An Epitome of Medieval Śvetāmbara Jain Literary Culture: A Review and Study of Jinaratnasūri’s Līlāvatīsāra

Posted: 13.04.2009
Updated on: 02.07.2015

International Journal of Jaina Studies
(Online) Vol. 5, No. 1 (2009) 1-33


John E. Cort

The author thanks Surendra Bothara, Paul Dundas, Phyllis Granoff and Mahopādhyāya Vinayasāgara for assistance in this essay.


The Līlāvatīsāra was composed in 1285 C.E. by the Kharatara Gaccha monk and author Jinaratnasūri.  It presents a nested set of tales that trace the effects of karma over multiple lifetimes.  Each set of tales ends with the fictive hearer of the tales realizing the evanescence of material life, and as a result renouncing the world to become a Jain monk.  On the basis of the single extant manuscript copied in ca. 1350, and now in Jaisalmer, Richard C. C. Fynes re-edited and translated the text for the Clay Sanskrit Library.  After reviewing Fynes’s translation, this article details the Khartara Gaccha “writer’s workshop” of which Jinaratnasūri was an important participant.  The article argues that the extensive production of literature by these Kharatara Gaccha monks, as well as the medieval monks of the Tapā Gaccha, played a major role in the rise of these lineages to prominence in medieval Śvetāmbara Jain society in western India.


An Epitome of Medieval Śvetāmbara Jain Literary Culture: A Review and Study of Jinaratnasūri’s Līlāvatīsāra

[1]Among the thousands of texts and hundreds of thousands of manuscripts in the Jain libraries of India, there are many narrative texts in all of the languages in which Jains have written. Some relate all or part of the Jain universal history: the lives of the twentyfour Jinas of this era, as well as those of other heroes and exemplary people. Others are explicitly works of fiction, which tell complex, intertwined tales of kings, queens, merchants and monks. In part these tales were meant to entertain, as the audience could enjoy the adventures and exploits. In equal part, they were meant to edify, as the stories narrated key Jain virtues.

Some narrative texts, such as Haribhadra's seventh- or eighth-century Samarāiccakahā and Dhūrtākhyāna, Uddyotana's ninth-century Kuvalayamālā, and Siddharṣi's tenth-century Upamitibhavaprapañcākathā, exist in a large number of manuscripts. Others, such as the Līlāvatīsāra ("Epitome of Queen Līlāvatī") of the Kharataragaccha monk and author Jinaratnasūri, exist in far fewer manuscript copies - in this case, only one, copied about one hundred years after the text was composed in V.S. 1341 (1285 C.E.).[2] The former texts, as they have been read, recited, cited and quoted, have clearly been vital parts of a long-standing literary culture. The Līlāvatīsāra lacks an ongoing life of reader response, but is nonetheless valuable evidence of the extent and importance of the Jain medieval literary culture, in which hundreds of mendicants and their lay patrons were enthusiastic participants.

The Līlāvatīsāra was first edited by the late H. C. Bhayani, one of the great philologists of Jain literature in the second half of the twentieth century, on the basis of a photocopy of the sole manuscript in the Kharataragaccha bhaṇḍār (manuscript library) in Jaisalmer. Bhayani's edition, together with a glossary and an English précis by N. M. Kansara, was published in 1983 in Ahmedabad by the L. D. Institute of Indology. That version has been re-edited by R. C. C. Fynes, who also consulted a new photocopy of the manuscript provided to him by Muni Jambūvijaya, who re-catalogued the Jaisalmer bhaṇḍārs in 1998. Both the re-edition and a full English translation by Fynes have now been published in the Clay Sanskrit Library. The two-volume publication presents the original (in Roman script) and translation on facing pages, so the reader who knows Sanskrit can easily compare Fynes's rendering with the original. The new publication employs the idiosyncratic transliteration system employed in the Clay series, and unfortunately does not include a critical apparatus to indicate where and why Fynes has differed from the earlier readings of Bhayani.

Like most narrative texts from medieval India, the Līlāvatīsāra is structured around a set of nested stories, although the nesting in this case is rather straightforward. Jinaratnasūri did not indulge in the complicated layering of stories, and deconstruction of those layers, that one finds in a text such as the Brahmanical Yogavāsiṣṭha.[3] He began by locating his narrative in the court at Rajagriha of the fictional King Siṁha and his Queen Līlāvatī. The casual reader might expect Queen Līlāvatī to play a major role in the text, or that the text concerned women's spirituality. As Gulābcandra Caudharī noted, however, in his discussion of the text, her name is featured in the title simply to make it more attractive.[4] A debate was held in Siṁha's court, at which proponents of the materialist (nāstika), Buddhist, Sāṅkhya, Nyāya-Śaiva, and Vedic Brahmanical systems all propounded the beliefs of their religions (dharma). The king then turned to the Jain layman Jinadatta, who "in a moment purified them all" (Vol. 1, p. 81). When the king praised him, Jinadatta deflected the compliments, saying that as a mere householder he was at best only a mirror for the true sun, his mendicant teacher Ācārya Samarasenasūri. Several days later the king heard that the venerable Jain doctor had come to a garden on the outskirts of the capital, where he would hold a preaching assembly (samavasaraṇa).[5] Siṁha, as befitted a king approaching a superior person such as a Jain ācārya, "laid aside the five emblems of sovereignty" (Vol. 1, p. 89), and asked the mendicant to explain why he had chosen to forego the pleasures of the world and instead pursue a life of rigorous asceticism. The bulk of the text consists of the sermons Samarasena delivered to Siṁha, his wife Līlāvatī, and the assembled royal retinue.

The framing of the text was not finished, however, for it is not Samarasena's voice that we hear in most of the text. Each of Samarasena's sermons was relocated to another royal court, that of Kaushambi, where the Jain mendicant Sudharman, "the king of religious teachers" (Vol. 1, p. 99), delivered a series of sermons to the also fictional King Vijayasena, Queen Kamalāvatī, and their retinue. Sudharman explained the basics of Jainism. Liberation (mukti) is the result of a person made pure (śuddha) by the conjoined operation of right knowledge (jñāna), insight (darśana) and conduct (cāritra). Jain spiritual practice allows a person to overcome the causes of impurity: the five karmic influxes (āsrava), the five deluding passions (moha-kaṣāya), and the five sense organs (khāni, indriya). Sudharman then dedicated five sermons to five pairings of the influxes and passions, and five to the sense organs. The five pairings are (1) violence (hiṃsā) and anger (krodha), (2) false-speech (mṛṣā) and pride (māna), (3) theft (steya, caurikā) and deceit (dambha), (4) sexual immorality (abrahma) and delusion (moha), and (5) possessiveness (parigraha) and greed (lobha). The five influxes are what the five great vows (mahāvrata) of the Jain mendicant counter, while the five passions are the standard set of four plus delusion. King Siṁha (in the outer frame) sought clarification on this point before Samarasena began his fourth sermon, when he asked, "Reverend sir, the gates for the influxes are fivefold, but there are four passions, so which of them would be the supporter of this influx?" (Vol. 1, p. 299). Samarasena explained that delusion results in the nine subsidiary passions (no-kaṣāya), and that the influx of sexual immorality is therefore based on delusion of one's self (ātma-moha). Jinaratnasūri does not actually list the nine subsidiary passions themselves; they involve a degree of specific doctrinal detail that he avoids throughout his text.[6]

The five sense organs on which Samarasena (and Sudharman) focused the next five sermons are touch (sparśana, here unhelpfully translated as "sensuality"), taste (rasana), smell (ghrāṇa), sight (cakṣu), and hearing (śravaṇa). After the five sermons detailing the influxes and passions, Vijayasena asked about their root cause. Sudharman explained, "Karmic influxes are caused by passions, and they are caused by the senses. So the senses, Your Majesty, are the main cause of all disasters. Many a time a living being is hurled into the huge wilderness of a bad destiny by the ill-tamed horses of the senses going headlong along the wrong way" (Vol. 1, p. 467). Sudharman said that a person governed by the senses acquires much bad karma, which he then must slowly scrub off by spending eons in a hellish existence. Only after enduring great pain is there a possibility of the soul being born in the body of an animal or human. Sudharman then brought home the existential urgency of this abstract lesson on suffering and rebirth by concluding, "Your Majesty here is an example" (Vol. 1, p. 469). This grabbed Vijayasena's attention, and he requested that the mendicant relate to him his former lives. This Sudharman did in the ensuing five chapters of the text.

