The Jain Versions of Rāmāyaṇa - With Special Reference to Vimalasūri, Guṇabhadra and Śīlāṅka

Posted: 10.03.2011
Updated on: 30.07.2015

The Jain Versions of Rāmāyaa

(With Special Reference to Vimalasūri, Guabhadra and Śīlāka)

A research paper to be presented in the International Conference on the Rāmāyaṇa, organized by Aikyabhārtī Research Institute, University of Pune (28th - 30th November 2008)

1. Introduction:

There is no need to highlight the influence of Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa on further Indian Literature and Culture. Though hundreds of Brahmanic, Jaina and Buddhist versions of Rāmāyaṇa are available, Vālmīki's position as Ādikavi is unanimously accepted. Some stray different traditions about the chief characters may be prevalent in the society, but Vālmīki was the first to present it in Epic form. For this paper, the date of the available Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki is assumed as 3rd century B.C. According to the prominent scholars, of course the Bālakāṇḍa and Uttarakāṇḍa is spurious and there are some additions, here and there.

2. Scope of the Research Paper:

Though there is a long tradition of Rāmakathā among Jainas, here I have purposefully selected a few of them. Vimalasūri's Paumacariya is the first Jain Rāmāyaṇa written in Jain Mahāraṣṭrī or Ārṣa Prakrit in 3rd century A.D. We find both Śvetāmbara and Digambara elements in Vimalasūri. Some of the scholars have opined that Vimalasūri represents Yāpanīya Sect, reconciling Śve. and Dig. views. Ravīṣeṇa's Skt. Padmacarital (8th century. A.D.) is almost the replica of Prakrit Paumacariya of Vimalasūri. Ravīṣeṇa has presented his Rāmāyaṇa without mentioning the indebtedness of Vimalasūri, added some detailed descriptions and his Dig. attitude is quite clear. Apabhraṁśa Paumacariu written in the later half of the 8th century by Svayambhū, who was a householder (Śrāvaka), almost imitates Vimalasūri and Ravīṣeṇa. He mentions Ravīṣeṇa but neglects Vimalasūri probably due to the sectarian bias. Hemacandra follows the same tradition of Rāmakathā in his Skt. work Triṣaṣṭiśalākāpuruṣacarita written in the 12th century with few additions. So, when we consider Vimalasūri, all the above mentioned Rāmakathās are covered.

The Rāmacarita presented in Skt. Uttarapurāṇa (a part of Ādipurāṇa) by Guṇabhadra (9th century A.D.) differs a lot from Vimalasūri and being a Digambara, presented his Rāmakathā totally in new manner. The scope, characterization, incidents and style differs from that of Vimalasūri. Pandit Āśādhara (13th century A.D.) a Digambara Jaina householder presents Guṇabhadra's Rāmakathā in a very compact manner in his Triṣaṣṭismṛtiśāstra.

Śīlāṅka (9th century A.D) presents a very small story of Pauma (Rāma) in his Jain Māhārāṣtrī Prakrit work Cauppannamahāpurisacariya. It is very remarkable that his account of Rāma is mostly a brief summary of Vālmīki's Rāmāyaṇa.

Daśaratha Jātaka presents the story of Rāma Pandita in nutshell. This story, written in Pāli, contains some queer Buddhist elements unlike Brahmanic or Jain versions.

Thus the observations and remarks in this research paper are based on the Rāmakathās of

  • Vimalasūri, Ravīṣeṇa, Svayambhū and Hemacandra,
  • Guṇabhadra and Āśādhara,
  • Śīlāṅka
  • Daśaratha Jāta

3. The Method followed in the Paper:

  • In the first place, the basic similarities in all Jain versions are pointed out. The searchlight is thrown on the typical Jain elements.
  • In the second part, the striking differences among these Jain versions are noted in the light of some important points.
  • In the last part, conclusive remarks are presented on the basis of the above mentioned observations.

