Article: Kalpa-sūtra

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

The Kalpa-sūtra is a text in the Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures and one of the best-known, most fundamental Jain holy texts. Written in Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit, it is partly in prose and partly in verse.

A common name for the Kalpa-sūtra among Gujarati Jains is Bāraso-sūtra, meaning The Scripture of Twelve Hundred. The number of 1200 is rounded down from the 1216 sections that make up the sūtras when counted in the traditional way. However, its Prakrit title of Pajjosavaṇā Kappa comes from its vital part in a major festival among Śvetāmbara Jains.

Indeed, the text's special importance and popularity comes largely from its association with the festival of Paryuṣaṇ, at the end of the rainy season. The Kalpa-sūtra has an important public and ceremonial role in this very significant festival. Copied annually for centuries as part of Paryuṣaṇ, there are numerous surviving manuscripts.

The Kalpa-sūtra is also important for its contents, set out in three parts. The first two parts contain details of the lives of the 24 Jinas, who are the source of Jain teachings, and their early followers. The third part establishes rules for monastic conduct during the rainy season, which is an exceptional period in the life of mendicants.

In addition, the Kalpa-sūtra is a key source for Jain art, because it is one of the most frequently illustrated Jain scriptures. Intended primarily as a way of passing on key episodes and themes of the text, Kalpa-sūtrapaintings have developed artistic conventions within a large body of work.

The scripture is closely linked with the Kālakācārya-kathāStory of the Monk Kālaka. Though a separate text in its own right, this tale is frequently found at the end of manuscripts of the Kalpa-sūtra. The reasons for this are probably to do with the narrative of the monk's life. Kālaka is credited with deciding the date of one of the days of Paryuṣaṇ and his story demonstrates qualities of the ideal ascetic. The latter point ties in with the Kalpa-sūtra theme of monks and nuns behaving correctly.

Appropriately for a fundamental Śvetāmbara scripture, the text is often found on manuscripts that are frequently noteworthy artefacts. JAINpedia has numerous digitised examples of the Kalpa-sūtra. 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.

Creation of the Kalpa-sūtra

The Kalpa-sūtra is supposed to be the work of Bhadrabāhu. This highly respected figure is the centre of many legends and is an early religious teacher famous for his knowledge.

The date the Kalpa-sūtra was composed is unknown. Assuming Mahāvīra lived about 2,500 years ago and if Bhadrabāhu, who died about 162 to 175 years after him, is indeed the ‘author’, the work could date back to about 2,300 years ago. But there is no proof of this. It is likely that, as with all the Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures, the Kalpa-sūtra was passed on orally for centuries before being written down in the fifth century of the Common Era.

Kalpa-sūtra in the Śvetāmbara canon

This manuscript painting from a copy of the Kalpa-sūtra shows a Śvetāmbara teacher instructing a monk. As he is more important, he is bigger in the picture and sits on a dais above the junior mendicant, who raises his hands in respect.

Teacher instructs a monk
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Counting the Kalpa-sūtra as one of the Śvetāmbara canonical texts emphasises the sections on monastic regulations. It belongs to the Cheda-sūtras, which include various works setting out the rules of behaviour in daily monastic life, compensations for lapses and so on. The Daśāśrutaskandha is one of these Cheda-sūtras and the Kalpa-sūtra forms its eighth chapter. 

Although it is not an independent text, the Kalpa-sūtra has held a central position in the lives and hearts of Śvetāmbara Jains for many centuries.

Evidence from the 13th century

Sound evidence for the intense focus on the Kalpa-sūtra in the Śvetāmbara tradition is available from the 13th century onwards. There are plenty of commentaries on the text and hundreds of surviving manuscripts, copied as part of the annual festival of Paryuṣaṇ.

Commentaries

Firstly, numerous commentaries survive, written in both Sanskrit and vernacular languages, especially Gujarati. These commentaries aim: 

  • to make the original Prakrit text clearer by offering near-translations or retellings in languages that are more familiar to audiences 
  • to expand the original text by adding episodes or tales
  • in some cases to use parts of the text to support sectarian views on doctrine or mythology. 

Many commentaries on the Kalpa-sūtra are anonymous and amount to reading notes but it is significant that a good number is by religious teachers with a prominent place in their particular mendicant order. Two examples of many are:

  • the Sandehaviṣa-auṣadhi or Remedy against the Poison of Doubt, completed in 1307 CE (1364 of the Vikrama era) by Jinaprabha-sūri of the Kharatara-gaccha and the oldest Sanskrit commentary on the Kalpa-sūtra
  • the Kalpalatā or Garland of the Kalpa, by Samayasundara of the Kharatara-gaccha, written in the 17th century.

Annual copies

Marked out by coloured boundaries, this manuscript painting has a caption in the margin next to it. The edges of the margin and the central golden shape are ornately decorated. This page is from a Kalpa-sūtra dating from the late 15th to 16th centuries.

Typical manuscript painting
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Secondly, there was extensive copying of the Prakrit text of the Kalpa-sūtra and also the Prakrit text along with a commentary. These manuscripts are found in large numbers in all Śvetāmbara temple-libraries. 

They often have remarkable features that make them more like objects of visual art, and which are not necessarily found in manuscripts of other texts. These characteristics are:

  • painted paper creating a coloured background instead of plain yellowish paper, which may be identical throughout the manuscript or vary from one folio to the next
  • the use of silver or golden ink instead of ordinary black ink
  • a large square script providing rare examples of calligraphy in Jain manuscripts
  • numerous miniature paintings, in the form of small vignettes (5 by 5 cm) or larger scenes (12 by 10 cm)
  • the common use of detailed final colophons giving full information about the place, date and names of people involved in the process of copying. 

The oldest illustrated manuscript of the Kalpa-sūtra known so far dates back to 1278 CE.

Kalpa-sūtra colophons frequently include members of the family or families who sponsored the copy, the name and monastic lineage of the religious teacher who asked them to sponsor and the names of individuals who are supposed to read the manuscript. Usually, the only information missing is the cost, but the fact that a Kalpa-sūtra manuscript often needed the sponsorship of more than one family shows that it was expensive.

Western 'discovery' of Jainism

Nineteenth-century German scholar Hermann Jacobi was a leading Indology scholar. His 1879 establishing of Jainism as a religion distinct from Buddhism and his translations and critical studies of major Jain texts laid the foundations for modern Jain studi

Hermann Jacobi
Image by unknown © unknown

The central importance of the Kalpa-sūtra was therefore established long before the 19th century, when Western observers or scholars gradually ‘discovered’ Jainism.

In 1807, Henry Thomas Colebrooke, the pioneering British scholar in all that relates to Sanskrit, and classical India in particular, described it 'as a work of great authority among the Jainas'.

Reverend J. Stevenson published a translation of the Kalpa-sūtra in 1847. Although not very reliable, it is notable for being the first translation of any Jain text into English.

Hermann Jacobi was a German scholar who was one of the founding figures of Jain studies in the West. In 1879 he published his critical edition of the text and in 1884 the English translation followed. The introduction clearly demonstrates for the first time that Jainism is a fully independent tradition with its own scriptures and not an offshoot of Buddhism, as had been thought until then.

Centrality of the Kalpa-sūtra

There are two main grounds for the Kalpa-sūtra's occupying such a central position in Śvetāmbara Jainism. The principal reason is the content of the Kalpa-sūtra. Linked to this is the second reason – its role in worship, which focuses on both the meaning and the object itself.

Contents of the Kalpa-sūtra

The contents of the Kalpa-sūtra are foundations of Jain belief. To some extent, each of its three parts focuses on several things that define Śvetāmbara Jain identity and tradition.

Part One – ‘Lives of the Jinas’

This manuscript painting is of the 20 Jinas between Ṛṣabha, the first one, and Nemi, the 22nd. Omniscient and in the lotus meditation pose, they have bumps on their heads, signifying wisdom. Their jewellery and open eyes are typical of Śvetāmbara images.

Twenty Jinas
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The first part of the Kalpa-sūtra is called the 'Jina-caritra' or ‘Lives of the Jinas’. It consists of biographies of four of the 24 Jinas who are important figures of worship. They are, in order:

The lives of the remaining 20 Jinas are sketched much more briefly and are closer to outlines of key events than to narratives.

