Article: Devarddhi-gaṇi

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Devarddhi-gaṇi is a monk associated with the creation of the Śvetāmbara canon, which is said to have taken place in 453 CE at Valabhī, in Gujarat.

He is generally known by the Sanskrit form of his name, which is Devaḍḍhi or Deviḍḍhi in Prakrit. He is also known as Devavācaka, although it is not certain that both names refer to the same person.

Very little is known about Devarddhi-gaṇi, but later sources link him very strongly to the Śvetāmbara scriptures and to the monastic lineage associated with the Jinas, who are the traditional source of Jain teachings. Devarddhi-gaṇi had a leading role in the process of writing down the Śvetāmbara Āgamas and is venerated in the list of early Jain teachers.

History and legend

Devarddhi-gaṇi is a significant Jain figure because of his crucial role in the final redaction of the Śvetāmbara canon in the fifth century CE. He is sometimes said to be the author of the Kalpa-sūtra as well. But there is no historical information about his life or personality as an individual apart from this. In the texts where his name appears, he is revered only for his knowledge of the tradition.

The term gaṇi originally means ‘leader of a gaṇa’ or group of monks. Devarddhi-gaṇi is often dubbed Kṣamā-śramaṇa – 'patient ascetic' – a respectful title given to Jain religious teachers in old texts. The name Devavācaka is also sometimes given to him, which underlines his role in the Valabhī council. Meaning 'god', deva is the first part of this name while vācaka means ‘the one who recited’ the scriptures.

Some Jain authors hold that Devarddhi-gaṇi is the same person as the Devavācaka who composed the important scripture called the Nandī-sūtra. One well-known example is Devendra-sūri in the 13th century. However, later scholars have contested this assertion.

References in texts

The name of Devarddhi-gaṇi appears on line 2. Devarddhi-gaṇi is a monk believed to have supervised the writing down of the Śvetāmbara canon in the fifth century CE. One of the few texts to mention him is the 'Kalpa-sūtra'.

Praise of Devarddhi-gaṇi
Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London

Devarddhi-gaṇi is named in several later works as a highly revered Jain teacher. He is explicitly linked to the ‘Kāśyapa gotra’, the most renowned monastic lineage, which is associated with most of the 24 Jinas.

One of the texts that mention him is the Sthavirāvalī, the second section of the Kalpa-sūtra, which is both an account and a praise of all the early Śvetāmbara Jain teachers. The final part is a verse homage to them in the first person, and the last verse celebrates Devarddhi-gaṇi.

khama-dama-maddava-guṇehi sampanne
Kāsava-gotte paṇivayāmi

I revere the Kṣamāśramaṇa Devarddhi of the Kāśyapa gotra, who wears, as it were, the jewel of the right understanding of the Sūtras, and possesses the virtue of patience, self-restraint, and clemency

Kalpa-sūtra, Sthavirāvalī, final verse
Translation by Jacobi 1884: 295

This is the best-known verse about Devarddhi-gaṇi and is found later in the R̥ṣimaṇḍalaprakaraṇa, a verse work in Prakrit praising the most famous Jain teachers of the tradition.

The ‘Kāśyapa gotra’ is one of the most famous monastic lineages associated with Jinas and several early Jain teachers. Of the 23 Jinas who came before Mahāvīra, 21 belonged to this lineage (Kalpa-sūtra, Jina-caritra, verse 2; Jacobi’s translation 1895: 218). Several of the early Jain teachers celebrated in the Sthavirāvalī – 'String of Elders' – were also in this mendicant lineage.

According to some Kalpa-sūtra commentators, the reason why Devarddhi is paid homage to here, at the end of the Sthavirāvalī, is his role in putting the Jina's words into writing (granthāḥ pustakeṣu likhitā, see Jacobi 1879: 114).

Life history

This painting from an Uttarādhyayana-sūtra manuscript shows a senior monk teaching junior monks. The largest, most important figure is the teacher, sitting on a low dais under an ornate shelter. The other monks raise their hands in respect

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

Very little is known about Devarddhi-gaṇi, as elements which would root him in history are unreliable, disputed or missing.

For example, his birth-place is sometimes given as Vairaval in Saurashtra (Illustrated Shri Nandi Sutra: 53) but no other sources support this.

Scholars debate the name of Devarddhi-gaṇi's religious teacher. For example, in the section of the fifth-century Nandī-sūtra where homage is paid to a number of early teachers, the last name is that of Dūsa-gaṇi, or Dūṣya-gaṇi in Sanskrit. Since Devavācaka is said to be the author of this work, and mendicant writers ended lists of their monastic lineages with their own masters, this suggests that Dūsa-gaṇi was his teacher. But this holds only if it is assumed that Devavācaka and Devarddhi-gaṇi are the same person.

Some writers believe that Devarddhi was initiated by another teacher, known as Lohicca or Lauhitya in Sanskrit (Illustrated Shri Nandi Sutra: 53).

Another view is that Devarddhi was the pupil of Ārya Śāṇḍilya (Puṇyavijaya 1968: English introduction, page 42).

Despite such arguments, nearly all personal information about Devarddhi-gaṇi is lacking.

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