Absent Lord ► Magical Monks A Ritual Subculture ► A Ritual Subculture ► Modes of Worship

Posted: 17.06.2015

Many devotees worship the Dadagurus by simply dropping by a temple or dadabari to take their darsan.[1] In doing so, devotees must always honor the Tirthankars' images before approaching the Dadagurus, a rule that acknowledges the Tirthankars' supremacy. While taking darsan, devotees often sing a text such as the Dadaguru Iktisa (a standard panegyric of thirty-one verses).[2] After singing, the worshiper usually enters the Dadagurus' shrine, where a lamp is likely to be burning and incense smoldering in a holder. Worshipers typically proffer the incense in an abbreviated dhup puja. Many worshipers also place their foreheads on the feet of the image, and frequently they rub the frame of the shrine with their hands and then bring their hands to their eyes and forehead. This latter gesture suggests the taking onto themselves of a liquid-like substance or power.

A temple visitor might also perform a complete individual rite of worship, which is typically a version of the eightfold worship. The image is bathed and then anointed with sandalwood paste. When the image is anthropomorphic, the sandalwood paste is applied as it would be to a Tirthankar image. In the case of footprint images, the dots are put on nine positions on each foot.[3] Fruit and other offerings are made just as they might be before a Tirthankar's image. The only difference is that there should be no crescent and dot formed at the top of the diagram during aksat puja. A flag should be formed instead. This, of course, is because Dadagurus have not achieved liberation.[4]

Dadabari's tend to be quite crowded on Monday evenings because Monday is regarded as an especially appropriate day for worshiping the Dadagurus. Young people (especially young men) are present in large numbers, suggesting that the cult of the Dadagurus is currently in a flourishing state. There are also special occasions. For example, at a dadabari near my residence in Jaipur an all-night bhajan -singing session (jagran) occurred every full-moon night. Many dadabari's sponsor annual fairs (mela s), and major rites for the Dadagurus typically occur on the anniversaries of temple founding days. The aforementioned dadabari near my residence in Jaipur sponsors major rites - some dedicated to the Dadagurus and some focused on the Tirthankars - on every anniversary of its consecration day.

In addition, individuals or individual families often sponsor special rites of worship for the Dadagurus. This can be done for a variety reasons. One such family rite I attended, for example, was sponsored by a man in memory of his brother who had died the year before. However, special Dadaguru rites are probably most frequently undertaken by individuals or families in fulfillment of a vow made to the Dadagurus in hopes of gaining assistance in some worldly matter. This can be illness, a business matter, the desire for progeny, or whatever. The usual format is that the supplicant promises to sponsor such a rite of worship (or perform some other pious act) if the request is granted; if the request is granted, the promise has to be kept.

The standard rite performed on special occasions for the Dadagurus is known as the dadaguru bari puja, which means the Dadagurus' "great" (bari) rite of worship (puja). Its focus is an image or images of the Dadagurus, and it is usually performed in a temple. The object of worship can be an anthropomorphic image of one of the Dadagurus or foot images. The foot images are sometimes miniatures installed in little portable chatri s; these may be placed atop a worshiping stand, just as a Tirthankar's image is. The rite itself consists of a total of eleven ritual acts. The first eight duplicate the eightfold worship: The image (or foot image) is bathed, anointed with sandal paste, and then receives the usual offerings of flowers, incense, lamp, rice, sweets, and fruit. Then follow offerings of cloth, flags, and a final libation. The rite ends with the conventional lamp offering.

The manner in which the rite is performed is more or less the same as the procedure we have already seen in Parsvanath's five-kalyanakpuja. This is a congregational rite, and there are two levels of participation: Puja principals perform the ritual acts while puja participants sing the ritual's text. As in other such rites, songs not included in the text are frequently added, and phrases from individual lines may be repeated for devotional effect. At the completion of the singing, a Sanskrit verse is recited by someone in the congregation followed by a Sanskrit formula of offering. At this point a gong is sounded and the appropriate ritual act performed. As with other rites of worship, ascetics may be present, and when they are they usually sing the Sanskrit couplet coming just before the offering formula, but never the offering formula itself. The same procedure is followed for each of the eleven parts of the rite.

The rite's text, which is easy for performers to follow, was written about ninety years ago by a yati signing himself "Rddhisar"[5] The text has been produced in many editions. Although I have seen a printed version of another Dadaguru puja, I have never seen any but Rddhisar's performed. Many devotees know it by heart.[6] Unlike the texts of the snatra puja and Parsvanath's five-kalyanak puja, Rddhisar's text does not tell a coherent story, although there is a rough chronological framework.

The rite begins with the sequence known as sthapna, which invokes the Dadagurus' presence, and we should note that Rddhisar's text includes appropriate sthapna st anzas, which (as we saw earlier) are not included in the texts of rites for the Tirthankars. The fact that Rddhisar included such verses in his text reflects the crucial idea that the Dadagurus, in contrast to the Tirthankars, can in some sense actually be invoked by worshipers.

After this preliminary, the rite properly speaking begins. The first two songs (preceding the image's bath) describe the line of spiritual succession (not given in its entirety) connecting the Dadagurus with Sudharma (called Saudharma Munipati in the text). The text then goes on to mention the founding of the Khartar Gacch and some of its most illustrious early figures. The text refers to Vardhmansuri, to Jinesvarsuri and his celebrated defeat of the Caityavasis in debate, and others too. These details are given in the rite's opening stanzas, and their point is to establish the Dadagurus' position in a line of succession that includes the Khartar Gacch and that can be traced back putatively to the ultimate source of all sacredness, Lord Mahavir. Following this are brief references to the birth, parentage, and gotra's (clans) of the four Dadagurus, plus allusions to some of their miracles. At this point the singing of the text ceases; the Sanskrit verse is then sung, after which one of the participants utters the formula of offering. At this point the image is bathed, which is the first of the eleven physical acts of the rite.

From this point on, the rite's text is mostly a compilation of the many miracles performed by the Dadagurus. As best I can determine, most of the miracles mentioned in the rite's first eight sections (up to the offering of fruit) are, in legend, associated with the first Dadaguru, Jindattsuri. The three later Dadagurus are more prominent in the later sections of the text, and in this sense the rite's organization is semihistorical. (The very last miracle mentioned in the entire text, however, is Jindattsuri's restoration of sight to a blind man in Surat.) From the organization of the text, I strongly suspect that it was originally designed as a rite of worship of the standard eight parts (that is, replicating the eightfold worship), probably dedicated to Jindattsuri. At some point other material was added. But what is important to devotees who sing this text today is the miracles themselves, and not the order in which they occurred, or even which Dadaguru was responsible for which ones. The basic idea is that this same miraculous power can work for the benefit of those who perform the rite.

The miracles mentioned by Rddhisar's text are many and are well known to most devotees. They are recounted in various hagiographies, and several have already been discussed in the Dadagurus' biographical sketches given earlier in this chapter. Most devotees, however, know of these miracles not from the hagiographies but from the Puja itself and also from popular art. Pictures of the Dadagurus performing the best known of their miracles are conspicuously displayed at most dadabari's. The exterior walls of the most popular Dadaguru shrine in Jaipur are covered with such pictures.[7] Anthologies of these pictures are also published from time to time (such as Kantisagar n.d.). The worshiper sings of miracles in the text and sees them depicted on the walls. The worshiper hopes for such miracles to come his or her way. This hope is the heart and soul of the Dadagurus' cult.

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