn. It was published in Kapadia 1932.

Kanakakuśala

1595 CE (1652 VS)

Produced by a Śvetāmbara monk, who was a pupil of Hīravijaya-sūri of the Tapā-gaccha.
This is mainly a word-to-word explanation of the verses (Kapadia 1932: 126–151).

Meghavijaya-gaṇi

17th century

Written by a Śvetāmbara monk, who was a pupil of Vijayaprabha-sūri of the Tapā-gaccha.
This is mainly a word-to-word explanation of the verses. It was published in Kapadia 1932.

Surviving translations of the Bhaktāmara-stotra into vernacular languages date back to the 17th century. Translations are still being undertaken in modern times. Recent translations may be recorded and circulated on modern audio technology. Contemporary Jains may prefer these for their devotions to the original Sanskrit text.

The table gives details of some important vernacular language translations of the hymn.

Important translations of the Bhaktāmara-stotra into vernacular languages

Author

Date

Language

Details

Muni Devavijayaji

1673

Old Hindi

‘Devavijayaji has used different forms of melodies or rāga in composing the different poems. When these are sung by groups of singers with appropriate accompanying instruments it creates an atmosphere of joy and serenity’ (Kapashi 2007: 91)

Hemaraj Pande

Hindi

 

 

Nathuram Premi

  • 1907
  • 2012
  • Hindi
  • English
  • Translated and edited by a Digambara lay scholar
  • Manish Modi translated Premi's translation into English

Mavji Damiji Shah

 

Gujarati

Translation using a metre different from the original, with one stanza translation for each original verse (Pandit and Shah 1999: 428–436).
'It is usually sung by people in various groups and functions. […] Many audiocassettes have also been released of this Gujarati version’ (Kapashi 2007: 90)

There are also many modern presentations of the contents of the hymn, which may show sectarian orientations. There are also several contemporary imitations of the poem that reuse certain phrases (see examples in Cort 2006: 102).

Stories

Hymns can be recited or sung out of pure devotion. But Jains also chant or sing them to gain various benefits. Several stanzas of the Bhaktāmara-stotra emphasise the quasi-miraculous power of reciting the Jina’s name, once it is designated as a mantra, as in verses 42 or 46. It can remove all types of fears and cure various diseases. Further, the hymn's impact – prabhāva – or its greatness – mahiman – is made clear in stories of various characters whose experiences shows how they were protected by the hymn. A similar pattern can be found for another fundamental Jain hymn, the Pañca-namaskāra-mantra.

Such stories are found in the commentaries. The main source is Guṇākara’s commentary, which has 28 tales. Each story is associated with a specific verse, and points to its efficacy in particular circumstances. Thus each verse is put in context, and made alive through a gallery of word-portraits from various times and places (see Kapashi 2007: 105–112).

After reciting one or several verses of the hymn, the figures in the tales are rescued from difficult or perilous situations. The wicked people who had caused them torment or endangered them are also punished. It is impossible for a Jina to intervene in human activities in such contexts, as he is liberated from worldly affairs, so his female attendant – yakṣī – acts instead. The yakṣī Cakreśvarī is thus a recurring character in the stories. As the intermediary between the human being and the Jina, she decides to grant protection to the hymn's chanter.

The table summarises the situations in which chanting the Bhaktāmara-stotra results in the reciter's rescue or gain.

Stories in Guṇākara’s commentary associated with Bhaktāmara-stotra verses

Verse number

Story number

Summary

1 to 2

1

A king puts a merchant down a deep well.

3 to 4

2

A poor merchant is caught in a storm while on a boat. A monk tells him to recite verses 3 and 4 of the hymn. He is saved with the help of Cakreśvarī and becomes rich (see pages 427 to 428 of Lefeber 1995 for translation).

7

3

The houses of two Jain merchants become totally dark, covered with dust by a yogi who is infuriated that they did not come to worship him.

8 to 9

4

A poor man, named Keśava, is attacked by a lion in the jungle, then tricked by a stranger, who puts him down a well.

11

5

A poor merchant meditates on this verse and finds his life changed.

12

6

The Jina's superiority over various Hindu gods is demonstrated through this story

13 to 14

7

A young woman refuses to eat at her wedding-feast before she has recited the hymn. She chants it that night and receives magic garlands.

15

8

A wicked yogi paralyses King Sajjana’s body and no cure can be found. A Jain teacher is asked for help. While Jain monks meditate on stanza 15, a deity anoints the feet of one of them with water, which thus becomes holy. Following the Jain teacher’s advice, this monk is brought before the king and the water from his feet cures the king.

16 to 17

9

A father finds the way to teach his non-believer son.

18

10

A minister is saved in the jungle and also receives various boons.

19

11

Learning the hymn leads to the gaining of a magic gem.

20

12

After meditating through the night on the 20th verse of the hymn, the monk Vijayasena-sūri receives from the goddess Cakreśvarī the ability to answer all questions.
King Mahīpati’s wife is pregnant. The king asks the brahmins what will happen in his house in the future, but they remain silent. The monk Vijayasena-sūri is called to the court and asked the same question. He says that the queen will give birth to a son with three eyes and that on the 12th day the royal elephant will die. Then he goes back to his lodgings.
Everything happens as he had foretold. The king calls him back, praises him and becomes a faithful believer in Jainism.