After hearing these tales, Vijayasena and his friends took formal mendicant initiation (dīkṣā) from Sudharman. Each monk practiced harsh asceticism, and at the end of his life took the vow of sallekhanā, the fast until death, and purposefully ended his life. Each of these "kings of monks, mounted in the chariots of excellent merit, one by one arrived in the Good Works [Saudharma] heaven, among the gods who dwell in celestial vehicles" (Vol. 2, p. 295). In their new lives they had the ability to perceive their former existences, and so they realized, "Oh, [it is] the power of the Jain religion, with its gentle showers, which has caused us to obtain the countless showers of the prosperity of heaven!" (Vol. 2, p. 299).

Heavenly existences, however, are as evanescent as all other things in the world of saṃsāra, and so eventually the souls of these heroes were reborn on earth. The first one to be reborn became Prince Samarasena in the Malaya (Kerala) region of South India. The prince also renounced the world to become a Jain monk, eventually rising to the rank of teacher (sūri), who, "defended by his army of firmly fixed asceticism, his commands obeyed by the universe, by means of the shining lamps of the fourfold congregation made visible absolutely everywhere in the world the way granted by the Jina" (Vol. 2, p. 359). One by one the other souls were reborn and then renounced the world to become Jain monks at the hand of Samarasena. Among these souls three were reborn as King Siṁha, Queen Līlāvatī, and their son Prince Padmakeśara, who also became monks and nuns. At the beginning of the seventeenth canto, Samarasena concluded the series of sermons he had begun hundreds of pages earlier in the first canto. Jinaratnasūri then briefly recounted the lives of these monks and nuns, each of whom travelled to Sammeta Śikhara, the peak in modern-day Jharkhand where most of the Jinas of the current cycle attained liberation (nirvāṇa). On this holy spot the monks and nuns attained a similar holy state. Jinaratnasūri informed his own audience, in a conclusion intended to urge them to consider renunciation themselves, "Those who thus keep the five vows, attaining lack of pride, understanding, the possession of abstention, the possession of insight, lack of arousal, true heroism, delight in indifference, and the manifestation of insight, develop within themselves that infinite bliss of final liberation" (Vol. 2, p. 615).

In each of the main chapters Jinaratnasūri presented a series of stories of a single character over several lifetimes, to show how the affects of karma are long-lasting. Many of the stories were drawn from the vast repertoire of Indic stories, and illustrate the themes and motifs found in standard folklore indices. Early European and North American scholars of Jainism were attracted to its study precisely because Jain literature preserves what is arguably the most extensive collection of Indic stories.[7] This translation is a valuable addition for scholars still working on comparative narrative and folklore. In common with many Indic stories, the characters are often rather flat. Their names are the Sanskrit equivalents of John and Jane Doe, and they live in cities and countries that sound like Anyplace and Anywhere. Only in a few instances did Jinaratnasūri use names that verge on the sort of explicit allegory beloved of many other Jain authors. Nor is this psychologically oriented fiction such as developed in nineteenth-century Europe with the great novelists. The plots of the stories are driven by inevitable karmic processes, not by inner soul-searching and tragic circumstances. In any situation there is a proper action that is fairly obvious according to Jain morality, and the consequences of not following the proper path are also obvious and predictable. Sudharman always added a twist at the end of his stories. After tracing the painful and ignorant trail of his evil hero through many lives, he then turned to King Vijayasena and said that the person whom he had been describing was in the very assembly, standing right there. Like any mendicant who is far advanced on the Jain spiritual path, Sudharman had the ability to see the hidden karmic state of the soul of other living beings, and so could reveal to anyone his or her true condition. In addition, he not only unmasked the karmic past, oftentimes a frightening one, of the person in the king's midst, his sermon awakened in the perpetrator an understanding of his past lives (jāti-smaraṇa). The person had a sudden shock of recognition of what he had done in past lives, why he was in his current situation, and therefore who he really was. The only proper response to this spiritual awakening, to this conversion experience, was to renounce the world and become a Jain mendicant. As we read of one such person, "having given intent and proper reflection upon the teacher's relation... [and] the glory of the memory of his former lives suddenly arisen in him because the king of reverend doctors had related it all truly," he beseeched Sudharman, "Lord, rescue me at once from the ocean of crookedness," and received initiation as a monk at Sudharman's lotus feet (Vol. 1, p. 363). Each of the relevant chapters therefore ends with this triumphant event.

The characters alternate between existences as humans, during which they made all sorts of mistakes according to the specific faults analyzed in that chapter, and hellish existences during which they paid for those karmic mistakes. Rarely do the characters experience intermediate existences as animals, and never as plants or the single-sensed beings (nigoda) that actually make up the majority of life forms in the universe according to Jain biology. Running throughout all the chapters, however, regardless of which specific influx and passion is the focus, is a narrative of violence. The ignorance of the villains inevitably leads them to commit murder. In chapter seven Jinaratnasūri gave a long description of a battle, with all its attendant blood and gore, that would be worthy of the Mahābhārata, and which reminds us that the patronage of war-loving kings was never far removed from medieval narrative literature of any of the South Asian religious traditions. The prominent position given to violence (hiṃsā) did not go unremarked. After Sudharman's sermon on pride and false speech, Vijayasena asked why so much of the narrative dealt with violence and killing. Sudharman replied, in a statement of the centrality of non-violence (ahiṃsā) to Jain ethics that has been echoed by Jain teachers for more than two millennia, "Non-violence is the pre-eminent vow taught by the Jina. The others are for the purpose of protecting that one, just like a fence for a mango-tree. So, in absolutely every instance, violence against life is involved indirectly with falsespeech, taking what is not given, sexual immorality, and possessiveness" (Vol. 1, p. 207).

Jinaratnasūri: Author – And God

Who was Jinaratnasūri, the author of this lengthy and compelling narrative? In his colophon to The Epitome of Queen Līlāvatī - a colophon that in places reads remarkably like a forerunner of the modern genre of the preface to an academic monograph, in which the author thanks his teachers, colleagues and student assistants - he provides one answer, as he gives the lineage of his mendicant heritage. The Jain mendicant lineage began with Sudharman, one of the successors (gaṇadhara) to the twenty-fourth Jina, Vardhamāna Mahāvīra. While Mahāvīra established the fourfold congregation (tīrtha) through his preaching and accepting disciples, Jain history has always viewed his chief disciple Sudharman as the person from whom the mendicant lineage descended. Jinaratnasūri then jumpes across fifteen hundred years of Jain history to the early eleventh century, when Vardhamānasūri (d. 1031 C.E.) began the process by which the mendicant lineage that eventually became the Kharataragaccha started to separate itself off from the rest of the Śvetāmbara mendicant community and establish its identity as a separate lineage.[8] By the time of Jinaratnasūri the Kharataragaccha had grown to become one of the pre-eminent Śvetāmbara mendicant lineages in western India. Jinaratnasūri briefly lists the intervening heads of the lineage who oversaw that growth: Jineśvarasūri (active V.S. 1080 = 1024 C.E.), Jinacandrasūri (active V.S. 1125; 1069 C.E.), Abhayadevasūri (died c. V.S. 1138; 1082 C.E.), Jinavallabhasūri (died V.S. 1167; 1111 C.E.), Jinadattasūri (V.S. 1132–1211; 1076-1155 C.E.), another Jinacandrasūri (V.S. 1197-1223; 1141-1167 C.E.), Jinapatisūri (V.S. 1210–1277; 1154-1221 C.E.), and finally Jinaratnasūri's own teacher, another Jineśvarasūri (V.S. 1245-1331; 1189-1275 C.E.). Jinaratnasūri also mentions several contemporaries. He composed another text, the Pratyekabuddhacarita, with Lakṣmītilakagaṇi, whom Jinaratnasūri refers to as "my senior" (Vol. 2, p. 625). He then composed the Līlāvatīsāra, which he finished in November of V.S. 1341 (1285 C.E.), in the city of Jalor, where he spent the four-month rainy season retreat (cāturmāsa). He based his text on an earlier, more extensive Prakrit telling of the story, the Nivvāṇalīlāvaīkahā (or, simply, the Līlāvaīkahā) which the first Jineśvarasūri composed in V.S. 1092 (1036 C.E.). Jinaratnasūri indicates that he did not work alone, but rather was part of a circle of erudite monks, on whom he relied for assistance. His Līlāvatīsāra was edited (saṃśodhana) by Jinaprabodhasūri, whom Jinaratnasūri credited with teaching him grammar, as well as by two more junior monks, Rājagaṇi and Saumyamūrtigaṇi. Finally, he says that Saumyamūrtigaṇi and another monk prepared the text for publication.[9]

R. C. C. Fynes, the re-editor and translator of The Epitome of Queen Līlāvatī, says that this is what little is known about Jinaratnasūri. If we look at sources on Kharataragaccha history, however, we find further information that gives us a fuller picture of this mendicant author.[10] The medieval Kharatara- and Tapā Gacchas kept remarkably detailed chronicles of their activities for many centuries. We do not know the exact process by which these records were written and maintained, but some monks must have been assigned the task of gaccha historians and archivists.