4. Common Jain Elements in all Jain Versions of Rāmakathā

4.1. Tradition of 63 Śalākāpuruas:

All the authors of Jain Rāmakathā claim that Rāmakathā was handed down to them right from Lord Mahāvīra through succession. Jain tradition has created a format of 63 illus­trated human heroes, of course in spiritual perspective. These are designations and all of them occur in each Avaṣarpīnī and Utsarpiṇī of the time-wheel (Kālacakra). Rāma or Padma is the 8th Baladeva (Balabhadra or Balarāma), Lakṣmana is the 8th Vāsudeva (or Nārayaṇa) and Rāvaṇa is the 8th Prati Vāsudeva of the present Avaṣarpīnī. [1] Hanumān is enumerated as among the 24 Kāmadevas but not included in the 63 Śalākāpuruṣas in the Jaina Purāṇa perennis. According to this format, all Jaina authors agree that Lakṣmana killed Rāvaṇa. Both of them were born as infernal beings immediately after their birth as human beings. After a long span of time, after having gone through many cycles of birth and death, they will attain Liberation. Padma and Hanumān had attained Nirvana while Sītā had attained heaven.

4.2. Polygamy:

In the format of Śalākāpuruṣas, Baladevas and Vāsudevas necessarily possess thousands of wives. All Jain authors have depicted that Rāma, Lakṣmana and Rāvaṇa possessed thousands of wives. In Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, very few males are monogamists. The citations like रामस्य परमाः स्त्रियः (Vālmīki Rā. 2.8.12) may have inspired Jain authors to picture Rāma as polygamist. 'The vow of complete celibac.y' is greatly honored in Jain monachism but still Hanumān is Kāmadeva and householder, he possesses many wives.

4.3. Vānaras and Rākasas:

The Jain authors have depicted Vānaras and Rākṣasas as Vidyādharas or Khecaras, a variety of sub-human beings possessing various lores like Ākāśagamana etc. Vimalasūri has given totally new meanings of the words, viz. Vānara and Rākṣasa. [2] Jain authors feel that Vālmīki's depiction of Vānaras and Rākṣasas is unbelievable and irrational.

4.4. Doctrine of Karman and other Jain Tenets:

Doctrine of Karman is the backbone of Jain Philosophy. According to this theory, every misery and happiness is connected with the rise of the fruits of good and bad karmans which are performed previously. Most of the important incidents in Rāmakathā are explained in the light of Karmasiddhānta. While explaining the painful separation of Padma and Sītā [3], the agonies in the life of Anjanā [4], the infatuation of Bhāmaṇḍala towards Sītā [5], the Jaina authors have not missed the opportunity to elaborate the doctrine of Karman. When Sītā embraces Dīkṣā, she explains the theory of Karman in nutshell.[6] In all Jain Rāmakathās, every now and then, we find the keywords of Jainism like Vairāgya, Saṁyama and Dīkṣā. During the preaching of Munis, the conduct of layman and monk is narrated at length.

4.5. Ascetics and their dwellings:

In Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa we find several names of sages, ascetics, their dwellings (i.e. Āśramās), their preaching and giving out different lores and weapons to Rāma and Lakṣmana. In the Jain versions, we see complete Jainification in this respect. Every now and then we find the descriptions of Jain Sādhus, Munis, Anagāras and Kevalins engaged in giving religious sermons, offering bigger and smaller vows to householders. There are Jinamandiras, Chaityas and places of pilgrimage. Padma, Sītā, Hanumān, Rāvaṇa etc. visit these places, worship and adore in Chaityas and attend the religious assemblies.

4.6. An approach to the Sacrifices:

In Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa we find ample references of various sacrifices and sacrificial acts. Vimalasūri and Guṇabhadra had attempted to offer new allegorical meanings to these sacrificial acts for enhancing the Jaina tenets like Ahiṁsā, Saṁyama and Tapas. [7] The discussion about the meaning of the word अज [8] occurs in Vimalasūri's and Guṇabhadra's Rāmāyaṇa. The protest against the Brahmanic sacrificial institution can be seen in the major Jain versions.