21

13

A Jain monk had acquired supernatural powers through regular recitations of this verse. When he is in an area where everybody had converted to other religions, he shows the people the Hindu gods, including Śiva, bowing down to the Jina (see a full translation on pages 429 to 430 in Lefeber 1995).

22

14

A Jain monk liberates people from a troubling yakṣa, a Buddhist teacher reborn.

23

15

After the same Jain monk meditates on verse 23 of the hymn, the goddess Cakreśvarī grants him the ability to overpower wicked gods. As a consequence, he is able to transform an enraged, wicked goddess representing false doctrine into a peaceful one who bows down to him (see full translation on page 430 to 431 in Lefeber 1995).

25

16

These verses are said to include an important mantra.

26

17

A merchant who had many troubles learns the verse ‘Praise to you’ from a monk. He chants it and the goddess of prosperity makes him wealthy (Cort 2006: 99–101).

27

18

King Sātavāhana has everything to be happy, except for a son. He tries everything to get one, but in vain.
He meets a Jain monk, who advises him to meditate in particular on the 27th verse of the hymn, for then Cakreśvarī will fulfil his wish. The king does so and on the third day the goddess appears before him. She offers him a flower garland for his wife to wear. If she does, she will surely give birth to a son. And the deity disappears.
Everything happens as planned, and the perfect son is called Cakrādāsa, in honour of Cakreśvarī.

31

19

Gopāla is a good-natured man but poor. A Jain monk advises him to meditate on the hymn. One night, he dreams of the first Jina with the royal symbol of the three parasols. The next day he instals a Jina image that has appeared from the ground and chants the hymn in front of it. Gopāla meditates and has amazing dreams for six months.
While he is meditating on the 31st verse, Cakreśvarī gives him the favour of a kingdom. It happens that the king of Siṃhapura dies without an heir. Gopāla is chosen to be king through the procedure of the ‘five marvels’, becoming King Devadatta.
Other dignitaries do not recognise his authority at first, but through Cakreśvarī's power they finally come to respect him fully.

33

20

A very poor man meets a Jain monk who teaches him the doctrine and gives him an image of Lord Pārśva. He starts worshipping it regularly. While he is meditating on the 33rd verse of the hymn, a celestial palace appears before him and Cakreśvarī descends from it. Happy with the man’s devotion, she offers him a jewel. She places it on his arm, where it will help him have power over everything, and disappears.
The man has to face thieves who want to steal his jewel. News spreads of his courage and devotion, and he is finally appointed chief of police at the royal capital.

34

21

Prince Somarāja has lost his position and home, so is forced to wander. He meets a Jain monk, who teaches him the doctrine. He recites the hymn.
It so happens that he arrives in a town where the royal elephant has just gone mad, broken his chains and is charging about wreaking havoc. The elephant reaches the place where the princess is playing with her friends. The prince runs towards her, reciting the hymn in a low voice. Reciting the 34th verse, he masters the elephant, thanks to the presence of Cakreśvarī.
Somarāja and the princess fall in love. After some adventures they live happily together.

35

22

Devarāja, a pious but poor Jain, recites the hymn and practises religion as his religious teacher has taught him. He takes a job travelling with a merchant's caravan. They wander through the jungle and halt for a break. Devarāja takes a bath and begins chanting the hymn.
The caravan notices an impressive and furious lion approaching. Out of fear, they all rush to where Devarāja is. Thanks to Cakreśvarī, who is satisfied as Devarāja recites the 35th verse, he can make the lion stop. The king of beasts bows down to him and throws three pearls in front of him.
All of the travellers praise the power of the hymn. Devarāja teaches Jainism to his companions and all of them become Jain devotees. They respect Devarāja as their teacher. He becomes rich.

36

23

A businessman is saved from a forest fire.

37

24

Suspecting her husband of planning to kill her, a devout lady recites the hymn. Then she finds that the snake he has hidden in a pot changes into a garland of flowers.

39

25

Fearing that his younger brother Guṇavarman wants to take his place, the king banishes him. Living in the forest, as it is the rainy season, Guṇavarman recites the hymn. While he is meditating in particular on verse 39, Cakreśvarī appears and asks him which favour he would like. She gives him the favour of a kingdom, and disappears.
The king comes out with his full army. He asks his men to kill Guṇavarman. All alone, Guṇavarman stops the attack and is victorious.

40

26

Dhanāvaha is a good merchant who has heard the teaching of a Jain monk and puts it into practice, especially the vow of non-violence. He also recites the hymn.
As he is no longer rich, he travels by boat to Ceylon. On the way back, the captain says that there is a goddess to whom they have to give an animal offering or they will die. The merchant refuses, despite the captain’s insistence, because this goes against his principles.
He continues to recite the hymn silently. As he remembers verse 40, the goddess appears in front of him and offers him a jewel. She asks him to choose a favour. He asks her to make the killing of animals stop, and she agrees. The boat reaches its destination in no time.