The earliest Kharataragaccha chronicle is the Yugapradhānācārya Gurvāvalī, "The Line of Teachers who were Preeminent in this Era."[11] This anonymous text gives details of the heads of the Kharataragaccha from the early eleventh century until V.S. 1393 (1337 C.E.). It also provides substantial information on the other mendicants of the lineage, especially those such as Jinaratnasūri who played a prominent role in its activities.

The earliest reference to Jinaratnasūri is from V.S. 1283 (1227 C.E.), when he was given mendicant initiation (dīkṣā) with the name of Vijayavardhanagaṇi in Barmer by Jineśvarasūri, who had been head of the lineage for the previous five years.[12] This was part of a larger multi-day festival, including the raising of a flag (dhvajāropa) at a temple to the Jina Ṛṣabhadeva, the promotion of the monk Sūraprabha to the rank of upādhyāya (preceptor), the promotion of the nun Maṅgalamatigaṇinī to the rank of pravartinī (supervisor), and the initiation of three men as monks. The other two initiates, in addition to Vijayavardhanagaṇi, were Kīrtikalaśagaṇi and Pūrṇakalaśagaṇi. The chronicle gives us no information about the new initiate, although we can surmise from the other evidence we have of medieval Jain mendicant culture that he was at the time probably a young boy between eight and twelve years of age who had shown great promise both intellectually and spiritually, and whose parents (or other guardians) had accordingly been convinced to perform the highly meritorious act of gifting him to the mendicant order. Medieval Jain society was in this respect similar to medieval European Christian society, in that the monastic life was a chief career option for those of a scholarly and intellectual bent, especially in the Jain community.

We don't know what Vijayavardhanagaṇi did for the next two decades, although it is likely that among his activities were traveling with his guru Jineśvarasūri and studying a wide range of religious and secular texts and literary skills with senior monks. It was probably during this period that he studied grammar with Jinaprabodhasūri. It is possible that another teacher was Lakṣmītilakagaṇi, with whom Jinaratnasūri wrote the Pratyekabuddhacarita, and who had been initiated as a mendicant in Jalor in V.S. 1288 (1232 C.E.).[13] The next reference to him in the chronicle is from V.S. 1304 (1248 C.E.), when Vijayavardhanagaṇi was promoted to the rank of ācārya and sūri, at the top of the mendicant hierarchy, with the new name of Jinaratnasūri, in a festival in which ten new monks were also initiated. There is no mention of where this took place nor who presided, although it most likely was Jineśvarasūri, as the standard practice was that only an ācārya could promote another monk to that same rank.

There follows another long period of silence in the chronicle, until V.S. 1326 (1270 C.E.). We know that in V.S. 1311 (1255 C.E.) Jinaratnasūri composed his other major text, the Sanskrit Pratyekabuddhacarita ("The Deeds of the Self-Enlightened Ones"), also known by the longer title of Pratyekabuddhamahārājarṣicatuṣkacaritra ("The Deeds of the Four Great King-like Sages, the Self-Enlightened Ones). In the colophon Jinaratnasūri said that he composed it at the request of the layman Jagadhara and his son Bhuvanapāla, who lived in Palanpur.[14] As we saw from the colophon of the Līlāvatīsāra, Jinaratnasūri composed the Pratyekabuddhacarita together with Lakṣmītilakagaṇi. In their colophon to the earlier text the authors gave the same Kharataragaccha lineage as in the later Līlāvatīsāra, and also said that their mutual teacher Jineśvarasūri, along with other literary scholars, had edited (saṃśodhana) it.

In seventeen chapters and 10,130 verses, the authors narrated the biographies of four ancient sages who had become enlightened without the benefit of the teaching of a Jina. These four were Karakaṇḍu, Naggaī, Nami and Durmukha. They were householders who attained spiritual awakening, gave themselves mendicant initiation, and eventually attained liberation. Unlike Jinas, none of them propagated the Jain truths, nor established communities of Jain mendicants and laity. Each one travelled alone, and did not follow the rules of any gaccha. In this they violated some of the basic rules of medieval Śvetāmbara mendicancy, so it is surprising that they became as popular as they did as the subject of extensive biographies. The earliest mention of them was in a verse in the canonical Uttarajjhāyā Sutta (Uttarādhyayana Sūtra),[15] but they did not become the subject of extended narrative treatment until medieval times. The first known text devoted solely to them was the Prakrit Pratyekabuddhacarita of Śrītilakasūri. He wrote it in V.S. 1261 (1205 C.E.), just fifty years before Jinaratnasūri and Lakṣmītilakagaṇi's version. The genre appears to have been developed in medieval times by Śvetāmbara authors. Gulābcandra Chaudharī has argued that the concept of the pratyekabuddha was borrowed from the Buddhists.[16] The four saints mentioned in the Uttarajjhāyā Sutta are also listed in the Pali Kummakāra Jātaka. The medieval Śvetāmbara literature disagreed as to the exact number of pratyekabuddhas, and as to which ones lived during the dispensations of Neminātha, Pārśvanātha and Mahāvīra. In later medieval times several other pratyekabuddhas, especially Ambaḍa and Śālibhadra, were the subjects of separate biographies, first by Śvetāmbara authors, and eventually Digambara ones.[17]

Jinaratnasūri wrote at least eight other texts, all of which were Sanskrit stotras or hymns.[18] These include a ten-verse hymn to all the Jinas (Sarva Jina Stotra), an eightverse hymn to the Jina in the abstract as one who has overcome all passion (Vītarāga Stotra), and an eleven-verse hymn to Neminātha, the twenty-second Jina. The other five hymns, which range in length between five and ten verses, are all addressed to the twenty-third Jina, Pārśvanātha, indicating that Jinaratnasūri had a special devotional relationship with this highly popular Jina. Three of these hymns were addressed to specific, powerful icons of Pārśvanātha, at Śaṅkheśvara in north Gujarat, Sthambana in Cambay, and Svarṇagiri (Śatruñjaya) in Saurashtra.

According to the Kharatara chronicle, in V.S. 1326 (1270 C.E.), Jinaratnasūri was part of a large congregational pilgrimage (saṅgha yātrā) from Palanpur to Śatruñjaya, the pilgrimage shrine in Saurashtra.[19] The pilgrimage was led by Jineśvarasūri.

A few years later in V.S. 1331 (1275 C.E.) when he was in Jalor, Jineśvarasūri came to realize that his time was drawing to an end.[20] He designated Prabodhamūrtigaṇi as his successor, and promoted him to ācārya and sūri with the new name of Jinaprabodha. This was the same monk whom Jinaratnasūri credited with teaching him grammar. At this time Jinaratnasūri was spending the rainy-season retreat in Palanpur. There he was in charge of his own group of mendicants; as Jinaratnasūri had indicated in his colophon to the Līlāvatīsāra (Vol. 2, p. 623), the mendicants of the Kharataragaccha under Jineśvarasūri traveled in two different groups. Jineśvarasūri informed Jinaratnasūri of his decision concerning his successor, and at his order Jinaratnasūri went to Jalor along with his own following of mendicants to install Jinaprabodhasūri as the new head of the Gaccha. Jinaratnasūri's warm praise for both Jineśvarasūri and Jinaprabodhasūri indicated his willingness to remain within the larger Kharataragaccha, and not separate out his followers into a new sub-lineage, as so often happened in medieval Jain mendicant society. This is further confirmed by the next reference to Jinaratnasūri in the chronicle: two years later, in V.S. 1333 (1277 C.E.), Jinaprabodhasūri led another congregational pilgrimage to Śatruñjaya, this time from Jalor.[21] Among the senior mendicants in the group were both Jinaratnasūri and his friend and co-author Lakṣmītilaka. The later was now an upādhyāya, having been promoted to this rank in V.S. 1317 (1261 C.E.), after earlier in V.S. 1312 (1256 C.E.) being promoted to the rank of vācanācārya ("preacher").[22]

