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Late inscription at Shravanabelagola describing the incoming of Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta Maurya
Bornc. 367 BC
Diedc. 298 BC
SectDigambara and Svetambara
Notable work(s)Uvasagharam Stotra, Kalpa Sutra
Religious career
SuccessorAcharya Vishakha (Digambara)
Acharya Sthulabhadrasuri (Svetambara)
Ascetics initiatedChandragupta Maurya (Digambara)
Sthavir Godas, Sthavir Agnidatt, Sthavir Yagnadatt, Sthavir Somdatt (Svetambara)
Initiationby Govarddhana Mahamuni (Digambara)
by Acharya Yashobhadrasuri (Svetambara)

Ācārya Bhadrabāhu (c. 367 – c. 298 BC) was, according to both the Śvetāmbara and Digambara sects of Jainism, the last Shruta Kevalin (all knowing by hearsay, that is indirectly) in Jainism.[1][2][3]

According to the Digambara tradition, he was the spiritual teacher of Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Maurya Empire.[4] According to the Digambara sect of Jainism, there were five Shruta Kevalins in Jainism – Govarddhana Mahamuni, Vishnu, Nandimitra, Aparajita and Bhadrabahu.[5] The Digambaras consider him to have been naked.

According to the Śvetāmbara tradition, he was the author of the holy Kalpa Sūtra,[6] which describes the life of Mahavira and other Tirthankaras. It also lists down a Sthaviravali (a succession list of the names of the head of the Jain monastic order according to Śvetāmbaras, starting with Mahavira's Ganadhara (disciple) Sudharmaswami).[7] Śvetāmbaras consider Bhadrabahusuri to be a Sthavirkalpi monk (as described in the Acharanga Sutra, the Kalpa Sūtra, and the Sthananga Sutra), and thus, white-clad. Śvetāmbaras also consider him to have had been a Shruta Kevalin.

Early life[edit]


Bhadrabahu was born in Pundravardhana (roughly equivalent to modern North Bengal[8]) to a Brahmin family[9] during which time the secondary capital of the Mauryas was Ujjain. When he was seven, Govarddhana Mahamuni predicted that he will be the last Shruta Kevali and took him along for his initial education.[5] According to Śvētāmbara tradition, he lived from 433 BC to 357 BC.[10] Digambara tradition dates him to have died in 365 BC.[11] Natubhai Shah dated him from 322 to 243 BC.[12]

Yasobhadra (351-235 BC), leader of the religious order reorganised by Mahavira, had two principle disciples, Sambhutavijaya (347-257 BC) and Bhadrabahu.[12] After his death the religious order was led by Sambhutivijaya. After Sambhutivijaya's death, Bhadrabahu became the head of the monastic order.[12]

Digambara biography and explanation of sixteen dreams of Chandragupta[edit]

Bhadrabahu Guha on Chandragiri

The Digambara sect believes that on the night of full moon in the month of Kartik, Chandragupta Maurya (founder and ruler of Maurya Empire) saw sixteen dreams, which were then explained to him by Acharya Bhadrabahu.[13]

Dream of Chandragupta Explanation by Bhadrabahu
The sun setting All the knowledge will be darkened
A branch of the Kalpavriksha break off and fall Decline of Jainism and Chandragupta's successors won't be initiated
A divine car descending in the sky and returning The heavenly beings will not visit Bharata Kshetra
The disk of the moon sundered Jainism will be split into two sects
Black elephants fighting Lesser rains and poorer crops
Fireflies shining in the twilight True knowledge will be lost, few sparks will glimmer with feeble light
A dried up lake Aryakhanda will be destitute of Jain doctrines and falsehood will increase
Smoke filling all the air Evil will start to prevail and goodness will be hidden
An ape sitting on a throne Vile, low-born, wicked will acquire power
A dog eating the payasa out of a golden bowl Kings, not content with a sixth share, will introduce land-rent and oppress their subjects by increasing it
Young bulls labouring Young will form religious purposes, but forsake them when old
Kshatriya boys riding donkeys Kings of high descent will associate with the base
Monkeys scaring away swans The low will torment the noble and try to reduce them to same level
Calves jumping over the sea King will assist in oppressing the people by levying unlawful taxes
Foxes pursuing old oxen The low, with hollow compliments, will get rid of the noble, the good and the wise
A twelve-headed serpent approaching Twelve year of death and famine will come upon this land[14]
Stella showing the transmission of the oral tradition (Photo: Marhiaji, Jabalpur)

Bhadrabahu was in Nepal for a 12-year penitential vow when the Pataliputra conference took place in 300 BC to put together the Jain canon anew. Bhadrabahu decided the famine would make it harder for monks to survive and migrated with a group of twelve thousand disciples to South India,[15][16] bringing with him Chandragupta, turned Digambar monk.[17][14]

According to the inscriptions at Shravanabelgola, Bhadrabahu died after taking the vow of sallekhana (Fast until death).[18]

Digambaras believe that Bhadrabahu was the last acharya of the undivided Jain sangha. After him, the Sangha split into two separate teacher-student lineages of monks. Digambara monks belong to the lineage of Acharya Vishakha and Svetambara monks follow the tradition of Acharya Sthulabhadra.[19] However, the theory that the schism occurred at that time has not been historically proven.