41

27

Prince Rājahaṃsa is afflicted with terrible diseases. He meditates upon the hymn, in particular on verse 41. This satisfies the goddess Cakreśvarī, who cures him completely.

42

28

A Jain lay man is arrested and imprisoned after false accusations, but is miraculously released as a reward after meditating on verse 42 of the hymn (see full translation in Lefeber 1995: 432–433).

Besides those found in Guṇākara’s commentary, stories from other sources are also known. See a telling of the story of the poor carpenter Devala, whose attention was caught by the hymn's fifth verse. Another one relates to verse 18.

Contemporary Jains are usually very familiar with the stories that make the Bhaktāmara-stotra such a central song of devotion.

Recitation and worship

Cover of a miniature edition of the Bhaktāmara-stotra. This is the Śvetāmbara version of the hymn, in 44 verses, with information in Gujarati script. This book is edited by Muni Shri Candraratnasagara and costs 37 Indian rupees.

Miniature copy of the Bhaktāmara-stotra
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

The Bhaktāmara-stotra is one of the hymns most widely found in worship and ritual. It is used in private or communal acts of worship and is also the focus of a dedicated rite – Bhaktāmara-pūjā.

Most Jain houses have a copy of the Bhaktāmara-stotra. The text is available in many forms as there is an infinite number of popular editions. In particular, this hymn can be read in miniature books no larger than 5 by 7 centimetres, which may have the Sanskrit text, a translation in Gujarati or Hindi and some illustrations. Its popularity is further evidenced by the availability of a fairly large number of manuscript copies in Jain manuscript libraries.

The most common way of using the Bhaktāmara-stotra is for a Jain to read or recite it at home. It seems unanimously accepted that the most appropriate time is the early morning. Worshippers are recommended to face the east or the north during recitation. Mendicants also chant or recite this hymn, which is at the centre of Jain 'devotional culture' (Cort 2006).

In addition, the hymn itself is the object of ceremonial worship – Bhaktāmara-pūjā. There are other famous hymns that are similarly the centre of worship, but not many. Examples include the:

Nowadays collective worship ceremonies are increasingly organised and provide occasions for people to gather for religious and social purposes. They take place in India but also among the Jain diaspora communities in the UK and USA. Examples in London reported on the HereNow4U website include:

Mantras and yantras

This manuscript page shows the yantra – mystical diagram – for verse 26 of the Bhaktāmara-stotra. This one is a svastika, a highly auspicious symbol in Indian culture. Each verse of the hymn has an accompanying yantra and mantra – auspicious syllable.

Auspicious yantra
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

A full performance of worship involving the Bhaktāmara-stotra implies reciting the verses but also chanting the mantras and contemplating the accompanying drawings of mystical diagrams – yantras. Both these elements have developed in association with the Bhaktāmara-stotra. Each verse has come to have its own mantra and yantra, as manuscripts show.

One manuscript of the 44-verse version of the hymn on JAINpedia, under the British Library shelfmark Or. 13741, is a good representative of this trend. Each of the verses has the:

  • original Sanskrit verse, called ‘poem’ – kāvya
  • corresponding mantra
  • procedure to draw the corresponding diagram, all of different forms
  • diagram itself, filled with the syllables of the mantra.

Such manuscripts are also widely known among the sect of the Digambaras. The website of the International Digamber Jain Organization provides digital versions of examples held in India, such as this lavishly illustrated manuscript and this colourful manuscript.

This tradition is continued in modern handbooks on the ritual of Bhaktāmara worship (Pandit and Shah 1999). Comparisons of the mantras and yantras in various sources suggest that there are traditional associations, though it is not set in stone. The same mantras and similar yantras are used for a given verse, but several variants are found.

On the other hand, independent yantras relating to this hymn are also available.

Bhaktāmara ceremony

Among all sects the full Bhaktāmara ritual takes place only on certain occasions. These include (Cort 2006: 107) the:

In a complete Bhaktāmara worship rite – Bhaktāmara-pūjā – several components of worship play a role, as shown in the photographs and report on the Herenow4U website. Here are the stages of a Śvetāmbara pūjā carried out in London in 2005, as reported in Kapashi 2007 (pages 153 to 155).

First, the area for worship is cleared and washed with milky water, which is regarded as holy. A Jina image is placed in the middle of a three-tiered platform. The initial stage is the bathing and anointing of the Jina figure – snātra-pūjā. This is a re-enactment of the lustration or bathing ceremony at a Jina’s birth.

Then preliminary mantras are recited. These mantras may be recited on any occasion and are not reserved for this ceremony.

Next a diagram of the rāyaṇa tree, which is associated with the first Jina’s omniscience, is drawn on the floor. Six small shrines are also drawn, dedicated respectively to:

  • the gods who are the guardians of the directions – kṣetra-pālas
  • Gomukha, who is R̥ṣabha’s yakṣa
  • Cakreśvarī, who is his yakṣī
  • Mānatuṅga-sūri, the author of the hymn
  • the footprints of the first Jina
  • the footprints of a teacher.

