Shades of Enlightenment- A Jain Tantric Diagram and the Colours of the Tīrthaṅkaras

Published: 23.12.2014
Updated: 02.07.2015

International Journal of Jaina Studies
(Online) Vol. 8, No. 1 (2012) 1-47



While scholarship has paid little attention to Śaiva/Śākta and Jain interactions in the medieval period, Śaivas seem to have exerted great influence on Jain ritual culture, bringing lasting changes to Jain worship practices. This article discusses the historical development of two aspects of Jain ritual that may have been influenced by Śākta understandings ­­– a tantric diagram called the Ṛṣimaṇḍala, and the different colours in which the twenty-four tīrthaṅkaras are portrayed. Today, members of the two main sects of Jainism, Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras, disagree on the colours of twotīrthaṅkaras, Malli and Supārśva. As this article shows, the origins of this dispute seem to be related to medieval Śākta influence on the Śvetāmbara positioning of Malli in the multi-coloured seed-syllable hrīṃ at the center of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala.


Shades of Enlightenment- A Jain Tantric Diagram and the Colours of the Tīrthaṅkaras

[1]Scholarship in recent years has convincingly established that Śaiva-Śākta traditions dominated much of the South Asian medieval landscape, significantly transforming the religious beliefs and practices on the subcontinent. The work of Alexis Sanderson, in particular, has provided a wealth of data to document this Śaiva influence, with his recent monograph, "The Śaiva Age: The Rise and Dominance of Śaivism During the Early Medieval Period," arguing that from the fifth to thirteenth centuries, all major religious traditions in India were either "absorbed by" Śaivism or "came to remodel themselves along Śaiva lines" (Sanderson 2009: 252). This remodeling meant the widespread acceptance of tantric practices such as the use of esoteric mantras and elaborate ritual diagrams (maṇḍala, yantra, cakra, etc.). Jainism was certainly among the traditions influenced by these developments, yet little research has been done on Jains' appropriation of Śaiva-Śākta tantric practices. There have been some preliminary studies of Jain mantras and maṇḍalas,[2] and scholars have examined aspects of medieval JainŚaiva interactions in philosophical, narrative, and ritual texts,[3] but much more research needs to be done.

To add some of this much-needed Jain data to tantric studies, this article will examine two components of Jain worship that seem to have been influenced by medieval Śākta understandings: the tantric diagram the Ṛṣimaṇḍala and the colours in which the twenty-four tīrthaṅkaras are portrayed. As is well known, images[4] of the different tīrthaṅkaras are often completely indistinguishable from one another, with even depictions of the nineteenth tīrthaṅkara Malli, whom Śvetāmbaras believe was female, portrayed as male in conformity with the other tīrthaṅkaras. However, quite a number of iconographical markers distinguish one tīrthaṅkara image from another, and the different colours of these teachers are one important identifying marker. Today, each of the twenty-four tīrthaṅkaras is associated with a particular colour, but Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras disagree on the hues of two tīrthaṅkaras, Supārśva and Malli.

As this article will show, the origins of this colour dispute may relate to Śākta influence on the representation of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala, a Jain ritual diagram that was developed in the medieval period and remains one of the most popular maṇḍalas for both Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras. My hypothesis is that the present-day colour schemes of the tīrthaṅkaras find their roots in Śvetāmbara - Digambara debates over the proper depiction of the multi-coloured seed syllable (bījākṣara) hrīṃ at the centre of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala. The twenty-four tīrthaṅkaras are mapped onto different coloured parts of this hrīṃ, and Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras disagree over their placement. It seems that Śvetāmbaras, adopting a popular Śākta notion that the "ī" of hrīṃ represents śakti, or female-gendered "power," placed Malli in the blue "ī" of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ, while Digambaras, insisting that Malli is male, refused to associate this tīrthaṅkara with śakti and thus positioned the seventh Jina, Supārśva, in place of Malli in the "ī." Through the popularity of this diagram, these different configurations of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ permanently established a sectarian rift over the colours of the tīrthaṅkaras.

As we will see, more research is needed to fully confirm my hypothesis and to flesh out the exact history of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala and the colours of the tīrthaṅkaras. While this article will not provide the definitive history of Jains' adoption of Śākta conceptions of hrīṃ, I hope it will contribute to both Jain tantric studies and to an ongoing dialogue between Jain specialists and scholars of other tantric traditions, especially those of Śaivism. For Jain studies, I hope it will encourage further Digambara-Śvetāmbara comparisons. To date, there has not been a detailed comparative study of a Jain mantra or maṇḍala that is shared by Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras, though many exist. Indeed, the majority of Jain mantras and maṇḍalas are common to the two sects, and the slight Digambara-Śvetāmbara differences between their compositions can shed light on important ideological and historical developments. Texts and images suggest significant, lasting exchanges between Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras from the origins of the sectarian split onwards, so in order to understand the formation of contemporary beliefs and practices, we must look to classical and medieval interactions between competing Jains.

By contributing to the study of mantraśāstra in this way, Jain scholars can ensure that specialists of other traditions will consider Jain ideologies when discussing tantric beliefs and practices. To date, surveys of Tantra[5] have either overlooked Jains or seen Jain Tantra as derivative, underdeveloped,[6] and in stark contrast to Jain ideology.[7] Sanderson's (2009: 243-249) examination of "The Jains' Adoption of Śaiva Mantraśāstra" in "The Śaiva Age" is a recent example of this approach. Arguing that Śaivas exerted influence largely through royal patronage,[8] he notes that "Jainism too enjoyed royal support during this period, notably in western India under the Caulukyas and in Karṇāṭaka among the Gaṅgas of Talakād, the Rāṣṭrakūṭas, and Hoyasalas," all of whom at some point promoted Śaivism (ib., p. 243). How these dynasties influenced medieval Jains is not always made clear, however, as the examples Sanderson provides of Jains worshiping "mantra-goddesses of the Śākta Śaivas" do not explicitly relate to this royal patronage (ib.). Most of the dynamics of these adoptions and the Jain motivations behind the worship of these goddesses and mantras are left unexamined.

Thus, while more volumes could be written within the framework of "Śaiva" traditions influencing "non-Śaiva" traditions,[9] continuing this narrative could prove problematic, as it might encourage us to group a diverse range of traditions under the broad heading "Śaiva" without heeding the localized, sect-specific concerns that may have been decisive in particular formations of mantras, maṇḍalas, etc. Apart from the general understanding that Śaivism was popular because of state support, why, exactly, might Jains and other non-Śaivite traditions have adopted certain ideas or practices? As Paul Dundas (1998: 46) argued in his important study of Jain mantraśāstra, "[i]t cannot be sufficient to assert that mantras or esoteric modes of ritual practice were merely grafted on to Jainism, as if it were little more than a passive adjunct to Śaivism." Jains did not remodel the entirety of Jainism along Śaiva lines; they adopted some ideas and left others. When, why and how were these ideas incorporated? Why were some ritual techniques and ideologies adopted, and others ignored? Which adoptions have exerted lasting changes on the tradition, and which have exhibited little influence?