In the Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures, the 'Jina-caritra' can be described as the only complete text to focus on this topic in such a systematic and thorough manner. Other canonical scriptures, in contrast, merely provide clues to the Jinas’ careers. Two examples are:

  • the Ācārānga-sūtra, the first book of the canon, where the ascetic career of Mahāvīra and the hardships he undergoes are depicted quite realistically
  • the 22nd chapter of the Uttarādhyayana-sūtra, in which a famous episode dramatically relates how the 22nd Jina, Nemi, decides to renounce the world just before his wedding ceremony.

Given the status of the Jinas as religious teachers, the origin of Jain faith and role models, it is obviously important to have a single text providing fundamental material on them.

Part Two – 'The String of Elders'

This picture from a manuscript of the Kalpa-sūtra dates from 1512. It depicts the elder Jambū-svāmin and his eight wives

Jambū-svāmin and his eight wives
Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London

The second part of the Kalpa-sūtra is called 'Sthavirāvalī' or ‘The String of Elders’. Mostly in verse, it gives the history of early Jain teachers and helps to root the faith in solid ground. It provides a detailed list of names and short characterisations of a sequence of monks, starting with Mahāvīra’s disciples. It ends with Devarddhikṣamāśrmaṇa, who put the Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures in writing at the Valabhī plenary meeting in the 5th century. 

As often in Indian religions, there is more to this list than appears at first sight. Listing the names of prestigious teachers displays respectful homage. Indeed, the last 13 stanzas of the 'Sthavirāvalī' show a high degree of reverence for the elders, taking the first person in the form ‘I bow down to X, Y, Z’. Thus the 'Sthavirāvalī' is a hymn of praise meant to be uttered by devotees, especially monks, to acknowledge their predecessors. 

Part Three – 'Right Monastic Conduct'

This Kalpa-sūtra manuscript painting illustrates rules on alms during the rainy season. The third part of this Śvetāmbara scripture details mendicant conduct during the monsoon, when monks and nuns stay in one place instead of constantly 'wandering'

Rules on rainy-season alms
Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London

The third part of the Kalpa-sūtra is called 'Sāmācārī' or ‘Right Monastic Conduct’. This plainly demonstrates why the Kalpa-sūtra is included in the canonical Daśāśrutaskandha.

This section does not deal with monastic behaviour in general, but with monastic conduct during the rainy season. This usually lasts for four months, giving rise to the Sanskrit term cāturmāsa – ‘four months’ – and the Gujarati equivalent comāsa. These are the months from July to October. 

The rainy season is a critical period of the year because vegetation and insects of all types thrive at this time. The division of the calendar year into rainy season and dry season is fundamental to all Indian religious communities. They have all evolved specific regulations for their members during the rainy season. 

The basic rule during the rainy season is that Jain, and also Buddhist, ascetics should stop their wandering life and stay in one place. This primarily answers a common-sense and practical need. Monks and nuns travel only on foot, and walk barefoot, and roads and paths are simply unfit for walking during the often torrential rains. However, the main justification that is traditionally given is the fundamental concern for life and the desire to avoid all harm to life – ahiṃsā.

The 'Sāmācārī' of the Kalpa-sūtra sets out how monks and nuns of all ranks should behave in daily life during the heart of the rainy season. This is reckoned to be a month and 20 nights after the beginning of the rainy season. The ascetics should be more careful than ever about walking, eating, lying down and so on. They should be aware of all the minute forms of life that emerge and abound during this period, which implies more restrictions for the ascetics

The special behaviours the mendicants should adopt are conveyed in the original text by the expression vāsā-vāsaṃ pajjosavei – ‘to perform the Pajjusana rites during rainy season’. This is the origin of the name Paryuṣaṇ, which is the title of the religious festival connected with this time of year. 

Paryuṣaṇ and the Kalpa-sūtra

The instructions for Jain ascetics during the major festival of Paryuṣaṇ mainly explain the special place of the Kalpa-sūtra

During the eight days of Paryuṣaṇ, the Kalpa-sūtra as a text and as an object is publicly worshipped among Śvetāmbara Mūrtipūjak Jains of Gujarat. This practice continues today.

In the past, the creation of illustrated or decorated manuscripts was sponsored for Paryuṣaṇ. Nowadays new printed editions with pictures in traditional or modern styles appear every year on this occasion.

Typically, on the third day of the festival, an auction takes place to decide which individual or family will present the new copy of the text to a local mendicant.

On the evening of the same day, the worshippers form a procession to take the copy to the home of the winning individual or family. It is worshipped with devotional songs and kept overnight.

On the fourth day the manuscript or book is presented publicly as an object of worship. Wrapped in muslin, it is placed in an embroidered wrapper and is sprinkled with sacred sandalwood powder – vāskṣep. It is placed on a metal or silver plate and ceremonially carried in procession to the temple hall where the mendicant sits.

Once in the hall, the book is worshipped as an embodiment of knowledge – jñāna – in a joyful atmosphere. Devotees present it with offerings of fruit, flowers, incense and sweets, waving lamps ritually before it.

From the fourth to the seventh day, ascetics read, recite or retell passages from the Kalpa-sūtra, usually in morning and afternoon sessions. This part of the ceremony depends on the mendicants’ abilities and tastes. It is important to note that in this context the term ‘Kalpa-sūtra’ means an ensemble combining the Prakrit text, Sanskrit and vernacular commentaries, and the free improvisation of the teaching mendicant.

On the eighth and last day, the book or manuscript is again the focus of worship. The monk reads the Prakrit text of the Kalpa-sūtra again, generally at a rather quick pace. At the same time, picture pages or independent illustrations are shown to the audience, acting as a visual commentary. This is important because the listeners mostly do not understand the literal words of the text in detail. However, they are familiar with the images, which are respected as objects of worship too.

Details of the 'Lives of the Jinas'

The first part of the Kalpa-sūtra, called the 'Jina-caritra' or ‘Lives of the Jinas’, provides the main inspiration for illustrations in the text. It describes the lives of the four Jinas who are the primary figures of religious worship. The lives of the other 20 Jinas are outlined. All of the biographies follow a fairly strict pattern, including identical key points in the structure of the lives and repetition of individual phrases.

Mahāvīra’s life

First is the biography of Mahāvīra, the 24th and final Jina. All the life stories described in this section follow the same pattern. However, Mahāvīra is the only Jina whose life features the episode known as the 'embryo transfer'.

Conceived by Devānandā

This manuscript painting illustrates Devānandā having the auspicious dreams experienced by the mother of a baby who will grow up to be a Jina. According to the Śvetāmbara sect, she has 14 dreams. The discs of the sun and moon are just above her left hand,

Devānandā's 14 dreams
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

In the incarnation before the last one, when he becomes a Jina, Mahāvīra is a god in the Puṣpottara heaven.

He begins his final rebirth in the womb of the brahmin lady Devānandā, who is married to the brahmin Usabhadatta.

Devānandā has the following 14 auspicious dreams

  1. an elephant
  2. a bull
  3. a lion
  4. the goddess Śrī, who embodies prosperity
  5. a garland
  6. the moon
  7. the sun
  8. a banner
  9. a vase or jug
  10. a lotus lake
  11. the ocean
  12. a celestial abode
  13. a heap of jewels
  14. a flame or fire.

Devānandā tells her dreams to her husband, who explains that they mean the new baby will have outstanding physical and intellectual qualities. Devānandā is full of joy.

Śakra, the king of the gods, is sitting in his palace in the Saudharma heaven.

Knowing through his clairvoyance – avadhi-jñāna – that Mahāvīra has taken the form of a human embryo, Śakra is full of happiness and ready to pay homage to him. He utters an enthusiastic hymn of praise to the Jinas.

Embryo transfer

A illustration of the gods Hariṇaigameṣin and Śakra in a manuscript of the Kalpa-sūtra. King of the gods, Lord Śakra instructs his antelope-headed commander to move the embryo of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina, from the womb of a brahmin woman

Śakra and Hariṇaigameṣin
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Then Lord Śakra realises that 'it never happened, nor does it happen, nor will it happen, that arhats, cakravartins, baladevas or vāsudevas, in the past, present, or future should be born in low families, mean families… brahmanical families'.

They are always born in high, noble families, in families of kṣatriyas.

Thus he decides that the embryo of Mahāvīra must be removed from the brahmin lady Devānandā and placed in the womb of the kṣatriya lady Triśalā, wife of King Siddhārtha.

He calls Hariṇaigameṣin, the commander of his foot troops. Śakra orders him to transfer the embryo and then to report to him.

Hariṇaigameṣin accepts this order, magically transforms himself, enters Devānandā’s house at night, puts the whole household to sleep and removes Mahāvīra’s embryo from her womb.