Then 44 yantras, one per stanza, are drawn and kept ready.

Next, the Sanskrit verses for remembering the Jina, the yakṣa, the yakṣī and the poet are recited.

Then worship of each stanza is conducted in the following way:

The first verse is recited and an offering (sweet, betelnut, etc.,) is made. At the same time yantra No. 1 is worshipped and anointed. A priest [pujārī] loudly recites the mantra for worship and after that one person strikes a stick twenty seven times on the bronze plate or thālī. This is somewhat like ringing a bell and is done rhythmically with a pleasant sound. Then a lighted lamp dīpaka is placed around the tree, which has been drawn on the floor. The worship of the first verse is thus completed. The same procedure is followed for the remaining verses

Kapashi 2007: 155

Finally, the ritual of completion is carried out with holy milky water, which is poured into a bronze vessel. People put a few drops on their heads, or carry some home to be given to their relatives.

During the worship rite, the officiating priest may recount stories demonstrating the powers of the hymn. The whole event ends with a community meal. The whole ritual is usually said to last up to two days, but is nowadays achieved in six hours (Kapashi 2007: 155).

There are variants of this general scenario, as Cort's description of the ritual (2006: 107–109) shows.

Illustrations

The devotee wears a garland of the first letters of the 48 verses in the Digambara hymn. The Bhaktāmara-stotra is dedicated to the first Jina, R̥ṣabha, at the top. On the right, prosperity is shown as the goddess Lakṣmī.

Final verse of the Bhaktāmara-stotra
Image by Diwakar Prakashan / Padma Prakashan © Diwakar Prakashan / Padma Prakashan

Traditional manuscripts and modern publications of the Bhaktāmara-stotra use paintings and drawings quite often. In addition to the yantras that usually accompany the text, painted scenes may illustrate the text. Like the yantras, such depictions may help worshippers focus on their prayer and avoid distractions.

There are a few Digambara manuscripts of the Bhaktāmara-stotra where the verses are illustrated by figurative paintings and scenes. They do not depict the stories from the commentaries, but the text of the verses. Thus abstract concepts are translated into pictures (Granoff 2010). The picture is divided into several elements, which are accompanied by words from the text as captions. The pages look rather like or are presented like those of comic books. These paintings are thus reworkings of the words of text in a different medium.

These manuscripts show features characteristic of Digambara paintings, such as the:

In modern popular editions produced among Śvetāmbaras, similar paintings are found, but Mānatuṅga is depicted as a Śvetāmbara monk.

A devotee finds the presence of such paintings effective.

There are many means of attaining deep concentration in chanting a devotional song. The simplest available means is looking at an illustration. In the illustration the form of our Lord and the sentiments of the devotee appear to take tangible shape. The visual depiction of the meaning of the words we recite, when seen in the illustration, makes us understand the essence effortlessly, and that visual imagery is absorbed by the mind. As such, looking at the illustration[,] besides simplifying the meaning of the words, helps [with] achieving concentration. The problem of distraction from meditation and devotion is automatically solved. It is my personal experience that[,] while reading the couplets[,] when I look at the illustrations there appears a stability in the thoughts, a harmony in feelings and an unprecedented and undescribable emotional involvement. There rises a feeling of proximity with the Lord. Even while looking away from the scene, the image lingers on for some time. The memory of pure feelings and images keep the mind engrossed in devotion

Illustrated Bhaktamar Stotra, Preface, page 7

Temples

This detail from a manuscript depicts the auspicious symbol of the full jar – mangala-kalaśa – which means prosperity. This vignette from a manuscript of the Bhaktāmara-stotra underlines the magical powers of the hymn.

Symbol of the full jar
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Given the value attached to this hymn, its popularity and pre-eminence in ritual and worship, it is not surprising that there are a few temples where the Bhaktāmara-stotra is given prominence. The text is usually inscribed either in full or in part on temple walls.

These are relatively modern developments, parallel to the ever-increasing devotion to this hymn. The hymn has become the centre of religious culture because of the way it describes the Jina and the power ascribed to its verses.

Although he does not go into detail, Kapashi (2007: 76) states that:

there are at least three beautiful temples in India totally devoted to this stotra. In each temple all the verses of this stotra with their yantras have been carved in marble, and the statues of the first Tīrthaṅkara R̥ṣabhadeva, as well as the poet of this stotra have been erected in these temples[.]

Instances of temples that feature the Bhaktāmara-stotra are given in the table.

Indian temples that present the Bhaktāmara-stotra

Name

Location

Information

Shri Bhaktamar Bhavya Mandir

Bharuch in Gujarat

A Śvetāmbara temple dedicated to the hymn and the first Jina. It features:

  • an image of Mānatuṅga-sūri held in chains
  • a 51-feet-high (15.5 metres) image of Ādinātha
  • 22 images of the first Jina in individual shrines
  • depiction of the 44 stanzas of the hymn, with yantras and paintings.