This article will attempt to answer these questions with respect to the Ṛṣimaṇḍala and the colours of the tīrthaṅkaras. After outlining some textual accounts of the colours of the tīrthaṅkaras, I will consider how the formation of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala may relate to some discrepancies in these texts. I will give a detailed description of the medieval Sanskrit text on the Ṛṣimaṇḍala, the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra, investigating how some medieval Śākta texts may have influenced the colouring of the tīrthaṅkaras in this text. Examining these texts and various material representations of the maṇḍala will illustrate some historical developments of the debates over the colours of the tīrthaṅkaras, present a rare representation of a female Malli, and add a Jain perspective to scholarship on tantric practices.

The Colours of the Tīrthaṅkaras

Scholarship on the colours of the tīrthaṅkaras is at times contradictory and never very thorough.[10] In the fold-out chart given in Jagmanderlal Jaini's (1940: 6) Outlines of Jainism, the tīrthaṅkaras' complexions are given as in Table I.

Table I: The Tīrthaṅkaras' Colours

Tīrthaṅkara Colour
1. Ṛṣabha Golden yellow
2. Ajita Golden yellow
3. Saṃbhava Golden yellow
4. Abhinandana Golden yellow
5. Sumati Golden yellow
6. Padmaprabha Red, like lotus
7. Supārśva Green
8. Candraprabha White
9. Puṣpadanta White
10. Śītala Golden yellow
11. Śreyāṃsa Golden yellow
12. Vāsupūjya Red
13. Vimala Golden yellow
14. Ananta Golden yellow
15. Dharma Golden yellow
16. Śānti Golden yellow
17. Kunthu Golden yellow
18. Ara Golden yellow
19. Malli Golden yellow [Blue]
20. Munisuvrata Black
21. Nami Golden yellow
22. Nemi Black with inner tinge of lotus-red
23. Pārśva Blue
24. Mahāvīra Golden yellow

Jaini (1940: 6) notes that "the variations enclosed in square brackets," in this case the "blue" bracketed next to Malli, "represent mainly [the] Śvetāmbara tradition." He unfortunately does not provide the sources for this list of colours, but it appears to be a conflation of various textual accounts. An overview of some of these texts will illustrate why scholars are not able to provide a single coherent list of the colours of the tīrthaṅkaras.

For Śvetāmbaras, the earliest list of the tīrthaṅkaras' colours is found in the Prakrit text Āvassayanijjutti (Skt. Āvaśyakaniryukti), verses 376-377 (ca. first half of the first millennium CE).[11] According to this text, Padmaprabha and Vāsupūjya are red (ratta), Candraprabha and Puṣpadanta are white like the moon (sasigora), Munisuvrata and Nemi are black (kāla), Malli and Pārśva are green (the colour of the priyaṅgu plant), and the remaining sixteen tīrthaṅkaras are golden (kaṇaga). Despite using different terms for these pigments, the earliest Digambara list of colours, found in the Prakrit text Tiloyapaṇṇattī (Skt. Trilokaprajñapti), verses 4.588-589 (ca. fifth-seventh centuries CE),[12] is identical to its Śvetāmbara counterpart, with two differences. In this text, Malli, the nineteenth tīrthaṅkara, is not green but gold (cāmīyara), and Supārśva, the seventh tīrthaṅkara, is not gold but green (harida).[13] Later Digambara texts such as Raviṣeṇa's seventh-century Padmapurāṇa[14] and Āṣādhara's thirteenth-century Pratiṣṭhāsāroddhāra[15] agree with this list.[16] Śvetāmbara texts from Āvasayanijjutti onwards are also essentially in agreement,[17] but from the mid-twelfth century onwards, Malli and Pārśva began to be listed as blue (nīla) instead of green (the colour of the priyaṅgu plant). The encyclopedia Abhidhānacintāmaṇikośa by the great Śvetāmbara ācārya Hemacandra (1089-1172) designates Malli and Pārśva as nīla,[18] as do the sixteenth-century Śvetāmbara texts on iconography Dīpārṇava[19] and Rūpamaṇdana.[20] This shift may not be significant, as U.P. Shah has argued that the terms nīla ("blue") and harita ("green"), as well as the terms nīla ("blue") and kāla, śyāma, or kṛṣṇa ("black, dark") can be interchangeable.[21]

It appears that by at least the twelfth century, by the time of Hemacandra, Śvetāmbaras, if not Digambaras, were making three-dimensional figures of the Jinas in their respective colours. Hemacandra's Triṣaṣṭiśalākapuruṣacarita (TŚPC), in describing the erection of a temple at the site of the first tīrthaṅkara Ṛṣabha's death on Mount Aṣṭāpada, likely projects the iconographic features of the medieval period onto this mythical past:

"On the dais were shining jeweled statues of the twenty-four Arhats, beginning with Ṛṣabha Svāmin. The images, having the respective figures, size, and color, were like the Masters in person engaged in śaileṣidhyāna [meditation]. Sixteen of these were golden [suvarṇa], two were lapis lazuli [rājavarta], two of crystal [sphaṭika], two of cat's eye [vaiḍūrya], and two of ruby [śoṇāśma]" (TŚPC Sarga 6, 595-597 trans. Johnson 1931: 123).

These gemstones' colours correspond exactly to the list found in the Āvassayanijjutti, and one can still find Digambara and Śvetāmbara mūrtis depicted in these same colours. In paintings, the tīrthaṅkaras are even more commonly shown in their colours.[22] Thus, from at least the twelfth century to the present day, Jains have worshiped Jina figures painted in their respective colours or made out of the appropriately coloured precious stones. According to Jain texts, these Digambara and Śvetāmbara representations have differed only on the colours of two tīrthaṅkaras: Malli and Supārśva.

However, a non-Jain text, Bhuvanadeva's twelfth-century Aparājitapṛcchā, does not agree with these stock lists and, as we will see, may suggest that Digambara and Śvetāmbara colour schemes were not as unchanging as they now are presented in Jain texts. Aparājitapṛcchā, which deals with various Indian architectural forms and religious iconographies, is thought to have been composed in Gujarat during the rule of Kumārapāla (r. 1143-75), who, as is well known, was advised by Hemacandra.[23] Chapter 221 of Aparājitapṛcchā, dedicated to the iconography of Jain mūrtis, lists the colours of the tīrthaṅkaras as follows: Candraprabha and Puṣpadanta are white (śveta), Padmaprabha and Dharma are red (rakta), Supārśva and Pārśva are green (harita), Nemi is black (śyāma), Malli is blue (nīla), and the remaining sixteen Jinas are golden (kāñcana) (Aparājitapṛcchā 221.5-7). Bhuvanadeva's list combines the Digambara texts that list Pārśva and Supārśva as green (harita) with later Śvetāmbara texts that have Malli as blue (nīla). Likely wanting to keep an even sixteen tīrthaṅkaras golden, Bhuvanadeva then deemed Munisuvrata not black but golden. He also inexplicably swapped the colours of Dharma and Vāsupūjya (see Table II).