He goes to the house of the kṣatriya couple, puts the whole household to sleep and implants Mahāvīra’s embryo in Triśalā’s womb. He takes the embryo she was carrying and transfers it to the brahmin lady. Then he reports to his master.

Trisala's dreams

This manuscript painting shows learned men interpreting the dreams of the woman carrying a baby who will grow up to become a Jina. In Jain tradition, dreams often herald the birth of the great individuals whose stories are told in Jain Universal History.

Interpreting dreams
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

That same night the kṣatriya lady Triśalā has 14 auspicious dreams, the same as those of Devānandā. Each of them is described at length in the text.

Queen Triśalā goes to her husband Siddhārtha, wakes him up and describes her dreams.

Siddhārtha explains that they foretell the birth of a boy with outstanding physical and intellectual characteristics.

Triśalā stays awake the rest of the night to avoid having any bad dreams.

Before the day dawns, King Siddhārtha calls his servants. He tells them to get the hall of audience ready and to erect the throne.

At sunrise, Siddhārtha gets up and goes to the hall to do his physical training, in the form of jumping, wrestling and fighting. Afterwards servants rub him with oil, shampoo his hair and prepare him to enter the bathing room. After he has bathed, servants scent his body with perfume, arrange his hair and array him in rich ornaments. He puts on the insignia of kingship. He then sits on his throne, surrounded by dignitaries.

He summons the family servants and orders them to call for professional dream-interpreters.

After paying homage to Siddhārtha, the interpreters sit and answer the king’s questions about the 14 dreams. They confirm the outstanding qualities of the expected baby and predict that he will become either a universal emperor or a Jina. After delivering this news, they are dismissed politely.

The king reports the good news to his wife, who quietly retires to her own apartments.

Mahāvīra's birth

A painting from a 15th-century manuscript of the Kalpa-sūtra shows Queen Triśalā and her newborn son. He will grow up to become Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. This is a conventional way of illustrating the birth of a baby who will become a Jina

Mahāvīra and his mother Triśalā
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

From that night on, countless treasures of all sorts are brought to the palace by the various ranks of gods at Śakra’s request. From that night on, silver, gold and wealth go on increasing in the palace. Hence the king and his wife decide that the child they are expecting will be named Vardhamāna – ‘the Increaser’.

Out of compassion for his mother’s comfort, Mahāvīra decides to remain quiet without moving. Triśalā, thinking that the baby has died, is overwhelmed with sadness. She remains ‘reposing her head on her hand, overcome by painful reflections and casting her eyes on the ground’. Joy is silenced in the palace.

Becoming aware of this, Mahāvīra moves a little. Joy returns to his mother’s heart and to the palace.

Seeing the effect of his actions, Mahāvīra decides not to give up living in the world to become an ascetic as long as his parents are alive.

Triśalā’s pregnancy is spent as it should be, in peace and comfort. After nine months and seven and a half days, in the first month of summer, she gives birth to a perfectly healthy boy.

Celebrations of this blessed event last ten days. Prisoners are freed, taxes are lifted and so on. Legions of gifts are offered and a huge banquet is organised.

At the name-giving ceremony the child receives the name Vardhamāna from his parents. Later on he is also known as Śramaṇa – 'Ascetic’ – and Mahāvīra – ‘Great Hero’.

Mahāvīra renounces

Mahāvīra's palanquin
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Mahāvīra has an elder brother, Nandivardhana, and a sister called Sudarśanā. He later marries a woman named Yaśodā.

At the age of 30, when his parents are no more, Mahāvīra seeks permission from his elder brother and gives up the worldly life to become an ascetic. His decision is celebrated by the gods.

The former prince renounces all his possessions and wealth, distributing presents to the poor.

Sitting on a palanquin, Mahāvīra is accompanied by gods and men who celebrate him. He proceeds in great pomp to the aśoka tree in the park of the city of Kuṇḍapura. Getting down from his palanquin, Mahāvīra removes all his ornaments and plucks out his hair in five handfuls. Thus he is a perfect renouncer.

Mahāvīra the mendicant

This manuscript painting shows the 24th Jina Mahāīra enduring some of the trials – upasarga – each Jina goes through to test his spiritual resolve. He takes the kāyotsarga meditation posture though animals attack and two men push spikes into his ears.

Mahāvīra is tested
Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London

For the next year and one month the monk Mahāvīra wears clothes. After that he goes naked and uses the hollow of his hands to receive the food he begs as alms.

During the next 12 years Mahāvīra steadfastly overcomes all the tests of pain and the temptation of pleasures to which he is put by gods in disguise, demons or animals. The tests do not disturb his peace of mind. Throughout this time he is a perfect ascetic, leading a wandering life except during the rainy season.

During the 13th year he exposes himself to the heat of the sun and fasts for two and a half days with no water. Sitting in deep meditation under a sāla tree, he reaches omniscience.

Mahāvīra continues the wandering life of a mendicant, spending successive rainy seasons in various places. The total number of rainy seasons he experiences during his life as a monk is 42.

While spending the rainy season in the town of Pāpā – modern Bihar – Mahāvīra dies at the age of 72 and is liberated.

On the night he dies a great confusion arises. That very night his oldest and closest discipleIndrabhūti Gautama, becomes omniscient.

On that night too, local kings light a great fire, saying: 'Now the light of intelligence is gone, let us make light from ordinary materials'. This is how Jains explain the origin of the 'Festival of Lights', called Dīvālī.

The community Mahāvīra founds during his lifetime has four parts.

Mahāvīra's fourfold community

Community part

Leader

14,000 monks

Indrabhūti Gautama

36,000 nuns

Candanbālā

159,000 male lay followers

Śankhaśataka

318,000 female lay followers

Sulasā and Revatī

The length of the different stages of Mahāvīra’s life is given at the end of the passage. He lives for a total of 72 years.

Mahāvīra’s life stages

Stage

Length

householder

30 years

ordinary ascetic

12 years

omniscient ascetic

30 years

Pārśva’s life

This painting from a manuscript depicts Pārśva, the 23rd Jina. Easily recognised in art from his snake headdress, Pārśva sits in the lotus pose of meditation and wears ornate jewellery, emphasising his status as a spiritual leader.

Pārśva, the 23rd Jina
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The second life story in ‘Lives of the Jinas’ is that of Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva, the 23rd Jina.

In the incarnation before the last one, when he becomes a Jina, Pārśva is a god in the Prāṇata heaven.

He begins his final rebirth in the womb of Vāmā, wife of Aśvasena, King of Benares. Queen Vāmā has 14 auspicious dreams. After a quiet pregnancy, in due time she gives birth to a perfectly healthy boy. He is named Pārśva.

He lives for 30 years as a householder. Then gods arrive to witness his spiritual awakening.

The prince renounces all his possessions and wealth, and distributes presents to the poor. Sitting on a palanquin, he is accompanied by gods and men who celebrate him. He proceeds in great pomp to the aśoka tree in the park of the city of Benares. Getting down from his palanquin, Pārśva removes all his ornaments and plucks out his hair in five handfuls to become a monk. Thus he is a perfect renouncer.

For the next year and one month he wears clothes. After that he goes naked and uses the hollow of his hands to receive the food he begs as alms.

During the next 83 days Pārśva steadfastly overcomes all the tests of pain and the temptation of pleasures to which he is put by gods in disguise, demons or animals. The tests do not disturb his peace of mind. Throughout this time he is a perfect ascetic and leads a wandering life, except during the rainy season.

On the 84th day he exposes himself to the heat of the sun and fasts for two and a half days with no water. Sitting in deep meditation under a dhātakī tree, he reaches omniscience.  

Pārśva has eight chief disciples – gaṇadhara – who lead one group of monks each. Their names are given in the text. 

The community Pārśva founds has four parts.

Pārśva's fourfold community

Community part

Leader

16,000 monks

Āryadatta

38,000 nuns

Puṣpacūlā

164,000 male lay followers

Suvrata

327,000 female lay followers

Sunandā

The length of the different stages of Pārśva's life is given at the end of the passage. He lives for a total of 100 years.

Length of Pārśva’s life stages

Stage

Length

householder

30 years

ordinary ascetic

83 days

omniscient ascetic

70 years

Nemi’s life

This manuscript painting shows Prince Nemi’s renunciation in two parts. First he visits his fiancée Princess Rājīmatī and then he flees the scene, upset by the distress of the animals about to be killed for his wedding feast

Nemi's renunciation
Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London

The third story in ‘Lives of the Jinas’ describes the life of Ariṣṭaneminātha or Lord Ariṣṭanemi. The 22nd Jina is very often called Nemi.