 

Santhu, Jalore district of Marwar, in Rajasthan

The Bhaktāmara-stotra is inscribed in golden letters on the walls of the temple

Naya Mandir

Dharampura area of Delhi

A Digambara temple housing an image of the first Jina with nine stanzas inscribed above.

Sanghiji temple

Sanganer, near Jaipur in Rajasthan

An elaborately carved Digambara temple dedicated to the first Jina, which has a panel illustrating each verse of the Bhaktāmara-stotra.

Other such temples are in:

See page 110 of Cort 2006 for more information.

Images

  • Gods composing hymns of praise Gods compose hymns of praise dedicated to the first Jina, R̥ṣabha, and devotees do the same. This illustration of the second verse of the Bhaktāmara-stotra is from the 1992 edition of the 'Illustrated Bhaktamar Stotra'.. Image by Diwakar Prakashan / Padma Prakashan © Diwakar Prakashan / Padma Prakashan
  • Bhaktāmara-stotra opening The writing in red at the top left is an auspicious phrase, typical of the start of texts. In addition, the figure of a Jina or a god is often used as an auspicious opening. Featuring the first Jina Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha, this page is from an 18th-century copy of the Bhaktāmara-stotra.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Digambara yantras A 20th-century poster showing 48 yantras – mystical diagrams – that correspond to each of the stanzas in the Digambara Bhaktāmara-stotra. This poster is on the wall of the Digambara temple in Pondicherry.. Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir
  • R̥ṣabha meditating This detail from an 18th-century manuscript of the Bhaktāmara-stotra shows the first Jina, R̥ṣabha, in meditation. Dedicated to R̥ṣabha or Ādinātha, ‘the First Lord’, the hymn is attributed to the monk Mānatuṅga. The story of the hymn's composition demonstrates the power given to those who recite it.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Pages of a modern Bhaktāmara-stotra Pages of a miniature edition of the Bhaktāmara-stotra, showing verse 26 facing a modern illustration. The original Sanskrit of the hymn is given in Devanāgarī script, with Gujarati translation in Gujarati script below. The picture shows a scene of homage, in accordance with the verse characterised by the motto ‘Homage to you ...’ opening its four parts.. Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir
  • Miniature copy of the Bhaktāmara-stotra Cover of a miniature edition of the Bhaktāmara-stotra. This is the Śvetāmbara version of the hymn, in 44 verses, with information in Gujarati script. This book is edited by Muni Shri Candraratnasagara and costs 37 Indian rupees. Many Jains have copies of the hymn in small publications, as it is a very popular work.. Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir
  • Auspicious yantra This manuscript page shows the yantra – mystical diagram – for verse 26 of the Bhaktāmara-stotra. This one is a svastika, a highly auspicious symbol in Indian culture. Each verse of the hymn has an accompanying yantra and mantra – auspicious syllable. These tantric elements highlight the power attributed to the Bhaktāmara-stotra, a hymn dedicated to the first Jina.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Final verse of the Bhaktāmara-stotra The devotee wears around his neck a garland made of the first letters of the 48 verses in the Digambara hymn. The Bhaktāmara-stotra is dedicated to the first Jina, R̥ṣabha, who is shown at the top. On the right, prosperity is shown as the goddess Lakṣmī with four hands, who stands ready to go towards the devotee. This picture is from the third edition of the 'Illustrated Bhaktamar Stotra', published in 1992.. Image by Diwakar Prakashan / Padma Prakashan © Diwakar Prakashan / Padma Prakashan
  • Symbol of the full jar This detail from a manuscript depicts the auspicious symbol of the full jar – mangala-kalaśa – which means prosperity. It is one of the eight auspicious symbols – aṣṭa-mangala. A pink lotus flower and creepers spill from the top of the jar. In Jain art the full jar is mostly shown with two eyes on either side. They have been interpreted as representations of clairvoyant knowledge or the sun, which sees everything. This vignette from a manuscript of the Bhaktāmara-stotra underlines the magical powers of the hymn.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Further Reading

Bhaktāmara, Kalyāṇamandira and Namiuṇa
Mānatuṅga and Siddhasena Divākara
edited by Hermann Jacobi
Sheth Devchand Lalbhai Jain Pustakoddhar Fund series; volume 79
J. S. Javeri; Surat, Gujarat, India; 1932

Full details

Bhaktāmara-stotra
Mānatuṅga
translated by Amṛtlāl Śāstrī
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India; 1969

Full details

Illustrated Bhaktamar-Stotra
Mānatuṅga
edited by Shricand Surana ‘Saras’
Diwakar Prakashan and Prakrit Bharati Academy; Agra, Uttar Pradesh and Jaipur, Rajasthan, India; 2006

Full details

Bhaktamara Stotra
Mānatuṅga
translated by Nathuram Premi and Manish Modi
Pandit Nathuram Premi Research series; volume 37
Hindi Granth Karyalay; Mumbai, Maharashtra, India; 2012