Table II: Colours of the Tīrthaṅkaras

Tīrthaṅkara Śvetāmbara Digambara Aparājitapṛcchā
1. Ṛṣabha Gold ------ ------
2. Ajita Gold ------ ------
3. Saṃbhava Gold ------ ------
4. Abhinandana Gold ------ ------
5. Sumati Gold ------ ------
6. Padmaprabha Red ------ ------
7. Supārśva Gold Green Green
8. Candraprabha White ------ ------
9. Suvidhi/Puṣpadanta White ------ ------
10. Śītala Gold ------ ------
11. Śreyāṃsa Gold ------ ------
12. Vāsupūjya Red ------ Gold
13. Vimala Gold ------ ------
14. Ananta Gold ------ ------
15. Dharma Gold ------ Red
16. Śānti Gold ------ ------
17. Kunthu Gold ------ ------
18. Ara Gold ------ ------
19. Malli Green/Blue Gold Blue
20. Munisuvrata Dark Blue/Black ------ Gold
21. Nami Gold ------ ------
22. Nemi Dark Blue/Black ------ ------
23. Pārśva Green/Blue ------ ------
24. Mahāvīra Gold ------ ------

So what caused the inconsistencies between these texts? Why do Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras disagree on the colours of Malli and Supārśva? And why did Bhuvanadeva in twelfth-century Gujarat designate Malli as the sole blue tīrthaṅkara? It is not entirely surprising that Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras would disagree about the colouring of Malli, since, as noted above, Śvetāmbaras maintain that Malli was a female, while Digambaras, believing women cannot achieve enlightenment, insist that the tīrthaṅkara was male.[24] This disagreement could have spurred the debate over Malli's complexion, but how and why, exactly? And why was the colour of Supārśva, an uncontroversial Jina, contested? The answers to these questions may lie in a popular diagram common to both Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras, the Ṛṣimaṇḍala.

The Ṛṣimaṇḍala and Rṣimaṇḍalastotra

After the Śvetāmbara Siddhacakra, the Ṛṣimaṇḍala is likely the most popularly depicted Jain yantra or maṇḍala,[25] meaning a ritual diagram outlining various honoured elements of Jainism. Representations of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala follow the structure of many maṇḍalas in that movement from the perimeter of the diagram to the centre marks a progression from praises to unenlightened, protector or boon-giving deities towards the adoration of more and more enlightened beings. The Ṛṣimaṇḍala, which is comprised of a series of concentric circles of mantras, marks a path towards a progressively more purified soul, beginning at the outside ring with praises to the dikpālas (guardians of the directions) and twenty-four goddesses, and culminating at the centre with a multi-coloured seed syllable (bījākṣara) hrīṃ onto which the twenty-four tīrthaṅkaras are mapped.[26] The Ṛṣimaṇḍala is worshiped in various ways, usually for worldly benefits - to gain prosperity or health, to dispel misfortune or malignant spirits, etc. Both Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras often install this diagram, usually on paper, on cloth, or engraved on metal, in their homes or in store shrines. These diagrams are found hanging on the walls of temples and worship halls (upāśraya) (Fig. 1), and, at least for Digambaras, metal versions are found in temple shrines installed along with mūrtis of Jinas.[27]


Figure 1: A Śvetāmbara Ṛṣimaṇḍala. Watercolour on paper. Kharataragaccha upāśraya, Vicakṣaṇ Bhavan, Jaipur 2011.

Practitioners can individually worship these images, alone or in small groups, in temples or at home, using vernacular worship booklets.[28] Less frequently, ritual specialists (pratiṣṭhācārya, vidhividhānācārya vidhikāra, etc.), if commissioned by a wealthy patron, will officiate a more elaborate, lengthy worship ceremony (vidhāna) of a large representation of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala made with coloured powder on cloth.[29]

The Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra, a medieval Sanskrit hymn of praise (stotra) common to Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras, outlines and honors the components of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala. There are various recensions of this text, and I have access to five different published versions, though more exist.[30] A Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra of 83 verses is included in the Vidyānuśāsana,[31] a compendium of Digambara tantric treatises attributed to Bhaṭṭāraka Matisāgara (ca. thirteenth-to-sixteenth centuries).[32] Digambara versions of 90[33] (Jnānamatī 1981/2004) and 82 (Śāstrī n.d.) verses have also been published. The twentieth-century Śvetāmbara monk Ācārya Yaśodevasūri (1985) published a Laghu Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra of 63 verses and a Bṛhat Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra of 98 verses along with an extended commentary on the worship and construction of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala. A Śvetāmbara version of 86 verses (Nawab 1938: 509-519) has also been published. In manuscript form, H.R. Kapadia (1957: 72) found Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotras whose verses number 63, 80, 82, 86, 93 and 102, and Yaśodevasūri (1985: 31) found versions as short as 40 verses and as long as 116.[34]

Despite the divergent lengths of the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotras, all the published recensions maintain a basic format that can be outlined as follows:

1. Opening verses on the seed syllable arhaṃ

2. Outline of root mantra (mūla-mantra)

3. Description of Jambūdvīpa and the arhat

4. Description of the seed syllable hrīṃ, said to represent the arhat

5. Pleas for protection from malignant spirits

6. Praises to gods, advanced ascetics and goddesses

7. Examples of the worldly and soteriological benefits of reciting and remembering the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra

The text reads much like a medieval Śaiva treatise, outlining potent mantras with esoteric code language. The first two verses of the stotra, common to Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras, praise the seed syllable "arhaṃ" (arhat, enlightened being), a ubiquitous syllable in Jain tantric texts:

ādyaṃtākṣarasaṃlakṣyamakṣaraṃ vyāpya yatsthitaṃ |
agnijvālāsamaṃ nādaṃ bindurekhāsamanvitaṃ ||
agnijvālāsamākrāntaṃ manomalaviśodhanaṃ |
dedīpyamānaṃ hṛtpadme tatpadaṃ naumi nirmalaṃ ||
(Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra 1- 2)[35]

I bow in reverence to that pure utterance which, having pervaded everywhere, is endowed with the alphabet's first and last phonemes (a & ha), a "ra,"[36] a dot (), and a half-moon (nādaṃ).[37] [This utterance], filled with a blazing fire, shining in the lotus heart,[38] cleanses the impurities of the mind.