In the incarnation before the last one, when he becomes a Jina, Nemi is a god in the Aparājita heavenly realm.

He begins his final rebirth in the womb of Queen Śivā, wife of Samudravijaya, King of Śauripura. Śivā has 14 auspicious dreams. After a quiet pregnancy, in due time she gives birth to a perfectly healthy boy. He is named Ariṣṭanemi.

Nemi lives for 300 years as a householder. Then gods arrive to witness his spiritual awakening.

The prince renounces all his possessions and wealth, and distributes presents to the poor. Sitting on a palanquin, he is accompanied by gods and men who celebrate him. He proceeds in great pomp to the aśoka tree in the park of the city of Dvāravatī. Getting down from his palanquin, Nemi removes all his ornaments and plucks out his own hair in five handfuls to become a monk. Thus he is a perfect renouncer.

For the next year and one month he wears clothes. After that he goes naked and uses the hollow of his hands to receive the food he begs as alms.

During the next 54 days Nemi steadfastly overcomes all the tests of pain and the temptation of pleasures to which he is put by gods in disguise, demons or animals. The tests do not disturb his peace of mind. Throughout this time he is a perfect ascetic and leads a wandering life, except during the rainy season.

On the 55th day Nemi exposes himself to the heat of the sun and fasts for two and a half days with no water. Sitting in deep meditation under a veṭasa tree on the summit of Mount Girnar, he reaches omniscience.  

Nemi has 18 chief disciples – gaṇadhara – who lead one group of monks each. Their names are given in the text. 

The community Nemi founds has four parts:

Nemi's fourfold community

Community part

Leader

18,000 monks

Varadatta

40,000 nuns

Āryā Yakṣiṇī

169,000 male lay followers

Nanda

336,000 female lay followers

Mahāsuvratā

The length of the different stages of Nemi's life is given at the end of the passage. He lives for a total of 1000 years.

Length of Nemi’s life stages

Stage

Length

householder

300 years

ordinary ascetic

54 days

omniscient ascetic

700 years

Lives of 20 Jinas

The next part of the ‘Lives of the Jinas’ covers 20 Jinas, from Naminātha or Lord Nami, the 21st, to Ajitanātha or Lord Ajita, the second. The aim of the text here is to give the number of years between each Jina. No episode of their individual lives is narrated.

Ṛṣabha’s life

In golden colours, this manuscript painting shows Ṛṣabha. The first of the 24 Jinas, Ṛṣabha takes the lotus position of meditation. His jewels and headdress show he is a spiritual king, stressed by royal symbols, such as the elephant and parasol.

Worship of Ṛṣabha
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

When the narrative of the ‘Lives of the Jinas' reaches Ṛṣabha, the first Jina, it gives his full life story.

In the incarnation before the last one, when he becomes a Jina, Ṛṣabha is a god in the Sarvārtha-siddha heavenly kingdom..

He begins his final rebirth in the womb of Marudevī, wife of the patriarch Nābhi in Ikṣvāku-bhūmi. Marudevī has 14 auspicious dreams but the first one features the bull instead of the elephant. They are interpreted by Nābhi himself, without the help of dream-interpreters.

After a quiet pregnancy, in due time Marudevī gives birth to a perfectly healthy boy. He is named Ṛṣabha or ‘First King, First Mendicant, First Jina and First Tīrthaṃkara’.

Ṛṣabha lives for 2 million pūrvas as a prince and 6,300,000 pūrvas as a monarch. During his reign he teaches 72 arts, 64 feminine accomplishments, 100 crafts and 3 professions. He anoints his 100 sons as kings and gives a kingdom to each one. Then gods arrive to witness his spiritual awakening.

The king renounces all his possessions and wealth, and distributes presents to the poor. Sitting on a palanquin, he is accompanied by gods and men who celebrate him. He proceeds in great pomp to the aśoka tree in the Siddhārthavana park in the city of Vīnitā. Getting down from his palanquin, Ṛṣabha removes all his ornaments and plucks out his own hair in four handfuls to become a monk. Thus he is a perfect renouncer.

For the next year and one month he wears clothes. After that he goes naked and uses the hollow of his hands to receive the food he begs as alms.

During the next thousand years Ṛṣabha steadfastly overcomes all the tests of pain and the temptation of pleasures to which he is put by gods in disguise, demons or animals. The tests do not disturb his peace of mind. Throughout this time he is a perfect ascetic and leads a wandering life, except during the rainy season.

Then he fasts for three and a half days with no water. Sitting in deep meditation under a nyagrodha tree in Sakaṭamukha park outside the town of Purimatāla, he reaches omniscience.

Ṛṣabha has 84 chief disciples – gaṇadhara – who lead one group of monks each. Their names are given in the text. 

The community Ṛṣabha founds has four parts.

Ṛṣabha's fourfold community

Community part

Leader

84,000 monks

Ṛṣabhasen

300,000 nuns

Brahmī and Sundarī

305,000 male lay followers

Śreyāṃsa

554,000 female lay followers

Subhadrā

The length of different stages of Ṛṣabha’s life is given at the end of the passage. He lives for a total of 8,400,000 pūrvas.

Ṛṣabha's life stages

Stage

Detail

Length

householder

8,300,000 pūrvas

prince

2,000,000 pūrvas

king

6,300,000 pūrvas

ordinary ascetic

1000 pūrvas

omniscient ascetic

99,000 pūrvas

Illustrations in the Kalpa-sūtra

Though all pictures in manuscripts of the Kalpa-sūtra are next to the passage of text they illustrate, as per convention, the three parts of the Kalpa-sūtra are not treated equally in the pictorial tradition. The majority of paintings in a given manuscript focuses on the ‘Lives of the Jinas’, which offers a wide range of episodes to illustrate. The ‘String of Elders’ and the ‘Right Monastic Conduct’ sections, on the other hand, appear less inspiring to artists. As a result, they are either not illustrated at all or have a comparatively small number of paintings.

The paintings show that the term ‘Kalpa-sūtra’ is not merely a text but is better thought of as a dynamic notion that actively engages artistic and religious energies. 

Paintings can be grouped into those depicting an episode that is:

  • described in the adjacent original Prakrit text
  • not in the facing original Prakrit text.

The subjects of the second group are drawn from the stories of the life of a Jina or an elder. These are found in other texts, namely the commentaries of the Kalpa-sūtra or other well-known legendary works devoted to these Jinas or these elders. These are used despite the fact that copies of the Kalpa-sūtra do not include a commentary.

Therefore the paintings that illustrate the Kalpa-sūtra are broader in scope than might be supposed, since they use the given text as a starting point and go beyond its literal content.

Repetition as a structuring pattern

This manuscript art shows Mahāvīra in Puṣpottara heaven before his birth as a human who will become a Jina. All Jinas are born as celestial gods before their final lives as humans. Jinas are always human as only they can reach omniscience and liberation

Mahāvīra in the Puṣpottara heaven
Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London

Repetition is heavily used in the Kalpa-sūtra in both text and illustration.

The outline of the first part of the Kalpa-sūtra given above closely follows the Prakrit text, clearly demonstrating how each biography follows the same pattern. In many passages about individual Jinas the structure is the same. An example of identical structure is information about a Jina’s community. Only details differ, such as the various numbers and names. This is a fundamental pattern in Jain narrative literature. However, some passages that are almost identical in the life stories of Mahāvīra and Ṛṣabha show signs of being shortened.

The repetition in the text is also found in its illustrations, with the same picture often appearing in different places. The common episodes in Jinas’ lives that often share an identical depiction in the manuscripts include:

  • the heavenly birth of the Jina-to-be
  • the 14 auspicious dreams of the pregnant mother of the Jina-to-be
  • each Jina plucking out his hair in handfuls when he renounces the world. 

Before his last incarnation as a human being destined to become a Jina, the Jina-to-be is born as a god in one of the many heavens of the Upper World. Any difference in the pictures of the various heavenly births is found in the colour the body is painted. For example, gold is used for  Mahāvīra and green for Pārśva. Each Jina has a colour associated with him in art. 

The symbolic gesture of keśa-loca in the initiation ceremony may be depicted once in the manuscript, for only some of the Jinas or for all of them. 

Thus, the paintings of the Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts are partly stereotyped. In mediocre manuscripts, they can become monotonous.