Full details

‘Devotional Culture in Jainism: Mānatuṅga and His Bhaktāmara Stotra’
John E. Cort
Incompatible Visions: South Asian Religions in History and Culture – Essays in Honor of David M. Knipe
edited by James Blumenthal
Center for South Asia, University of Wisconsin Press; Madison, Wisconsin USA; 2006

Full details

Mānatuṅgācārya aura unake stotra
Madhusudan A. Dhaky
and Jitendra B. Shah
Sri Svetambara Murtipujaka Jaina Bordinga granthamala series; volume 13
Sharadaben Chimanbhai Educational Research Center; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 1997

Full details

‘Cures and Karma: Attitudes Towards Healing in Medieval Jainism’
Phyllis Granoff
Self, Soul and Body in Religious Experience
edited by A. l. Baumgarten with J. Assmann and G. G. Stroumsa
Numen Book series; volume 78
Brill; Leiden, Netherlands; 1998

Full details

‘Illustrating the Bhaktāmarastotra’
Phyllis Granoff
Svasti – essays in honour of Prof. Hampa Nagarajaiah for his 75th Birthday
edited by Nalini Balbir
Muddushree Granthamala series; volume 75
K. S. Muddappa Smaraka Trust; Bangalore, Karnataka, India; 2010

Full details

‘Zwei Jaina-stotra’
Hermann Jacobi
Indische Studien
volume 14
Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft; Berlin and Leipzig, Germany; 1876

Full details

Nava Smaraṇa: Nine Sacred Recitations of Jainism
Vinod Kapashi
edited by Signe Kirde
Hindi Granth Karyalay; Mumbai, Maharashtra, India; 2007

Full details

‘Jain Stories of Miraculous Power’
Rosalind Lefeber
Religions of India in Practice
edited by Donald S. Lopez Jr
Princeton Readings in Religions series; volume 1
Princeton University Press; Princeton, New Jersey, USA; 1995

Full details

Bhaktāmara-rahasya
Śatāvadhānī Paṇḍit
and Śrī Dhīrajalāla Śāh
Navabhārata Sāhitya Mandira; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 1999

Full details

Glossary

Abhiṣeka

Anointing ceremony for a king, a Jina, a Jina image or any other holy image, with water or milk. Part of daily or special worship.

Ācārya

Preceptor, teacher. A title given to a Jain religious teacher, usually one who is a head monk.

Ascetic

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.

Atheism

The doctrine or belief that there is no God.

Bhakti

From the Sanskrit for 'devotion', the bhakti movement originated in the late medieval period. It revolved around the emotional experience of devotion to religious figures and gods, stressing that caste, ritual and complex religious philosophy were unimportant compared to expressing overwhelming love for the deities. Showing this by repeatedly chanting the deity’s name is a powerful devotional practice, because the chanter both praises the god and moves nearer to spiritual self-realisation. These emotional experiences were often recorded in poetry and hymns, which became a repertoire of devotional hymns for later devotees.

Brahmā

The chief creator god in Hinduism, who has red skin and four heads and four arms. One of the triad of principal gods along with Śiva and Viṣnu.

Cakreśvarī

The yakṣī or female attendant of Ṛṣabha, the first Jina. Along with some of the other yakṣīs, Cakreśvarī has become an independent figure over the centuries and is worshipped in her own right.

Clergy

Formally recognised leaders within a religion. The clergy often perform rituals, lead worship and instruct believers in religious principles. Lay men and women usually complete formal study before being initiated into the clergy. Clerics are active among lay believers, often living in society. They may have specific roles or ranks and may progress through a hierarchy to become top leaders of the religious organisation.

Commentary

An essay explaining a text. Commentaries on the scriptures are common in the Jain tradition and there are various types, including the:

  • bālāvabodha
  • bhāṣya
  • cūrṇi
  • niryukti
  • ṭīkā.

Common Era

The period of time starting with the year when Jesus Christ was traditionally believed to have been born. Using CE is a more secular way of dating events in a multinational, multi-religious world.

Consecration

A ritual in which an item or place is declared to be holy. A person may also consecrate a specific time or activity or be consecrated, which means becoming dedicated to a religious purpose.

Deity

A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.

Devotee

An enthusiastic follower of a religion. Can also describe a keen enthusiast of an individual, concept or activity.

Dhyāna

Sanskrit for 'meditation', one of the six internal austerities or tapas that help purify the soul of karma. Meditation is deep thought about religious doctrine or mental focus on spiritual matters over a period of time. An important part of many religions, meditation is especially important in Jain belief because it forms key elements of religious practice and spiritual development.

Diaspora

From the Greek term meaning 'scattering or dispersal', the word 'diaspora' describes large groups of people with shared roots who live away from their ancestral homes. They have usually moved because they were forced to by other groups, because they have fled war, famine or persecution, or to improve economic opportunies. They usually have strong emotional, religious, linguistic, social and economic ties to their original homeland.

Digambara

'Sky-clad' in Sanskrit, used for one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which monks are naked. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.

Fast

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:

  • help destroy karmas that bind to the soul
  • gain merit – puṇya.

Festival

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. 

Gujarāt

The westernmost state in India, which is a stronghold of Śvetāmbara Jainism.

