In the Jain conception, the world has neither beginning in time nor any end. The world and the Jain Church exist eternally. The Jains liken time to a wheel with twelve spokes. The Wheel is going round and round since time began and will go on doing so for all time. At any moment half the wheel is descending. The descending half of the wheel is called Avasarpini, and the ascending half is called Utsarpini. We are living in the Avasarpini half or the descending half of the Time Wheel when the human life and manners are becoming worse year by year. Each of these halves is divided in to Aras (spokes) or Ages. The Aras in the Avasarpini are the following:
Name of the Age Duration
1. Susama Susama Four crore crore Sagaropama year
2. Susama Three crore crore Sagaropama years
3. Susama Dusama Two crore crore Sagaropama years
4. Dusama susama One crore crore Sagaropama years
less 42,000 ordinary years
5. Dusama 21,000 ordinary years
6. Dusama Dusama 21,000 ordinary years.
Sagaropama or "comparable to ocean" is a number too large to express in words.
The same Ages occur in the Utsarpini period but in the reverse order.
In the first Age, in the Susama susama Age, man lived Three palyas or palyopamas a long period not to be expressed in a definite number of years (one crore-crone palyas make one "comparable to ocean years). The Nirvana of Rishabha the first Tirthankara occurred 3 years and 8 1/2 months before the end of the third Age. The other 23 Tirthankara were born in the fourth age. Mahavira the last of the Tirthankara died 3 years and 8 1/2 months before the beginning of the fifth age which began in 527 BC We are thus living in the fifth, that is, the Dusama Age.
The mythical history of Jainism starts from a period near about the end of the third Age, i.e., the Susama Dusama Age. In this period the first of the sixty-three supermen of the Jain mythology, Rishabhanatha, appeared. The other sixty-two supermen appeared in the fourth, i.e., Dusama-susama Age. The Svetambaras call these supermen Shalakapursha, while the Digambaras call them Lakshana-purusha.1 Mahavira was the last of the sixty-three supermen.
Both the Svetambaras and the Digambaras have written a number of works giving the lives2 of these sixty-three persons. One of the most famous of these works is the Trishashti- shalakapurusha- charitra by Hemachandra. Generally speaking, there is not much difference in the versions of the lives given by the two sects. In fact the notable differences occur in the case of the two Tirthankara Malli and Mahavira only. In all other cases the two sects are in agreement about the mythology of their religion.
The sixty-three supermen were the following:
Shvetambara names Digambara names
Thirhankaras Tirthankara 24
Cakravartins Cakravartins 12
Baladevas Baladevas 09
Vasudevas Nrayanas 09
Prativasudevas Pratinarayanas 09
In addition to these sixty-three supermen there were some kulagaras or legislators. They all arrived in the third Age. The first Tirthankara Rishabha was also the last of the kulagaras. The kulagaras were the persons who first introduced punishment in the world. These, however, consisted in not more than admonition, warning and reprimands hakkara, makkara and dhikkara.3 A kulagara was something like Manu, the legislator of the Hindus.
Among the Baladevas and Vasudevas, the most interesting are Balaram and Krishna (Kanha in Prakrit). They appeared at the time of Nemi, the 22nd Tirthankara. In fact Krishna was Nemi's cousin, We get here the Jain version of the Mahabharat The Story of the Kauravas and Pandavas and the descendants of Krishna and Balaram is described. The Kauravas and Pandavas are converted to the Jain religions. Finally the Pandavas also become ascetics and like Nemi, attain Nirvana.4 One interesting point is that the main battle here is not the one described in the Hindu Mahabharat. Krishna, the Vasudeva, fights a battle with Jarasandha, the Prativasudeva, and kills him. This is the main battle in the Jain version. In this battle between Krishna and Jarasandha, the Pandavas take the side of Jarasandha. In fact, the main story in this Jain version is the life of Krishna, and this is nearly the same here as given in the Bhagavati Purana of the Hindus. Even otherwise the Krishna is the only Vasudeva who plays some part in the Jain canonical works- Antakriddasah and Jnatadharma Katha.
The Jain version of the Ramyan is given in Padmacaritras or Padma - Puranas. Padma is actually the Jain name of Ram and his story in the Jain version differs in many particulars from that of Valmiki.
Hemachandra in this Trishashti-shalakapurusha- charitra gives the legend of Ram in detail. According to him, Dasharath, king of Saketa had four queens: Aparajita, Sumitra, Suprabha ad Kaikeyi. These four queens had four sons. Aparajita's son was Padma, and he became known by the same name of Ram also. Sumitra's son was Narayana: he became to be known by another name, Lakshmana. Kaikeyi's son was Bharata and Suprabha's son was Shatrughna.
Sita was the daughter of Janak. She had a twin brother Bhamandala who was kidnapped while still an infant. Once Janak was attacked by barbarians. Ram was sent to help Janak, and he easily repulsed the enemies. Janak was delighted and wanted Ram to marry his daughter Sita.
Dasharath had married Kaikeyi in a svayanvara festival where she had selected him as her husband out of the many kings who had attended the festival. The other kings who were rejected attacked Dasharath. In the battle that ensued, Kaikeyi had acted as the charioteer of Dasharath. She did her job so skillfully that Dasharath had promised her any boon that she desired. She had said that she would ask for her boon on a suitable occasion.
When Dasharath became old he wanted to abdicate and become a beggar. When Kaikeyi heard this she demanded her boon, and this was that her son Bharata should take over the kingdom as Dasharath's successor. Ram readily agreed to this proposal but said that if he stayed on in the capital, Bharata would not accept the throne. He therefore thought that he should leave the capital and live in the forest. Sita and Lakshmana accompanied him. The rest of the legend is more or less the same as in Valmiki's Ramyan There is, however, an important difference. It is Lakshmana and not Ram who actually kills Ravana. In the Jain system therefore it is Lakshman who is Vasudeva, Ram is Baladev, and Ravana is Prativasudeva.