All published versions of the Śvetāmbara Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra then include a third verse on arhaṃ not found in Digambara versions. This third verse reads:

arhamityakṣaraṃ brahma vācakaṃ parameṣṭhinaḥ |
siddhacakrasya sadbījaṃ sarvataḥ praṇidadhmahe ||
(Śvetāmbara Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra 3)

"Arham" is the imperishable Brahman. Its meaning is the Supreme Lord (parameṣṭhin).[39] It is the true seed source of the siddhacakra.[40] We concentrate on it entirely.

This exact same verse opens Hemacandra's grammar book, Dvyāśrayamahākāvya,[41] completed between 1140 and 1172.[42] It is also the eleventh verse of the praise poem Samādhi Bhakti attributed to the great Digambara philosopher Pūjyapāda (ca. seventh century).[43] Very little research has been done on the Samādhi Bhakti, so scholars cannot be sure whether or not Pūjyapāda actually composed some or any of its twenty verses.[44] In any case, the text is Digambara, so it is not clear why Digambaras have excluded this verse on arhaṃ from their versions of the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra.

After the description of the seed syllable arhaṃ, the formation of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala's root mantra (mūla-mantra) is outlined.[45] The stotra explains how this mantra is used in the performance of nyāsa, the ritual technique in which practitioners place divinities on themselves, touching the prescribed parts of the body and visualizing or reciting the divinities' respective seed syllables.[46] Proper and repeated recitation of this mantra is key to manipulating the environment in such a way to achieve the desired worldly and soteriological goals of worshiping the Ṛṣimaṇḍala. This mantra is also often inscribed at the centre of the diagram (see Fig. 3).

After the description of the mūla-mantra, without explicitly dictating the proper construction of the maṇḍala, the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra assumes the existence of a type of diagram very similar to the earliest known examples of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala. The text envisions the Ṛṣimaṇḍala as an idealized representation of the cosmos, with the Jina seated at the centre. It describes the area of the cosmos where humans reside, Jambūdvīpa, which in Jain art is typically represented as a series of concentric circles. Mount Meru, the text explains, is situated at the centre of this island, and is surrounded by an ocean, mountain peaks (kūṭa),[47] and eight "pada," or ideals, of Jainism: the five supreme lords (pañcaparameṣṭhī) - enlightened being (arhat), liberated being (siddha), mendicant leader (ācārya), mendicant teacher (upādhyāya), and mendicant (sādhu) - along with the three jewels (ratnatraya) of right faith (darśana), knowledge (jñāna), and conduct (cāritra) (Śvet. vv. 11-12; Dig. vv. 10-11). Above this mountain sits the arhat (Śvet. v. 13; Dig. v. 12), which later in the text (Śvet. v. 17; Dig. v. 18) is equated with the seed syllable hrīṃ, on which the twenty-four tīrthaṅkaras, each endowed with its own colour, are situated. This description explicitly relates to Ṛṣimaṇḍala diagrams known today, with the seed syllable hrīṃ situated at the centre of a series of concentric circles and surrounded by groupings of syllables representing mountain peaks,[48] a ring representing water, and praises to the eight pada (see Fig. 3). Later in the text, the twenty-four goddesses that outline the circumference of extant Ṛṣimaṇḍalas are also enumerated (Śvet. vv. 45-46; Dig. vv. 63-64).

After outlining the components of the hrīṃ in detail, the stotra devotes a large section to a list of pleas for protection from various harmful spirits and unwanted fates (Dig. vv. 27-59; Śvet. vv. 28-41). The specific destructive forces mentioned differ slightly between Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras. The final part of the hymn describes the proper worship of the stotra and the benefits of remembering it. It recommends inscribing the stotra on birch bark (bhūrjapaṭa)[49] or types of metal (Dig. v. 71; Śvet. v. 53). It also emphasizes the many worldly and soteriological benefits of keeping engravings of the stotra or reciting its words along with performing austerities.[50] This stotra, it claims, can protect one from wild animals, malignant spirits, and enemies in battle; it can provide one with a wife and children, impart rulers their lost kingdoms, and bestow wealth, good health, and eventual liberation after seven births (Dig. vv. 68-79; Śvet. vv. 50-61).

The majority of the verses that describe the components of the diagram and its benefits are identical among all published versions of the hymn, except for DigambaraŚvetāmbara disagreements over the third verse, the mūla-mantra outlined above, and the layout of the hrīṃ, which will be outlined below. The texts' lengths primarily differ because of added or deleted verses to the section asking for protection from malevolent spirits. Composers of the different versions seem to have felt free to add or delete forces they saw as particularly powerful or weak (see Yaśodevasūri 1985: 32).

Today, lay and mendicant Jains recite the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra as part of the worship of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala diagram and as an act of worship in and of itself. The Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra it is not, however, one of the most popular Jain hymns. Unlike, say, the Bhaktāmarastotra or Uvasaggarahastotra,[51] few Jains recite the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra daily. Even so, a handful of laypeople to whom I have spoken, both Digambara and Śvetāmbara, are fiercely committed to regularly reciting the stotra in order to achieve various worldly goals, and the dozens of Digambara and Śvetāmbara ascetics to whom I have spoken about the Ṛṣimaṇḍala are all familiar with this hymn, attesting to its great power. While most mendicants with whom I have spoken do not include the recitation of Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra in their daily routines, one Śvetāmbara nun of the Kharatara Gaccha did emphasize that she recites this hymn every morning before eating in order to gain protection throughout the day from the deities invoked in the hymn.

Dating the Ṛṣimaṇḍala and the Colours of the Tīrthaṅkaras

Since their earliest renderings were made on perishable materials like cloth, no known Jain maṇḍalas pre-date the fourteenth century (Andhare 1994: 77). As will be discussed in detail below, the oldest known Ṛṣimaṇḍala, a cloth painting (citrapaṭa) from Gujarat, dates to 1514 CE and was published by Hirananda Sastri (1938).


Figure 2: Śvetāmbara representation of a Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ, a preaching assembly (samavasaraṇa), and an oṃ. Watercolour and gold on paper. From Rajasthan or Gujarat, 15th century. Private collection.

Another sixteenth-century Ṛṣimaṇḍala paṭa from Gujarat housed in the Calico Museum of Textiles in Ahmedabad (SF.KE 12)[52] looks remarkably similar to the paṭa published by Sastri.[53] In addition, an even earlier painting, a watercolour on paper dated to the fifteenth century, does not represent the entire maṇḍala but does depict the centre hrīṃ along with depictions of the Jina's preaching assembly (samavasaraṇa) and an "oṃ" (Fig. 2). This hrīṃ seems to be the earliest known depiction of any part of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala.