4.7. Introducing the character of Nārada:

It is well known that Nārada is a Paurāṇika figure and is added to Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa sporadically in Bālakāṇḍa and Uttarakāṇḍa. This interesting character is introduced often in all major Jain Rāmāyaṇas to accelerate the speed of the main story in convincing manner.[9] Nārada frequently visits Padma and Rāvaṇa, carries messages and gives detailed reports of various incidents. We find the peculiar character of Nārada in Ardhamāgadhī canons like Nāyādhammakahā [10] and Ṛṣibhāṣita. [11] 'The Episodes of Nārada in Jain Literature' is an interesting subject of a separate research paper.

4.8. Rāmasetu:

Vālmīki describes the episode of Setubandha in Yuddhakāṇḍa. Pravarasena, a non-Jain poet has dedicated his whole epic to Setubandha or Rāvaṇavaho, written in Māhārāṣtrī Prakrit in 5th century A.D. Recently a lot of discussion is going on this controversial issue. The literary evidence of Kamba Rāmāyaṇa is quoted often in this matter. After a genuine scrutiny of major ten Jain Rāmakathās, it is known that none of these Rāmakathās have mentioned the building of a bridge to cross the ocean to enter Laṅkā. Vānaras and Rākṣasas used Vānarī and Khecarī Vidyas to cross the ocean.[12] Padma and Lakṣmana reached Laṅkā with the help of Vimānas. [13]

4.9. A Liberal Feminist Approach:

When we examine the Jain versions of Rāmāyaṇa, we come to know that on the whole, a liberal feminist perspective is reflected in the presentation of Rāmakathā. The observation and scrutiny of each female character in the Rāmāyaṇas of both traditions is a vast subject; still some important points are noted here in order to illuminate the liberal approach of Jain authors towards women.

According to Vimalasūri, Sītā is a daughter of King Janaka and queen Videhā. [14] The myth of finding Sītā in the box buried underground is totally absent in Paumacariya. Padma or Rāma accepts Sītā in Laṅkā without any doubt or ordeal (Divya). [15] Vimalasūri pictures the episode of banishment of Sītā in जणचिंतापव्व [16], but the tone of Padma towards Sītā is less harsh than Vālmīki. Guṇabhadra and his literary followers had ended the Rāmakathā at the consecration of Rāma is Ayodhyā and had kept mum about the incidents of expulsion of Sītā. In Paumacariya, Sītā goes through the ordeal only once and after proving her 'pureness' voluntarily embraces Dīkṣā and goes away.[17]

In all major Jain versions, the episodes of Mantharā, Ahalyā and Śabarī are absent. They do not want to picture Mantharā as 'jealousy incarnate'. Kaikeyī was very much anxious about Bharata's consecration to create interest of worldly things in him who was on the verge of renouncing the house and becoming a monk. Kaikeyī is not responsible for the banishment of Padma. The decision of Vanavāsa is taken by Padma and it is not the effect of the boon given to Kaikeyī. Kaikeyī's repent and her sincere efforts to persuade Rāma from Araṇyavāsa throw new light on Kaikeyī's character. The sympathetic attitude toward Kaikeyī is very peculiar to Vimalasūri and his followers. [18]

It is quite evident from the absence of Ahalyā episode that Jain authors do not wish to depict Padma as the up lifter of 'Patitā' woman like Ahalyā by mere touch. Likewise they do not want to depict Padma as the spiritual up lifter of Śabarī merely by his presence.

Mandodarī, the chief queen of Rāvaṇa is presented by Vālmīki only at the end after the slaughter of Rāvaṇa. [19] Jain Rāmāyaṇas, especially Vimalasūri had developed the character of Mandodarī throughout his epic very skillfully. [20] Mandodarī persuades Rāvaṇa again and again to send Sītā back. She puts forth her protest against Rāvaṇa's unethical deeds. Her love and loyalty to Rāvaṇa is quite evident from her dialogues. The justice given to Mandodarī's character is remarkable.