There is another and perhaps an older version of the Jain Ramyan. This version is given in the 14th Chapter of Sanghadasa'a Vasudevahindi and also in the Uttarapurana of Gunabhadracarya. This version is not popular and is in fact not known to the Svetambaras at all. The story in brief is as follows: Dasharath was a king of Varanasi. Ram was his son by his queen Subala, and Lakshman by Kaikeyi. Sita was born to Mandodari, wife of Ravana, but since there was a prophecy that she would be the cause of her father's death, Ravana had sent her through a servant to be buried alive in Mithila. She was accidentally discovered by the king Janak when was plowing the field, and brought up as his daughter. When Sita grew up, Janak performed a yajna where Ram and lakshman were invited. Janak was impressed by Ram's personality and he gave his daughter Sita to him in marriage. Ravana had not been invited to this yajna, and when he heard that Sita was a beautiful girl, he decided to abduct her. There is no mention in this version of the Ramyan of the exile of Ram. Ravana in fact abducts Sita from Citrakuta near Varanasi. Ram recovers her by killing Ravana in Lanka. Therefore Ram and Lakshman come home and rule over their kingdom.
All the Chakravartins have more or less similar careers. Their lives are spent in obtaining the fourteen imperial crown treasures or jewels. After long reigns, they perform the act of purging known as apurva-karma obtain kevala knowledge and enter Nirvana. The first of the Chakravartins was Bharata, son of the first Tirthankara Rishabha.
Rishabha's name occurs in the Hindu Visnu-purana and Bhagavat Purana also. It is stated there that the emperor Rishabha handed over his empire to his son Bharata and went to the forest where he practiced severe penance and died. He was nude at the time of his death. (This suggests that the Purana story might have come originally from the Jain sources) From the time Rishabha gave away his empire to his son Bharatta, they started calling this country Bharata- Varsa. Formerly this country was called Himavarsa. Name of no other Tirthankara is mentioned in the Hindu religious literature.
The detailed lives of the twenty four Tirthankara were given in the various Caritras and Puranas written in the later part of the first millennium AD the earlier books such as the Kelp Sutra of the Svetambaras give little details about most of them. In fact the Kalpa Sutra gives some particulars only about the lives of Parshva, Arishtanemi and Rishabha in a stereotyped manner. It gives the life of Mahavira in some detail, and so far as the other twenty Tirthankara were concerned, mentions only the periods when they appeared.
There is some uniformity in the lives of the Tirthankaras. All of them were born of Kshatriya mothers and lived princely lives before they renounced the world, and nearly all of them attained Nirvana in the Sammeta mountain (Parasnatha) in Bihar. There were only four exceptions in regard to the place of Nirvana. The place of Nirvana of the following four Tirthankaras were as below:
1. Rishabha in Kailasa
12. Vasupujja in Champa
22. Arishtanemi on the Girnar Hills
24. Mahavira in Pava
The twenty-third Tirthankara Parshvanatha is said to have died 250 years before Mahavira, while Parshva's predecessor Arishtanemi is said to have died 84,000 years before Mahavira's Nirvana. Naminatha died 5,00,000 years before Arishtanemi and Munisuvrata 1,00,000 year before Naminatha. The intervals go on lengthening until they reach astronomical periods.
It thus goes without saying that all the Tirthankaras, except Parshva and Mahavira are mythical figures. We thus need not discuss their lives given in the various Puranas and Charitras. It will, however, be clear from what has been stated above that the Jains have a philosophy of history (i.e. the theory of the wheel of time) and this is distinct from the philosophy of history of any other people. Also the Jains throughout the last fifteen hundred years or so, have taken great delight in writings about the history of their Church up to Mahavira. In fact the Digambaras have practically ignored the history of their church after Mahavira. Except for some pattavalis, which gives the names of their successive Patriarchs, the Digambaras section of the Church has no other history after Mahavira. For Jain sources of the history of the Church after Mahavira we have therefore to depend on the Svetambaras works only.
1. Schurbing, The Doctrine of Jains p. 23.
2. The Digambaras call these lives Purana whereas Svetambaras call them Charitras.
3. Schubring op. cit. p.20
4. Winternitz, A History of India Literature Vol. II, p.495
5. A reference to the Chakravartins possessing 14 is found in the Hindu Vishnu Purana also. Of these 14 Jewels, 7 are inanimate, viz. Cakra (wheel), rath (chariot), khanga (sword), charm (shield), dhvaja (flag), nidhi (treasury), and 7 are animate, viz. wife, priest, commander of the army, charioteers foot soldiers, troops mounted on horses, and troops mounted on elephants. Other books give other lists.
6. Bk.2. ch.1
7. The term "Aristameni", which occurs sometimes in the Vedic literature, for instance, in Rigveda X. 178.1, is not the name of any person.
Life of Parshva
Parshva was the twenty-third Tirthankara of the Jains. His historicity is sought to be established by the fact that at the time of Mahavira there were a number of people who were followers of his teaching. In fact the parents of Mahavira himself were followers of Parshva. In Mahavira's time the leader of this sect, which was called Miganthas by the Buddhists, was Keshi.
The Jain canonical books do not mention much about the life of Parshva. A short account of his life appears in the Kalpa-Sutra of Bhadrabahu. Kalpa Sutra was written perhaps in the 4th or 5th century AD. In the last paragraph of this account it is mentioned that since the time the Arhat Parshva died twelve centuries has elapsed, and of the thirteenth century that was the thirtieth year. Similarly in the case of Mahavira the Kalpa Sutra mentions that since the time of his death nine centuries has elapsed, and of the tenth century that was the eightieth year. From this we gather that Parshva died 250 years before Mahavira and thus perhaps belonged to the 9th century BC
Apart from this, all the other events in the life of Parshva are written in the stereotype manner in which the Jains describe the lives of all their Tirthankaras. For instance, it is said that the five most important moments of Parshva's life happened when the moon was in conjunction with the asterism Vishakha. These five events are his conception in the womb of his mother, his birth, his renunciation of the world, his obtaining of supreme knowledge and his death.