The chronicle's final reference to Jinaratnasūri during his lifetime comes from V.S. 1339 (1283 C.E.), when he was present at a grand eight-day festival in Jalor under the leadership of Jinaprabodhasūri.[23] This was attended by all the leading mendicants and laymen of the Kharataragaccha. Two years later, in V.S. 1341 (1285 C.E.), Jinaratnasūri finished writing the Līlavatīsāra in the same city. By now he was an elderly monk; it was fifty-eight years since his initiation, so he was at least in his mid-sixties, if not older. We do not know when he died. His advanced age when he finished the Līlavatīsāra perhaps indicates why he required so many helping hands to bring it to completion. The many thanks in the colophon sound much like the voice of an elderly but highly revered university professor thanking the graduate students who helped to bring to conclusion and publication a book project of long duration. The extensive involvement of others in both of Jinaratnasūri's longer narrative texts - it is possible that Lakṣmītilakagaṇi might in fact have been the primary author the Pratyekabuddhacarita - may indicate that while he was a highly revered and influential mendicant, his literary skills were such that they required several helping hands. The writing of stotras required a much-less advanced skill in Sanskrit than the writing of a long narrative poem (kāvya). As we will see, however, the circle of mendicant authors of which Jinaratnasūri was an integral member was one in which collaboration was the norm. These were not individual authors each working alone on their own texts, but a community of authors who shared in the work of producing literature.

This was not the end of Jinaratnasūri's story, however, for he makes a further appearance in the chronicle. In V.S. 1379 (1323 C.E.) the then head of the Kharataragaccha, Jinakuśalasūri (V.S. 1337-1389; 1281-1333 C.E.), spent the rainy season retreat in Patan, the capital of Gujarat.[24] Soon after the conclusion of the retreat he oversaw a ten-day icon consecration festival in the Kharataragaccha's Śāntinātha temple. Laity came from many other towns to Patan. The expenses for the festival were met by Tejapāla, a wealthy layman of Patan, with the assistance of his brother Rudrapāla. Their father Jālhaṇa had been the biological younger brother of Jinaprabodhasūri. As part of this event, Tejapāla and the others, at the instruction of their guru Jinakuśalasūri, committed to lay the foundation for a temple of Ṛṣabhadeva at Śatruñjaya. consecrated for installation in the temple icons of Śāntinātha and other Jinas made of stone, gems and bronze, as well as icons of various unliberated deities who protect the Gaccha. Jinakuśalasūri also consecrated icons of the monks Jinacandrasūri (his predecessor as head of the Kharataragaccha) and Jinaratnasūri.[25] The icon of Jinaratnasūri still exists at Śatruñjaya. In fact, there are two icons of him, both consecrated as part of the same festival.[26]

These were not the only icons of Jinaratnasūri, who made one more posthumous appearance in medieval Kharataragaccha history. In V.S. 1431 (1375 C.E.) Jinodayasūri (V.S. 1375-1432; 1319-1376 C.E.) was head of the Kharataragaccha. He spent the rainy season retreat in Patan. After the retreat, his disciple Merunandanagaṇi wrote a letter (vijñapti lekha) to their fellow Kharataragaccha monk Lokahitācārya, who at the time was in Ayodhya. In the letter he described in copious detail the activities of the four months. Among them was an icon consecration festival, in which Jinodayasūri consecrated a number of Jina icons and one of Jinaratnasūri.[27] After the conclusion of the retreat, a wealthy Jain named Vīrā, who had connections in the court of the Khān of Gujarat (the governor who ruled the province of Gujarat for the Tughluq Sultan in Delhi), took out a congregational pilgrimage to Śatruñjaya. Among the things they did after they arrived was to worship the icon of Jinaratnasūri.[28]

The existence of multiple icons of Jinaratnasūri, and the devotional attention paid to them, indicate that Jinaratnasūri was a very special monk in the Kharataragaccha devotional culture of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The Kharataragaccha is well-known for its deification of four of its mendicants as Dādāgurus.[29] While Jinaratnasūri was not one of them, he clearly was seen by later Kharataragaccha mendicants as having become deified in a similar manner. Jack Laughlin has interpreted the description in the Yugapradhānācārya Gurvāvalī of the consecration of the icons of Jinacandrasūri and Jinaratnasūri in 1323 as indicating that the two deceased monks were seen as adhiṣṭhāyaka deities.[30] In other words, due to their spiritual accomplishments as mendicants, and their abiding devotion to the cause of the Kharataragaccha, after death their souls had been reborn as deities pledged to the ongoing protection of the Gaccha, both its human followers and its built institutions. Whereas the four Dādāgurus remain at the center of Kharataragaccha ritual culture, Jinaratnasūri has receded from active memory. He is now merely another name in the rich history of the Kharataragaccha, and his icon one of the many icons of Jain mendicants found in temples throughout western India.

A Medieval Jain Literary Culture

There is more, however, that we can learn about Jinaratnasūri. Looking at what is known of his contemporaries fills out a picture of the life and work of this very important thirteenth-century Kharataragaccha monk. Jinaratnasūri was only one of a number of prolific authors in the Kharataragaccha at the time. The sheer volume of texts produced by leading Kharataragaccha monks in the late thirteen century indicates that literary production received great emphasis in the lineage. Young men were chosen to be initiated as monks based upon their intellectual promise, and then trained as monks to become authors and editors. The thirteenth-century Kharataragaccha was a vibrant literary culture. Let us look briefly at just a few of the other authors who were part of what we might call the same "writers' workshop" as Jinaratnasūri.


Jineśvarasūri as head of the Kharataragaccha played a central role in the fostering of this literary culture. He himself was a prolific author, who composed over twenty texts in four languages. The most important of these was the Śrāvakadharmavidhi, a manual for the proper conduct of a Jain layman, which he finished in Palanpur in either V.S. 1303 (1247 C.E.) or V.S. 1313 (1257 C.E.).[31] A commentary (ṭīkā, vṛtti) was composed on it by Lakṣmītilakagaṇi, who was assisted in the project by Abhayatilakagaṇi. This practice of a senior teacher composing a short root text, on which a disciple then composed an extensive commentary, has long been common in Jain literary circles. The text was of sufficient popularity and importance that a manuscript of it now in the Jain library at Cambay includes illustrations.

Jineśvarasūri wrote one other ritual text, the Cācarī ("Swiftly Moving") in Apabhraṃśa.[32] He composed two instructional texts. These were the Prakrit Ātmānuśāsana ("Lessons on the Soul") and the Sanskrit Dvādaśa Bhāvanā Kulaka ("Stanzas on the Twelve Reflections").[33] His other prose composition was a biography of Candraprabha, the eighth Jina, the Candraprabhacaritra. He composed the basic text in Prakrit, and then an auto-commentary in Sanskrit.[34]

The remainder of his extensive literary output consisted of stotras or hymns. In Sanskrit he composed two to the twenty-four Jinas (Caturviṃśati Jinendra Stotra), two to Pārśvanātha, one to Mahāvīra, one to the twelfth Jina Vāsupūjya, one to all the Jinas (Sarva Jina Stuti), and one on a pilgrimage (Yātrā Stava).[35] In Prakrit he composed one to Gautama, the wonder-working monk who was one of Mahāvīra's chief disciples (Gautama Gaṇadhara Stotra), and one on the birth lustration (janmābhiṣeka) of Candraprabha.[36] In Apabhraṃśa he composed one on an icon of Vāsupūjya in Palanpur, one on another icon of Vāsupūjya in Vijapur, one on the birth lustration of Mahāvīra, and one on the sixteenth Jina Śāntinātha.[37] (From the number of references in the Kharataragaccha chronicle to Jineśvarasūri performing rituals in Vāsupūjya temples, it would appear that he had a special devotional relationship to this Jina.) Finally, he composed two texts in what linguists now call Old Rajasthani: a hymn to Śāntinātha, and a Bāvanī, ("Fifty-two"), a hymn in fifty-two verses.[38]


Jinaratnasūri, as we saw, credited Jinaprabodhasūri with teaching him grammar. Given the complexities of Sanskrit, especially the more elevated literary Sanskrit such as that used by Jinaratnasūri in the two long narrative texts he wrote, the instruction of Sanskrit at both the elementary and advanced levels must have been thoroughly institutionalized in the Kharataragaccha at the time. In addition to teaching advanced Sanskrit grammar, in V.S. 1328 (1272 C.E.) Jinaprabodhasūri wrote a commentary on the Kātantra Vyākaraṇa, an important Sanskrit grammar composed in the early centuries C.E.. Jinaprabodhasūri titled his commentary the Durgaprabodha ("Enlightenment on what is Difficult to Approach," also called the Durgapadaprabodha).[39] He then composed two additional subcommentaries on his own text, a Vṛtti and a Pañjikā.[40] The Vṛtti dealt with metrics (chanda), and the Pañjikā with grammar.[41] Together these probably served as a textbook he used to teach Sanskrit.