We find very stray and strange references of Anjanā, the mother of Hanumān in Vālmīki. In Kiṣkindhākāṇḍa it is said that Hanumān is औरसपुत्र of Vāyu and क्षेत्रजपुत्र of Kesarī. [21] For removing the blemish on the character of Anjanā, Vimalasūri and particularly Svayambhū have reconstructed and developed the Anjanā episode into a full-fledged उपाख्यान. The name of Hanumān's father is Pavanañjaya. In his character, there is a mixture of the characteristics of Vāyu and Kesarī. He is a brave egoist Vidyādhara and acts according to his male instincts and free wills. Añjanā bears painful sufferings created by him for twelve years, solacing her mind with the help of Karmasiddhānta. Pavanañjaya realizes his guilt and the episode ends on a happy note. In Jain tradition, Anjanā is enumerated among the sixteen adorable women.

With this brief account of some female characters in Jain Rāmāyaṇas, we can conclude that the Jaina approach to them is more humanistic, sympathetic and liberal than the contemporary Brahmanic tradition. It is very apt to note that in Jaina environmen.t, right from the first Tīrthaṅkara Ṛṣabhadeva, the number of Sādhvīs and Śrāvikas is almost twice than that of Sādhus and Śrāvakas. [22]

5. The Striking Dissimilarities Found in Various Jaina Versions of Rāmāyaṇa

It is already noted that Paumacariya of Vimalasūri is the first Jaina version of Rāmāyaṇa. He is well-acquainted with Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, but has not mentioned his name. The introductory portions of Paumacariya reveal quite openly the purpose of writing the story. The cause of the Jainification is explained as follows:

अलियं ति सव्वमेयं, भणंति जं कुकइणो मूनि (Paum Ca. 3.15) and

अलियं पि सव्वमेयं उववत्तिविरुद्धपच्चयगुणेहिं।

न सद्दहंति पुरिसा हवंति जे पंडिया लोए॥ (Paum Ca. 2.117)

It means, 'All this appears to me to be lies, contrary to reasoning and not worthy of belief by wise men'. It is quite clear by this remark that he has deliberately rejected the Brahmanic version of the same story.

Not only Vimalasūri but all Jaina authors have the same reason to refute the accounts of Rāma and Rāvaṇa that they have heard from the Kuśāstra-vadins i.e. expounders of false scriptures. According to them, Lord Mahāvīra had narrated the story to Gautama Gaṇadhara. They got the story through the tradition of their teachers. If this claim is true then one expects basic minimum similarities in all Jaina versions. The similarities are already noted beforehand. Here some of the striking differences in major Jain versions are taken into account.

5.1. Daśaratha and his sons:

According to Paumacariya, Daśaratha was a king of Sāketa or Ayodhyā. He has four sons, Padma from Aparājitā, Lakṣmana from Sumitrā and Bharata - Śtrughna from Kaikeyī. [23] According to Uttarapurāṇa, at first, Daśaratha was ruling at Vārānasī. Rāma or Balabhadra was born in Vārānasī. Rama's mother was Subālā. Afterwards Daśaratha transferred his capital to Ayodhyā. One of his queen gave birth to Lakṣmana and the other to Śatrughna. [24] Triṣaṣṭismṛtiśāstra mentions four queens and four sons of Daśaratha. [25] In Daśaratha Jātaka, Daśaratha was ruling at Vārānasī. He has 16,000 queens. His chief queen gave birth to Rāma-paṇḍita, Lakṣmana-kumāra and Sītā-devī. [26] There is no mention of Bharata - Śatrughna.