Parshva according to the Kalpa Sutra was the son of king Ashvasena of Varanasi. His mother's name was Vama. Parshva lived as a householder for thirty years. He renounced the world at the age of thirty and then practiced severe asceticism for eighty-three days. On the eighty-fourth day, he became a Kevalin, i.e. obtained supreme knowledge. Thereafter he built up a large community of followers both shramnas and householders male as well as female. He died at the age of 100 at Sammeta Sikhara (Parsanath in Bihar).
1. Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXII, pp. 271-272
Life of Vardhamana Mahavira
Vardhamana Mahavira, the twenty-fourth and last Tirthankaras of the Jains is the most important figure in the history of Jainism. It was he who consolidated the Jain Church and laid such a firm foundation for it that it has existed almost unchanged for more than twenty-five centuries. As already mentioned, his name, Nigantha Nataputta, occurs in the early Buddhist records. Since these sources are independent, they establish the historicity of Mahavira. The Buddhist records do not give any details about the life of Mahavira, except to state that he was a leader of the Nigantha sect. The Buddhist also record the time of his death.
The Jain sources also do not give any particulars about his life as a teacher. The events before his birth, such as the dreams his mother had when he was conceived are described in great detail, but few details are given about him after he was born. At the age of thirty Mahavira became an ascetic, and wandered about for twelve years. But of Mahavira's life as a teacher for nearly thirty years until his death at the age of 72, the sources are reticent.
The life of Mahavira as we can gather from the Svetambaras sources is as follows:
Mahavira was Kshatriya of the Jnatri clan and a native of the (Kshatriya) Kundagram, a suburb of the town of Vaishali (near Patna). He was the second son of Siddhartha and Trishala, a highly connected lady. In fact Trishala was the sister1 of king Chetaka of Vaishali whose daughter Chellana was married to Shranik Bimbisara king of Magadh. Mahavira's family tree can be drawn up as follows.2
Suparshva----Siddhartha Trishala or----Cetaka Subhadra
Videhadatta king of Vaishali
Kunika or Ajatashatru
Founder of Pataliputra
VARDHAMAN married to YASHODA
Anojia or Priyadarshana married to Jamali
The Svetambaras say that the soul of this Tirthankara had first descended into the womb of the Brahman Devananda. There after his fetus had been, by the order of Shakra (Indra) removed thence to the womb of Trishala who actually gave birth to Mahavira. One may rightly ask how people came to know of this incident of the transfer of the fetus. According to the Svetambaras it was Mahavira himself who revealed this to his disciples when Devananda once came to see him. This is how it is described in the Bhagavati Sutra.
(The Brahman Rishabhadatta and his wife Devananda went on pilgrimage to Mahavira). Then milk began to flow from the breast of Brahman woman Devananda, her eyes filled with tears, her arms swelled inside her bangles, her jacket stretched, the hairs of her body stood erect, as when a Kadamba unfolds itself in response to a shower of rain; thus she gazed at the holy monk Mahavira without averting her eyes. "Why master, " said the venerable Gautam to the holy monk Mahavira, "does the Brahman woman gaze... (Thus).... without averting her eyes?" "Hear, Gautama" Said Mahavira, "The Brahman Woman Devananda is my mother, I am the son of the Brahman woman Devananda. That is why the Brahman woman Devananda gazes at me with tender love, the cause of which is that I first originated in her."3
All the five important events in the life of Mahavira, his conception, birth, renunciation of home life, attainment of supreme knowledge, and death occurred when the moon was in conjunction with the asterism Uttaraphalguni. His parents who were pious Jains (i.e. worshippers of Parshva4) gave him the name Vardhamana. (Vira or Mahavira is an epithet used as a name). He married Yashoda and by her had a daughter Anojja (also known as Priyadarshana). His parents died when he was 30 years old; and his elder brother Nandivardhana succeeded of his father in whatever position he had held. With the permission of his brother and other authorities, he carried out along cherished resolve and became monk with the usual Jain rites. Then followed 12 years of self-mortification. Mahavira wandered about as a mendicant friar bearing all kinds of hardships; after the first 13 months he even discarded clothes. At the end of this period dedicated to meditation and travels, he reached the state of omniscience (kevala) corresponding to the bodhi of the Buddhists.
We have some details of Mahavira's itinerary during the twelve years that he roamed about in eastern India before he reached the state of omniscience. Mahavira's life during these twelve years was spent in great difficulties. Sometimes he was taken for a thief by the villagers. Sometimes he and Goshala, his companion for six or seven years were suspected to be spies. The details of his journeys during these twelve years are given in Jinadasa's churni to the Avashayaka Sutra. This churni according to Schubring cannot be dated earlier than the 7th century AD, but it is generally taken to be more or less reliable.
Within a few days of Mahavira's renunciation of the world, he went to a village called Kummara. He stood there in meditation for sometime. One cow- herder took him to be a thief and wanted to hit him, and Mahavira had to leave the village. Mahavira spent the first rainy season of his ascetic life in Atthiyagama.
During the second year, while Mahavira was crossing the river Suvannakula, his garment was caught in the thorns on the bank of the river. From this time onwards he remained naked. Mahavira passed his second rainy season in a weaver's shed in Nalanda near Rajagriha. Here Makkhali Goshala met him and became his companion. The two of them left for Kollaga. The third rainy season was passed by Mahavira and Goshala in Champa.
While Mahavira and Goshala were traveling through Coraga Sannivesa they were suspected to be hostile spies, and thrown into well. They were however recognized by two female followers of Parshva and were released. They passed the fourth rainy season in Pitthichampa.
The next year of their ascetic lives was very difficult for Goshala and Mahavira. Goshala was apt to mock at people and therefore, was beaten up by them many times. They also traveled to Ladha (south-west Bengal) in this year and were ill-treated by the people. They spent the fifth rainy season in Bhaddiya.
In their travels in this year the two were again taken as spies at a place called Kuviya Sannivesa. They were later released by the intervention of two sisters called Viyaya and Pragalbha. At this time Goshala refused to move in the company of Mahavira, saying that since he was made to bear insults every now and then he would prefer to travel alone. They parted company for the time being, but after about six months, when Mahavira was in Salsisygama, Goshala joined him again. They passed the sixth rainy season in Bhaddiya.
