Kanji Swami

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Kanji Swami
Religion Jainism
Sect Digambara
Born (1890-04-21)21 April 1890
Umrala, Bhavnagar State, British India
Died 28 November 1980(1980-11-28) (aged 90)
Mumbai, Maharashtra
  • Motichand Bhai (father)
  • Ujamba (mother)
Works Jain scholar, philosopher and spiritual leader

Kanji Swami (Gujarati:કાનજી સ્વામી) (1890–1980) was a teacher of Jainism.[1][2]

He was deeply influenced by the Samayasāra of Kundakunda in 1932. He lectured on these teachings for 45 years to comprehensively elaborate on the philosophy described by Kundakunda and others. He was given the title of 'Kohinoor of Kathiawad' by the people who were influenced by his religious teachings and philosophy.[3]

Early years[edit]

Kanji Swami was born in Umrala, a small village in the Kathiawar region of Gujarat, in 1890 AD to a Sthānakavāsī family.[4] Although an able pupil in school, he always had an intuition that the wordly teachings was not something that he was looking out for. His mother died when he was thirteen and he lost his father at the age of seventeen. After this, he started looking after his father's shop. He used the frequent periods of lull in the shop in reading various books on religion and spirituality. Turning down the proposals of marriage, he confided in his brother that he wanted to remain celibate and take renunciation.[1][5]

Renunciation and later life[edit]

Kanji Swami became a Sthānakavāsī monastic in 1913 under Hirachanda.[4] During the ceremony, while riding on an elephant, he inauspiciously tore his robe, which was later believed to be an ill omen for his monastic career.[6] Being a believer in self effort for achieving emancipation, he quickly became a learned and famous monk and, backed by his seventeen renditions of the Bhagavati Sutra. He was known as "Koh-i-Noor of Kathiawar".[6]

During 1921, he read Kundakunda's Samayasāra, which influenced him greatly. He also studied writings of Pandit Todarmal and Shrimad Rajchandra. Other influences were Amrutchandra and Banarasidas. During his discourses he began to incorporate the ideas picked from these studies and began to lead a kind of double life, nominally a Sthānakavāsī monastic but referring to Digambara texts.[1][5][6]

His assertions that "vows, giving and fasting were ultimately worthless if performed without any understanding of the soul" did not endear him to the Sthānakavāsī community. He left Sthānakavāsī monastic life and proclaimed himself a celibate Digambara lay scholar at Songadh in Gujarat in 1934.[6] His lectures were recorded on tapes and have been published. His emphasis was on Nishcaya Naya, the higher level of truth, over Vyavahara Naya, ordinary life.[1][5] Kanji Swami died on 28 November 1980 at Mumbai.[1]


In an interview in 1977, he denied being hostile to the traditional Jain monasticism and regarded monastics as personifying the fundamental principles of Jainism. However, he also pointed out that taking up formal initiation and behavioural practices, like the abandonment of clothes of Digambara monks, and of other possessions, could not make an individual a true monastic unless he had abandoned internal possessions as well.[7] His philosophy is criticised by Chandrashekhar Vijay in his book, Kanjibhai Matpratikar.

Religious establishment[edit]

The Digambara Jaina Svādhyāya Mandira was built in 1937. It houses Samayasāra in the main temple and the words of Kundakunda's five main treatises have been engraved on its walls. A temple dedicated to Shrimandhara Swami was consecrated in 1941. Kanji Swami travelled throughout India where he gave discourses and consecrated many temples. Songadh is major centre.[5]

Kanji Swami has many followers in the Jain diaspora.[1] They generally regard themselves simply as Digambara Jains following the tradition of Kundakunda and Pandit Todarmal.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Jestice, Phyllis G. (2004). Holy People of the World: A Cross-Cultural Encyclopedia. 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 464. ISBN 9781576073551. 
  2. ^ Jain, Ravindra K. (1999). The Kanji Swami Panth, The universe as audience: metaphor and community among the Jains of North India. Indian Institute of Advanced Study. ISBN 8185952647. 
  3. ^ http://www.mangalayatan.com/gurudevshri.html
  4. ^ a b Dundas 2002, p. 255.
  5. ^ a b c d e Dundas. "Kanji swami Panth". University of Cumbria. Division of Religion and philosophy. pp. 231–2. Retrieved 21 February 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d Dundas 2002, p. 256.
  7. ^ Dundas, Paul (1992). The Jains. London: Routledge. pp. 228–29. ISBN 0415051835.