5.2. Birth of Sītā:

Paumacariya mentions that king Janka's wife Videhā gave birth to a twin, Sītā and Bhāmaṇḍala. A Vidyādhara abducted Bhāmaṇḍala. In course of time he was infatuated with Sītā. After knowing the reality, he became a monk. [27] According to Uttarapurāṇa, Sītā was an offspring of Rāvaṇa and Mandodarī. A fortune-teller declares the female child as unlucky and Rāvaṇa abandons Sītā. Mārīca keeps her in a box and buries underground at Mithilā, with ample wealth in the box. Some farmers find her and handover the child to Janaka and Vasudha. [28]

5.3. Svayamvara of Sītā:

In Paumacariya, Janaka seeks help of Padma and Lakṣmana against Mlecchas. He decides to give Sītā to Padma, a valiant warrior. Afterwards he arranges the Svayamvara. [29] We do not find reference of Rāvaṇa in this context. In Uttarapurāṇa the episode of Svayamvara is totally dropped.

5.4. Kaikeyī and her Demands:

In Paumacariya, Daśaratha declares his decision of renunciation and decision of the consecration of Padma. Bharata decides to follow the path of Liberation. Kaikeyī demands her boon which was kept previously with Daśaratha. She wants her son to be a king for engaging him is worldly life. Padma spontaneously declares his decision to go in forest. The span of fourteen years is not mentioned. [30]

The account of Kaikeyī's demands is totally dropped in Uttarapurāṇa. Daśaratha sends Rāma and Lakṣmana to Vārānasī. Rāma became and king and Lakṣmana, a crowned prince. [31]

However, It is very surprising that in Vasudevahiṁdī, (6th century A.D.) Saṁghadāsagaṇi follows Vālmīki in this whole account of fourteen-years' forest-wanderings of Rāma.

In Daśaratha Jātaka, Kaikeyī demands royal throne for Bharata. Daśaratha accepts her demands, but comments on the deceitful and jealous nature of women and sends Rāma to forest.

5.5. The Slaughter of Vālī:

In Paumacariya, after a fierce war between Vālī and Sugrīva, Vālī becomes a Muni and attains Nirvana. [32] In Uttarapurāṇa, Lakṣmana kills Vālī. [33] Śīlāṅka follows Vālmīki and depicts Rāma as a killer of Vālī. [34]

5.6. Story of Śambūka:

The story of Śambūka is dropped in Jaina Rāmāyaṇas except Paumacariya. In Paumacariya he is not depicted as a Śudra, but a son of Candranakhā (Vālmīki's Śurpaṇakhā) and Kharadūṣaṇa. While observing austerities in the bamboo-thicket, Lakṣmana kills Śambūka by mistake. [35]

5.7. Abduction of Sītā:

This episode is pictured in Paumacariya and Uttarapurāṇa in different manners.

5.8. Banishment of Sītā:

Vimalasūri depicts this account in Parvas 93 and 94. Ravīṣeṇa and Hemacandra follow him. Saṁghadāsagaṇi, Guṇabhadra, Śīlāṅka and Āśādhara have completed their Rāmakathās at Rāmā's consecration.

6. Conclusive Remarks:

When we consider the Jain versions of Rāmāyaṇa in totality, at first, readers' attention is attracted towards the reasonable changes done with positive attitude. Depicting the Vānaras and Rākṣasas as sub-human beings and not as wild animals and ferocious flesh-eaters is of course a positive and reasonable change. The sacrificial rituals involving violence are condemned and new approach is presented. Whenever there is an opportunity, the Jaina authors explain the incident by applying Doctrine of Karman. The narratives of Vālī and Śambūka are presented in entirely new manner. Comparatively sympathetic and liberal attitude towards women is seen throughout the Rāmakathā. Vimalasūri and his followers have pictured the ordeal of Sītā only once and Digambara authors, otherwise famous for their rigid attitude towards women, have dropped altogether the incident of the ordeal of Sītā.

In spite of all these plus-points, an objective analysis and valuation of the Jaina versions is needed.

If Jainas charge the Brahmanic Rāmāyaṇa and मतिविकल्पित and claim that they got the tradition of Rāmakathā from Lord Mahāvīra, naturally the readers expect consistency at least in the basic facts in all Jaina versions, which is not the reality. So the charge of मतिविकल्पना applies to them in the same manner.

