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The Śvetāmbara (/ʃwɛˈtʌmbərə/; also spelled Shwetambara, Shvetambara, Svetambara or Swetambar) is one of the two main branches of Jainism, the other being the Digambara. Śvetāmbara in Sanskrit means "white-clad", and refers to its ascetics' practice of wearing white clothes, which sets it apart from the Digambara or "sky-clad" Jains whose ascetic practitioners go nude. Śvetāmbaras do not believe that ascetics must practice nudity.[1]

An icon of Śvetāmbara Jain, the 23rd tirthankara Parshvanatha, at a Jain temple in Mysore

The Śvetāmbara 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.[2][3][4] Śvetāmbara Jain communities are currently found mainly in Gujarat, Rajasthan and coastal regions of Maharashtra.[5][4] According to Jeffery D. Long, a scholar of Hindu and Jain studies, about four-fifths of all Jains in India are Śvetāmbaras.[6]

History edit

The Śvetāmbara texts were codified at the Great Council of Vallabhi under auspices of Devarddhigani Kshamashramana, which was held at Vallabhi in 454 CE.[7][8]

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).[9] This cloth carrying tradition to cover genitalia by ancient Jain monks in principle resembles the beliefs of the Śvetāmbara and now extinct Yapaniya subtradition.[10]
Tirth Pat on display at Prince of Wales museum, Mumbai

Majority of the Śvetāmbaras 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 scholars 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]

The newer Śvetāmbara 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] The terapanthi order is strongly aniconic and has lakhs of followers in many parts of the world.[13][14][15][16]

Early Jain images from Mathura depict Digambara iconography until late fifth century CE where Śvetāmbara iconography starts appearing.[17]

Differences with Digambara edit

Other than rejecting or accepting different ancient Jain texts, Digambaras and Śvetāmbara differ in other significant ways such as:

  • Śvetāmbaras believe that Parshvanatha, the 23rd tirthankara, taught only Four restraints (a claim, scholars say is confirmed by the ancient Buddhist texts that discuss Jain monastic life). Mahāvīra taught Five vows.[18][19][20] The Digambara sect disagrees with the Śvetāmbara interpretations,[21] and reject the theory of difference in Parshvanatha and Mahāvīra's teachings.[19] However, Digambaras as well as Śvetāmbaras follow Five vows as taught by Mahavira. The difference is only that Śvetāmbaras believe Parshvanatha taught one vow less (the Four vows except Brahmacharya) than Mahavira. However, monks of Śvetāmbara sect also follow all 5 vows as stated in the Acharanga Sutra.[22]
  • Digambaras believe that both Parshvanatha and Mahāvīra remained unmarried, whereas Śvetāmbara believe the 23rd and 24th tirthankar did indeed marry. According to the Śvetāmbara version, Parshvanāth married Prabhavati,[23] and Mahāvīraswāmi married Yashoda who bore him a daughter named Priyadarshana.[24][25] The two sects also differ on the origin of Trishala, Mahāvīra's mother,[24] as well as the details of Tirthankara's biographies such as how many auspicious dreams their mothers had when they were in the wombs.[26]
  • Digambara believe Rishabha, Vasupujya and Neminatha were the three tirthankaras who reached omniscience while in sitting posture and other tirthankaras were in standing ascetic posture. In contrast, Śvetāmbaras believe it was Rishabha, Nemi and Mahāvīra who were the three in sitting posture.[27]
  • Digambara monasticism rules are more rigid.[28]
  • Digambara iconography are plain, Śvetāmbara icons are decorated and colored to be more lifelike.[28]
  • According to Śvetāmbara Jain texts, from Kalpasūtras onwards, its monastic community has had more sadhvis than sadhus (female than male mendicants). In Tapa Gacch of the modern era, the ratio of sadhvis to sadhus (nuns to monks) is about 3.5 to 1.[29] In contrast to Śvetāmbara, the Digambara sect monastic community has been predominantly male.[30]
  • In the Digambara tradition, a male human being is considered closest to the apex with the potential to achieve his soul's liberation from rebirths through asceticism. Women must gain karmic merit, to be reborn as man, and only then can they achieve spiritual liberation in the Digambara sect of Jainism.[31][32] The Śvetāmbaras disagree with the Digambaras, believing that women can also achieve liberation from saṃsāra through ascetic practices.[32][33]
  • The Śvetāmbaras state the 19th Tirthankara Māllīnātha was female.[34] However, Digambara reject this, and worship Mallinatha as a male.[35]

See also edit

References edit

Citations edit

  1. ^ Dundas 2002, p. 45.
  2. ^ Dundas 2002, pp. 53–59, 64–80, 286–287 with footnotes 21 and 32.
  3. ^ Wiley 2009, pp. 83–84.
  4. ^ a b Jain & Fischer 1978, pp. 1–2, 8–9, xxxiv–xxxv.
  5. ^ Long 2013, pp. 60–61.
  6. ^ Long 2013, p. 20.
  7. ^ Stevenson, Margaret (1915). The Heart of Jainism. London: Oxford University Press. p. 13. Archived from the original on 2 July 2023. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  8. ^ Sarkar, Benoy Kumar (1916). The Beginning of Hindu Culture as World-power (A.D. 300–600). Shanghai: Commercial Press. p. 29. OCLC 613143923. Archived from the original on 2 July 2023. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  9. ^ Quintanilla 2007, pp. 174–176.
  10. ^ Jaini & Goldman 2018, pp. 42–45.
  11. ^ a b c d e Long 2013, pp. 20–22.
  12. ^ Dundas 2002, pp. 246–249.
  13. ^ Dundas 2002, p. 254.
  14. ^ Shashi 1996, p. 945.
  15. ^ Vallely 2002, p. 59.
  16. ^ Narendra Singh 2001, p. 5184.
  17. ^ Vyas 1995, p. 16.
  18. ^ Jones & Ryan 2007, p. 211.
  19. ^ a b Umakant P. Shah 1987, p. 5.
  20. ^ Dundas 2002, pp. 31–33.
  21. ^ Jaini 2000, pp. 27–28.
  22. ^ "Jaina Sutras, Part I (SBE22): Contents". sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 31 March 2024.
  23. ^ Kailash Chand Jain 1991, p. 12.
  24. ^ a b Natubhai Shah 2004, pp. 73–74.
  25. ^ Dundas 2002, p. 21.
  26. ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987, p. 17.
  27. ^ Umakant P. Shah 1987, pp. 79–80.
  28. ^ a b Dalal 2010a, p. 167.
  29. ^ Cort 2001a, p. 47.
  30. ^ Flügel 2006, pp. 314–331, 353–361.
  31. ^ Long 2013, pp. 36–37.
  32. ^ a b Harvey 2016, pp. 182–183.
  33. ^ Dundas 2002, pp. 55–59.
  34. ^ Vallely 2002, p. 15.
  35. ^ Dundas 2002, p. 56.

Sources edit

External links edit