Creative inspirations

This manuscript painting of an elephant shows an important animal in Jain myth. The elephant is the emblem – lāñchana – of Ajita, the second Jina, and appears in parables, stories and auspicious dreams in Jain myths

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

The tendency to copy paintings and reuse them at different points in the same manuscript is counterbalanced in various ways. Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts contain two types of illustrations. The first type is made up of those that show exactly what the text describes. The second kind of painting is a non-literal picture. Drawing on sources other than the Kalpa-sūtra proper, these pictures indicate wider knowledge about the episodes in the text. These illustrations may use passages in the Kalpa-sūtra text as an inspiration or bring into play information in other texts.

Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts often have paintings that depict literally the words in the adjacent sentences. Examples of this are the words:

  • ‘the first dream of an elephant’ alongside a painting of an elephant
  • ‘Triśalā is sad because she thinks the embryo she is carrying has died’ by a picture of Triśalā looking sad
  • ‘Triśalā is happy because the embryo has moved again’ near an image of a joyful queen.

However, in most Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts there are also many examples of paintings that do not illustrate the literal words of the text. For artists, the Kalpa-sūtra is not only the Prakrit text but also the commentaries and other works on the lives of the Jinas or early Jain teachers. These writings have much more material suitable for illustration and artists draw freely on them. 

There are two main types of non-literal illustrations. The first is when a sentence in the facing text provides a starting point. An example can be given using the following quotation:

For more than twelve years the Venerable Ascetic Mahāvīra neglected his body and abandoned the care of it; with equanimity he bore, underwent and suffered all kinds of pleasant or unpleasant occurrences arising from divine powers, men, or animals

This results in a picture of specific events illustrating the idea in the text, that is, the ‘attacks’ or ‘tests’ – upasargas – Mahāvīra goes through. Among them is the episode of the shepherd who tries to hurt Mahāvīra’s ears by putting spikes in them, or others where various devilish creatures try to attack him in various ways. 

Another example is the paintings of incidents in the unsettled life of the early religious teacher Sthūlabhadra. None of them is described in the Kalpa-sūtra itself, but Sthūlabhadra’s name occurs in the ‘String of Elders’. This is reason enough to include pictures of his adventures, which, again, are well known from other textual sources and belong to the common Jain heritage.

Therefore, although there is a textual basis to such illustrations, it is outside the Prakrit text of the Kalpa-sūtra proper. However, this makes no difference to the artists.

The second type of non-literal picture is when the text does not provide any obvious inspiration for the illustration. 

Examples include the paintings depicting episodes from Mahāvīra’s childhood, such as:

  • going to school on the back of an elephant or horse
  • playing with other children and showing how he can neutralise bad tricks or attacks.

Therefore Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts contain a variety of paintings. Some depict literally episodes in the text proper while others illustrate events taken from related literature. 

Styles of painting

Kalpa-sūtra paintings may demonstrate all types of artistic style. However, there are two prevailing styles – the ‘classical’ and the ‘popular’.

The classical Western Indian style is easily recognisable thanks to the rigid conventions of:

  • red background
  • figures with typically protruding eyes
  • monks and nuns in stereotyped white clothing with white or golden dots.

The ‘popular’ style has no such stylistic traditions and seems to show more freedom in the colours and in the realism of clothing, faces and so on.

Story of Kālaka

This manuscript illustration shows the monk Kālaka and an elderly brahmin. Śakra, king of the gods, tests Kālaka's modesty, learning and ability to see the truth by disguising himself. He takes on the form of an aged learned man, who disputes scriptures

Kālaka with Śakra in disguise
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Examining manuscripts of the Kalpa-sūtra shows that it is closely associated with the story of the monk Kālaka or Kālakacārya. Some Jain authors of medieval times claim this connection is vital. All early manuscripts of the Kalpa-sūtra, they say, also have the story of Kālaka (Dundas 2007: n. 10). Both texts are considered to have equal authority for Śvetāmbaras

The Story of Kālaka is known in several Sanskrit, Prakrit and Gujarati versions from the 12th century. It serves as a starting point for illustrations in manuscripts of the Kalpa-sūtra, where it follows the main scripture or is supported independently.

There are two main reasons for the connection between the Kalpa-sūtra and the Kālakācāryakathā or Story of Kālaka. The first is the influence of the early religious teacher or sūri, Kālaka, on the date of the festival of Paryuṣaṇ. The second is the tale of Kālaka himself, who wields great power because of his spirituality, which he uses for good. Certain elements of his life story are similar to those in the biographies of the Jinas, which are related in the first part of the Kalpa-sūtra.

Kālaka and Paryuṣaṇ

The monk Kālaka is closely linked to Paryuṣaṇ, which gives a central role to the Kalpa-sūtra. According to tradition he fixed the date of the final day of this festival, which became known as Saṃvatsarī.

Saṃvatsarī is the day of the festival on which the whole community practises pratikramaṇa – general repentance for breaking Jain regulations. Originally, in Mahāvīra’s time, it took place on the fifth night of the light half of the month Bhādrapada, which is roughly the four weeks from mid-August to mid-September. Under Kālaka’s authority this became the fourth night. 

This change in a Paryuṣaṇ ceremony is supposed to have been introduced in 466 at the behest of King Śātavahana, to avoid a clash with a Hindu festival. Although this change is said in earlier sources to have met general approval, there is also evidence to show that it became a controversial and sectarian issue (see Dundas 2007 for more details). 

In the course of his wandering life, Kālaka comes to the city of Pratiṣṭhāna in Mahārāṣṭra. King Śālivāhana welcomes the monk enthusiastically.

In due time the Paryuṣaṇa season arrived. There in the land of Mahārāṣṭra, on the fifth [night] of the bright half of the month [of] Bhādrapada, a festival of Indra took place. Then the king made representation to the sūri, “Reverend sir, on the day when the Paryuṣaṇā falls, there is to be a celebration by procession for Indra, in accordance with the custom of the folk. For that reason there will be so much confusion that I shall not be able to worship, bathe and otherwise honour the images of the Jinas. Therefore be so very kind as to celebrate the Paryuṣaṇā on the sixth.”

Then the reverend monk said, “…the Paryuṣaṇā may not come later than the night of the fifth. For it is said in the Scripture [Kalpa-sūtra]: ‘As the reverend Mahāvīra, when a month and 20 nights of the rains had passed, observed the Paryuṣaṇā, so too the Gaṇadharas …; as our masters, so too we observe the Paryuṣaṇā: it must not come later than that night.’”

The king said, “If that is so, then let it come on the fourth.”

The sūri answered, “So be it! There is no harm in that.”

Ideal mendicant

The account of the monk Kālaka's life is an appropriate fit with the themes and narrative of the Kalpa-sūtra. He is an exemplary mendicant because he:

  • uses powers gained through meditation and advanced spirituality to defeat evil
  • inspires new believers
  • successfully passes tests posed by a god
  • sees through a divine disguise
  • is very knowledgeable in the Jain scriptures and teachings
  • passes to the next life by ritually fasting to death.

His outstanding qualities are another reason this tale frequently accompanies manuscripts and editions of the scripture.

There are many versions of the Kālaka story but they share the main plot. The tale always begins with Kālaka first hearing the message of the Jinas. Returning from a horse ride, Prince Kālaka hears a sweet, deep sound. He finds that this is the voice of the monk Guṇākara. Listening to his teachings, Kālaka is converted and then initiated into religious life. He later succeeds his teacher as leader of a group of ascetics, as an ācārya.

Kālaka and the Śakas

This manuscript painting depicts Kālaka and the king of the Śaka, the Sāhi. Kālaka wears the white robe of a Śvetāmbara monk while the Sāhi is the large crowned figure. The Śakas' non-Indian nature is underlined by their clothes, faces and beards

Kālaka and the Śāka king
Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London

One day Kālaka travels to Ujjayinī. A group of nuns arrives, including Kālaka’s sister, Sarasvatī. Gardabhilla, the wicked king of Ujjayinī, abducts and violates her, forcing her into his harem.

Kālaka realises that Gardabhilla gets his supernatural powers from a magical animal, a ‘she‑ass’.

Kālaka asks the Śakas to help him rescue his sister by conquering Ujjayinī. Śakas are foreigners with non-Indian features in paintings. Nearby a potter is firing bricks in a kiln. Since they have no supplies, Kālaka sprinkles a pinch of magic powder on the burning bricks. This transforms them into gold, which he gives to his allies to buy what they need.