Gujarati

The language that developed in Gujarat, in western India. It is also spoken in neighbouring states. Also a term for someone or something associated with or coming from Gujarat.

Hagiography

Biography of a saint or holy figure. Hagiographies are often more focused on idealising the subject than providing an accurate historical account.

Hindi

The most widely spoken group of languages in India, originating in the northern part of the subcontinent. Local dialects and Hindi languages are spoken all over northern India and in surrounding countries. Standard Hindi is used in administration by the central government of India, along with English.

Hindu

Follower of the majority faith in India and an adjective describing something belonging to Hinduism. Hindus have numerous gods and diverse beliefs and practices, though many believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Roughly a billion Hindus comprise the third largest religion in the world.

Hymn

The terms stavan, stavana, stava, stotra and stuti are all used for a prayer, song, chant or hymn to a Jina, a god or any other holy figure. Religious songs are always hymns of praise in Jainism. These devotional songs may be performed during daily rites or on special occasions, such as completion of a fast or a wedding. The hymns may be performed:

  • solo or in groups
  • as a form of meditation
  • as a rite offered as part of worship.

Idol

An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.

Jain

Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.

Jina

A 'victor' in Sanskrit, a Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma and teaches the way to achieve liberation. A synonym for Tīrthaṃkara, which means 'ford-maker' or one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience through asceticism. The most famous 24 – Ṛṣabha to Mahāvīra – were born in the Bharata-kṣetra of the middle world, but more are found in other continents. There have been Jinas in the past and there will be some in the future.

Jñāna

'Knowledge', of which there are five main types:

  • mind-based and sensory knowledge – mati-jñāna
  • scriptural knowledge – śruta-jñāna
  • extra-sensory knowledge or clairvoyance – avadhi-jñāna
  • knowledge of others’ minds or telepathy – manaḥparyaya-jñāna
  • omniscience or absolute knowledge – kevala-jñāna.

With spiritual progress, one can gain the different types of knowledge.

Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.

Karma

Action or act, thought of as physical in Jainism. Created by mental or physical action, karma enters the soul, which then needs religious restraints and practices to make it flow out. Karma can be both:

  • negative – deriving from harmful acts
  • positive – arising from beneficial actions.

Both types of karma trap a soul in continual rebirth. A pan-Indian concept, karma has extremely complex, detailed and technical divisions and subdivisions in Jainism.

Kāvya

Literature, in either Sanskrit or an Indian vernacular language.

Kevala-jñāna

Omniscience, enlightenment or perfect knowledge – the highest of the five types of knowledge, where one knows everything wherever and whenever it is. It is extremely difficult to attain, equivalent to the 13th stage of spiritual purity in the guṇa-sthāna. Digambaras believe only men can achieve it whereas Śvetāmbaras believe that both men and women can become enlightened.

Laity

Believers in a religion who are ordinary worshippers, not clergy or members of religious orders. In Jainism, lay people are often called 'householders', indicating that they live in houses and have domestic responsibilities, unlike ascetics.

Māhārāṣṭra

Bordering on the Arabian Sea, Māhārāṣṭra in central India is the third-largest and the richest state in India. Its capital is Mumbai and the official language is Marathi.

Mantra

A sacred sound, syllable, word or phrase that is believed to produce spiritual change if recited correctly. A mantra can be recited aloud or silently, and is often repeated. Mantras are closely associated with religions that originated in India, such as Hinduism and Buddhism as well as Jainism. The chief Jain mantra is the Namaskāra-mantra, which is recited daily, while another mantra very popular in Indian culture generally is Auṃ.

Mendicant lineage

Ascetics are initiated into a tradition handed down from a named religious teacher. Religious instructions and principles are passed on orally and in writings from one generation of mendicants to the next, continuing the monastic lineage.

Miracle

An extraordinary event that cannot be explained by natural causes or human effort and therefore is believed to be caused by divine or supernatural powers.

Mokṣa

The 'liberation' of the soul from its body and thus from the cycle of rebirth because it has no karma and becomes omniscient. The ultimate aim of Jainism is to achieve mokṣa and become a liberated soul in siddha-śilā.

Monk

A man who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to formally enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, monks perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.

Muni

Sage. A common term for a Jain monk.

Namaskāra-mantra

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:

  1. arhat - enlightened teacher
  2. siddha - liberated soul
  3. ācārya - mendicant leader
  4. upādhyāya - preceptor or teacher
  5. sādhu - mendicant

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.

Pādukā

The petrified footprint of a dead mendicant or holy figure, which is treated as a commemorative sacred object.

Paṇḍit

'Learned one' in Sanskrit and used originally for a Hindu brahmin scholar and teacher. Nowadays a Jain pandit is a scholar who has been educated traditionally and is expert in the sacred texts of at least one of the Jain sects.

Penance

A voluntary action undertaken to make up for a sin or breach of a religious principle, frequently an act of self-punishment or physical hardship.