They passed their seventh rainy season in Alabhiya. In the next year Goshala was again beaten-up by the people for his mocking behavior. At one time while the two were in Lohaggala, a place described as the capital of king Jiyasattu, the royal servants took them to be enemy spies and tied them up. Later they were set free by Uppala who is said to have arrived there from Atthiyagama. The eighth rainy season was passed by Mahavira and Goshala in Rayagiha (Rahagriha).
From Rahagriha, Mahavira and Goshala proceeded to Ladha and traveled in Vajjabhumi and Subbhabhumi where Mahavira had to undergo all sorts of torture. These have been described in detail in the Acharonga Sutra. An extract is as follows:
"He traveled in the pathless country of the Ladhas in Vijjabhumi and Subbhabhumi; he used there, miserable beds and miserable seats. In Ladha (happened) to him many dangers. Many natives attacked him. Even in the faithful part of the rough country the dogs bit him, ran at him. Few people kept off the attacking, biting dogs. Striking the monk, they cried "Chhuchchhu" and made the dogs bite him. Such were the inhabitants. Many other mendicants, eating rough food in Vijjabhumi, and carrying about a strong pole or a stalk(to keep off the dogs), lived there. Even thus armed they were bitten by the dogs, torn by the dogs. It is difficult to travel in Ladha".
They passed the ninth rainy season in this country.
In the tenth year while the two were in Siddhatthapura, Goshala finally severed all connections with Mahavira, and went to Savatthi. Mahavira then traveled alone for the rest of the year and passed his tenth rainy season in Savatthi.
The exact reason why Mahavira and Goshala parted company is not clear. Perhaps the reason was that Goshala did not care much for chastity and this Mahavira did not like. We have in the Sutrakritanga a statement which Goshala, made to Ardraka, a disciple of Mahavira. "As your Law makes it no sin for Mahavira to surround himself by a crowd of disciples, so according to our Law an ascetic, who lives alone and single, commits no sin if he uses cold water, eats seeds, accepts things prepared for him, and has intercourse with women."
Goshala spent the last days of his life in Shravasti in the house of a potter woman called Halahala.
It was perhaps after seeing this sort of behavior that Mahavira thought it prudent to make the vow of Brahmacharya as one of the necessary conditions of monk-hood, and added it to the list of the four vows of Parshva.
The eleventh year of Mahavira was one of his most difficult years. At Tosali he was taken for a robber and hit hard. Then he went to Mosali where he was arrested as a robber but was released by king's court. When he went back to Tosali the people tried to hang him but he was rescued by a Tosali Kshatriya. The whole of the year was a period of torture and humiliation. He passed his eleventh rainy season in Vesali.
The nest year was of comparative peace. Mahavira passed his twelfth rainy season in Champa.
From Champa Mahavira reached Jambhiyagama, and then journeyed to Mendhiyagama. Then he proceeded to Chammanigama where a cowherd is said to have thrust iron nails into his ears. Mahavira arrived at Majjhima Pava in this condition where the nails were removed from his ears. From here he traveled towards Jambhiyagama, where on the northern bank of the river Ujjuvaliya, in the farm of the householder Samaga, under a Shala tree, in the north-east of Veyavatta shrine, after a period of 12 years 6 months and 15 days, Mahavira attained omniscience (kevala) on the bright tenth day of Vaishakha.
After Mahavira attained Kevala, a Samavarsana (religious conference) was held on the bank of the river Ujjuvaliya, but it is said that the first preaching of Mahavira remained unsuccessful. Then after traversing twelve Yojanas, Mahavira is said to have returned to Majjhima Pava where the second Samavarsana was convened in the garden of Mahasena. Here, after a long discussion on various religious and philosophic points, Mahavira ordained eleven learned Brahmans.7
These eleven Brahmans later became the eleven ganaharas (Ganadhara) of Mahavira. Nine of them died within the life time of Mahavira and only two of them Indabhui Goyama (Indrabhuti Gautama) and Suhamma (Sudharman survived him. Schubring remarks: There can be scarcely any doubt that the other nine ganaharas are fictitious."8 In fact in the Jain canonical books there is scarcely any mention of these nine ganaharas.
Mahavira lived for about 30 years after attaining omniscience at the age of forty-two. The Jain rules prescribe that during eight months of the summer and winter seasons a monk may stay in a village for one night only and in a town for not more than five nights. During the four months of the rainy season he should stay at one place. The places where Mahavira spent his forty-two rainy seasons are given in the Kalpa Sutra. These were as follows:
Places of Rainy Season Stay
1. Atthiyaggama - 1 (The first rainy season)
2. Champa and PitthiChampa - 3
3. Vesali and Vaniyagama -12
4. Rayagiha and Nalanda -14
5. Mithila - 6
6. Bhaddiya - 2
7. Alabhiya - 1
8. Paniyabhumi - 1
9. Savatthi - 1
10. In the town of Pava - 1 (this was his last rainy season.)
in the office the clerk
of king Hattivala
The area which Mahavira covered during his ascetic life of 42 years, e.g. from the time he left home and until his death, was roughly Bihar, a part of western and northern Bengal and some parts of eastern Uttar pradesh. Tosali is also mentioned in some works as a place to which Mahavira went. If this Tosali was in Orissa then Mahavira had gone to that region also.
Most of the early Jain works do not take much interest in describing the life of Mahavira after he attained omniscience and became a teacher.9 There are, however, scattered references here and there. The Bhagvati Sutra is the only early work giving comparatively more details of Mahavira's life both before and after he attained omniscience. The later Jain writers collected these and other bits of stories about his life and put them in the works called the "Lives of the sixty-three Supermen." Among these works the most well known is the Trishashti- Shalakapurushacharitra of Hemachandra.10 Mahavira's life is given in the tenth book of this work. Since Hemachandra was one of the most learned persons among the Jains, it may be presumed that he has given in his work, only those parts of the myths and legends connected with Mahavira's life which he found most believable. For mahavira's life. He had, therefore, filled-up most of his work with the histories of other important people such as the contemporary rulers and their spouses. Sometimes it is difficult to find relevance of these stories to the life of Mahavira).
