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Śvētāmbara

Śvētāmbara Jain bhagwan, 23rd Tirthankar, Parsvanatha at a Mysuru temple. In contrast to Digambara icons, the Svetambara icons are more life-like, with crown, red lips and inlaid eyes.

The Śvētāmbara (/ʃwɛˈtʌmbərə/; Sanskrit: श्वेतांबर or श्वेतपट śvētapaṭa; also spelled Svetambar, Shvetambara or Swetambar) is one of the two main branches of Jainism, the other being the Digambara. Śvētāmbara means "white-clad", and refers to its ascetics' practice of wearing white clothes, which sets it apart from the Digambara "sky-clad" Jainas, whose ascetic practitioners go naked. Śvētāmbaras, unlike Digambaras, do not believe that ascetics must practice nudity.[1] The significant majority of Jains are Svetambaras in their heritage.[2]

The Svetambara and Digambara traditions have had historical differences ranging from their dress code, their temples and iconography, attitude towards Jain nuns, their legends and the texts they consider as important.[3][4][5] Śvētāmbaras, for example, believe that ascetic women are able to obtain moksha. Śvētāmbaras maintain that the 19th Tirthankara, Māllīnātha, was a woman.[citation needed]

Svetambara Jain communities are currently found mainly in Gujarat, Rajasthan and coastal regions of Maharashtra.[6][5] According to Jeffery D. Long – a scholar of Hindu and Jain studies, about four-fifths of all Jains in India are Svetambaras.[2]

History [ edit ]

A 1st- to 2nd–century CE water tank relief panel showing two ardhaphalaka Jain monks carrying colapatta cloth on their left hand found in the ruins of Mathura (Brooklyn Museum 87.188.5).[7] This cloth carrying tradition to cover genitalia by ancient Jain monks in principle resembles the beliefs of the Svetambara and now extinct Yapaniya subtradition.[8]

The Svetambaras and Digambaras disagree on how the Svetambaras subtradition started in Jainism.[9] According to Svetambaras, they are the original followers of Mahavira, and Digambaras arose 609 years after the death of Mahavira (about 1st-century CE) because of an arrogant man named Sivabhuti who became a Jain monk in a fit of pique after a fight at home.[9] He is accused of starting the Digambara Jain tradition with what Svetambara call as "eight concealments", of rejecting Jain texts preserved by the Svetambara tradition, and misunderstanding the Jain ideology including those related to nuns and clothes.[9] In contrast, according to Digambaras, they are the original followers of Mahavira and Svetambaras branched off later in the time of Bhadrabahu when their forecasted twelve-year famine triggered their migration from central India.[9] One group of Jain monks headed west and north towards Rajasthan, while the second group headed south towards Karnataka. The former became Svetambaras and retained their "heretic" beliefs and practices such as wearing "white clothes" they adopted there, say the Digambaras.[9] Neither of these explanations can be found in early Jain or non-Jain texts. The earliest version of this Digambara story appears in the 10th-century CE, while the earliest version of the Svetambara story appears in the 5th-century CE.[10]

The Svetambaras have subtraditions. A majority of the Svetambaras are murtipujakas, that is they actively offer devotional puja in temples, worship before the images or idols of Tirthankaras and important Jain goddesses.[11] Others are split into various subtraditions where either Jain temples and halls are built but puja is minor, or where all construction and use of temples, images and idols is actively discouraged and avoided. These subtraditions began around 14th-century through 18th-century.[11] One of the key Jain scholar who opposed devotional temples, images and idols was Lonka Shah (c. 1476 CE). These later subtraditions are primarily Sthānakavāsī and Terapanth orders. Early colonial era observers and some early 20th-century Jain writers such as Malvaniya hypothesized that this movement against idol worship may be the impact of Islam on Jainism, but later scholarship states that the subtraditions arose from an internal dispute and debate on the principle Ahimsa (non-violence).[11][12] The new movements argued that the construction of temples or buildings of any kind, idols and images, as well as the puja rituals hurt and kill small creatures and microscopic life forms in soil, wood and other materials involved, and is thus against their core principle of non-violence.[11]

Major reforms by Vijayananda Suri of the Tapa Order in 1880 led a movement to restore orders of wandering monks, which brought about the near-extinction of the Yati institutions. Rajendrasuri restored the śramaṇa organization of the Tristutik Gaccha.[citation needed]

The newer Śvētāmbara subtraditions cover their mouth with a white cloth or muhapatti to practise ahimsa even when they talk. By doing so they minimize the possibility of inhaling small organisms.[11]

Denominations [ edit ]

Tirth Pat on display at Prince of Wales museum, Mumbai

The Śvētāmbara sect was divided into different orders. First some saints left Śvētāmbara sect to form the Lonka sect in 1474,[citation needed], which eventually led to forming of the Sthānakavāsī in 1653. In 1760, thirteen Saints started their own order called the Terapanth.[13]

So now at present there are three orders in the Śvētāmbara sect: Murtipujaka (Deravasi), Sthānakavāsī and Terapanth. The Sthānakavāsī believe in praying to Saints rather than to an idol in a temple, the same philosophy is carried on by the Terapanth. Other difference between Deravasi Jains and Sthānakavāsī Jains is that the saints (monks) of Deravasi do not wear a muhapatti near their mouth to cover it, they hold it in hand. Sthānakavāsī and Terapanthi saints wear muhapatti held in place by white cotton thread tied to their ears. They do not keep Idols in their Jain temples but pray and bow to the Pancha Mahamantar. The Murtipujakas keep idols of the tīrthaṅkaras at their temples and worship them.

See also [ edit ]

Notes [ edit ]

  1. ^ Dundas 2002, p. 45.
  2. ^ a b Jeffery D Long (2013). Jainism: An Introduction. I.B.Tauris. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-85771-392-6.
  3. ^ Paul Dundas (2002). The Jains. Routledge. pp. 53–59, 64–80, 286–287 with footnotes 21 and 32. ISBN 978-0-415-26606-2.
  4. ^ Kristi L. Wiley (2009). The A to Z of Jainism. Scarecrow. pp. 83–84. ISBN 978-0-8108-6821-2.
  5. ^ a b Jyotindra Jain; Eberhard Fischer (1978). Jaina Iconography. BRILL Academic. pp. 1–2, 8–9, xxxiv–xxxv. ISBN 90-04-05259-3.
  6. ^ Jeffery D Long (2013). Jainism: An Introduction. I.B.Tauris. pp. 60–61. ISBN 978-0-85771-392-6.
  7. ^ Quintanilla, Sonya Rhie (2007). History of Early Stone Sculpture at Mathura: Ca. 150 BCE - 100 CE. BRILL. pp. 174–176. ISBN 9789004155374.
  8. ^ Padmanabh S. Jaini; Robert Goldman (2018). Gender and Salvation: Jaina Debates on the Spiritual Liberation of Women. University of California Press. pp. 42–45. ISBN 978-0-520-30296-9.
  9. ^ a b c d e Dundas 2002, pp. 46–48.
  10. ^ Dundas 2002, pp. 47–48.
  11. ^ a b c d e Jeffery D Long (2013). Jainism: An Introduction. I.B.Tauris. pp. 20–22. ISBN 978-0-85771-392-6.
  12. ^ Dundas 2002, pp. 246–249.
  13. ^ http://www.jainworld.com/jainbooks/antiquity/svetsubs.htm

Reference [ edit ]

External links [ edit ]

  • Media related to Svetambara at Wikimedia Commons
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