The Kharataragaccha chronicle refers to another text by Jinaprabodhasūri that is no longer extant. In V.S. 1337 (1280), as part of a festival at the temple of Vāsupūjya in Vijapur, manuscripts of three of his texts were formally put on display. These included the two commentaries, and a text called the Bauddhādhikaravivaraṇa ("The Explanation on the Basis of Buddha").[42] According to Vinayasāgara, this was a Sanskrit text on the Brahmanical Nyāya philosophy, a subject on which many Jains have written over the centuries.[43]


Lakṣmītilaka was initiated as a monk by Jineśvarasūri (with the rank of gaṇi) along with six other men in Jalor in V.S. 1288 (1232 C.E.).[44] He was promoted to the rank of vācanācārya in V.S. 1312 (1256 C.E.), and to the rank of upādhyāya in V.S. 1317 (1261 C.E.), again in Jalor.[45] His title of vācanācārya indicated that he was authorized to preach. We do not know when he died, although he was still alive in V.S. 1333 (1277 C.E.), when he participated in a group pilgrimage from Jalor to Śatruñjaya.[46] Jinaratnasūri said that Lakṣmītilakagaṇi assisted him on both the narrative texts he composed. It may well be that this monk, who was slightly junior to Jinaratnasūri in terms of when he was initiated, but whom Jinaratnasūri called "my senior" (agraja), indicating that he was biologically older, was actually the co-author of both texts. Caudharī says that they are the two authors of it.[47] Kāpaḍiyā and Vinayasāgara list Lakṣmītilakagaṇi as the sole author.[48] While this is belied by Jinaratnasūri's comments in the colophon to the Līlāvatīsāra, it does mark the opinion of some modern scholars that Lakṣmītilakagaṇi was in fact the more dominant partner in terms of literary production.

There is no doubt that Lakṣmītilakagaṇi was an important participant in the Kharataragaccha literary production. In V.S. 1311 (1255 C.E.) he was given the title "Jina Lakṣmī" in recognition of his work.[49] Since this was the year in which the Pratyekabuddhacarita was finished in Palanpur, it is possible that the title was in celebration of this work. He wrote the commentary on his guru Jineśvarasūri's Śrāvakadharmavidhi. H. R. Kāpaḍiyā says of him that Jinaratnasūri was his vidyāguru (teacher), and he in turn was the vidyāguru of Abhayatilakagaṇi.[50] Lakṣmītilakagaṇi credited Abhayatilakagaṇi with assisting him in writing the Śrāvakadharmavidhi commentary, and with this monk in V.S. 1312 (1256 C.E.) he also edited (saṃśodhana) the Abhayakumāracarita of Candratilaka Upādhyāya. A third composition was the Apabhraṃśa Śāntinātha Deva Rāsa.[51]


Abhayatilakagaṇi was initiated (also with the rank of gaṇi) by Jineśvarasūri in Jalor in V.S. 1291 (1235 C.E.), and promoted to the rank of upādhyāya in V.S. 1319 (1263 C.E.).[52] In addition to assisting Lakṣmītilakagaṇi on several writing projects, he was the primary author of at least two major commentaries. One was on the Sanskrit portion of the great Hemacandra's Dvyāśraya Mahākāvya, a biography of the Caulukya emperors Jayasiṃha Siddharāja and Kumārapāla, as well as their predecessors, in which Hemacandra also exhibited the rules of Sanskrit and Prakrit grammar.[53] He completed this text in Palanpur in V.S. 1312 (1256 C.E.).[54] Abhayatilakagaṇi's commentary was edited by Lakṣmītilakagaṇi.[55] In the colophon to his commentary Abhayatilakagaṇi also referred to Lakṣmītilakagaṇi as tilakakaviravi, a "poet who is a sun-like ornament," in an obvious play on his monastic name.

Abhayatilakagaṇi's other commentarial text was a 1,200-verse commentary entitled the Nyāyālaṃkāra, which he also completed in V.S. 1312 (1256 C.E.). [56] In it he commented on five fundamental texts of the Brahmanical Nyāya school. It was common for intellectuals of other schools to study these texts as part of the basic curriculum in logic. This text was also edited (saṃśodhana) by Lakṣmītilakagaṇi. Abhayatilakagaṇi in his colophon also acknowledged Jinaratnasūri, to whose feet he bowed.

Abhayatilakagaṇi wrote an Apabhraṃśa text on the lineage of Kharataragaccha ācāryas, the Kharataragaccha Guṇavarnanana Chappaya. [57] He wrote a Sanskrit text on matters of sectarian controversy, the Vādasthala.[58] He also composed four devotional texts. Three of these were in Sanskrit, and addressed to Ādinātha, Neminātha and Sthambana Pārśvanātha.[59] The fourth, in Apabhraṃśa, was addressed to Mahāvīra. This was the Mahāvīra Rāsa, which he wrote in V.S. 1307 (1251 C.E.).[60]

Candratilaka Upādhyāya

Candratilaka Upādhyāya was yet another disciple of Jineśvarasūri, whom he initiated as Candrakīrtigaṇi. He was promoted to the rank of upādhyāya in V.S. 1312 (1256 C.E.) on the same occasion that Lakṣmītilakagaṇi was promoted to vācanācārya.[61] He participated in a congregational pilgrimage from Palanpur to Śatruñjaya in V.S. 1326 (1280 C.E.).[62] The Kharataragaccha chronicle lists him as one of the leading mendicants in the Gaccha who attended the conclave at Jalor in V.S. 1331 (1275 C.E.) to confirm Jinaprabodhasūri as Jineśvarasūri's successor as leader of the Gaccha.[63]

He composed the Abhayakumāracarita at the request of his fellow Kharatara monk (and prolific author in his own right) Jinapāla Upādhyāya. He began writing it in Barmer, and finished it in Cambay on Divālī in V.S. 1312 (1256 C.E.), indicating how the monks were able to maintain their literary work while observing the itinerancy called for by their mendicant vows. In this 9,036-verse text he narrated the story of Prince (kumāra) Abhaya, son of King Śreṇika of Rajagriha during the time of Mahāvīra. After many adventures he took dīkṣā from Mahāvīra, and due to his fierce asceticism was reborn in the Sarvārthasiddhi heaven, from which all souls are guaranteed only one more rebirth before attaining liberation. Abhayakumāra who is well-known for his great intelligence has long played an important role in Jain literature.[64]

In the colophon to his text, Candratilaka Upādhyāya gave an account of his own monastic education that sheds light on the curriculum expected of a monk in the Kharataragaccha at this time.[65] He learned texts on basic mendicant conduct from Nemicandragaṇi, an unspecified subject from Siddhasena Muni,[66] a text (or perhaps a set of five texts) entitled Pañcikā from Vācanācārya Guṇabhadrasūri, grammar from Sūraprabha, logic from Vijayadevasūri, and scriptural texts such as the Nandī Sūtra from Jinapāla (the same monk who later requested that he compose the Abhayakumāracarita). These monks all appear to have been disciples of Jinapatisūri, Jineśvarasūri's predecessor as head of the Kharataragaccha, and so indicate that the intellectual and literary culture was of longer standing than just the leadership of Jineśvarasūri.[67]


Another monk who was at the center of the Kharataragaccha's literary activity during this period was Vācanācārya Vivekasamudragaṇi, a disciple of Jineśvarasūri.[68] He was initiated in V.S. 1304 (1248 C.E.), promoted to vācanācārya in Jaisalmer in V.S. 1323 (1267 C.E.), and to upādhyāya in Jalor in V.S. 1342 (1286 C.E.).[69] His title of vācanācārya indicated that he was authorized to preach. He died in V.S. 1378 (1322 C.E.) in Patan. The Kharataragaccha chronicle says that when the then leader of the Gaccha, Jinakuśalasūri, came to know that his teacher Vivekasamudragaṇi's end was near, he specially travelled to Patan from Bhimpalli so that he could preside over the ritual process of Vivekasamudragaṇi's willed death in meditation. To commemorate this great mendicant, Jinakuśalasūri instructed the laity of Patan to erect a memorial shrine (stūpa), which he then consecrated by throwing sacred powder (vāsakṣepa) on it.[70] While Vivekasamudragaṇi was not as fully apotheosized as was his elder colleague Jinaratnasūri a year later in Patan, his memorial was nonetheless established as a sacred shrine, and so Vivekasamudragaṇi was in some sense installed in Patan as an ongoing sacred presence.

