Evolution of Sthanakavasi and Terapantha Sect [2.0] LONKĀŚĀHA

Posted: 20.05.2008
Updated on: 06.08.2008

Evolution of Sthānakavāsi and Terāpantha Sect


He is regarded as a crusader against idol-worship. The Sthānakavāsi sect owes its allegiance to Lonkāśāha. It even celebrates a day to commemorate him. There are controversies about his life and matters relating to the date of birth, death, marriage, about his knowledge of scriptures, etc. Regarding the life history of Lonkā, there are controversies. Muni Jňānasundarji in his book has quoted different authors to locate the exact date and the year of birth and death of Lonkā, his family background, his education, his profession, because there are controversies regarding his life, as there is no unanimity between the authors who have located various events about his life. This also tries to prove the importance of Lonkā and the reform he has brought about.

One of the versions is as follows: Lonkā was born in V.S. 1482 in Ahmedabad. His father Hemashah and mother Ganga were vanik by caste and were very devout Jainas. Hemashah was intelligent and attained a high position in court of King Muhammad shah. Lonka imbibed many virtues including extra ordinary memory powers from childhood. Due to his skill and deep knowledge of jewels he was appointed as a treasurer by the king. Sheth Odhavji, an eminent personality from Sirohi was attracted by his ability and sharp intelligence and married his daughter Sudarsana to him. They had a son who was named Purnacandra.

When Lonka came to know about Kutubshah killing his father Mohammad shah for the sake of kingdom, Lonka felt utterly disgusted and understood the futility of worldly affairs. Hence he resigned from the post.

At home he continued with his personal business of jewelers, along with his writings. He also engrossed himself in the study of various religious scriptures. During this time Muni Jnanji happened to visit his house for food. On entering the house he saw Lonka’s beautiful hand writings. This made muni to ask Lonka whether he would copy the dilapidated copies of the agamas. Lonka was really waiting for an opportunity to read the agamas; at that time agamas were unavailable to the laity. Daśavaikālika was the first āgama he received from the muni to copy.

While copying them he started realizing the seriousness of religion. The principles of nonviolence, restraint and austerities, as mentioned in the scriptues and the perverse conduct of the monks sparked in him the seeds of rebel. He started making two copies of the agamas, one for the muni and other for himself. In this way he acquired 32 agamas. When Muniji came to know of Lonkā making another copy he stopped giving him the other scriptures. Lonkā started reading āgamas, which he had with him. On understanding the purity of religion and the perverseness that idol worship is not found in agamas he set to reform the religion. Through discussions with many people he attracted a group of them, a few of which became his followers.

According to the second version, Lonkā was a poor person from limbdi in Saurashtra. He was orphaned at the age of ten. The name of his father was Hemashah and mother was Ganga. Coming to Ahmedabad he met muni Jňānji under whom he started studying Jaina religion. Muni also obtained a job for him in a temple where Lonkā worked as an accountant. Lonkā had once a quarrel with the monks of that temple concerning the accounts. Because of this observing the behaviour of the monks shocked him. He, therefore, went out of the temple and started condemning those monks for their violent behaviour and for not having any Dayā (compassion). It so happened, that his Muslim friend, who was passing by, appreciated his act and even provoked him against idol worship. Lonkā started preaching his views on dayā and non-violence. He got some followers and his sect came to be known as Dayā gaccha or lonkāgaccha.

Which ever of the two versions is true, the fact remains that he has written in the medieval Gujarati language and criticized the popular trends of idol worship and temple building and criticized the prevalent Śramanācāra.

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