This lack of early material evidence requires us to use texts to find the provenance of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala. The earliest datable text on the diagram, the Sanskrit Ṛṣimaṇḍalastavayantrālekhanam (RṣiĀ),[54] was composed in the thirteenth century by the Śvetāmbara ācārya Siṃhatilakasūri and outlines the formation of the diagram. For Digambaras, the earliest dated texts on the Ṛṣimaṇḍala of which I am aware have been placed in the fifteenth-sixteenth centuries. Both texts are manuals on the worship of the diagram. The late-fifteenth-century Bhaṭṭāraka Jnānabhūṣaṇa is said to have composed a Sanskrit Ṛṣimaṇḍala Pūjā,[55] but I do not have access to this text. I do have access to Ācārya Guṇanandi's Sanskrit/Pre-modern Hindi Ṛṣimaṇḍala Bṛhat Vidhāna (Suprakāśamati 2005), which has also been dated to the sixteenth century Vikram Saṃvat by M. B. Jhavery (1944: 265). Since Ṛṣimaṇḍala Bṛhat Vidhāna includes the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra, and Ṛṣimaṇḍalastavayantrālekhanam is closely modeled on this hymn of praise, the real question is the date of the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra. Both Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras ascribe the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra to Mahāvīra's disciple Gautama Svāmī, but the contents and language of the text suggest a much later dating.

A key difference between the sects' recensions of the stotra - their slightly divergent descriptions of the hrīṃ at the centre of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala - may shed some light on the provenance of the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra and the questions about the colours of the tīrthaṅkaras posed earlier. Let us look first at the Digambara description of the hrīṃ. As noted earlier, the Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ represents an enlightened being (arhat) seated above Mount Meru at the centre of Jambūdvīpa:

arhadākhyaḥ savarṇāntaḥ sarepho bindumaṇḍitaḥ |
turyasvarasamāyukto bahudhyānādimālitaḥ ||
ekavarṇaṃ dvivarṇaṃ ca trivarṇaṃ turyavarṇakaṃ ||
paṃcavarṇaṃ mahāvarṇaṃ saparaṃ ca parāparaṃ[56] ||

That which is called "arhat" is made up of a "ha" and a "ra" and adorned
with a dot (bindu). It is conjoined with the fourth vowel (ī) and is fit for
many forms of meditation. These are with the first colour, the second, the
third, the fourth, and the great colour, the fifth.[57]

asmin bīje sthitāḥ sarveṛṣabhādyā jinottamāḥ |
varṇairnijairnijairyuktā dhyātavyāstra saṃgatāḥ ||
(Digambara Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra 18-20).

All the excellent Jinas (Ṛṣabha, etc.) reside in this seed syllable. There
they should be meditated upon together, each endowed with its own

The next two verses divide the hrīṃ into five different components: a "hra," an "ī," and a stylized anusvāra () composed of three parts: a half-moon (nāda), a dot (bindu), and a crescent moon (kalā).[58] Each component is then given one of the five different colours obscurely referenced in verse nineteen:

nādaścandrasamākāro bindurnīlasamaprabhaḥ |
kalāruṇasamāsāntaḥ svarṇābhaḥ sarvatomukhaḥ ||

The half-moon has the appearance of the moon (white), the dot has the
luster of black (nīla), the crescent moon (kalā) is red, and the "ha" and
"ra"[59] have the luster of gold.

śiraḥsaṃlīna īkāro vinīlo varṇataḥ smṛtaḥ|
varṇānusārisaṃlīnaṃ tīrthakṛnmaṇḍalaṃ namaḥ ||
(Digambara Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra 21-22).

The "ī" that is connected to the top [of the "hra"] is remembered as a dark
blue (vinīla) colour. Praise to that maṇḍala in which the tīrthaṅkaras are
situated according to their colours.

The following verses situate the Jinas in the five different components of the hrīṃ according to their colours as agreed upon in Digambara texts (see Table 2). Thus, as Trilokaprajñapti, Padmapurāṇa, etc. designate Candraprabha and Puṣpadanta as white, these two Jinas are placed in the white half-moon. Since Padmaprabha and Vāsupūjya are red in these texts, they are placed in the red crescent-moon. Nemi and Muniuvrata, the black/blue Jinas, are situated in the dark (nīla) dot, while the blue/green Jinas, Supārśva and Pārśva, are fixed in the blue (vinīla) "ī." All the remaining Jinas are mapped onto the golden "hra:"

candraprabhapuṣpadaṃtau nādasthitisamāśritau |
biṃdumadhyagatau nemisuvratau jinasattamau ||

Candraprabha and Puṣpadanta reside in the half-moon. The venerable Jinas
Nemi and Munisuvrata reside in the middle of the dot.

padmaprabhavāsupūjyau kalāpadamadhiśritau |
śira īsthitasaṃlīnau supārśvapārśvau jinottamau ||

Padmaprabha and Vāsupūjya reside at the foot of the crescent moon and
the great Jinas Supārśva and Pārśva are situated in the "ī" at the head [of
the "hra"].

śeṣastīrthaṃkarāḥ sarve harasthāne niyojitāḥ |
māyābījākṣaraṃ prāptāścaturviṃśatirarhatām ||
(Digambara Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra 23-25).

All the remaining tīrthaṅkaras are placed in the "hra." The twenty-four
arhats are obtained in this seed syllable hrīṃ (māyābījākṣara).

The Śvetāmbara version diagrams the tīrthaṅkaras onto the hrīṃ slightly differently, swapping the places of Malli and Supārśva. It places Malli not in the golden "hra," but in the blue "ī," and Supārśva not in the blue "ī" but in the golden "hra." The corresponding verse of the Śvetāmbara version thus reads:

padmaprabhavāsupūjyau kalāpadamadhiṣṭhitau |
śira īsthitisaṃlīnau pārśvamalli jinottamau ||
(Śvetāmbara Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra 25)

Padmaprabha and Vāsupūjya reside at the foot of the crescent moon and
the great Jinas Malli and Pārśva are situated in the "ī" at the head [of the

It is possible that this discrepancy arose from Digambaras' and Śvetāmbaras' earlier established disagreement on the colours of these two tīrthaṅkaras. One could imagine that Digambaras formulated the hrīṃ according to their colour scheme in the Tiloyapaṇṇattī, and Śvetāmbaras did so according to their colour scheme in the Āvassayanijjutti.

However, without the existence of this hrīṃ, there does not seem to be any reason for Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras to disagree on the colours of Malli and Supārśva. There does, on the other hand, seem to be a reason for Śvetāmbaras to want to situate Malli in the "ī" of the hrīṃ. In his description of the early sixteenth-century Śvetāmbara Ṛṣimaṇḍala paṭa mentioned above, Sastri (1938: 427) hints at this incentive, noting that "[the "ī" of the hrīṃ] is painted blue which is the colour of the 19th Tīrthaṅkara Mallinātha and Pārśvanātha. Its connection with Mallinātha is significant for it represents Śakti and Mallinātha is believed to have been a woman." While Sastri unfortunately does not elaborate any further, his comment is significant: it seems that a Śvetāmbara author positioned Malli in the blue "ī" because of this phoneme's connection to śakti, femalegendered "power" associated with forms of the Goddess that became increasingly popular throughout the medieval period. The foundational text of the Śrīvidyā tradition, Nityāṣoḍaśikārṇava Tantra 1.8, dated to before the ninth century,[60] reads:

tāmīkārākṣaroddhārāṃ sārātsārāṃ parātparām |
praṇamāmi mahādevīṃ paramānandarūpiṇīm ||

I bow to that great goddess whose form is supreme bliss, who – more
essential than the quintessence, more supreme than the supreme – is
extracted from the phoneme "ī."[61]

By the twelfth century, the connection between śakti and "ī" had become common in descriptions of mantras in Śrīvidyā texts[62] and those of other Śākta traditions.[63] For example, in the fourth Ṣaṭka of Jayadrathayāmala, the principal text of the Kālīkula cult of the goddess Kālī/Kālasaṃkarṣaṇī,[64] a list of code terms for the phoneme "ī" includes the term "śakti."[65] Though direct lines of influence are impossible at this point to trace, it is likely that Śvetāmbara Jains, aware of this understanding, placed their sole female tīrthaṅkara, Malli, in the "ī" of the hrīṃ to emphasize her gender and to distinguish themselves from Digambaras.

If this hypothesis is correct, and the formation of this Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ preceded the Digambara-Śvetāmbara disagreement over the tīrthaṅkaras' complexions, could this date the hrīṃ to as early as the fifth century, when, with the composition of Tiloyapaṇṇattī, the sects' different colour schemes are first apparent in texts? This seems to me to be unlikely. Jain mantraśāstra had not been well established at this point, nor had the link between śakti and the phoneme "ī." It is more likely that the lists of colours found in earlier texts have been modified from their original composition. All manuscripts that discuss the colours of the Jinas post-date the thirteenth century, when the Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ is definitively known to have existed; thus, extant texts could represent this later development rather than the initial colour schemes. Since Supārśva and Pārśva are typically associated with one another, having similar names, iconographical features, and biographical details,[66] my guess is that Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras initially agreed that Pārśva and Supārśva were green, and Śvetāmbaras changed their position after the formulation of the hrīṃ. Therefore, it may actually be significant that earlier Śvetāmbara texts list Pārśva and Malli as green (the colour of the priyaṅgu plant) and texts from the twelfth century onwards indicate they are blue (nīla). This shift might provide evidence for the existence of the Śvetāmbara Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ, which designates Malli and Pārśva as blue (vinīla). When Bhūvanadeva in Aparājitapṛcchā, composed in Gujarat in the twelfth century, claimed that Pārśva and Supārśva are green and Malli is blue, he may in fact have documented the time and place of this transitional phase.

But did Śvetāmbaras modify their list of colours on their own, or were they impelled to do so because of an existing Digambara hrīṃ? The few manuscripts I have been able to consult indicate that Śvetāmbaras first created the hrīṃ, with Digambaras later modifying it. I have collected four different manuscripts of the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra from the Bhandarkar Oriental Institute in Pune, two presumably Digambara[67] and two presumably Śvetāmbara.[68] One of the Digambara versions is part of a manuscript of the Kalyāṇamandirastotra (BORI No. 571/1875-76), while the other version, entitled Ṛṣimaṇḍalastava, is found in a manuscript of the previously mentioned Digambara tantric treatise Vidyānuśāsana (BORI No. 1206/1891-95: 77-78). While neither of these texts includes the third verse on arhaṃ outlined above, they do include the Śvetāmbara version of the mūla-mantra and, importantly for the discussion at hand, the Śvetāmbara version of the hrīṃ: they both place Malli in the blue "ī." These Digambara manuscripts read as if a Digambara omitted the first three verses of the Śvetāmbara version, modified the list of pleas for protection from malignant spirits, and otherwise copied the Śvetāmbara version word-for-word. Interestingly, in the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra in the published Vidyānuśāsana edited by the Digambara monk Guṇadharanandī from a manuscript he obtained in Jaipur,[69] Supārśva, Pārśva, and Malli are situated in the "ī" of the hrīṃ.[70] This hrīṃ, like the list of colours in Aparājitapṛcchā, could document the transition as Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras cemented their stances on the placement of Malli in the hrīṃ.

It was perhaps around the fifteenth-sixteenth centuries, when Ācārya Guṇanandi composed the Ṛṣimaṇḍala Bṛhat Vidhāna, that Digambaras first began placing Malli in the "hra" of the hrīṃ in protest of the Śvetāmbara interpretation of Malli as śakti. The published version of this text (Suprakāśamati 2005) does place Supārśva instead of Malli in the "ī," and the verses (doha) to be recited during the worship of the diagram suggest some Śvetāmbara-Digambara tension over the proper representation of Malli. In the section of the worship ceremony dedicated to the hrīṃ (Suprakāśamati 2005: 57-124), biographical verses of praise to each of the twenty-four tīrthaṅkaras are to be recited as worshipers offer eight different substances to the seed syllable.[71] While the verses praising the other tīrthaṅkaras mention nothing of the form of their bodies, the first verse to be recited in praise of Malli emphatically declares that this Jina does not have a woman's body, but instead looks like a celibate boy.[72]

This hypothesis that Śvetāmbaras formulated the Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ by the twelfth century and Digambaras followed sometime later is of course tentative. The many different lengths of the stotra listed above suggest that present-day Digambara and Śvetāmbara forms of the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra are not the result of a one-sided appropriation of an entire stotra from one sect to another on an exact date, but are instead the products of centuries of developments. I cannot definitively determine the sectarian origins or the earliest date of the description of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīm. I also cannot at this point determine the exact history of Jains' understanding of the "ī" of hrīṃ as śakti, and following Sanderson's model of linking royal patronage to non-Śaiva adoption of ŚaivaŚākta concepts provides little help. Jain mendicants did receive patronage from Śaiva kings, most famously Hemacandra, who was patronized by the Chaulukya king Kumārapāla around the time I am proposing for the Śvetāmbara embrace of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ.[73] It is well known that Hemacandra's texts, perhaps due to the influence of Kumārapāla, often drew upon aspects of the Kashmirian non-dualist Trika system.[74] However, there is no direct evidence that Kumārapāla's Śaiva background, or the Śaiva background of any king, influenced the formation of the Ṛṣimaṇdala. It is more likely that by the twelfth century, the notion that "ī" represents śakti, well established in the Śrīvidyā tradition, had become so widespread that incorporating the notion into a Jain diagram was almost intuitive. By examining various material representations of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ, some ideas about these historical developments can be established.

Representations of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala and Ṛṣimaṇḍala Hrīṃ

Every system of Tantra has incorporated the bījākṣara "hrīṃ" in a variety of ways, and Jain Tantra is no exception. Just as there is no single understanding of a "Buddhist hrīṃ" or "Śaivite hrīṃ," different Jain representations of the syllable conform to distinct texts and practices. This article's examination of Jain hrīṃs is limited to depictions of the seed syllable arranged into five parts onto which the images, names, or numbers of the twentyfour tīrthaṅkaras are mapped. Often, the five different parts of the syllable, or the images of the tīrthaṅkaras themselves, will be coloured according to the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra. Since this type of hrīṃ is outlined in the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra, I use the term "Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ"[75] to distinguish these types of depictions from other Jain representations of the seed syllable such as an unornamented hrīṃ at the centre of a variety of maṇḍalas,[76] hrīṃs associated with the tīrthaṅkara Pārśva,[77] or hrīṃs at the centre of two or more intersecting triangles.[78]

Not all representations of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ represent the instructions of the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra uniformly, and examining the differences between these depictions can highlight some shifting concerns throughout the centuries. The only known pre-modern representations of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala are Śvetāmbara, and they seem to be modeled on Siṃhatilakasūri's thirteenth-century Ṛṣimaṇḍalastavayantrālekhanam (RṣiĀ). As noted above, Sastri (1938) published the oldest known example of a Ṛṣimaṇḍala, a cloth representation dating from the early sixteenth century. In his analysis of the paṭa, Sastri (1938: 427) references a Jain treatise named Hrīṃkārakalpa, likely referring to the text of the same name by the influential fourteenth-century Śvetāmbara ācārya Jinaprabhasūri.[79]

This diagram does not directly relate to Hrīṃkārakalpa, however, as the text does not explicitly outline the components of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala. Rather, the paṭa corresponds to the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastavayantrālekhanam.

In both the text and Sastri's paṭa, the Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ is established at the centre of the diagram and encircled by different groupings of syllables, each beginning with a different letter of the nāgarī alphabet and ending with the consonant cluster "pmlvrvyūm" (RṣiĀ v. 11). A thin blue ring surrounding these syllable clusters represents the salty ocean (kṣārābdhi) mentioned in the third verse of the text.[80] A lotus of eight petals surrounds the ocean. In each of the eight petals, one of the eight padas (five supreme lords + three jewels) is represented, along with praises to one of the planets, one of the guardians of the directions (dikpāla), and three goddesses, all outlined explicitly in Ṛṣimaṇḍalastavayantrālekhanam (RṣiĀ vv. 7, 8, 9, 25).

These elements - the hrīṃ, consonant clusters, eight pada, eight planets, eight dikpāla, and twenty-four goddesses (see Fig. 3) - are the key components of the earliest extant Ṛṣimaṇḍalas. At some point after the sixteenth century, an additional ring including four types of gods (bhāvana, vyantara, jyotiṣa and kalpa), eight types of supernatural powers (ṛddhi), and four types of clairvoyant knowledge (avadhi)[81] became commonplace for both Śvetāmbara and Digambara representations (see Gough 2009).[82] These components seem to have become so standard that they are outlined in the Śvetāmbara version of the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra published by Nawab (1938: 516 vv. 66-67), but they are not included in the earliest versions of the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra.[83]


Figure 3: Watercolour and gold Śvetāmbara Ṛṣimaṇḍala paṭa, 18th century. Private collection.

The composition of the hrīṃ at the centre of the paṭa published by Sastri corresponds closely to other Śvetāmbara representations from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (Fig. 2, Namaskāra Svādhyāya 1962: 16 and Calico Museum of Textiles SF. KE 12). In these early formations, the "ī" of the syllable not only extends to the right of the "hra," but continues to the left, over the "hra" and below the crescent moon. The artists thus had room to present one of the two tīrthaṅkaras of the "ī" standing to the right of the "hra," placing the other below the crescent moon. Three layers - a red crescent moon, a dark blue bindu, and a white half-moon - float above the "hrī."

Representations of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala from about the eighteenth century onwards began to stretch the "ī" only to the right of the "hra," understanding the line stretching above the "hra" as the red crescent-moon. Only two layers, then, the bindu and the halfmoon, began to be situated over the red line (see Fig. 1, Fig. 5, Fig. 7). With some exceptions,[84] most Digambara and Śvetāmbara Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃs from the past three hundred years correspond to this layout. An eighteenth-century Śvetāmbara Ṛṣimaṇḍala, a watercolour from Western India (Fig. 3), illustrates both this confusion over the representation of the anusvāra and the understanding of "ī" as śakti by featuring a rare female Malli standing alone in the "ī." As a noted above, Śvetāmbaras typically represent Malli as a male in uniformity with the other tīrthaṅkaras. According to Vijayaśīlacandrasūri (2003), up to this point, only four images of Malli as a female have been identified: a two-inch-tall stone statue published in the newspaper Hindustān (July 4 2002), a headless tīrthaṅkara statue with breasts now housed in the State Museum in Lucknow,[85] a small female tīrthaṅkara mūrti found in Madhya Pradesh (see Vijayaśīlacandrasūri 2003: 71), and another found in Rajasthan and published on the cover of Anusaṃdhān 23 (2003).

Examining this eighteenth-century hrīṃ, we can see how the depiction of the anusvāra relates to this paṭa's representation of a tīrthaṅkara we can add to this list of female Mallis. It appears that at the top of this diagram, two tīrthaṇkaras - presumably the white Candraprabha and Puṣpadanta situated in the crescent moon - have been erased so that the diagram would be consistent with other Ṛṣimaṇḍalas of that period. Before these two tīrthaṇkaras were deleted, this eighteenth-century depiction corresponded to earlier representations of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala in which the "ī" stretched above the "hra" (see Fig. 2). The commissioners of this diagram seem to have initially opted for this "retro" look in order to place Malli alone in the portion of the "ī" that falls to the side of the "hra." Rather than having both Pārśva and Malli seated in this section of the "ī," as was common at the time (see Fig. 1),[86] shifting Pārśva to the side and presenting Malli as the most prominent Jina of the diagram seems to be an intentional Śvetāmbara move to distinguish this diagram from its Digambara counterparts by emphasizing Malli's connection to the "ī."


Figure 4: Detail of Figure 3.

Looking closely, we can see that the artist/s or commissioner/s of this Ṛṣimaṇḍala, most likely knowledgeable of the Śvetāmbara-Digambara debates over who inhabits the ," took special care to emphasize that this standing Jina is, indeed, a female Malli. Malli is the only Jina of the twenty-four to have her symbol, a pot (ghaṭa), depicted below her, and she has a female figure, with breasts, a thin waist, and wide hips. Malli also wears a short skirt that is not typically shown on images of male Jinas. This eighteenth-century Ṛṣimaṇḍala paṭa, then, published in John Cort's (2009: 142) contribution to the catalogue Victorious Ones: Jain Images of Perfection, is one of the few known images of Malli with breasts, and the first known published painting of a female Malli. Further examinations of Jain tantric diagrams may yield other examples.


Figure 5: Jina mūrti with Śvetāmbara Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ printed below. Ahiṃsā Paryāvaraṇ Sādhanā Mandir, Delhi, 2009.

With this image, we can presume that by the eighteenth century, the DigambaraŚvetāmbara rift over the placement of Malli and Supārśva in the hrīṃ and the tīrthaṅkaras' colours was firmly established. This image also suggests that at least some Śvetāmbaras used the Ṛṣimaṇḍala as an implicit, if not explicit, assertion of Malli's female gender. On the other hand, other representations, for example the only other eighteenth-century Śvetāmbara hrīṃ I have found onto which the Jinas have been mapped, a cloth representation from Gujarat (Jain & Fischer 1978 Plate VIIb), take no notice of the proper placement of the tīrthaṅkaras on the seed syllable. Assuming these sorts of figures were inspired by the Ṛṣimaṇḍala, and by not another text or tradition, it appears that while some commissioners of these diagrams took great care to represent the embedded ideology of the diagram (i.e. Malli is śakti), others did not.

This also seems to be the case for Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃs made today. In the past few decades, installing paintings, inlays, or statues of Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃs has become increasingly commonplace in temple building. The Sthānakavāsī Ācārya Suśīla Kumāra (1926-1994), for example, popularized the Ṛsimaṇḍala hrīṃ. Developing a system of yoga and meditation he termed "Arhum Yoga," he authored an English-language text on this philosophy, Song of the Soul (1987), that draws upon Jain mantraśāstra and often cites the Śvetāmbara Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra. Jain mantras, including the Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ, are found throughout the places of worship associated with this monk, including the site of his cremation and headquarters of his movement in Delhi, Ahiṃsā Paryāvaraṇ Sādhanā Mandir, inaugurated in 2007 (Fig. 5). Among Digambaras, it has become popular to install free-standing statues of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ. One of the most innovative living Digambara mendicants, Jnānamatī Mātā (b. 1934), who has authored a manual on the worship of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala (Jnānamatī 1981/2004), claims that she was the first to commission a hrīṃ statue of this type. This statue is enshrined in the Dhyān Mandir, completed in 1997, at the pilgrimage site Jambūdvīp in Hastinapur (Fig. 6).


Figure 6: Three-foot-tall Digambara Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ in the Dhyān Mandir. Jambūdvīp temple complex, Hastinapur. Photo: Nitin H.P.,

The iconography of these twentieth and twenty-first-century representations of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ, like their predecessors, depends on the knowledge of the mendicant or ritual expert who has commissioned the image. On the one hand, access to knowledge of the layout of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala is easy to obtain, as the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra has been translated into Hindi and Gujarati, and vernacular worship manuals provide detailed explanations of how to properly construct the diagram. With these sources available, it is no surprise that the hrīṃs commissioned by knowledgeable mendicants such as Ācārya Suśīla Kumāra and Jnānamatī Mātā follow the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra to perfection, with Śvetāmbaras placing Malli in the "ī", Digambaras situating him in the "hra", and both sects strictly following the colour scheme of the syllable as outlined in the stotra. On the other hand, other representations are completely unconcerned with the positioning of the tīrthaṅkaras. The Digambara hrīṃ statue established at Pisanhariki Mariya in Maharashtra documented by Julia Hegewald (2009: 124), for example, places six tīrthaṅkaras in the "ī" of the syllable.

Among Śvetāmbaras, the importance of Malli's connection with the "ī" seems to have been mostly forgotten. I have not found any discussions of this sectarian dispute in contemporary literature on the Ṛṣimaṇḍala, and none of the Śvetāmbara mendicants to whom I spoke noted the importance of this tīrthaṅkara's placement. During one visit to the Motī Ḍūṃgarī Śvetāmbara Dādā Bāḍī temple in Jaipur, a nun who recites the Ṛṣimaṇḍalastotra daily directed me to a hrīṃ displayed on the wall of the temple (Fig. 7). While the nun termed this painting a "Ṛṣimaṇḍala hrīṃ," we can see that it does not directly correspond to the stotra, as the parts of the hrīṃ and the tīrthaṅkaras themselves match the colours described in the text, but the tīrthaṅkaras are strewn almost haphazardly across the syllable. Malli here is blue, but her placement at the bottom of the "hra" says nothing of her gender. The nun knew nothing of Malli's association with "ī" or śakti in this seed syllable.


Figure 7: Śvetāmbara hrīṃ, Motī Ḍūṃgarī Dādā Bāḍī temple, Jaipur 2010.

Concluding Remarks

At the outset of the article, I encouraged students of Jainism to examine which specific Śaiva-Śākta concepts medieval Jains adopted and how these adoptions have influenced contemporary Jain beliefs and practices. This article has attempted to implement this methodology by examining the historical development of the Ṛṣimaṇḍala and its relationship to the colours in which images of the tīrthaṅkaras are portrayed. I would argue that today, Śvetāmbaras worship images of blue Mallis and Digambaras apply sandalwood paste to metal Ṛṣimaṇḍalas because of medieval tantric developments shaped by competing Digambara-Śvetāmbara ideologies and Śākta influence. While most present-day Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras are not aware that the two sects disagree over the Jinas' colours and placements in the Rṣimaṇḍala, this history is still present in every Jain temple, home, or shop where a Ṛṣimaṇḍala or a coloured Supārśva or Malli is portrayed.

My introduction also encouraged scholars to fill a gap in existing scholarship on Tantra by examining how Jain concerns have shaped the adoption of particular tantric invocations and diagrams. This article can be a small contribution to that project. Rather than simply accepting that Jains adopted Śaiva or Śākta practices simply because these traditions dominated in the medieval period, this article has looked at the specific Jain motivations – in this case the Digambara-Śvetāmbara debate over the gender of the tīrthaṅkara Malli – behind the implementation of ideas more popular in Śākta literature, especially that of the Śrīvidyā tradition, than in Jain. While I have not been able to outline the precise history of Śvetāmbaras' understanding of "ī" as śakti, I have been able to contribute some Jain perspective to the dynamics of this adoption. By appropriating a common notion of Śākta texts, Śvetāmbaras, with every representation of this hrīṃ, could represent an implicit ontological claim: Malli was female; women can become liberated. With hope, future research will unearth more localized, sect-specific motivations behind this adoption (i.e. which Śāktas influenced which Śvetāmbaras).


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