Vivekasamudragaṇi studied grammar from two of Jinaratnasūri's chief colleagues, Lakṣmītilakagaṇi and Abhayatilakagaṇi, as well as several texts on Nyāya. With them he also studied the Anekāntajayapatākā, "The Victory Flag of the Doctrine of Manifoldness," a text on Jain philosophy by the great Haribhadra.[71] He later was the teacher (vidyāguru) of Jinakuśalasūri, who was leader of the Kharataragaccha from 1321 to 1333 C.E., and who consecrated Vivekasamudragaṇi's memorial shrine.

On the day of Divālī in V.S. 1325 (1269 C.E.) in Cambay, Vivekasamudragaṇi finished the Naravarmakathā.[72] He wrote this 5,424-verse narrative, which illustrated the glory of right faith (samyaktva), at the request of the layman Bohittha, son of Bāhuḍa. Bohittha was the birth-father of Vivekasamudragaṇi.[73] The focus of the text is seen in its alternate title: Samyaktvālaṅkāra Kāvya, "Poetic Epic on the Adornment of Right Faith." Naravarma was a mythic king of Rajagriha. He was awakened to spiritual truths, and took the twelve vows of a Jain layman from a Jain monk. As a faithful layman he accomplished various good deeds, and the text's moral is the good that a faithful layman can accomplish. After many years he eventually took mendicant initiation, and was then reborn in heaven. Vivekasamudragaṇi's text was edited (saṃśodhana) by two senior scholar-monks: Jinaratnasūri and Lakṣmītilakagaṇi.

Vivekasamudragaṇi wrote two other texts. He wrote the Puṇyasārakathānaka in V.S. 1334 (1278 C.E.) in Jaisalmer.[74] This text of 342 verses narrated the fruit of giving aid to fellow Jains (sādharmika vātsalya) by telling the story of the mythical merchant Puṇyasāra. The text was edited (saṃśodhana) by Jinaprabodhasūri. Vivekasamudragaṇi's 74-verse Jinaprabodhasūricatuḥsaptatikā was a Prakrit biography of Jinaprabodhasūri.[75]

We also know something of Vivekasamudragaṇi's career as a teacher.[76] He taught the scriptures (āgama) and other texts to a number of monks, including the later head of the Kharataragaccha, Jinacandrasūri. He studied the Great Commentary (Bṛhadvṛtti) on Hemacandra's Sanskrit grammar three times. He also studied the texts of the Nyāya school of logic, and then taught them to other monks.


One of the two monks initiated at the same time as Jinaratnasūri in 1227 C.E. was Pūrṇakalaśagaṇi. In V.S. 1307 (1251 C.E.) he wrote a commentary on the Prakrit portion of Hemacandra's Dvyāśraya Mahākāvya, which related the life of the Caulukya Emperor Kumārapāla.[77]

He also composed a Stambhana Pārśvanātha Stavana. This was a thirty-sevenverse hymn, of which the first thirty-six were in Apabhraṃśa and the final one in Sanskrit, to a famous icon of Pārśvanātha in Cambay.[78] This icon played an important role in the life of Abhayadevasūri, the great commentator on nine of the Aṅgas, who was claimed by the Kharataragaccha as one of its early, foundational leaders.[79] According to legend, Abhayadeva contracted leprosy, but cured himself by composing the Apabhraṃśa Jayatihuyaṇa Stotra and thereby uncovering a hitherto lost miracle-working icon of Pārśvanātha. Pūrṇakalaśagaṇi composed an auto-commentary (svopajña vṛtti) on his hymn.[80]

A third text composed by Pūrṇakalaśagaṇi was the Sanskrit Mahāvidyā. This was Tantric text on mantras.[81]


Dharmatilaka was initiated by Jineśvarasūri in V.S. 1297 (1241 C.E.) in Palanpur, and then promoted by the same monk to the rank of vācanācārya in V.S. 1325 (1269 C.E.) in Jalor.[82] In V.S. 1322 (1266 C.E.) he composed a commentary on the Laghu Ajitaśānti Stava, a hymn to Ajitanātha and Śāntinātha, the second and sixteenth Jinas of this era.[83]


Sarvarājagaṇi was initiated by Jineśvarasūri in Bikaner in V.S. 1322 (1266 C.E.), and later promoted to vācanācārya by Jinaprabodhasūri's successor Jinacandrasūri in Jalor in V.S. 1342 (1286 C.E.).[84] He was the author of two commentaries, both of them written in Sanskrit. One was on the Gaṇadharasārdhaśataka, an important biographical study of several early Kharataragaccha ācāryas composed by Jinadattasūri, who died in V.S. 1211 (1155 C.E.), and also on the earlier extensive commentary on this text written by Sumatigaṇi in V.S. 1296 (1240 C.E.)[85]5 Sarvarājagaṇi's other commentary was on the Pañcaliṅgī. The original text was composed in Prakrit by the first Jineśvarasūri, who was also the author of the original Prakrit Līlāvaīkahā, of which Jinaratnasūri's text was a Sanskrit abridgement. In his Prakrit Pañcaliṅgī Jineśvarasūri described the five marks (liṅga) of right faith (samyaktva): equanimity (śama), desire for liberation (saṃvega), indifference (nirveda), compassion (anukampā) and belief that things exist (āstikya). Before Sarvarājagaṇi wrote his 1,384-verse commentary on it, his predecessors Jinapatisūri and Jinapāla Upādhyāya had both written commentaries on the text as well. [86] It clearly was of signal importance for the mendicants in the thirteenth-century Kharataragaccha literary and renunciatory culture.


The final author in this writers' workshop whom I will mention was Devamūrti. He was initiated by Jineśvarasūri in V.S. 1296 (1240 C.E.) in Palanpur. He was promoted by Jineśvarasūri to vācanācārya in V.S. 1323 (1267 C.E.) in Jaisalmer, and by Jinacandrasūri to the rank of upādhyāya in V.S. 1342 (1286 C.E.) in Jalor.[87] He was a close associate of Abhayatilakagaṇi. The two of them led a group of Kharataragaccha mendicants who traveled to Ujjain in V.S. 1319 (1263 C.E.). There they engaged in a debate over specifics of mendicant conduct (such as whether or not it is acceptable for mendicants to consume cool water) with Paṇḍita Vidyānanda of the Tapāgaccha. According to the Kharataragaccha chronicle, the Kharataragaccha monks were victorious in the debate, and were awarded a victory letter (jayapatra) in the royal court. Their return to Palanpur was greeted with a grand festival.[88]

Devamūrti wrote five texts that are still extant. Four of these were hymns. He wrote a Prakrit hymn to seventy-two Jinas (i.e., the three sets of twenty-four of the past, present and future eras), and Sanskrit hymns to Mahāvīra, to all the Jinas (Sarva Jina Stuti) and to Jinacandrasūri.[89] He also wrote the dedicatory colophon (praśasti) to a manuscript of the question-and-answer doctrinal text the Praśnottara Ratnamālā. This is an old text of general worldly wisdom (nīti), which Kāpaḍiyā has dated to about V.S. 900 (c. 850 C.E.). Its authorship is disputed, but medieval Śvetāmbara Jains believed that it was by Vimalasūri, the author of the Prakrit Paümacariya. This short text of twenty-nine verses was the subject of at least four extended medieval commentaries in Sanskrit, the earliest dating from V.S. 1223 (1167 C.E.).[90]

Concluding Observations: Literature and Medieval Jain Mendicant Identity

Few of the texts written, edited and commented upon by these many Kharataragaccha monks in the thirteenth century are known to scholars today. In fact, few of them have even been published. They exist in a small number of manuscript copies - often just a single manuscript of a text - preserved at the important Jain libraries in Jaisalmer, Patan and other Jain strongholds of western India. For some of them all we have left are references, as not a single manuscript copy is known to have survived.