There is a battle between the Śakas and Gardabhilla’s army. Kālaka orders the Śakas to neutralise the magic power of the she-ass by shooting arrows into her mouth so she cannot bray. When they do so, Gardabhilla loses his magical powers.

The Śakas enter Ujjayinī and take Gardabhilla prisoner. They lead him to Kālaka, who advises him to confess, repent and compensate for his awful behaviour by practising austerities, like the ascetics. But Gardabhilla cannot do so because of excessive karma. He is driven out of the country and reduced to wandering.

The Śakas rule peacefully, devoted to the teachings of the Jinas and founding the Śaka dynasty. Kālaka’s sister becomes a nun again.

Other episodes

The rest of the tale also demonstrates Kālaka's model qualities as a monk. He preaches and converts his listeners to Jainism, inspiring some to become mendicants. Though very learned, he remains modest, seeing the truth of situations where others try to trick him. He then completes his life as a mendicant by fasting to death

Kālaka's story continues in the city of Broach, where the king and heir-apparent are Balamitra and Bhānumitra. They are Kālaka’s nephews. Their sister has a son named Balabhānu. 

Kālaka comes to Broach and preaches. Enthralled, Balabhānu is initiated as a monk. The entire population of the city converts to Jainism and gives alms to the monks.

Then Kālaka decides to go to the city of Pratiṣṭhāna in Mahārāṣṭra, where the ruler is King Śālivāhana. This is where he changes the day of Saṃvatsarī to the fourth day of Paryuṣaṇ.

Kālaka goes on wandering, but his disciples become disobedient and no longer observe rules. Once he goes to Sāgaracandra-sūri, his disciple’s disciple, who is no better and does not recognise that Kālaka is no simple monk. He misbehaves and disputes with the elder monk. Then he finally admits his mistake and asks forgiveness.

Śakra, the lord of the gods, decides to test the knowledge and penetration of the teacher Kālaka. The god takes on the form of a brahmin and asks Kālaka to give a lecture on nigodas, extremely minute invisible beings which are the tiniest form of life. Kālaka passes the test and recognises that his challenger is none other than Śakra.

Knowing that the end of his life is drawing near, Kālaka gives up all food and fasts until death comes.

Images

  • Teacher instructs a monk This manuscript painting from a copy of the Kalpa-sūtra shows a Śvetāmbara teacher instructing a monk. As he is more important, he is bigger in the picture and sits on a dais above the junior mendicant, who raises his hands in respect. Both monks hold their mouth-cloths in their hands and their brooms – rajoharaṇa – under their arms. A bookstand – sthāpanācārya – which symbolises teaching is above the smaller figure. . Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
  • Typical manuscript painting Marked out by coloured boundaries, this manuscript painting has a caption in the margin next to it. The edges of the margin and the central golden shape are ornately decorated. This page is from a Kalpa-sūtra dating from the late 15th to 16th centuries. . Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
  • Hermann Jacobi Nineteenth-century German scholar Hermann Jacobi was a leading Indology scholar. His 1879 establishing of Jainism as a religion distinct from Buddhism and his translations and critical studies of major Jain texts laid the foundations for modern Jain studies.. Image by unknown © unknown
  • Twenty Jinas This manuscript painting is of 20 Jinas. These are very probably the Jinas between Ṛṣabha, the first one, and Nemi, the 22nd. Omniscient and seated in the lotus pose of meditation, they have bumps on the crowns of their heads, which signifies great wisdom. As spiritual kings, they wear jewels although their elongated earlobes are reminders that they gave up earthly riches to become mendicants. Their jewellery and open eyes are characteristic of Jina images of the Śvetāmbara sect.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Jambū-svāmin and his eight wives This picture from a manuscript of the Kalpa-sūtra dates from 1512. It depicts the elder Jambū-svāmin and his eight wives.. Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London
  • Rules on rainy-season alms This manuscript painting in a 1512 copy of the Kalpa-sūtra illustrates rules on alms during the rainy season. The third part of this Śvetāmbara scripture details mendicant conduct during the rainy season, when monks and nuns remain in one place instead of constantly 'wandering' – vihāra.. Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London
  • Devānandā's 14 dreams This manuscript painting illustrates Devānandā having the auspicious dreams experienced by the mother of a baby who will grow up to be a Jina. According to the Śvetāmbara sect, she has 14 dreams. The discs of the sun and moon are just above her left hand, while the other 12 are arranged above them.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Śakra and Hariṇaigameṣin A illustration of the gods Hariṇaigameṣin and Śakra in a manuscript of the Kalpa-sūtra. King of the gods, Lord Śakra instructs his antelope-headed commander to move the embryo of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina, from the womb of a brahmin woman.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Interpreting dreams This manuscript painting shows learned men interpreting the dreams of the woman carrying a baby who will grow up to become a Jina. In Jain tradition, dreams often herald the birth of the great individuals whose stories are told in Jain Universal History. . Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Mahāvīra and his mother Triśalā A painting from a 15th-century manuscript of the Kalpa-sūtra shows Queen Triśalā and her newborn son. He will grow up to become Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. This is a conventional way of illustrating the birth of a baby who will become a Jina. . Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Mahāvīra's palanquin This manuscript painting shows Prince Mahāvīra on the way to his ceremony of renunciation. Gorgeously dressed and bejewelled, he is carried in an ornate palanquin. Women fan him with fly-whisks, denoting his high status, while musicians play in his honour. He is about to become a monk, a time of general joy and celebration of his sacrifice.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Mahāvīra is tested This manuscript painting shows the 24th Jina Mahāvīra enduring some of the trials – upasarga – each Jina must go through to test his spiritual resolve. Smiling serenely, he stands in the ideal ascetic posture of kāyotsarga – rejection of the body – even though fierce animals attack him and two men push spikes into his ears as a torture. Dressed as a Śvetāmbara monk, Mahāvīra wears ornate jewellery and a kind of tilaka on his forehead.. Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London
  • Pārśva, the 23rd Jina This painting from a manuscript depicts Pārśva, the 23rd Jina. Easily recognised in art from his snake headdress, Pārśva sits in the lotus pose of meditation and wears ornate jewellery, emphasising his status as a spiritual leader. Around the picture's border figures worship him and animals symbolising royalty, such as elephants, underline his rank as one who has conquered the cycle of births.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Nemi's renunciation This manuscript painting depicts Prince Nemi’s renunciation in two parts. The top shows the prince visiting his fiancée, Princess Rājīmatī. Below, Nemi hurries away from pens of animals, his charioteer urging the horse onwards. Deeply upset by the distress of the animals that are to be killed for his wedding feast, Nemi flees the scene and decides to become a monk instead. This episode underscores the central importance of the notion of doing no harm, which includes avoiding hurting or killing animals where possible.. Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London
  • Worship of Ṛṣabha In golden colours, this manuscript painting shows Ṛṣabha being worshipped. The first of the 24 Jinas, Ṛṣabha takes the lotus position of meditation. His jewels and ornate headdress show he is a spiritual king, a status underscored by the elephants, parasol and pedestal, standard symbols of royalty in Indian art. Figures sit or stand around him in attitudes of worship.. Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
  • Mahāvīra in the Puṣpottara heaven This manuscript painting shows Mahāvīra as a god in the Puṣpottara heaven before being born as a human being who will become a Jina. All Jinas are born as celestial gods before their final lives as human beings. Jinas are always human because only humans can reach omniscience and liberation from the cycle of rebirth.. Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London
  • Elephant This manuscript painting of an elephant shows an important animal in Jain myth. The elephant is the emblem – lāñchana – of Ajita, the second Jina. According to the Śvetāmbara sect, the elephant is the first of the 14 dreams experienced by the mother of a baby who will grow up to be a Jina. Elephants also appear in parables, stories and other auspicious dreams described in Jain myths. . Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Kālaka with Śakra in disguise This manuscript illustration shows the monk Kālaka and an elderly brahmin. Śakra, king of the gods, tests Kālaka's modesty, learning and ability to see the truth by disguising himself. He takes on the form of an aged learned man, who disputes scriptures with the respected monk.. Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Kālaka and the Śāka king This manuscript painting depicts Kālaka and the king of the Śakas, known as Sāhi. Kālaka wears the white robe of a Śvetāmbara monk while the Sāhi is the large crowned figure. The non-Indian nature of the Śakas is underlined by their clothes, faces and beards.. Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London

Further Reading

‘Śvetāmbar Mūrtipūjak Jain Scripture in a Performative Context’
John E. Cort
Texts in Context: Traditional Hermeneutics in South Asia
edited by Jeffrey R. Timm
State University of New York Press; Albany, New York, USA; 1992

