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    The Jain religion also known as Shraman Dharma, Nirgranth Dharma, etc. is the  oldest religion in the world. It is an independent religion  has been taught by Tirthankaras also called Jina. A follower of a Jina is called a Jain and the religion followed by Jains is called Jainism. Each of 24 Tirthankara revitalizes the Jain order. The Jain Order is known as the Jain Sangh. The current Jain Sangh was reestablished by Bhagavan  Mahävira, who was the 24th and last Tirthankar of the current time period. The twenty-four Tirthankaras who appeared in the present cycle of time are:

 1. Bhagwan Rishabha             9. Bhagwan Pushpadanta       17. Bhagwan Kunthu
 2. Bhagwan Ajita                  10. Bhagwan Sitala                  18. Bhagwan Ara
 3. Bhagwan Sambva             11. Bhagwan Sreyamsa            19.BhagwanMalli 
 4.Bhagwan Abinandana        12. Bhagwan Vasupujya            20. Bhagwan Munusuvratha
 5. Bhagwan Sumathi            13. Bhagwan Vimala                 21. Bhagwan Nami
 6. Bhagwan Padmaprabha    14. Bhagwan Ananta                 22. Bhagwan Nemi
 7. Bhagwan Suparsva           15. Bhagwan Dharma               23. Bhagwan Parswa 
 8.Bhagwan Chandraprabha   16. Bhagwan Santhi                 24.Bhagwan Vardhamana

The Jain Sangh is composed of the following four groups:
1) Sadhus (Monks)
2) Sadhvis (Nuns) 
3) Shravaks (Male householders)
4) Shravikas (Female householders)

The first Tirthankar of the current time period was Bhagavan  Rushabhdev followed by the above 24  Tirthankars. Bhagavan  Mahavira is the most popular Tirthankar of our time. Bhagavan  Mahavira attained nirvan  in 527 B. C. He had eleven ganadharas (disciples). Nine ganadharas attained liberation (salvation) during the lifetime of Lord Mahavira, while another  two Gautamswami and Sudharmaswämi survived him. Gautamswämi attained perfect knowledge and perfect perception and became Arihant the very night of Bhagwan Mahavira's nirvän. The remaining ganadhar, Sudharmaswami, was the next to attain perfect knowledge and perfect perception and became Arihant. Jambuswami, the disciple of Sudharmaswami was the last Arihant of the present half time cycle. After Jambuswami none attained perfect knowledge and the knowledge declined slowly as time went on.
Bhagwan  Mahavira's teachings were carried on by his ganadharas to us in the form of scriptures (Agams). They were compiled into twelve separate parts, known as Angagama or the dwadashangi (twelve parts). These 12 parts of Anagama are:

Acharangam                                   Upasakadyayanam
 Suthrakruthangam                           Anthakrudadasakam  
 Sthanagam                                     Anutharo Papadika dasakam 
 Samavayangam                               Prasna Vyakaranam
 Vyakya Pragnapti                            Vipagasutrum
 Gyathruth Dharmakta                       Drushtivadam

Besides the above 12 parts of Angagama there are 14 parts of Purvagama and 16 parts of Bahisruthagama. The Agamas are revealed by Tirthankars so these  twelve Anagama were acceptable to all followers. However, the Anagama  were not put in writing for a long time. The Jain pupils learned them by memorizing them. About 150 years after the nirvana of Bhagwan Mahavira, in the latter part of Chandragupta's regime, there occurred a terrible famine in Northern India lasted  for 12 years. During this time, nearly 8,000  monks headed by leader  Bhadra Bahu swami migrated to South India. After the famine was over, all the monks returned  back to North India . They discovered that the Jaina ascetics who stayed behind became lax in the discipline. They gave up their religious practices and begin to accept food of all kinds from all people.  They also observed that there was some inconsistency in oral recollection of the Jain scriptures by different monks. That made them to compile scriptures. To accomplish that, the first council (conference) of monks was held in Patliputra about 160 years after Lord Mahavira’s nirvana. Monk Bhadra bahu, who had the knowledge of all 12 Angas, could not be present at that meeting. The rest of the monks could compile only the first eleven Angas by recollection and thus, the twelfth Anga was lost. The monks from the South did not agree with this compilation, and the first split in Jainism started. Jains divided into two main groups, Svetambaras and Digambaras. Svetambara monks wore white clothes.  Digambara monks did not wore any clothes at all.
The second council (conference) was held in Mathura, 825 years after the nirvana of Bhagwan  Mahavira, under the leadership of monk Skandil. Simultaneously, another council was held in Valabhi under the leadership of Monk Nagarjunasuri. However, the texts of Jain Scriptures were not written systematically until after the third council that was held at Vallabhi 980 years after the nirvana of Bhagavan Mahavira under the leadership of monk Devarthigani. 

Jain order had divided into two major sects.
1 The Digambara sect 
2 The Swetambar sect 

The Digambara sect, in recent centuries, has been divided into the following sub-sects: 

Major sub-sects:
 A. Bisapantha, 
 B. Terapantha, and 
 C. Taranapantha or Samaiyapantha. 