Śvetāmbara Biography[edit]

According to Śvetāmbaras, Bhadrabahusuri was the author of the Kalpa Sūtra,[20] four Chedda sutras, commentaries on ten scriptures, Uvasaggaharam Stotra, and Vasudevcharita.[21][9]

Śvetāmbaras believe Bhadrabahu's principle disciples were Sthavir Godas, Sthavir Agnidatt, Sthavir Yagnadatt, and Sthavir Somdatt. However, in the Pattavali of Kalpa Sūtra, he is said to have been succeeded by Acharya Sthulabhadrasuri.

He is believed to have been a Sthavirkalpi monk and white-clad as Śvetāmbaras believe that the only other way for monks (known as Jinakalpa) or the practice of being a Jinakalpi monk had become extinct after Jambuswami attained nirvana.[22][23] Therefore, Śvetāmbaras hold that he was Sthavirkalpi and thus, white-clad.


Regarding the inscriptions describing the relation of Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta Maurya, Radha Kumud Mookerji writes,

The oldest inscription of about 600 AD associated "the pair (yugma), Bhadrabahu along with Chandragupta Muni." Two inscriptions of about 900 AD on the Kaveri near Seringapatam describe the summit of a hill called Chandragiri as marked by the footprints of Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta munipati. A Shravanabelagola inscription of 1129 mentions Bhadrabahu "Shrutakevali", and Chandragupta who acquired such merit that he was worshipped by the forest deities. Another inscription of 1163 similarly couples and describes them. A third inscription of the year 1432 speaks of Yatindra Bhadrabahu, and his disciple Chandragupta, the fame of whose penance spread into other words.[17]

Bhadrabahu-charitra was written by Ratnanandi of about 1450 AD.[17]



  1. ^ Fynes, F.C.C. (1998). Hemachandra The Lives of Jain Elders (1998 ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press, Oxford World Classics. p. xxi. ISBN 0-19-283227-1.
  2. ^ Bhattacharyya, N.N. (2009). Jainism, a Concise Encyclopedia. New Delhi: Manohar Publishers and Distributors. p. 235. ISBN 978-81-7304-312-3.
  3. ^ Jain, Jagdish Chandra (1984). Life in Ancient India: As Depicted in the Jain Canon and Commentaries, 6th Century BC to 17th Century AD. Munshiram Manoharlal.
  4. ^ Wiley 2009, p. 51.
  5. ^ a b Rice 1889, p. 3.
  6. ^ Indian Antiquary. Popular Prakashan. 1910.
  7. ^ "Jaina Sutras, Part I (SBE22): Lives of the Ginas: List of the Sthaviras". Retrieved 2 April 2024.
  8. ^ Majumdar, R.C. (1971). History of Ancient Bengal (1971 ed.). Calcutta: G.Bharadwaj & Co. p. 12 & 13.
  9. ^ a b Jaini, Padmanabh (2000). Collected Papers on Jaina Studies. Motilal Banarasidass. p. 299.
  10. ^ Vidyabhusana 2006, p. 164.
  11. ^ Vidyabhusana 2006, p. 164–165.
  12. ^ a b c Natubhai Shah 2004, p. 42.
  13. ^ Rice 1889, p. 4.
  14. ^ a b Sangave 2001, p. 174.
  15. ^ Dundas 2002, p. 47.
  16. ^ Rice 1889, p. 5.
  17. ^ a b c Mookerji 1988, p. 40.
  18. ^ Sangave 1981, p. 32.
  19. ^ Natubhai Shah 2004, p. 39.
  20. ^ Mookerji 1988, p. 4.
  21. ^ Wiley 2009, p. 52.
  22. ^ Jaini, Padmanabh S. (14 August 2018). Gender and Salvation: Jaina Debates on the Spiritual Liberation of Women. Univ of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-30296-9.
  23. ^ Utz, David Anthony; Gaeffke, Peter (1984). Identity and Division in Cults and Sects in South Asia. Department of South Asia Regional Studies. ISBN 978-0-936115-00-9.


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