Full details

‘A Note on the Heterodox Calendar and a Disputed Reading in the Kālakācāryakathā’
Paul Dundas
Journal of the Pāli Text Society
volume 29
2007

Full details

'Kalpa Sûtra'
translated and edited by Hermann Jacobi
Jaina Sutras: Âkârâṅga Sûtra and Kalpa Sûtra
Sacred Books of the East series; series editor F. Max Müller; volume 22: 1
Clarendon Press; Oxford, England UK; 1884

Full details

'The Kalpa Sûtra of Bhadrabâhu'
Bhadrabāhu
translated and edited by Hermann Jacobi
Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes
Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft series; series editor Otto Loth; volume VII: 1
F. A. Brockhaus; Leipzig, Saxony, Germany; 1879

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Kalpa Sūtra of Bhadrabāhu Svāmī
Bhadrabāhu
translated by Kastur Chand Lalwani
Motilal Banarsidass; New Delhi, India; 1979

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A Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of Miniature Paintings of the Jaina Kalpasūtra as executed in the Early Western Indian Style
W. Norman Brown
Freer Gallery of Art – Oriental Studies series; volume 2
The Lord Baltimore Press / Smithsonian Institution; Washington DC, USA; 1934

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Catalogue of the Jain manuscripts at the British Library: including the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum
Nalini Balbir, Kanhaiyalal Sheth, Kalpana Sheth and C. B. Tripathi
British Library & the Institute of Jainology; London, UK; 2006

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The Story of Kālaka: Texts, History, Legends, and Miniature Paintings of the Śvetāmbara Jain Hagiographical Work, the Kālakācāryakathā
W. Norman Brown
Freer Gallery of Art – Oriental Studies series; volume 1
Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution; Washington DC, USA; 1933

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'Das Kālakācāryakathānakam'
translated by Hermann Jacobi
Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft
volume 35
Leipzig, Saxony, Germany; 1881

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Glossary

Ācārya

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

Ahiṃsā

The principle of non-violence that is one of the five chief vows of Jainism.

Ajita

Second Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is gold and his emblem the elephant. There is no historical evidence of his existence.

Alms

Food, money, medicine, clothing or anything else given to another person as a religious or charitable act. Asking for and giving alms is a significant part of Jainism, as it forms a daily point of contact between lay people and mendicants. Seeking, donating and receiving alms are highly ritualised ceremonies in the Jain tradition, and spiritual purity is essential for both giver and recipient. Giving alms is a way for lay Jains to gain merit – puṇya.

Arhat

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'.

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.

Avadhi-jñāna

Extra-sensory knowledge, clairvoyance. One of the five traditional types of knowledge, it is inborn in heavenly and hellish beings. Humans can attain it only through special yogic practices and it is linked to a high level of spirituality.

Baladeva

One of the five types of 'great men' – śalākā-puruṣas or mahā-puruṣas – in Jain Universal History, Baladevas are the older half-brothers of the Vāsudevas, sharing the same fathers. They are both demi-Cakravartins or half Universal Rulers. In the part of the universe where humans live, nine Baladevas are born in each progressive and regressive half-cycle of time. Baladevas are devout Jains who, after renouncing the world to become monks, are usually liberated but may be reborn as gods in one of the heavens. Baladevas are also known as Balabhadras.

Brāhmaṇa

A member of the highest caste in Hinduism, the priests or brahmins. 'Brahminical' means 'of or like brahmins'.

Bright fortnight

The half of the lunar month in the traditional Indian calendar in which the moon is at its fullest.

Buddhism

The religion founded by Buddha, often called the 'Middle Way' between the self-indulgence of worldly life and the self-mortification of a very ascetic way of life. Buddhism has similarities to Jain belief but some significant differences. For example, Buddhists hold that the world around us is a short-lived illusion and do not believe in individual, everlasting souls.

Buddhist

A follower of Buddhism. There are two main schools of Buddhism, namely:

  • Theravāda – 'the Teaching of the Elders' in Pali – is older and is found chiefly in Sri Lanka and continental South East Asia
  • Māhayana – 'Great Vehicle' in Sanskrit – is the larger sect and is followed mainly in East Asia and the Himalayan nations.

Both sects are practised in India.

Cakravartin

Sanskrit for 'universal monarch'. There are 12 in the continent of Bharata in each progressive and regressive half-cyle of time. They have 9 treasures and 14 jewels they can use to conquer their enemies and become 'universal monarchs'. The cakravartin form one of the five groups of '63 illustrious men' in Jain mythology.

Cheda-sūtra

A class of scriptures in the Śvetāmbara canon dealing with monastic hierarchy, transgressions and penances.

Colophon

Found at the end of a Jain manuscript, a colophon is similar to the publication information at the beginning of modern books. It usually contains the title and sometimes details of the author, scribe and sponsor. The colophons of Jain manuscripts may also include the names of owners, readers and libraries where they have been stored. They frequently have decorative elements and very commonly contain a wish for good fortune for any readers. Written mainly by the scribes who copy texts, Jain colophons are often written in Sanskrit.

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.

Confession

Acknowledgement or declaration of the truth of a statement. In religious terms, it usually refers to admitting sin or wrongdoing to at least one other person in a ritual. It is normally a necessary step before absolution, which is formal release from guilt or consequences of wrongdoing.

Deity

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

Devānandā

The original mother of Mahāvīra, who was from the brahmin caste. The king of the gods, Śakra, caused the embryo to be transferred into the womb of a kṣatriya woman because Jinas-to-be can only be born to the kṣatriya caste.

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.

Disciple

An active follower of a religion, especially one who passes on teachings to others.

Dīvālī

Falling in late September or October, the annual 'Festival of Lights' is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, though they have different understandings of it. Jains of all sects commemorate the liberation of Mahavira and the omniscience of his chief disciple Indrabhūti Gautama. The festival also marks a new religious year for Jains.

Doctrine

A principle or system of teachings, especially religious philosophy.

Donor

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.

Elder

A term used for a man who is one of those listed in early sources as the direct successors of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina.

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. 

Folio

A single sheet of paper or parchment with a front and a back side. Manuscripts and books are written or printed on both sides of sheets of paper. A manuscript page is one side of a sheet of paper, parchment or other material. The recto page is the top side of a sheet of paper and the verso is the underside.

Gaṇadhara

'Supporters of the order'. This term is used for the first mendicant disciples of a Jina. They are able to understand his teachings properly and can pass them on. A gaṇadhara leads his own group of ascetics until he becomes enlightened.

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.

Hariṇaigameṣin

Antelope-faced commander-in-chief of the god Śakra, who transfers the embryo of Mahāvīra from the womb of the brahmin Devānandā to that of the kṣatriya Queen Triśalā.

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.

Indra

Sanskrit word for 'king' and the name of the king of the gods in the Saudharma heaven. Called Śakra by Śvetāmbaras and known as Saudharma to Digambaras, this deity is involved in all five auspicious moments – kalyāṇakas – in a Jina's life.

Indrabhūti Gautama

Chief disciple of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. From a brahmin family, he was the first of Mahāvīra's 11 chief disciples. He became enlightened on the day Mahāvīra was liberated. He achieved liberation himself 12 years later.

Initiation

Formal or ceremonial admission into an organisation or group.

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.

Jinaprabha

(1261–1333) Kharatara-gaccha monk famous for writing Vividha-tīrtha-kalpaGuidebook to Various Pilgrimage Places. He also visited the court of the Delhi Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq.

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'.

Kālakācārya-kathā

The very popular Story of the Ācārya Kālakā recounts the adventures of the Śvetāmbara monk Kālakā. Emphasising the connection between religious practice and magical abilities, the story is frequently found as an appendix to the Kalpa-sūtra because it explains how Kālaka changed the date of Paryuṣaṇ. This annual festival gives a central role to the Kalpa-sūtra scripture.

Kalpa-sūtra

The Book of Ritual attributed to Bhadrabāhu. It has three sections:

  1. 'Jina-caritra' – 'Lives of the Jinas'
  2. 'Sthavirāvalī' – 'String of Elders'
  3. 'Sāmācārī' – 'Right Monastic Conduct'.

A significant sacred text for Śvetāmbara Jains, the Kalpa-sūtra has a central role in the annual Paryuṣaṇ festival.

Keśa-loca

Pulling out one’s hair in handfuls in a symbolic gesture as a part of the religious initiation known as dīkṣā. Only mendicants do this, and they do it regularly in their monastic life.