Shortly after attaining omniscience Mahavira started wandering in villages, mines, cities, etc., to give help to souls capable of emancipation. Many people would come to see him. Among the first people to him were his natural parents Rishabhadatta and Devananda. It was during this visit that Mahavira recognized Devananda as his mother in whose womb he had first descended from heaven and stayed on for eighty-two days before being transferred to Trishala's womb.
Among the early visitors to Mahavira during his wandering were Jamali, his sister's son as well as his son-in- law. Jamali met Mahavira while the latter was in Kshatriya- Kundagram, the village where Mahavira was born. Priyadarshana, Mahavira's daughter, and wife of Jamali had heard a sermon and obtained his parents consent; he took the vow together with five hundred of the warrior caste. Priyadarshana, Jamali's wife, the Blessed one's daughter, together with one thousand women took initiation under the Master. Then the Blessed one went elsewhere to wander, and Jamali followed him with the warrior-sadhus. In the course of time Jamali, as he wandered, learned the eleven Angas and the Lord made him the head of his fellow-mendicants. He practiced penance’s, two-day fasts, etc. Priyadarshana followed Candana.
This Candana was the daughter of Dadhivahana, king of Champa. He had been defeated in a battle and his daughter Candana had been enslaved. Once Candana had given half the food that had been given to her while she was nearly starving to Mahavira as alms. At that time Mahavira had still not attained omniscience. He had taken a vow that he would fast for a long time. It was predicted by the gods, "This girl, who has her last body (before emancipation), averse to desire for worldly pleasures, will be the first female disciple, when Mahavira's omniscience had developed".
One day Jamali bowed to the Lord and said: "With your permission I and my group shall proceed with unrestricted wanderings." The Blessed One knew by the eye of knowledge that evil would result, and gave no answer to Jamali asking again and again. With the idea that what is not forbidden is permitted, Jamali and his group separated from the Lord to wander.
While thus wandering along with his followers Jamali once fell ill. He wanted to lie down and asked his men to spread a bed for him. After some time, he asked them whether the bed was spread or not. They were still spreading the bed and replied that the bed was spread. When Jamali saw that the bed had not until then been spread, he got annoyed with his followers. They replied that according to the teachings of Mahavira "What is being done is done". But now they realized their mistake and knew the truth that "What is being done is not done". This in fact was the sole point in the schism on which Jamali and his group separated from Mahavira. Jamali started boasting that he had attained omniscience. He told Mahavira that he had become all knowing, all perceiving, an Arhat here on earth. His wife Priyadarshana also joined him in his heresy. She, however, realized her mistake by a personal experience. Once a person had intentionally allowed a spark of fire to drop on her habit, which caught fire. When she saw that her habit was burning Priyadarshana said, "Look Dhanka, my habit is burnt by your carelessness". Dhanks said, "Do not speak falsely, Sadhvi, for according to your doctrine, it is proper to say such a thing when the whole habit has been burnt." Being burnt is burnt' the teaching of Mahavira. "Priyadarshana realized her error in following Jamali's teaching and came back with her followers to her father.
Jamali, however, continued with his false doctrine and at last died without confessing his sin. Jamali's doctrine died with him.
The next important episode described by Hemachadra, is the death of Goshala, the leader of the Ajivikas (Hemachandra spells it Ajivaka).
In his wanderings Mahavira had come to Shravasti and stopped there in the garden of one Kosthanka. Goshala had come there earlier and was staying in Shravasti in the shop of a potter woman called Halahala. Goshala used to call himself omniscient. Once while he entered Shravasti for alms, Gautama, one of the chief disciples of Mahavira heard that Goshala was making these claims. Gautama asked Mahavira whether Goshala was right in this matter. Mahavira said: "The son of Mankha, Mankhali, thinking himself a Jina though he is not a Jina, Goshala is a house of deceit. Initiated by me myself, taught by me, he resorted to wrong belief about me. He is not omniscient, Gautama".
When Goshala heard Mahavira's opinion about him, he was greatly annoyed. When he saw Ananda, another disciple of Mahavira, he threatened that he had a hot flash with which he would consume an enemy. He would destroy Mahavira and his disciples with his flash. When Ananda reported this to Mahavira, he remarked that Goshala indeed had this dangerous flash, with which he could consume anybody except the Arhat, who would only feel some discomfort. That is why Goshala should not be teased.
Ananda reported this to the people of Shravasti. This made Goshala angrier, and he came and started abusing Mahavira. Indeed, he was able to kill two of Mahavira's disciples with his hot flash when they tried to remonstrate.
Mahavira tried to pacify Goshala, but Mahavir's words made Goshala angrier, and he discharged his hot flash at Mahavira. "Powerless against the Master like a hurricane against a mountain, it (the flash) circumambulated the Lord, resembling a devotee. From the hot flash there was only warmth in the Master's body..... The hot flash, as if angry because he had used it for a crime, alas! Turned and entered Goshala's body forcibly".
"Burned internally by it, Goshala had recourse to audacity and said arrogantly to the Blessed Mahavira: "Consumed by my hot flash, you will die at the end of six months succumbing to a bilious fever, still an ordinary ascetic, Kashyapa".
"The Master said: "Goshala, your speech is false, since I, omniscient, shall wander for sixteen years more. But you suffering from a bilious fever from your own hot flash, will die at the end of the seven days. There is no doubt about it".
"The miserable Goshala, burned by his own hot flash drank wine to allay the great heat, accepting a bowl of wine. Intoxicated by the wine he sang and danced and frequently bowed to Halahala (the potter woman), making an anjali..... He spoke disconnected and contradictory speeches; and he passed the day nursed by his sorrowful disciples". Thus he suffered for a week.
At the end of seven days, Goshala repented, confessed his errors and died.
