Sects of Jainism

  • Two sects of Jainism: Svetambara and Digambar.
  • Mahavira has 11 disciples known as Gandharas or heads of schools. Arya Sudharma was the only Gandhara who survived Mahavira and became the first Thera of Jain order.
  • During the time of Chandragupta Maurya, Bhadrabahu who was the leader of Jain community with of this follower to south India due to a severe drought. However, other Jains who did not go under the leadership of Sthulbhadra.
  • During this time the original texts of Jainism were lost.
  • As Jainism spread across the country, there emerged two broad factions:
    • Svetambaras
    • Digambars.

Digambars and Their Subsects

  • Digambars were associated with Sravanbelagola in Karnataka and rose under the guidance of Bhadrabahu. They did not wear any clothes.
  • Digambaras believed in the following:
  • Monks must be naked because nakedness is proof of the conquest of sin.
  • Tirthankars should be represented naked without ornaments.
  • Mahavira never married.
  • Only males can achieve enlightenment
  • Digambars were dominant in south & central India and contributed to the development of vernacular languages in these regions.
  • They believe that original texts of Jain are lost.

Sects of Digambaras:

  1. Visvapanthis (Bispanthis) installed and worshipped images of gods like Bhairava in their temples and covered their idols with saffron clothes and also worshipped idols of Tirthankaras. They worship these idols with symbolic offerings of flowers, fruits and other green vegetables.
    1. Terapanthis opposed religious domination of traditional religious leaders called bhattarakas as the gradually the bhattarakas started deviating from original/mula Jain customs. They continued the image worship of Jain Tirthankars but condemned the worship of minor gods such as Bhairava, Ksetrapal and Padmavati etc.
    1. Taranpanth: It is a sect of digambar Jains founded in Bundelkhand in 16th century. This sect is also known as Samaiyapanth as they worship. They did not believe in image worship or outward religious practices. Their sacred place was Malhargarh, near Gwalior.

Svetambars and their subsects

  • Svetambars were associated with Magadha and rose under the guidance of Sthulbahu and wear white clothes. Svetambars were dominant in North & West India.
  • Believe that women are capable of attaining Nirvana and allow them into monastic order.
  • They still preserve many of the texts of Jainism.

Sects of Svetambaras

  1. Sthanakvasis criticised image worship and temple cult because these practices were not mentioned into Jain canonical texts. This sect was founded a merchant named Lavaji.  They do not have their religious activities in temples, but carry on their religious duties in places known as sthanaks which are like prayer-halls. Further, the ascetics always cover their mouths, not just while speaking, and only use white muhapatis.
    1. Murtipujakas indulged in devotional worship traditions and practiced idol worship through symbolic offerings and adornment. Monks cover their mouths with strips of cloths (muppati) while speaking and collect food from laymen’s houses. They eat and stay in temples of special buildings known as upashrays. Monks of Murtipujaka sects was further divided in six orders or Gaccha.
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