Nonetheless, it is clear that the production of literature was an important activity in the medieval Kharataragaccha. This was equally true in the medieval Tapāgaccha, as Paul Dundas has recently shown in his magisterial 2007 study, History, Scripture and Controversy in a Medieval Jain Sect. While monks in other medieval gacchas were also prolific authors, as evidenced by the thousands of extant texts found in the Jain libraries, it appears that only the Kharatara- and Tapā Gacchas were able to sustain vibrant literary cultures over many generations of mendicants. This was a major reason for the dominant role these two gacchas played in medieval Śvetāmbara Jain society in western India, and their survival over many centuries.

The role of the production of literature in the formation and later preeminence of the Kharatara- and Tapā Gacchas has heretofore not been adequately emphasized by scholars other than Mahopādhyāya Vinayasāgara (in his invaluable and unparalleled 2006 Kharatargaccha Sāhitya Koś) for the Kharataragaccha and Dundas for the Tapāgaccha. Dundas has analyzed the many ways that Tapāgaccha literary activity was clearly modeled on the pan-Indian cultural phenomenon of the royal court, in which a king vied for prestige and power by inviting authors to his court, supporting their activities with lavish patronage, and thereby demonstrating his superiority to rival kings.

The medieval Jains had thoroughly internalized this cultural model. The early rise to prominence of the Kharataragaccha was due as much to its literary activities as to the wonder-working charisma of its early leaders. A key figure in the emergence of the Gaccha and its development as a distinct social unit was the first Jineśvarasūri, who was active around VS 1080 (1024 CE), the date when he has been credited with defeating a rival temple-dwelling (caityavāsī) monk at the court of the Caulukya king Durlabha in Patan. Jineśvarasūri was the author, as we have seen, of the now lost Līlāvaīkahā that served as the model for Jinaratnasūri's text, and also the oft-commented upon Pañcaliṅgī. These were just two of a number of texts he wrote in Prakrit and Apabhraṃśa. He was joined in his literary activities by his birth-brother and fellow monk Buddhisāgarasūri. Jineśvarasūri's successor Jinacandrasūri continued this tradition of literary production, and according to Kharatara history this early tradition of literary activity reached a highpoint with Jinacandrasūri's successor (and guru-bhrātṛ or fellow disciple of Jineśvarasūri) Abhayadeva, famous as the author of commentaries on nine of the canonical Aṅgas, as well as other texts.[91] The tradition continued with each of the successive leaders of the Gaccha up to and following the second Jineśvarasūri, Jinaratnasūrisūri and Jinaprabodhasūri.

The activities of Hemacandra and his contemporaries in the Caulukya courts at Patan of Jayasiṃha Siddharāja and Kumārapāla in the eleventh and twelfth centuries represented another example of the role of Jain monks as literary jewels in a royal court. An equally important predecessor for the literary culture in which Jinaratnasūri participated was the literary circle that developed around the brothers Vastupāla and Tejaḥpāla in the late twelfth and first half of the thirteenth centuries - only a generation or two before Jinaratnasūri.[92] The brothers were the most powerful men in the court of the Vāghelā kings who succeeded the Caulukyas. They demonstrated their power and wealth through a vast program of public philanthropy that included monumental structures such as temples, rest houses, water projects and libraries. At the center of their patronage was support for literature. Many of the authors whom the brothers encouraged and supported were Jain monks, who wrote in a range of secular and religious genres similar to what we have seen during the time of Jinaratnasūri.

The thirteenth-century Kharataragaccha writers' workshop focused on certain genres, and avoided others. They do not appear to have produced a single commentary or sub-commentary on any of the Jain scriptures. Perhaps Abhayadevasūri had accomplished this task so successfully two centuries earlier that no need was felt for further scriptural commentary. Nor do we find any texts, either original or commentarial, on matters of monastic practice. There was a concern with grammar, as essential for the production of high quality Sanskrit literature that could win the patronage of important lay Jain and royal audiences. Several of the authors studied and wrote on logic, an important tool for monks who were called upon to defend the beliefs and practices of their gaccha in public settings. These authors produced a large number of stotras. Many of the hymns were dedicated to specific icons, and while it is not possible to correlate the composition of the stotras with the activities of the monks as detailed in the Kharataragaccha chronicle, it is likely that most of these stotras were "occasional" pieces, composed for recitation at a specific ritual to a specific icon in a specific temple. Finally, as exemplified by Jinaratnasūri's Līlāvatīsāra, the production of lengthy narratives was a major focus of the workshop.

Narratives were intended for an audience that was larger than just a community of monks. This gives us insight into the public role of literary production at the time. As we see in The Epitome of Queen Līlāvatī, this narrative literature was intended simultaneously to entertain and to instruct. One can easily envisage a monastic author reciting his lengthy text over a number of days and weeks during the rainy season retreat. He would be seated on a raised dais, surrounded by fellow monks (and fellow authors), narrating his story for several hours at a time to an attentive audience of laity. He would also take time to expand upon his theme in an extemporaneous sermon. He, or one of his assistants, might also provide a running translation of the story into the vernacular. Many in the audience, of course, would not be able to follow the Sanskrit, and even if they knew enough rudimentary Sanskrit to follow the plot they would miss the more elaborate literary displays. Some in the audience would be well-educated connoisseurs, perhaps Jain merchants, and perhaps also non-Jain intellectuals and members of the local social elite. They would come away from each session with a growing appreciation for the skill of the monk-author. The monks also wanted the audience to come away with an increased understanding of the moral principles of Jainism, especially of the inevitability of the karmic consequences of everything a person does, says and thinks. Some non-Jains might decide to commit themselves to a lifestyle more in line with Jain ethical principles. Some Jain laymen and laywomen might be inspired to take the formal vows that mark a higher degree of committed engagement than that of most laity. The chronicles indicate to us that every year a number of men and women were so convinced by the truths enunciated by the monastic preachers, the vācanācāryas, that they decided to renounce the world and become monks and nuns, in imitation of the audiences of the two frames of The Epitome of Queen Līlāvatī.

A notable difference between the earlier literary circles and that of which Jinaratnasūri was a member concerns the choice of language. This thirteenth-century Kharatara group focused on the production of texts in literary Sanskrit. We find many more compositions in Prakrit and Apabhraṃśa in the earlier circles than in that of the late-thirteenth century. Vastupāla and Tejaḥpāla, in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, sponsored and wrote many texts in Sanskrit and Prakrit, but were also instrumental in encouraging the development of the earliest forms of what would become Gujarati. Jinaratnasūri and his colleagues, however, as we have seen, wrote mostly in Sanskrit. While almost all Jain monks for the past millennium have been fluent (or at least literate) in Sanskrit, as a result of which the Jain contributions to the spread and development of Sanskrit in medieval India have been immense, Jains have rarely if ever written only in that language. Jain literary culture has tended to be much more multilingual than the one around Jinaratnasūri. Dundas has written that by the time of Jinaratnasūri, while Sanskrit "never ceased to be the most prestigious vehicle of oral and literary communication," Prakrit "had become by this time a truly dead language, an artificial poetic medium."[93] This may be more a matter of what has survived than of what was written, but it may also indicate a local preference at this time that would bear further investigation.

Dundas specifically mentions the survival of Jinaratnasūri's Sanskrit Līlāvatīsāra and the loss of its predecessor, Jineśvarasūri's Prakrit Līlāvaīkahā, as evidence that the readership for a Prakrit text, perhaps especially a narrative text rather than one dealing with regularly performed and recited mendicant liturgical matters, was small at best. The survival of the Līlāvatīsāra is itself a matter of luck as much as anything else, as it exists in only a single manuscript from about six hundred years ago. It does not appear to have been a text with a robust readership. In fact, one has to wonder who - if anyone - has read it over the subsequent centuries. Nor does this particular set of stories appear to have become a popular genre. Caudharī says that there were only two subsequent texts on the theme, the Līlāvatī Kāvya of an otherwise unknown poet, probably a layman, named Kuñjara, and an anonymous Līlāvatī Kathā.[94]

Even if Jinaratnasūri's text did not have many subsequent readers, in this review of Richard C.C. Fynes's translation I have endeavored to show how a study of the contents and social contexts of a text existing in even just a single copy can tell us much about Jain culture and history. That few people have read Jinaratnasūri's text over the past seven centuries and more is their loss. Fynes's translation reveals an engaging and entertaining text, which he has rendered into lucid English prose. Those of us who are scholars of Jainism, and those who enjoy good literature, are in his debt for his fine combination of philological knowledge and literary skill. We are also in the debt of the Clay Sanskrit Library for having had the courage to publish a book of such seemingly arcane interest in an era when too many publishers pay scant attention to anything other than sales numbers and profit margins. That the sponsors of the Library have lost that courage, and so the ambitious program of translation is coming to a sudden end, is a tragic loss for all scholars of India, and for all people who care about the literature of the world.