Prayer

A religious communication offered by a believer to a god or object of worship. It may:

  • be private or public
  • be silent or aloud
  • be undertaken alone or in a group
  • take prescribed ritual form or be improvised
  • need tools and accessories or not
  • be a wish to be granted
  • be a request for guidance
  • be a hymn of praise or thanks
  • be a confession
  • express an emotion or thought.

Preach

To deliver a speech on a religious topic, usually given by a prophet or member of the clergy. It may be a formal task of a religious office or open to all believers in a religious faith. Often covering social and moral subjects, preaching may be intended to:

  • remind hearers of religious principles and rules
  • encourage piety
  • persuade non-believers of the correctness of the preacher's religious beliefs.

Pūjā

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:

  • external or material – dravya-pūjā – involving offerings of food, drink and precious substances
  • internal or mental – bhava-pūjā – including singing hymns of praise, reciting mantras and meditating.

Pujārī

Word used in modern Indo-Aryan languages to refer to those who are employed in temples. Neither ascetics nor priests, the male pūjārīs prepare the worship ingredients, clean and decorate the images if there are any and clean the temple. They perform daily worship for Jains who cannot attend temple each day. They receive the food offered in worship as part of their job. Because Jains cannot eat this food, the pūjārīs are often brahmin or other high-caste Hindus.

Renunciation

Giving up something. A lay person who becomes an ascetic renounces the life of a householder within society, instead choosing the physical hardships of being a monk or nun. The formal renunciation ceremony in Jainism is dīkṣā.

Rite

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.

Ṛṣabha

First Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is gold and his emblem the ox or bull. There is little historical evidence of his existence. Jains believe that he established many social institutions, such as marriage and the caste system, and introduce crafts and agriculture to the people.

Sallekhanā

The progressive eradication of passions and other negative features in order to reach total spiritual purity. In practice, it is the ritual of fasting unto death.

Samavasaraṇa

Literally, Sanskrit for 'universal gathering'. A holy assembly led by a Jina where he preaches to all – human beings, animals and deities alike – after he has become omniscient. In this universal gathering, natural enemies are at peace.

Sanskrit

A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.

Sect

An organised group of believers in a religion, often distinguished from other groups within the same religious faith who have differences of doctrine or practice.

Shrine

A small structure holding an image or relics, which may be within a temple or building designed for worship. A shrine may be a portable object. Worshippers pray and make offerings at a shrine, which is often considered sacred because of associations with a deity or event in the life of a holy person.

Siddha

An omniscient soul that has achieved mokṣa. All liberated souls live in the siddha-śilā, at the top of the universe, in perpetual bliss.

Śiva

The principal destroyer or transformer deity in the Hindu religion. One of the triad of major Hindu gods, along with Brahmā the creator and Viṣṇu the preserver or protector. Śiva is often depicted with a third eye, a crescent moon on his forehead, matted hair and smeared with cremation ashes.

Śrāvikā

'Hearer’ of the teaching. This commonly refers to the Jain lay woman, who follows the teachings of the 24 Jinas and is not a member of the clergy or a religious order. The masculine form is śrāvakā.

Sthānaka-vāsin

The Sanskrit phrase meaning ‘hall-dwellers’ is used for a Śvetāmbara movement that opposes the worship of images and the building of temples. The term Sthānaka-vāsī, whose origin remains unclear, came into widespread use in the early 20th century. The movement's roots can be traced to the 15th-century reform movement initiated by Loṅkā Śāh, from which the founders of the Sthānaka-vāsī traditions separated in the 17th century. Sthānaka-vāsīns practise mental worship through meditation. The lay members venerate living ascetics, who are recognisable from the mouth-cloth – muhpattī – they wear constantly.

Sūri

A title for the leader of a religious order among the Śvetāmbaras. It is a higher position than ācārya.

Śvetāmbara

'White-clad’ in Sanskrit, the title of one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which both male and female mendicants wear white robes. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.

Temple

A building reserved for public worship or prayer, usually dedicated to one religion and run by members of that religion's clergy.

Vernacular

The everyday or common language spoken by people in a particular country or region, often contrasting with the literary form or the national or official language. Similarly, vernacular architecture reflects local conditions and conventions more than other considerations, such as national or international design trends, and may be built by non-professional architects.

Viṣṇu

The chief protective god in Hinduism and one of the triad of major deities, along with Brahmā the creator and Śiva the destroyer or transformer. Viṣṇu is the preserver or protector, and is often shown as dark blue, with four arms, holding a lotus, mace, conch and wheel. He has a thousand names and ten avatārs, the best known being Rāma and blue-skinned Kṛṣṇa.

Yakṣa

The male attendant of a Jina, one of the pair of guardian or protector gods for each Jina. The śāsana-devatā protect his teachings – śāsana – and can appease evil powers. The yakṣa and yakṣī's closeness to the Jina and their divine powers mean they are popular subjects of worship.

Yakṣī

The female attendant of a Jina, also called yakṣinī. One of the pair of guardian or protector gods for each Jina. The śāsana-devatā protect his teachings – śāsana – and can appease evil powers. The yakṣa and yakṣī's closeness to the Jina and their divine powers mean they are popular subjects of worship.

Yantra

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.

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