(The story of Goshala, taken by Hemachandra mostly from the Bhagavati-Sutra probably gives the history of a serious quarrel between the sects of Ajivikas led by Goshala and the Nigganthas led by Mahavira. As described later, Hoernle say in it the signs of the beginning of the Digambara Community).
In the course of a few days, Mahavira also became weak from dysentery and bilious fever from the effects of Goshala's hot flash, but he did not use any medicine. Rumour spread that he would, as predicted by Goshala, die within six months. His disciples became greatly alarmed, and requested Mahavira to take some medicine. At last, Mahavira agreed and said that his disciples should bring that had been cooked by Revati, a housewife, for the household.
"Sinha (one of the disciples) went to Revati's house and got the prescribed remedy which she gave. Immediately delighted gods made a shower of gold. Lord Vardhamana made use of the excellent medicine brought by Sinha and at once regained health, the full moon to the partridge (chakora) of the congregation.
Mahavira lived for sixteen years more after this. He wandered about north Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, teaching people the ethics of his religion. Perhaps nothing very much noteworthy happened during these years.
Mahavira died twenty-nine and half years after he had attained omniscience. The death took place in the house of king Hastipala's scribe in the town of Pava, near Rajagriha. Out of the eleven Ganadharas, nine had already died. Only (Indrabhuti) Gautama and Sudharman survived him. A day before his death, Mahavira had sent away Gautama for a day. Perhaps he had feared that Gautama might be too demonstrative of his grief. However, Gautama attained omniscience instantly on the death of Mahavira. He remained in this state for twelve years and on his death Sudharman attained omniscience. Sudharman was the first leader of the Jain Church after Mahavira, for Gautama never acted as a teacher.
Svetambaras place the year of the death of Mahavira, which is the initial point of their era, 470 years before the beginning of the Vikram era, or in 527 BC.12
On the death of Mahavira, "The light of knowledge having been extinguished, all the kings made material lights. From that time among the people also a festival called Dipotsava, takes place everywhere on that night by making lights".
(Hemachandra in this last part of his Trishashtishalakapursha- charitra has covered nearly all the facts known to the Jains about the life of Mahavira. It is, however, interesting to note that he has not mentioned the second schism of the Jain Church. This was started y Tissagutta during Mahavira's lifetime, sixteen years after the latter had attained omniscience).
What kind of man was Mahavira? We do not know much about his character from the Jain canon, but some conclusions can be draw from his behavior and sayings. He must have been a man of strong will power and patience. Otherwise he could have not withstood the tortures and privations he suffered during the period of twelve years he was travelling either alone or with Goshala. His constitution must also have been quite strong.
He was evidently not of a cheerful disposition, and disliked mirth among his disciples. We have in the Acharanga-Sutra, "A Nirgrantha comprehends (and renounces) mirth, he is not mirthful. The Kevalin says: " A Nirgrantha who is moved by mirth, and is mirthful, might utter a falsehood in his speech."13
He must have also had charisma and the quality of attracting people. This conclusion can be drawn from the success he obtained in combining the Nigrantha Church into one, and creating a religious system, which has lasted almost unchanged these 2500 years. His power of attracting people was a cause of envies to his one time companion and later his rival Makkhali Goshala who complained to Ardraka. "Listen, Ardraka, to what (Mahavira) has done. At first he wandered about as a single monk; but now he has surrounded himself by many monks, and teaches every one of them the Law at length."14
As Jacobi says, "Mahavira must have been a great man in his own way, and an eminent leader among his contemporaries; he owed the position of a Tirthakar because of the sanctity of his life and his success in the propagating of his creed"15.
The report about Mahavira's death is also recorded in the Buddhists texts. In fact the report appears at three places. These are Majjhima Nikaya, Samagama Sutta, 3.14; Digha Nikaya, Pasadika Sutta 3.6; and Digha Nikaya, Paryaya Sutta 3.10. The purport of these records is as follows:
Chunda Samanuddesa, a Buddhist monk was passing his rainy season in Pava. At that time the Buddha was dwelling among the Shakkas at Samagama. "Now at that time Nigantha Nataputta had just departed from life at Pava. After his death the Niganthas were divided into two groups. They were making quarrels, making strife, falling into disputes were wounding each other, "You do not know this law of discipline, I know this law of discipline.....You are having false beliefs, I am having true beliefs" etc. Thus the Niganthas of the Nataputta were as if warring with each other.
Chunda Samanuddesa after passing the rainy season at Pava went and reported the whole matter to Ananda. Thereupon the venerable Ananda said to him: "Reverend Chunda, this news is worthy to be presented to the Blessed One. Come let us go to the Lord".
Then, the venerable Ananda and Chunda Samanuddesa approached the Buddha, and saluted and sat down at one side and so seated, the venerable Ananda said to the exalted one: "Lord: this Chunda Samanuddesa says "Nigantha Nataputta has just departed...."
This record in the Buddhist text is so vivid, that the obvious inference from it that the Buddha was living at the time of Mahavira's death ought to be accepted. The belief among some scholars, on the other hand, is that it was the Buddha who had died earlier. This later hypothesis is supported among others by Snhalese Buddhist tradition that the Buddha died in 544 BC Since the Jains believe that Mahavira died in 527 BC, this would put the year of death on the Buddha 16 to 17 years earlier than the year of Mahavira's death. Things are, however, not free from complications. Hemchandra, the historian of the Jain Church, has written that Chandragupta Maurya became emperor 155 years after the death of Mahavira. This would bring the years of the death of Mahavira to 468 BC There are other traditions also about the years of death of Mahavira and the Buddha.
1. The fact that Trishala, the mother of Mahavira, was a sister of king Chetaka is not mentioned in the canon. We learn about this only from Avashayakachurni of Jinadasagani (7th century AD)
2. Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXII. p. xv
3. Winternitz, op. cit. 443
4. Acaranga Sutra in Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXII, p. 194
5. Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXII. p.84
6. Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXII, p.411
7. The account of Mahavira's travel as given in the Avashakchurni has been summarized above from J. C. Jain Life in Ancient India, pp. 257-261
8. Schubrihg, op. cit. P. 44
9. There is some similarity here with the life of the Buddha. The Lalitvistara describes the life of the Buddha in some detail to the time he attained Buddhahood and traveled to Sarnath to preach his first sermon. This was when he was 36. For the remaining 44 years of the Buddha’s life we have little connected details.
