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A Bhaṭṭāraka (Jain Prakrit: भट्टारक "holy one") heads traditional Digambara Jain institutions. he is responsible for training scholars, maintenance of libraries, managing endowments, presiding over installation ceremonies and running Jain institutions.
The term bhaṭṭāraka was used for Acharya Virasena, Acharya Bhadrabahu and other notables. It was in the past used for leaders of religious orders in Shaivism, Buddhism and other groups, but currently it is applied to heads of Digambara Jain institutions. Unlike a Digambara monk, a bhaṭṭāraka wears an orange robe, stays in a single place and is involved in management of assets of the institution.
Jain Prakrit: भट्टारक सोहि जाण भ्रष्टाचर निवारे, धर्म प्रकाशे दोइ भविक जीव बहु तारे
सकल शस्त्र संपूर्ण सूरिमंत्र आराधे, करे गच्छ उद्धार स्वात्मकार्य बहु साधेसौम्यमूर्ति शोभाकरण क्षमाधरण गंभीरमति, भट्टारक सोहि जाणिये कहत ज्ञानसागर यति
Bhaṭṭāraka sōhi jāṇa bhraṣṭācara nivārē, dharma prakāśē dōi bhavika jīva bahu tārē| Sakala śastra sampūrṇa sūrimantra ārādhē, karē gaccha uddhāra svātmakārya bahu sādhē| Saumyamūrti śōbhākaraṇa kṣamādharaṇa gambhīramati, bhaṭṭāraka sōhi jāṇiyē kahata jñānasāgara yati.
"Thus a bhaṭṭāraka illuminates both dharmas, is an expert in all scriptures, has the authority to recite the suri-mantra (to consecrate an image). He is also responsible for preserving the order. He is the head of the six limbs of the sangha: shravaka, shravika, pandita (brahma), muni (vrati), aryika and Bhattaraka."
Present Bhattaraka Seats
Once bhaṭṭārakas were common all over India, but currently, they are present only in South India. Famous bhaṭṭāraka seats include:
- Humbaj, seat of Balatkara Gana, Sarasvati Order. The bhaṭṭāraka is named Devendrakirti. This is the original seat of the order which once had branches all north India from Idar in Gujarat to Shikharji in Jharkhand.
- Shravanabelagola, seat of the Desiya Gana, Pustaka Order. The bhaṭṭāraka is named Charukirti. This is where the Siddhanta Granthas were once preserved in the library, before they were moved to Mudabidri.
- Moodabidri, also a seat of the Desiya Gana, Pustaka Order. The bhaṭṭāraka is named Charukirti. The original manuscripts of the Siddhanta Granthas like Dhavala are preserved here.
- Kanakagiri Jain Matha
- Sonda Jain Math
- Nandani, seat of the Sena Gana, Pushakara Order. The bhaṭṭāraka is named Jinasena. Acharya Shantisagar belonged to this tradition.
- Bhattaraka Lakshmisena of the Jinakanchi Jain Math (also known as the Mel Sithamur Jain Math), who heads the Tamil Jains.
- Bhattaraka Dhavalakeerthi of the Arahanthgiri Jain Math
Historical Bhattaraka Seats
Bhaṭṭāraka seats existed at the following places until recent centuries:
- North India: Delhi, Hisar, Haryana, Mathura
- Rajasthan: Jaipur, Nagaur, Ajmer, Chittorgarh, Pratapgarh, Rajasthan, Dungarpur, Narsimhapur, Rishabhdeo, Mahavirji
- Madhya Pradesh: Gwalior, Sonagiri, Ater, Chanderi, Sironj, Garhakota, Panagar
- Gujarat: Idar, Sagwada, Surat, Bhanpur, Sojitra, Kalol, Jerhat
- Maharashtra: Karanja[disambiguation needed], Nagpur, latur, Nanded, Kolhapur, Nandani
- Karnataka: Malakhed, Karkal, Swadi
Many bhaṭṭāraka seats in North India existed until the beginning of the 20th century.
Theories of Origin
There are several theories of how the modern Bhattarka institution originated.
In its modern form, with the Bhattaraka as an orange-robed advanced layman, its founding is often attributed to Prabhachandra of Mula Sangh, Balatkara Gana Saraswati gachchha, who travelled from Pattana (Gujarat) to Delhi, where he was anointed in a ceremony as the first Bhattaraka of Delhi. He was invited by the ruler of Delhi, who is identified as Muhammad Bin Tughlaq.
However Shrutasagara, in his commentary on Shatprabhrita, mentioned Prabhachandra's predecessor Vasantakirti has having adopted body coverage first. The lineage linking Vasabtakirti and Prabhachandra is given as following (see Balatkara Gana):
- Vasantakirti at Mandapadurg
- Vishalakirti (or Prakhyatkirti), Ajmer
- Shubhakirti, Ajmer
- Dharmachandra, Ajmer
- Ratnakirti, Ajmer
- Prabhachandra, who visited Delhi
- Vilas Adinath Sangave, Facets of Jainology: Selected Research Papers, 2001, Popular Prakashan. p. 133-143
- Joharapurkar, Vidyadhar Pasusa (September 1964). "Jain sangh ke chhah anga". Anekānta.
- Vidaydgar Johrapurkar, Bhaṭṭāraka Sampradaya, Solapur, 1958
- Facets of Jainology: Selected Research Papers on Jain Society, Religion and Culture, by Vilas Adinath Sangave, Published 2001
- Jain Dharma Ka Maulik Itihas, Gajsimha Rathod, Jaipur