Asher, Catherine B. "Urban Growth and Decline: Housing the Moving Jina in Jaipur, Delhi and Lucknow." Jinamañjari 34, 2 (2006) 79-91.

Babb, Lawrence A. Absent Lord: Ascetics and Kings in a Jain Ritual Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

Bhayani, H. C. (ed.). Jinaratna's Līlāvatī-sāra: A Sanskrit Abridgement of Jineśvarasūri's Prakrit Līlāvaī-kahā. Ahmedabad: L. D. Institute of Indology, 1983.

Caudharī, Gulābcandra. Jain Sāhitya kā Bṛhad Itihās, Bhāg 6, Kāvya Sāhitya. Varanasi: Pārśvanāth Vidyāśram Śodh Saṅsthān, 1973.

Charpentier, Jarl (ed.). Uttarādhyayana Sūtra. Uppsala: J.-A. Lundell, 1922.

Cort, John E. "The Śvetāmbar Mūrtipūjak Jain Mendicant." Man (N.S.) 26 (1991) 651- 71.

Dharmasāgaragaṇi, Mahopādhyāya. "Tapāgaccha Paṭṭāvalī." Paṭṭāvalī Samuccaya, Vol. 1. Edited by Muni Darśanvijaya, 41-77. Viramgama: Śrī Cāritra Smāraka Mālā, 1933.

Dundas, Paul. "Jain Attitudes towards the Sanskrit Language." Ideology and Status of Sanskrit: Contributions to the History of the Sanskrit Language. Edited by Jan E. M. Houben, 137-156. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996.

Dundas, Paul. The Jains. Second Edition. London: Routledge, 2002.

Dundas, Paul. History, Scripture and Controversy in a Medieval Jain Sect. London: Routledge, 2007.

Granoff, Phyllis. "The Miracle of a Hagiography without Miracles: Some Comments on the Jain Lives of the Pratyekabuddha Karakaṇḍa." Journal of Indian Philosophy 14, 4 (1986) 389-403.

Jacobi, Hermann (tr.). Jaina Sūtras II. Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 45. Edited by Max Müller. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1895.

Jaini, Padmanabh S. The Jaina Path of Purification. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979.

Jaini, Padmanabh S. Collected Papers on Jaina Studies. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, 2000.

Jambūvijaya, Muni (ed.). A Catalogue of Manuscripts in Jaisalmer Jain Bhandaras. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, 2000.

Jinavijaya, Muni (ed.). Kharataragaccha Paṭṭāvalī Saṃgraha. Calcutta: Vishva Vinode Press, 1932.

Jinavijaya, Muni (ed.). Kharataragaccha Bṛhad Gurvāvalī. Bombay: Siṅghī Jain Śāstra Śiksāpīṭha and Bhāratīya Vidyā Bhavana, 1956.

Jinavijaya, Muni (ed.). Vijñapti Lekha Saṃgraha. Bombay: Singhi Jain Śāstra Śiksāpīṭha and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavana, 1960.

Kāpaḍiyā, Hīrālāl Rasikdās. Jain Saṃskṛt Sāhityano Itihās. Reprint Edited by Ācārya Vijaya Municandrasūri. Three Volumes. Surat: Ācārya Śrī Oṃkārsūri Jñān Mandir, 2004 (First Edition Baroda: Śrī Mukti Kamal Jain Mohanmālā, 1968).

Kathavate, A. V. (ed.). Dvyāśraya Mahākāvya of Hemacandra, with Ṭīkā of Abhayatilakagaṇi. Two Volumes. Bombay: Government Central Press, 1915-21 (Bombay Sanskrit and Prakrit Series 69, 76).

Laidlaw, James. Riches and Renunciation: Religion, Economy, and Society among the Jains. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.

Laughlin, Jack C. Ārādhakamūrti/Adhiṣṭhāyakamūrti: Popular Piety, Politics, and the Medieval Jain Temple Portrait. Bern: Peter Lang, 2003.

Mehtā, Mohanlāl & Hīrālāl Kāpaḍiyā. Jain Sāhitya kā Bṛhad Itihās, Bhāg 4, KarmSāhitya va Āgamik Prakaraṇ. Vārāṇasī: Pārśvanāth Vidyāśram Śodh Saṅsthān, 1968.

Nagarajaiah, Hampa. Stories of Abhayakumāra. Krishnapuradiddi: K. S. Mudappa Smaraka Trust, 2008.

Nāhaṭā, Bhaṃvarlāl & Mahopādhyāya Vinayasāgara (eds.). Kharatara-Gaccha Dīkṣā Nandī Sūcī. Jaipur: Prākṛt Bhāratī Akādamī; and Calcutta: Jain Śvetāmbar Pañcāyatī Mandir, 1990.

O'Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. Dreams, Illusion and Other Realities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Pāṇḍuraṅg Paṇḍit, Śaṅkara (ed.). Dvyāśraya Mahākāvya of Hemacandra, with Ṭīkā of Abhayatilakagaṇi. Bombay: Government Central Press, 1900 (Bombay Sanskrit and Prakrit Series 60).

Puṇyavijaya, Muni (comp.). Catalogue of Sanskrit and Prakrit Manuscripts, Jesalmer Collection. Ahmedabad: L. D. Institute of Indology, 1972.

Sandesara, Bhogilal J. Literary Circle of Mahāmātya Vastupāla and its Contribution to Sanskrit Literature. Bombay: Singhi Jain Shastra Sikshapith and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1953.

Śāh, Pt. Ambālāl Pre. Jain Sāhitya kā Bṛhad Itihās, Bhāg 5, Lākṣaṇik Sāhitya. Vārāṇasī: Pārśvanāth Vidyāśram Śodh Saṅsthān, 1969.

Thakur, Anantlal & J. S. Jetly (eds.). Nyāyālaṅkāra (Pañcaprasthānanyāyamahātarkaviṣamapadavyākhyā) of Abhayatilaka Upādhyāya. Baroda: Oriental Institute, 1981.

Tripuṭī Mahārā (Munis Darśanavijaya, Jñānavijaya, Nyāyavijaya). Jain Paramparāno Itihās, Vol. 3. Edited by Ācārya Bhadrasensūri. Palitana: Śrī Yaśovijayajī Jain Ārādhanā Bhavan, 1997 (Originally published Ahmedabad: Śrī Cāritra Smārak Māḷā, 1964).

Vaidya, P. L. (ed.). Dvyāśraya Mahākāvya of Hemacandra, with Ṭīkā of Abhayatilakagaṇi. Pune: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1936 (Bombay Sanskrit and Prakrit Series 60).

Vinayasāgara, Mahopādhyāya. Kharataragaccha Bṛhad Gurvāvalī, Kharataragaccha Paṭṭāvalī Saṅgraha. Jaypur: Prākṛt Bhāratī Akādamī, 2000 (Correction and Re-Edition of Jinavijaya 1956 and 1932).

Vinayasāgara, Mahopādhyāya. Kharataragaccha kā Bṛhad Itihās. Jaypur: Prākṛt Bhāratī Akādamī, 2004.

Vinayasāgara, Mahopādhyāya (ed.). Kharataragaccha Pratiṣṭhā Lekh Saṅgrah. Jaypur: Prākṛt Bhāratī Akādamī, 2005a.

Vinayasāgara, Mahopādhyāya (ed.). "Gautama Gaṇadhara Stotra of Jineśvarasūri." Anusandhān 31 (2005b) 18.

Vinayasāgara, Mahopādhyāya. Kharataragaccha Sāhitya Koś. Jaypur: Prākṛt Bhāratī Akādamī, 2006.

Williams, Robert. Jaina Yoga. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963.

© The Editor. International Journal of Jaina Studies 2009

Share this page on: