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Digambara (/dɪˈɡʌmbərə/; Sanskrit "sky-clad") is a school of Jainism, which distinguished itself from the white-clad Śvētāmbara in about the third century.[1] Monks in the Digambara tradition don't wear any clothes, as it is considered parigraha (possession). They carry only a broom made up of fallen peacock feathers (to follow the principle of Ahiṃsā) and a water gourd.[2]

The Digambara sect of Jainism rejects the authority of the Jain Agamas compiled by Sthulabhadra.[3] They believe that by the time of Dharasena, the twenty-third teacher after Indrabhuti Gautama, knowledge of only one Anga was there. This was about 683 years after the Nirvāṇa of Mahavira. After Dharasena's pupils Pushpadanta and Bhutabali, even that was lost.[4]

According to Digambara tradition, Mahavira, the last tirthankara, never married. He renounced the world at the age of thirty after taking permission of his parents.[5] The Digambara believe that after attaining Kevala Jnana, omniscient beings or arihant are free from human needs like hunger, thirst, and sleep.[6] One of the most important scholar-monks of Digambara tradition was Kundakunda. He authored Prakrit texts such as the Samayasāra and the Pravacanasāra. Samantabhadra and Siddhasena Divakara were other important monks of this tradition.[7]

The Satkhandagama and Kasayapahuda have major significance in the Digambara tradition.[8]


Acharya Vidyasagar, a prominent Digambara monk.

In words of Heinrich Zimmer,[9] digambara means -

Every Digambara monk is required to follow 28 vows (vrats) compulsory.

  • Five great vows (Maha-vrat)
  1. Ahiṃsā - Not to hurt any living being by actions and thoughts.
  2. Satya - Not to lie in any circumstances.
  3. Asteya - Not to take anything if not given.
  4. Brahmacharya - Celibacy in action, words & thoughts.[10]
  5. Aparigraha (Non-possession)- Complete detachment from material property.
  • Fivefold regulation of activities (samiti)[11]
  1. Control of speech - Not to criticise anyone.
  2. Control of thought
Adinatha image (Kayotsarga posture)
  1. Regulation of movement - To prevent killing of small living beings.
  2. Care in lifting things
  3. Examining food and drink before consuming.[12][13]
  • Six Essential Duties[14]
  1. Sämäyika - Equanimity towards every living being
  2. Devapujä - To worship qualities of 24 Tirthankaras
  3. Vandanä - To bow down to the Arihants, Siddhas and Acharyas
  4. Pratyakhyan- Renunciation
  5. Pratikramana- Repentance
  6. Kayotsarga- Giving up attachment to the body (Posture: rigid and immobile, with arms held stiffly down, knees straight, and toes directly forward)[9]
  • Strict Control on five senses[15]
  • Not to use tooth powder to clean teeth
  • To take rest only on earth or wooden pallet.
  • Not to take bath
  • Eat food in standing posture (ahara)
  • To consume food & water once in a day
  • To pull out hair by hand (Kesh-loch)
  • To be nude (digambara)

Famous monks[edit]

Acharyas Time period Known for
Bhadrabahu 3rd century BC Chandragupta Maurya's spiritual teacher
Kundakunda 2nd century AD Author of Samayasāra, Niyamasara, Pravachansara, Barah anuvekkha
Umaswami 2nd century AD Author of Tattvartha Sutra (canon on science and ethics)
Pujyapada 5th century AD Author of Iṣṭopadeśa (Divine Sermons), a concise work of 51 verses dealing with the real and ethical aspects of life using examples from our day to day lives.
Manatunga 6th century AD Creator of famous Bhaktamara Stotra
Virasena 8th-century AD Mathematician and author of Dhavala
Jinasena 9th century AD Author of Mahapurana (major Jain text) and Harivamsha Purana.
Nemichandra 10th century AD Author of Dravyasamgraha and supervised the consecration of the Gomateshwara statue.
Shantisagar 20th century AD Reformer of digambara tradition.
Acharya Kundakunda (Animation)

The prominent Acharyas of the Digambar tradition were Kundakunda (author of Samayasar and other works),[16] Virasena (author of a commentary on the Dhavala).[17] Siribhoovalaya, a cryptographic work by digambara monk, Kumudendu Muni is still being deciphered.

In the 10th century, Digambar tradition was divided into two main orders.

  • Mula Sangh, which includes Sena gana, Deshiya gana and Balatkara gana traditions
  • Kashtha Sangh, which includes the Mathura gana and Lat-vagad gana traditions

Shantisagar, belonged to the tradition of Sena gana. Practically all the Digambara monks today belong to his tradition, either directly or indirectly. The Bhattarakas of Shravanabelagola and Mudbidri belong to Deshiya gana and the Bhattaraka of Humbaj belongs to the Balatkara gana.[18]


Indus valley[edit]

Relics found from Harrapan excavations like seals depicting 'Kayotsarga' posture, idols in Padmasana and a nude bust of red limestone[19] give insight about the antiquity of the Digambara tradition.

In Literature[edit]

The presence of gymnosophists ("naked philosophers") in Greek records as early as the fourth century B.C., supports the claim of the Digambaras that they have preserved the ancient Sramāna practice.[9]

In Majjhima Nikaya, Buddha tells "Thus far, SariPutta, did I go in my penance? I went without clothes. I licked my food from my hands. I took no food that was brought or meant especially for me. I accepted no invitation to a meal."[20] These being in conformity with the conduct of a digambara monk, it is possible that Buddha started his ascetic life as a digambara.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Singh 2008, p. 23
  2. ^ Singh 2008, p. 316
  3. ^ Singh 2008, p. 444
  4. ^ Dundas 2002, p. 79.
  5. ^ Singh 2008, p. 313
  6. ^ Singh 2008, p. 314
  7. ^ Singh 2008, p. 524.
  8. ^ Dundas 2002, p. 63-64.
  9. ^ a b c Zimmer 1953, p. 210.
  10. ^ Shah, Pravin. "Five Great Vows (Maha-vratas) of Jainism".  Jainism Literature Center, Harvard University Archives (2009)
  11. ^ Jain 2012, p. 144.
  12. ^ Jain 2011, p. 93–96.
  13. ^ Pramansagar 2008, p. 189-191.
  14. ^ Jain 2012, p. 143.
  15. ^ http://www.digambarjainonline.com/dharma/mahagun.htm
  16. ^ Gender and Salvation: Jaina Debates on the Spiritual Liberation of Women - Padmanabh S. Jaini - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  17. ^ Satkhandagama : Dhaval (Jivasthana) Satparupana-I (Enunciation of Existence-I) An English Translation of Part 1 of the Dhavala Commentary on the Satkhandagama of Acarya Pushpadanta & Bhutabali Dhavala commentary by Acarya Virasena English tr. by Prof. Nandlal Jain, Ed. by Prof. Ashok Jain ISBN 9788186957479
  18. ^ Jaina Community: A Social Survey - Vilas Adinath Sangave - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  19. ^ Possehl, Gregory L. (2002). The Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective. Rowman Altamira. p. 111. ISBN 9780759101722. Retrieved 25 April 2015. 
  20. ^ Pruthi, R.K. (2004). Buddhism and Indian Civilization. Discovery Publishing House. pp. 197–203. ISBN 978-81-71418664. Retrieved April 1, 2015. 
  21. ^ http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~pluralsm/affiliates/jainism/article/antiquity.htm


External links[edit]