Sthanakvasi

Posted: 28.12.2008
Updated on: 17.12.2012

Alias

Stanakh Vasi, Sthanakavasi, Sthanakbasi, Sthanakvasis, Sthanakwasi, Sthankvasi, Sthankwasi, Sthānaka-vāsins, Sthānakavāsi, Sthānakavāsī

Sthanakvasi

Sthanakvasi (स्थानकवासी) is a sect of Jainism originally founded by a merchant named Yati Lavaji about 1653 CE (V.S. 1709) that believes that God is 'nirakar' (without form) and hence do not pray to any statue. Yati Lavji abolished rituals and introduced wearing by monks and nuns of a mouthpiece (mukhpati), a strip of cloth over the mouth to protect small air creatures from harm.

  • The sect is essentially a reformation of the one founded on teachings of Lonka, himself a fifteenth-century Jainist reformer.
  • Their place of worship is 'Sthanak' which is only a temporary abode of visitors, both saints and followers. It is considered a sin to touch a person of other gender (except children) during the prayers offered at the sthanak. The Sthanakvasis reject all but thirty-two of the Svetambara canon, which leads to natural comparisons with the Terapanthis.
  • There are about half a million Sthanakvasis in North India, and Svetambars who are not Sthanakvasi are called Deravasi.
  • The origin of name Sthanakvasi is not clear. It might be due to fact that the Sthanakvasi monks reside in one place (sthanak). Once it was called Baistolla (from baisi, a collection of twenty-two), as there were 22 separate traditions with 22 acharyas.

Sthanakvasi Saints

  • Saints (ascetic Sthanakvasis or Yati) wear white clothes and cover their mouths with a square white cloth called a muhapatti intended to minimize the risk of inhaling small insects or other airborne life forms, which Sthanakvasi see as a violation of ahimsa (non-violence). They eat food collected from followers' houses and do not save edibles beyond the next meal and water is not kept even for a single night. All eating and drinking has to be done between sunrise and sunset. Forbidding food during night timeis called 'Chovihar', (Cho= Four, vi= No, ahara= food) thus it is forbidding all four types of food during night time.
  • Saints do not stay at one place for too long except for four months of monsoon called "chaturmas". Saints are also called Dhundhiya (searchers) for their early practice of searching out and staying in abandoned or neglected structures (to avoid disturbance from public in their penance. Saints own no possessions except for a few books, a couple sets of clothes and carrying utensils made of a special natural material.
  • The Sthanakvasis further underwent differences later on and a few more sects emerged from them, like the Terapanthis (which is an organized sect), and a rather unorganized sect called the Baissamprada or the Baistola (led by Hastmal ji Maharajsa, Ganeshlal Ji Maharajsa, Nanalalji Maharajsa, and Aacharya Shree 1008 Ramlalji Maharajsa (currently) any many others. Apart rom this there are other organized sects in Gujarat such as Limbdi Ajaramar Sampraday, Botaad Sampradaay, Dariyapuri Sampradaay, Limbadi Gopal Sampradaay, Atha koti Sampradaay (small and big), Khambhat (Cambay)Sampradaay, Bawala Sampradaay etc.
  • Even Children also are not allowed to touch opposite or neutral gender or animals during prayers. Saints, during their entire course of their life do not touch those of the opposite gender. Any such trespass, whether knowingly or unknowingly, needs to be undone by making penance.

References

Share this page on: