Jain Agamas

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Folio from a Kalpasutra (Book of Sacred Precepts), c. 1450, from Collection of LACMA.

Agamas are original texts of Jainism based on Mahavira’s teachings. Mahavira’s preaching were orally compiled by his disciples into various Sutras (texts) which were collectively called Jain canonical or Agamic literature. Traditionally these sutras were orally passed on from teachers (acharyas or gurus) to the disciples for several centuries. The scholars date the composition of Jain Agamas at around the 6th to 3rd century BC.

The Jain Agamas are the scriptures of Jainism, and the earliest versions were written in Ardhamagadhi Prakrit language.[1][2]


Date of composition[edit]

While some authors date the composition of Jain Agamas starting from 6th century BC,[3] noted Indologist Hermann Jacobi holds that the composition of the Jaina siddhanta would fall somewhere about the end of the 4th or the beginning of the 3rd century BC. [4] The general consensus amongst scholars is that the earliest portions of Jain siddhanta were composed around the 4th or 3rd century BC.[5][6] This is also in agreement with Jain tradition according to which the agamic literature and the Purvas were passed from one heads of the order to his disciples for around 170 years after the nirvana of Mahavira. However with time, it became difficult to keep the entire Jain literature committed to memory. According to tradition, there occurred a twelve years of famine around 350 BC where it was extremely difficult for the Jain ascetics to survive during this time. Under such circumstances they could not preserve the entire canonical literature. The Purvas or the ancient texts were already forgotten and lost after the famine. According to Svetambara tradition, the agamas were collected on the basis of collective memory of the ascetics in the first council of Pataliputra under the stewardship of Acarya Sthulibhadra in around to 463–367 BC.[7] However, the Digambara Jain sect maintains that after the famine, the entire Jain canonical literature became extinct.

Final redaction[edit]


Acharya Tulsi and Acharya Mahapragya during Jain Agamas research
Sacred Jain Books in a Temple Library
Folio from a Kalpasutra (Book of Sacred Precepts), c. AD 1400
Folio from a Dispersed Kalpasutra (Book of Rituals), c. 1465, depicting "The Fourteen Auspicious Dreams of the Jina's Mother". Jaunpur, India

The Agamas were composed of the following forty-six texts:

Languages of Agamas and literature[edit]

Jainism puts great value on learning. Jains have been prolific authors and avid readers for centuries. India's oldest manuscript libraries have been preserved in Jaisalmer and Patan by Jain scholars. According to the 2001 census, the Jains are the most literate community in India.

The Jain literature includes both religious texts and books on generally secular topics such as sciences, history, and grammar. The Jains have used several languages at different times and in different regions of India.

Prakrit literature includes the Agamas, Agama-tulya texts, and Siddhanta texts. The dialect used to compose many of these texts is referred to as Jain Prakrit. Composition in Prakrits ceased around the 10th century AD.
Writing in Sanskrit became common after about the 1st century AD beginning with the Tattvartha Sutra of Umaswati. Jain Sanskrit literature includes Puranas, Koshas, śrāvakācāras such as the Ratnakaranda śrāvakācāra, mathematical works, and nighantus.
Produced from about the 10th to 15th centuries AD, these texts include Kahas, rasas, and grammars. Most known Apabhraṃśa texts are of Jain origin.
Some of the early Tamil classics such as Valayapathi, Silappatikaram and Civaka Cintamani are Jain or Jain-affiliated works.
In the past eight to nine centuries numerous Jain texts were written in Hindustani, including Ardha-kathanaka, Chhah-dhala, and Moksh Marg Prakashak.
The earliest texts in Kannada, such as Shivakotiacharya's Vaddaradhane, are works by Jains.
Śālibhadrasūri's Bhārateśvarabāhubali (1085), the first Gujarati book, was by a Jain author.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Paul Dundas (2002), The Jains, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415266055, pages 60-63
  2. ^ a. John Cort (2010), Framing the Jina: Narratives of Icons and Idols in Jain History, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195385021, pages 100-101;
    b. John Cort (1998), Open Boundaries: Jain Communities and Cultures in Indian History, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791437858, page 6
  3. ^ Nagendra Kr. Singh. (2001). Encyclopedia of Jainism (Edited by Nagendra Kr. Singh). New Delhi: Anmol Publications. ISBN 81-261-0691-3 page 4308
  4. ^ Jacobi, Hermann (1884). (ed.) F. Max Müller, ed. The Ācāranga Sūtra. Sacred Books of the East vol.22, Part 1 (in English: translated from Prakrit). Oxford: The Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-7007-1538-X.  p. xliii
  5. ^ Yoga: The Indian Tradition. Edited by Ian Whicher and David Carpenter. London: Routledgecurzon, 2003. ISBN – 0-7007-1288-7 page 64
  6. ^ C. Chappie ( 1993) Nonviolence to Animals, Earth and Self in Asian Traditions. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-1497-3 page 5
  7. ^ Jacobi, Hermann (1884). (ed.) F. Max Müller, ed. The Ācāranga Sūtra. Sacred Books of the East vol.22, Part 1 (in English: translated from Prakrit). Oxford: The Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-7007-1538-X.  p. xlii

External links[edit]

  • www.AtmaDharma.com/jainbooks.html Original Jain Scriptures (Shastras) with Translations into modern languages such as English, Hindi and Gujarati. Literature such as Kundkund Acharya's Samaysaar, Niyamsaar, Pravachansaar, Panchastikay, Ashtphaud and hundreds of others all in downloadable PDF format.
  • Jain Agams
  • Clay Sanskrit Library publishes classical Indian literature, including a number of works of Jain Literature, with facing-page text and translation. Also offers searchable corpus and downloadable materials.
  • Jainism in Buddhist Literature