These Jainified versions are successful in creating Jaina environmen.t but it is difficult for even Jaina readers to believe that there are so many Chaityas and Mandiras and places of pilgrimage and religious preaching and Dīkṣās during the forest wanderings of Padma and Sītā and elsewhere, at the time of Rāmāyaṇa. These new renderings of Jaina authors are not popular among the Jainas even today due to the popularity of Vālmīki-Rāmāyaṇa, which is deep-rooted in the society. An unbiased reader is compelled to admit that beautiful descriptions of nature and seasons, the presentation of dialogues and especially the poetic and aesthetic values of Vālmīki-Rāmāyaṇa are much more lacking in the Jaina versions. The total Jainification seems to be the cause of this lacuna. That is the reason why the Jaina authors like Saṁghadāsagaṇi and Śīlāṅka have followed the story-line of Rāmakathā of Vālmīki with some reasonable and rational changes here and there.

Due to the disparity in various renderings, lack of poetic values and exaggerated Jainification, Jaina Rāmakathā is not very popular even among Jainas.

Comparatively Kṛṣṇakathā which is introduced in convincing manner is much more popular among Jainas, but it is a separate thought-line for further research.

7. List of Reference Books

  • आवश्यकसूत्र with Niryukti and Haribhadra's Comm., आगमोदयसमिति, मेहसाणा, १९१६
  • चउप्पन्नमहापुरिसचरियं: शीलांकाचार्य, सं. पं. अमृतलाल भोजक, प्राकृत ग्रंथ परिषद्, वाराणसी, १९६१
  • जैन साहित्य का बृहद् इतिहास (भाग ६): सं. दलसुख मालवणिया, डॉ. मोहनलाल मेहता, पार्श्वनाथ विद्याश्रम शोध संस्थान, वाराणसी, १९७३
  • Kalpasūtra: Bhadrabāhu, K. C.Lalwani, Motilal Banarasidas, Delhi, 1979
  • Mahāpurāṇa (Uttarapurāṇa): Guṇabhadra, Edited - Pannālāl Jain, Bhāratiya Jñānapitha Kāshi, 1954
  • पद्मपुराण: रविषेन सं. - पन्नालाल जैन, भारतीय ज्ञानपीठ, काशी, १९५९
  • Paumacariya: Vimalasūri, ed. H. Jacobi, Prakrit Text Society, Varanasi - 5, 1962
  • Purāna Perennis: Ed. by Wendy Doniger, Indian Books Centre, Delhi, 1993
  • संस्कृत साहित्य का इतिहास: सं. बलदेव उपाध्याय, शारदा मन्दिर, काशी, १९४५
  • सिद्धार्थजातक: खंड ४, दुर्गा भागवत, वरदा बुक्स, पुणे १६, १९७८
  • श्रीमद् वाल्मीकिय रामायण: गीताप्रेस, गोरखपुर, सं. २०२४
  • तिलोय - पण्णत्ती: यतिवृषभ, सं. हीरालाल जैन, आदिनाथ उपाध्याय, जैन संस्कृति संरक्षक संघ, सोलापुर, १९४३
  • Triṣaṣṭiśalākāpuruṣacaritra, Vol. IV, Oriental Institute, Baroda, 1954
  • त्रिषष्टिस्मृतिशास्त्रम्: आशाधरविरचित, माणिकचंद ग्रंथमाल, मुंबई, १९३७
  • वसुदेवहिण्डि (प्रथम खण्ड): संघदासगणी, सं. मुनि पुण्यविजय, जैन आत्मानंद सभा, भावनगर, १९३०
  • विशेषावश्यकभाष्य (): जिनभद्रगणी, सं. दलसुख मालवणिया, एल्. डी. भारतीय संस्कृति विद्यामंदिर, अहमदाबाद, १९६८
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