10. Helen M. Johnson has translated this work by Hemachandra in six volumes. The Oriental Institute, Baroda, published the translation. Vol. VI, which is used here extensively, was published in 1962.
11. That Jamali was Priyadarshna's husband, is not mentioned in the canon though his name occurs several times in the canonical texts. The later commentaries however say that Jamali was the husband of Priyadarshana, daughter of Mahavira.
12. H. Jacobi mentions in his article on Jainism in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. VII, that 527 BC was the date given by Shvetambera of Mahavira's Nirvana, while Digambers place the event 18 years later. This does not seem to be correct. Trilokasara (shloka 850), a Digambra's work mentions that Mahavira's Nirvana took place 605 years and 5 months before the shaka king
(AD 78). This gives 527 BC as the date of Mahavira's Nirvana. Another Digambera work Tiloypannati gives three dates dates for Mahavira's Nirvana . Two of them absurdly give old dates, but the third one (sl. 1499) agrees with Trilokasara.
13. Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXII, p.205
14. Sutrakritanga in Sacred Books of the East, Vol. XLV, p.409
15. Sacred Books of the East Vol. XLV, p. xxxii
16. See chapter v
The Jain Church After Mahavira
The Shvetambara Version
So far as we know, Jainism was confined, during the first one or two centuries after Mahavira, within the area in which he had preached the religion. Mahavira's principal disciple Sudhamma succeeded him as the head of the Church. His name was later Sanskritized to Sudharman. Mahavira is said to have had eleven principal disciples or Gangdharas. Nine of them had died during the lifetime of Mahavira and only two, namely Sudharman and Indrabhuti Gautama, are said to have survived him. But apart from Sudharman we know nothing about the other ten Ganadharas. The historicity of these ten has been questioned. However, it is quite clear that in the history of Jainism, it is not important to establish the fact that they existed. These ten Ganadharas have left no successors, and they did not make any contribution, so far as we know, to the development of Jainism after Mahavira.
Sudharman on the other hand was an important figure. We know many of the teachings of Mahavira in the version in which Sudharman taught them to his principal disciple Jambusvamin. Many lessons in the Jain canonical works start with the words of Sudharman: "Now Jambusvamin...."
Sudharman survived Mahavira by twenty years. He is said to have become a Kevalin (omnipotent) twelve years after Mahavira's Nirvana, and then lived on for eight years more, reaching the age of 100 at the time of his death. Jambu, his principal disciple, succeeded him to the pontificate. Jambu's principal disciple Prabhava succeeded him on his death forty-four years later in 64 AV. Thus, for several generations, the supreme dignity and power of the Jain Church devolved from teacher to disciple.
It must be pointed out that the above is the Shvetambara tradition. Some Digambaras maintain, on the other hand, that the first two successors of Mahavira were Gautama and Lohacharya, and Jambu had succeeded Lohacharya. Some other Digambaras think that Sudharman succeeded Gautama and Lohacharya was another name of Sudharman. However, for the history of the Jain Church, we have to rely on the Shvetambara version. Digambaras have not written any history of the Church and apart from some pattavalis and inscriptions, we do not know their version of the story for a few centuries after Mahavira.
The list of the successors of Mahavira in the pontificate, as known to the Svetambaras, is given in the Kalpa Sutra in the chapter known as Theravali (or Sthaviravali), and also in two of their canonical works. The lists of the patriarchs given in these two Sutras are in agreement with that given in the Kalpa Sutra up to Mahagiri and Suhastin, the pair of patriarchs in the eighth generation after Mahavira. At that point, the succession diverges in two lines, one start from Mahagiri, the other from Suhastin. The first is recorded in Nandi and Avashyaka Sutras, and the second in the Kalpa Sutra. Both lines are entirely independent of each other and have no members in common. Almost all those who figure in the ancient legends (Kathanakas) belong to the line of Suhastin. As far as I am aware there is but one legend related to a member of the Mahagiri line, viz. Mangu, see Abhidhanarajendra Kosha, s.v. Mangu".1
Thus, for all practical purposes, the list given in the Kalpa Sutra is the only authentic list, so far as the Svetambaras are concerned. The Kalpa Sutra, however, does not give, apart from the succession list, any other information about the patriarchs of the Jain Church. This history is contained in Hemachandra's Parishishtaparvan or Sthaviravali and in the last part of Bhadreshvara's Kathavali, a huge work in Prakrit prose. Both these are legendary histories or rather hagiographies, i.e. they give mostly the legends connected with the lives of these patriarchs and the contemporary kings. The "history" of the Jain Church as given below is mostly based on Hemachandra's Sthaviravali. A large part of the Sthaviravali describes the good deeds done by the patriarchies in their previous births as a result of which they were rewarded with saintly lives in their present births. The work also describes the political events of the period, especially in reference to the influence that the Jain had on these events. These descriptions are of general interest. (The events are perhaps described as the Jains would like them to have happened, and not necessarily as they actually happened).
The first six patriarchies after Mahavira were:
1. Sudharma(n) 4. Sayyambhava
2. Jambu 5. Yashobhadra
3. Prabhava 6. Bhadrabahu and
"Sudharman entered the order at the age of fifty; thirty years he was the disciple of Mahavira, twelve years after whose death he reached kevalam. He died eight years later, having accomplished his 100th year".