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.

Kharatara-gaccha

Subsect of the Śvetāmbaras, chiefly found in Rajasthan and Mumbai and established in the 11th century. 

Kṣatriya

The Indian caste of warriors and kings, with the role of 'protectors'. Jinas are born into this caste.

Kulakara

'Patriarchs’, who live in the suṣamā-duṣamā period and teach people to adjust to deterioriating conditions in this phase of time. The last of the kulakaras of this time period was Nābhi, the father of the first Jina, Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha. They vary in number from 7 to 14 or 16 according to the source.

Lotus lake

Lake Pushkar in modern-day Rajasthan is one of the five holiest pilgrimage sites for Hindus, who associate it with the Hindu trinity of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva. The god Brahmā killed a murderous demon with his weapon, the lotus flower. Three petals fell to the earth, each creating a lake now dedicated to each of the principal gods. Devotees believe that bathing in the lakes cures many skin diseases.

Mahāvīra

The 24th Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is yellow and his emblem the lion. Mahāvīra or 'the great hero' is his title. His birth name was Vardhamāna, meaning 'ever increasing'. His existence is historically documented but the two main sects of Digambara and Śvetāmbara Jains have slight differences in their accounts of his life.

Marudevī

Mother of Ṛṣabha, the first Jina of the present age. A kṣatriya woman, she has the auspicious dreams that indicate the birth of a future Jina while she is pregnant. Śvetāmbaras believe that she was the first person to be liberated in this era but Digambaras hold that the first liberated person was either her son Bāhubali or one of her grandsons.

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.

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.

Nābhi

Father of the first Jina of this era, Ṛṣabha. His wife was Marudevī. Nābhi was one of the patriarchs – kulakaras – of his era.

Nami

The 21st Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is black, yellow or emerald and his emblem the blue lotus. There is no historical evidence of his existence.

Nandivardhana

Elder brother of the 24th Jina Mahāvīra. The eldest son of King Siddhārtha and Queen Triśalā. 

Nemi

The 22nd Jina of the present age, also called Ariṣṭanemi. His symbolic colour is blue or black and his emblem the conch. There is no historical evidence of his existence.

The Jains hold that Nemi is the cousin of the Hindu god Kṛṣna. The tale of his renunciation and jilting of his fiancée Princess Rājīmati are famous among the Jains.

Nudity

The Digambara mendicants are 'sky-clad' because they believe that all the Jinas and their male ascetic followers went nude as part of their vow of renunciation. This vow entails renouncing all possessions, including clothing. Female Digambara ascetics wear white saris and are thus technically spiritually advanced celibate laywomen. Śvetāmbara mendicants of both sexes, however, wear white clothing. The difference of opinion over whether the vow of non-possession includes clothing was one reason for the Jain community's split into these two major sects early in the Common Era.

Nun

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

Palanquin

A bed or seat attached to poles, which are carried by bearers on their shoulders. The palanquin is usually a closed box or has curtains sheltering the person within.

Pañca-muṣṭi

The Sanskrit term for 'five handfuls' refers to the traditional gesture of the initiation ritual – dīkṣā – in which the future mendicant pulls out his or her own hair in 'five handfuls'. Nowadays, new monks and nuns symbolically pull out a single hair while the rest of their hair is shaved off. The shaven heads of Jain ascetics indicate their status.

Pārśva

The 23rd Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is green and his emblem the snake. Historical evidence points to his living around 950 to 850 BC.

Paryuṣaṇ

An eight-day festival in August / September, which is the most important event of the religious calendar for Śvetāmbara lay Jains. They fast, read, spend time with monks and meditate. The last day is the occasion for public repentance. Reading the Kalpa-sūtra and sponsoring new manuscripts or editions of this canonical book are associated with this festival.

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.

Prākrit

A term for any of the dead vernacular languages of ancient and medieval India. It may be contrasted with classical Sanskrit, the language used by priests and the aristocracy. The Jains used a large variety of Prakrits, with the Jain canon written chiefly in Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit.

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.

Pūrva

Literally, the Sanskrit for 'ancient’. The term can mean either:

  • a measurement of 84,000 x 84,000 years
  • the scriptures of the 24 Jinas' preaching and long since lost.

The 14 Pūrvas held all the knowledge in the universe and the few who knew them were given the exalted status of śruta-kevalin – ‘scripturally omniscient person'. In line with the prophecy of the last Jina, Mahāvīra, knowledge of the Pūrvas died out within a thousand years of his liberation. Parts of the Pūrvas are said to form elements of later philosophy and scriptures.

Rainy season

The annual four-month rainy period in India, lasting roughly from June / July to October / November. Heavy rain, strong storms and gale-force winds are very common during this period. Mendicants cannot travel around and must stay in one place to avoid breaking their vow of non-violence and because the monsoon makes travelling on foot difficult and dangerous. It is known as cāturmāsa in Sanskrit, comāsa in Hindi and comāsu in Gujarati.

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.

Sāgāra

Sanskrit term meaning 'with a home’ – that is, a ‘householder’ or lay Jain. A synonym for a lay person, emphasising that he or she is a member of a household, with responsibilities to the family, community and society that a Jain mendicant does not have.

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.

Sandalwood

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.

Saṇgha

Sanskrit for 'community'. The Jain ‘fourfold community’ is composed of monks, nuns, lay men and lay women.

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.

Satya

Reality or truth. This is very important to Jains and the satya-vrata is the second of the mendicant's Five Great Vows and the lay person's Five Lesser Vows.

Scripture

Set of sacred texts that believers accept as authoritative within a religion. Synonymous with canon.

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.

Siddhārtha

Father of the 24th Jina Mahāvīra and king of present-day Bihar in northern India. His wife was Queen Triśalā.

Śramaṇa

A term used in ancient scriptures for a non-Hindu mendicant, namely Jain or Buddhist.

Śrī

Hindu goddess of wealth, Śrī is the personification of spiritual energy and is closely associated with the lotus. Also a name for Lakṣmī, Hindu goddess of beauty, wisdom, fertility and wealth.

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.

Tapas

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.

Triśalā

The kṣatriya birth-mother of Mahāvīra. Queen Triśalā was married to King Siddhartha.

Ūrdhva-loka

The highest of the three worlds in Jain cosmology, the home of the various types of gods.

Uttarādhyayana-sūtra

An ancient Jain text outlining the rules of monastic conduct, said to be Mahāvīra's final sermon. These 36 lectures provide rules for ascetics but also discuss various topics, such as karma and the substances in the universe, and recount the tale of Nemi's renunciation.

Vāhana

The vehicle of a Hindu god or goddess. Usually an animal, the vāhana fulfils one or more roles and may:

  • be the deity's emblem
  • symbolise positive attributes associated with the deity
  • represent evil powers over which the god has triumphed
  • help the divinity to perform duties.

The vāhana may also have its own divine powers or be worshipped in its own right.

Valabhī

The wealthy city of Valabhī – now Vallabhi – in Gujarat was a major centre of Jain intellectual life in the early medieval period. The final version of the Śvetāmbara canon was written down there under the supervision of the religious teacher Devarddhi-gaṇi Kṣamāśramaṇa in the fifth century CE.

Vāsudeva

One of the five types of 'great men' – śalākā-puruṣas or mahā-puruṣas – in Jain Universal HistoryVāsudevas are the younger half-brothers of the Baladevas, sharing the same fathers. They are both demi-Cakravartins or half Universal Rulers. In the part of the universe where humans live, nine Vāsudevas are born in each progressive and regressive half-cycle of time. Each one battles his mortal enemy, one of the Prati-vāsudevas. For breaking the principle of non-violence, the Vāsudevas are reborn as hell-beings – nārakis. Some may then become Jinas in their next lives. Vāsudevas are also known as Nārāyaṇa.

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.

Vihāra

A Sanskrit term that describes the wandering lifestyle of Jain mendicants. Jain monks and nuns are expected to travel around, not stay in one place as householders do. They wander constantly on foot, never staying more than a few days in one place. They may walk around 30 kilometres a day in small groups. However, every year, during the monsoon, monks and nuns stay in one location to avoid travelling.

Vikrama-saṃvat

Often abbreviated, Vikrama-saṃvat is the calendar associated with Emperor Vikramāditya. It begins in about 56 BCE so the equivalent date in the Common Era can be calculated by subtracting 57 or 56. Based on Hindu traditions, it is a lunar calendar often used in contemporary India.

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