Minor sub-sects:

 The followers of Bisapantha support the Dharma-gurus, that is, religious authorities known as Bhattarakas who are also the heads of Jaina Mathas, that is. religious monasteries. The Bisapanthas, in their temples, worship the idols of Tirthankaras and also the idols of Ksetrapala, Padmavati and other deities. They worship these idols with saffron, flowers, fruits, sweets, scented 'agara-battis', i.e., incense sticks, etc. While performing these worships. the Bisapanthis sit on the ground and do not stand. They perform Arati, i.e., waving of lights over the idol, in the temple even at night and distribute prasada, i.e., sweet things offered to the idols. The Bisapantha, according to some, is the original form of the Digambara sect and today practically all Digambara Jainas from Maharashtra, Karnataka and South India and a large number of Digambara Jainas from Rajasthan and Gujarat are the followers of Bisapantha. 


 Terapantha arose in North India in the year 1683 of the Vikram Era as a revolt against the domination and conduct of the Bhattarakas. i.e. religious authorities, of the Digambara Jainas. As a result in this sub-sect, the institution of Bhattarakas lost respect in North India, however in South India the Bhattarakas continue to play an importent role. In their temples, the Terapanthis install the idols of Tirthankaras and not of Ksetrapala, Padmavati and other deities. Further. they worship the idols not with flowers, fruits and other green vegetables (known as sachitta things), but with sacred rice called 'Aksata', cloves, sandal, almonds, dry coconuts, dates, etc. As a rule they do not perform Arah or distribute Prasada in their temples. Again, while worshipping they stand and do not sit.
From these differences with the Bisapanthis it is clear that the Terapanthis appear to be reformers. They are opposed to various religious practices. As according to them. These are not real Jaina practices. The Terapantha had performed a valuable task of rescuing the Digambaras from the clutches of wayward Bhattarakas and hence the Terapanthis occupy a peculiar position in the Digambara Jaina community. The Terapanthis are more numerous in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. It is pertinent to note that even though the name Terapantha sub-sect appears both among the Digambara and the Svetambara sects. Still the two Terapanthis are entirely different from each other. While the Digambara Terapanthis believe in nudity and idol-worship, the Svetambara Terapanthis are quite opposed to both. 


 The sub-sect Taranapantha is known after its founder Tarana-Svami or Tarana-tarana Svami (1448-1515 A.D.). This sub-sect is also called Samaiyapantha because its followers worship Sarnaya, i.e., sacred books and not the  idols. Tarana Svami died at Malharagarh, in former Gwalior State in Madhya Pradesh, and this is the central place of pilgrimage of Taranapanthis. The Taranapanthis strongly refute idolatry but they have their own temples in which they keep their sacred books for worship. They do not offer articles like fruits and flowers at the time of worship. Besides the sacred books of the Digambaras, they also worship the fourteen sacred books written by their founder Tarana-Svami. Further, Taranapanthis give more importance to spiritual values and the study of sacred literature. That is why we find a complete absence of outward religious practices among them. Moreover, Tarana-Svami; was firmly against the caste-distinctions and in fact threw open the doors of his sub-sect even to Muslims and low-caste people. These three main traits of the Taranapanthis, namely,       (a) the aversion to idol worship, (b) the absence of outward religious practices, and (c) the ban on caste distinctions, were evolved as a revolt against the religious beliefs and practices prevailing in the Digambara Jaina sect, and it appears that Tarana-Svami might have formulated these principles under the direct influence of Islamic doctrines and the teachings of Lonkashaha,  the founder of the non-idolatrous Sthanakvasi sub-sect of the Svetambara sect. The Taranapanthis are few in number and they are mostly confined to Bundelkhand, Malwa area of Madhya Pradesh and Khandesh area of Maharashtra.

The Gumanapantha is not so important and in fact very little is known about it. It is stated that this sub-sect was started by Pandit Gumani Rama or Gumani Rai, who was a son of Pandit Todaramal, a resident of Jaipur in Rajasthan. According to this Pantha, lighting of candles or lamps in the Jaina temples is strictly prohibited, because it regards this as a violation of the fundamental doctrine of Jaina  religion, viz., non-violence. They only visit and view the image in the temples and do not make any offerings to them. This pantha became famous in the name of shuddha amnaya, that is pure or sacred tradition, because its followers always stressed the purity of conduct and self-discipline and strict adherence to the precepts. Gumanapantha originated in the 18th. Century A.D. and flourished mainly during that century. 
The Totapantha came into existence as a result of differences between the Bisapantha and Terapantha sub-sects. Many sincere efforts were made to strike a compromise between the Bisa (i.e. twenty) Pantha and the Tera (i.e.. thirteen) pantha and the outcome was sadhesolaha (i.e., sixteen and a half)  Pantha or 
Totapantha'. That is why the followers of  Totapantha believe to some extent in the doctrines of Bisapantha and to some extent in those of Terapantha. 
In connection with the account of the major and minor sub-sects prevailing among the Digambara sect,  it is worth while to note that in recent years in the Digambara sect a new major sub-sect known as 'Kanji-pantha', consisting of the followers of Kanji Swami is being formed and is getting popular especially among the educated sections. Saint Kanji Swami  largely succeeded in popularizing the old sacred texts of the great Digambara Jain saint Acharya Kunda-Kunda of South India. 


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