"Sudharman's successor was Jambu. It is related that once Sudharman, surrounded by his disciples, Jambu etc., arrived in Champa, and took up his abode in the part outside the town. As was usual, a crowd gathered to hear his preaching. King Kunika (Ajatashatru) saw the crowd and came to hear the sermon. When the sermon was at an end, the king asked Sudharman who Jambu was, for the king greatly struck with the beauty and the remarkable appearance of Jambu. Sudharman related to him Jambu's history, and foretold that he would be the last kevalin. After him nobody would reach Manahpayaya and the Paramvadhi stages of supernatural knowledge; the JinaKalpa would be abandoned together with other holy institutions and practices, while on earth the sanctity of men would go on decreasing". (IV, 1-54)2
Here perhaps we get the first hint of the schism between the Shvetambara and the Digambara Churches. One of the practices of Jina Kalpa is the complete nudity of the monks. The Shvetamabara monks have abandoned this practice and follow what is known as sthavir-Kalpa. It is interesting to note that the name of Jambu's successor Prabhava who presumably followed the sthavira Kalpa does not appear in any of the lists of patriarchs of the Digambaras.
"Jambu reached beatification 64 years after Mahavira's Nirvana, having appointed Prabhava of the Katyayana gotra as the visible head of the Church". (IV-55-61)
Shayyambhava was born a heretic and at first he studied the Vedic religion under his guru. Once he met two monks who said: "Ah, you know not the truth." This unsettled his mind and a few days later he took farewell of his guru and went in search of the two monks. At lasts, he came to Prabhava from whom he asked for instruction in the Jain religion. Prabhava explained to him the five vows of the Jains; and when Shayyambhava had renounced his former heretical views, he received Diksha and became a zealous ascetic. He learned the fourteen Purvas and became, after Prabhava's death, the head of the Church". (V, 36-54)
When Shyyambhava took Diksha, he had left his young wife behind. They had as yet no children. The circumstances made the forsaken woman's case appear still more miserable, so that people compassionately asked her if there was no hope of offspring. She answered in Prakrit, "manayam" i.e. "a little". Hence the boy to whom she eventually gave birth, was called Manaka. When Manaka was eight years old, and became aware that his mother was not dressed like a widow, he asked her who his father was. He then learned that his father was Shayyambhava, who, becoming a monk, had left before he, Manaka, was born, and never returned. Manka who yearned for his father secretly left his mother and went to Champa. There he met his father, and as he did not recognize him as such, he inquired of him about his father by whom he wanted to be ordained. Upon which Shayyambhava gave himself out as the most intimate friend of his father in whose stead he would ordain him. Manaka agreeing to this Shayyambhava brought him to the monks without explaining the relation subsisting between the boy and himself. The boy was ordained. Shayyambhava by means of his supernatural knowledge perceived that his son would die in six months. The time being too short for mastering the whole sacred lore, in extensor, Shayyambhava condensed its essence in ten lectures, which he composed in the afternoon. Hence the work is called Dashavaikalika. For thought to make abstracts of the Law is allowed to none but the last Dashapurvin, yet under certain circumstances a Shrutakevalin may do so. Manaka learned the Dashavaikalika, and thus he was well instructed in the religion. When the six months were over and he died, Shayyambhava wept so much at Manaka's death that his disciples were at a loss to comprehend his deportment which appeared so unbecoming of a world-renouncing monk, and said as much. He then told them Manaka's history, and declared that he wept for joy because his son had died a saint. The disciples learning then that Manaka was their acharya's son wondered why he had not told them this before. Shayyambhava replied that if they had known Manaka to be his son, they would not have exacted the obedience, which is the duty of every novice, and the most meritorious part of his moral exercise. He added that for the sake of Manaka's instruction, he had composed Dashavaikalika, but now the object being attained, he would cause his work to disappear. The disciples, however, moved the Sangha to solicit Shayyambhava that he should publish the Sashavaikalika. Shayyambhava complying with their wishes, that work has been preserved." (V 55-105)
At last Shayyambhava died, having appointed Yashobhadra as his successor". (V 106-107)
Bhadrabahu and Sambhutavijaya
"After a most exemplary life of an ascetic and a teacher, Yashobhadra died leaving the management of the Church to his disciples Bhadrahu and Sambhutavijaya".
Hemchandra in his Sthaviravali now goes back about a hundred years to the time when Pataliputra, the new capital of Magadh, was founded. Later he describes the political history of the period of Nandas and the Mauryas and then comes back to the history of the Jain Church.
Founding of Pataliputra
"Kunika was the king of Magadh at the time of Mahavira. Kunika's capital was Champa. When he died, his son Udayin succeeded him. Everything in his residency brought back to him the memory of his deceased father, and rendered him exceedingly sad. His Ministers, therefore, persuaded him to found a new capital, just as Kunika had founded Champa, after leaving Rajagriha on the death of his father. In order to find a site suitable for the future capital, Udayin dispatched men versed in the interpretation of omens. When they had reached the bank of the Ganga, they came upon a magnificent Patali tree. On a bough of this tree was perched a Chasa bird. The bird opened from time to time its bill in which insects fell by themselves. The augurs noticing this remarkable omen, returned to the King, and recommended the spot for erecting the new Capital. An old auger then declared that the Patali tree was not a common tree, for he had heard from wise men a story about it. The story was about one Annikaputra who had even in a painful situation succeeded in concentrating his thoughts, and thus at last reached Nirvana, which event was duly celebrated by the gods near this place. This place henceforth became a famous tirtha called Prayaga. The skull of Annikaputra was drifted down by the river and landed on the bank. There the seed of a Patali tree found its way into it, and springing up it developed into the tree that was to mark the site of the new capital. In the center of this city a fine Jain Temple was raised by the order of the monarch who was a devout Jain. (VI, 21-174)
How Nanda became king of Magadh
"Udayin the king of Magadh was murdered by the agent of a rival king. Udayin was childless. His ministers, therefore, sent the Royal Elephant in a procession through the main street for searching out the next king. At that moment Nanda was coming from the opposite side in his marriage procession. Nanda was the son of the courtesan by a barber. When the two processions met, the State Elephant put Nanda on his back, the horse neighed, and other such auspicious omens were seen. In short, it was evident that the royal insignia themselves pointed him out as the successor of Udayin. He was accordingly proclaimed king and ascended the throne. This event happened sixty years after the Nirvana. (VI, 231-234) The name of Nanda's minister was Kalpaka.