Article: Reference Aṅgas

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Contents of the Sthānānga and the Samavāyānga

This manuscript painting in a Saṃgrahaṇī-ratna shows the 14 magical jewels – ratna – of a 'universal ruler' – cakravartin. He uses these to conquer his enemies and become a universal monarch. The first panel depicts the cakravartin and a servant

14 magical jewels
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The two scriptures can be viewed as reference books of Jain terms and concepts in the form of headings and enumerations. They are not encyclopaedias since they do not expand upon the meaning of each term. The Sthānānga and the Samavāyānga merely list concepts that are organised into categories based on numbers. Taken at face value, some statements are therefore quite challenging. 

The terms and concepts of the works cover all possible areas of Jainism:

The same concept is often dealt with more than once. This is because, depending on the angle of analysis, it can be considered differently with different kinds of subdivisions. For instance, the total number of the colours of the soulleśyā – is six. But they are not found at the same time in the same living being. Thus it also occurs in the section discussing concepts grouped in threes, in connection with the number of colours applicable to various types of living beings.

In some ways, therefore, the Sthānānga and the Samavāyānga cover all areas of knowledge.

These two Aṅgas are thus highly technical. They address readers who are familiar with the doctrine because they suppose a lot of background knowledge. For the specialists, they function as highly developed mnemonic tools. Even so, the way the concepts are ordered within each numerical section is not crystal clear.

They are mostly written in prose, but verses are occasionally used in some topics. These could be quotations from external sources.

Contents of the Sthānānga



Example statement


unitary concepts, which have no subdivisions 

  • The world is one
  • Emancipation is one

These statements apply to principles – tattvas – at the heart of Jain doctrine.


concepts with two subdivisions

  • Living and non-living
  • Good action and bad action


concepts with three subdivisions

  • Time – past, present, future
  • Grammatical gender – feminine, masculine, neuter


concepts with four subdivisions

  • Passions:
  • anger
  • conceit
  • deceit
  • greed.
  • Mount Meru on Jambū-dvīpa has four forests:
  • Bhadraśāla
  • Nandana
  • Somanasa
  • Paṇḍaka.


concepts with five subdivisions

  • Five major vows – mahā-vrata
  • Five colours – black, blue, red, green, white


concepts with six subdivisions

  • Descending half-cycle of time – avasarpiṇī –is of six kinds
  • Ascending half cycle of time – utsarpiṇi – is of six kinds


concepts with seven subdivisions

  • seven musical notes
  • seven mountain ranges in Jambū-dvīpa


concepts with eight subdivisions

  • eight categories of karmas
  • eight types of contact:
  1. rough
  2. mild
  3. heavy
  4. light
  5. cold
  6. warm
  7. unctuous
  8. harsh


concepts with nine subdivisions

  1. living
  2. non-living
  3. good action
  4. bad action
  5. influx of karmas
  6. blocking of karmas
  7. expulsion of karmas
  8. formation of karmas
  9. liberation


concepts with ten subdivisions

  • ten directions:
  1. east
  2. south-east
  3. south
  4. south-west
  5. west
  6. north-west
  7. north
  8. north-east
  9. upwards
  10. downwards
  • ten atonements (Caillat 1975):
  1. confession
  2. repentance
  3. mixed
  4. restitution
  5. undisturbed abandonment of the body
  6. isolation
  7. partial suppression of religious seniority
  8. radical suppression of religious seniority
  9. demotion
  10. exclusion

The third and the fourth Aṅgas go together. They supplement each other but also overlap each other to some extent.

Contents of Samavāyānga




1 to 10

concepts with numbers of subdivisions according to section number

Some of the lists are identical with the corresponding sections in the Sthānānga


concepts with 11, 12, 13 subdivisions and so on

  • 11 stages of progressive renunciation for a lay man – pratimā
  • 12 stages of spiritual development for a mendicant – pratimā


concepts with 22 subdivisions

  • 22 troubles – parīṣaha – are known

This is followed by a list of troubles mendicants must overcome


concepts with 24 subdivisions

  • 24 gods above gods – devādhideva – are known

This is followed by a list of the 24 Jinas

...10 to the power of 14 – sāgarovama-koḍākoḍī

concepts with numbers of subdivisions according to section number



  • Description of the contents of the 12 Aṅgas, one by one.
  • Elements relating to the Jain universe and Jain Universal History, such as:
    • biodata of the Jinas and other groups in Jain mythology
    • names of Jinas of the past and of the future, and of their previous births and so on

Aṅga 5 – ‘the Venerable One’

The fifth Aṅga is often referred to by the laudatory epithet Bhagavaī – ‘Venerable’. This name is probably more widely known than its formal title of Viyāhapannatti or Vyākhyāprajñapti.

Structure of the Bhagavaī Aṅga

This bulky book is divided into 41 sections known as śatakas. These are themselves subdivided into subsections called uddeśas, except for section 15, which has no subdivision. In many cases these subdivisions have further divisions. Since the beginning of Jain studies, the structure of this work has been discussed. With variations, it is now more or less agreed that there is a nucleus. This corresponds to sections 1 to 20, except for section 15. Later stages of accretions have been identified (Weber, Deleu, Ohira, Dixit), mainly on the basis of formal criteria.

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