Jaina Temple Rituals

Posted: 04.07.2012
Updated on: 30.07.2015

Pratishtha-tilaka of Nemicandra – A study


Temple rituals are guided by textual material either ascribed to the Supreme or to an Eminent and venerated Acharya. It is the case with Shaiva temples, Vaishnavite temples, Jain and Buddhist temples. The codified scriptures give in most cases a continuation of what was going on in the previous centuries and so deserve attention though variations or local traditions add to their mode. The Jain temples of Southern India particularly the Digambara school of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnad are following a text known as Pratishta tilaka, composed by Nemichandra deva in circa 13th century CE. The text has been reprinted in 1992 in Kolapur, edited by B. Manikchand Siva Lal Saha, and published by S. Gosavai. I had the privilege of receiving a copy from Pujya Sri Carukirti Maharaj the head of Jaina Mutt at Shravana Belgola in Karnataka. The Swamiji blessed me with a title Dharmabandhu and with his own handwriting presented the copy in the 1994. I have been studying the text ever since with deep interest. The text attracted me for more than one reason. The text was written sometime towards the end of Chola times and had some connection with the Cholas. The Acharya who wrote the text belonged to a lineage that hailed from Tamilnad particularly Kanchipuram which was a great center of Jainism from very early times. There is a very close unity between the Shaiva, Vaishnava, and Jain and Buddhist temple worship and they are almost identical. The other point that will strike the Indologists is that all these temple rituals are extensions of Vedic rites and the theory they arose as a result of mutual conflict and animosity against the Vedic religion is to say the least unfounded as may be seen in the sequence. If the order of rites, terminology and the festivals are considered they are absolutely the same for Shaiva, Jaina, and Vaishnava temples. It is proposed to study the Jaina temple rituals as found in this text pratishta tilaka and compare the same with Shaiva texts in this article.

The author of the text Pratishta tilaka says at the preamble that he has taken the essence of the rites of installing and consecrating Jaina images from earlier texts and is writing this work. It is mainly based on the authority of pratishta sastra of great early Yogis like Indra Nandin this text is used. Among all rites the installation of Jaina images is the most important and hence this text is called d Pratishta tilaka. The establishment consists of installation and hymnal invocation-Sthapana and Nyasa. The establishment is divided into three categories

  1. elaborate
  2. moderate and
  3. shortened.

The author deals first with the elaborate rituals followed by the moderate and lastly by the shortened rites.


Order of elaborate rituals

The elaborate rituals are listed in the following order:

  1. Indra pratishta (inviting the priest to accept the responsibility of performing the consecratory rituals) should be performed after observing Nandi on the tenth day prior to the date of consecration. This should be done during the daytime.
  2. Ankurarpana (sprouting ceremony) should be performed on the ninth day prior to the date consecration. This should be done during night.
  3. Santi-homa should be performed from the first day after the sprouting rites for removal of all obstacles to the donor, Jaina sangha, king, and others.
  4. The mandapa should be beautified and made fit for the rites on the second day after the sprouting ceremony. Laghu santi (brief santi) followed by Vastudeva bali should be performed.
  5. On the third day after the Ankurarpana, the vedis, the raised pedestal, should be got ready, five kumbhas (water-vessels) should be installed and Vastu bali should be performed.
  6. The flag hoisting should be done on the fourth day after the Ankurarpana. On the day of flag hoisting the "beating the drum" (Bheri tadana) should be performed in the night.
  7. On the fifth day "Festival of fetching water" (Jala yatra mahotsava) should be performed.
  8. On the sixth day the "Festival of entering the womb" garbha-avatara-kalyanam should be performed. The procession of cradle on a chariot should be performed.
  9. On the seventh day the "Festival of birth" Janma-abhisheka kalyanam should be performed.
  10. On the eighth day the "Festival of initiation" Diksha grahana kalyanam should be performed during the daytime.
  11. On the ninth day the "Festival of attainment of pure knowledge" Kevala - Jnana –kalyanam should be performed din the morning or evening.
  12. Vasantotsava should be performed on the second day after the consecration. The image should be taken out in procession.
  13. Fragrant water should be sprinkled on the third after the consecration.
  14. On the fourth day after consecration the image should be taken out in procession.
  15. Then the "Festival of release" Nirvana kalyanam should be performed in the morning
  16. This should be followed by avabhrita snana with eleven vessels. To the image.
  17. The Jaina sangha should be gratified to the extend possible
  18. The flag should be brought down in the night and placed in front of the temple. The flag mast should be adored.

Jain rites compared with Hindu rites

This order of consecration listed employs many terms that require attention. The priest performing rituals is called Indra in the Jaina context, for it is considered that Indra the King of the celestials attends himself on the Arhat. This is equal to the selection of Acarya in the Hindu temple rites called Acarya varanam while in Vedic rituals it Brahma varanam. The selection process is to entrust the rituals to deeply learned priest who will be in charge and supervise all rituals. In all temple rituals this is the first rite one encounters. The second rite mentioned in this text is the sprouting rite common again to all the Hindu temple rituals. The third is Nandi that is also common to Hindu temple ritual. What is Nandi we will see in the sequence. Again it is followed by what is called Santi homa - offering in fire different materials like twigs etc. for the removal of obstacles. This is also common to Hindu temples. It may be noted that even in Jain context it is called Santi homa. (For many it would come as a surprise that Homa - a Vedic tradition forms an essential part of Jain rituals). It is again followed by bali offering to Vastudeva. So far as the concept of Vastu is concerned it is again too common to Hindu and Jaina rituals. This is followed by "Flag hoisting" - "Dhvajarohana". All great festivals in Hindu temples are accompanied by flag hoisting. On the same day of flag hoisting festival of beating the drum is performed in the Hindu temple. The priest takes the beating stick and ritually beats the drum after doing puja to the drum. The stick is handed over to the drummer after beating who is now ritually commissioned to announce the festival, procession etc. The same is found in the Jain temples as well. This ritual is followed by five festivals, which are apparently peculiar to Jain temples. They are called Garbha-avatara kalyanam, Janma-abhisheka kalyanam, Diksha-grahana kalyanam, and Kevala-Jnana kalyanam. The fifth one takes place after installing the image in the shrine and is the final kalyanam. It is called Nirvana kalyanam. a certain rite called avabhrita snana is performed after this festival to mark the end of the consecration rites and is followed by bringing down the flag to mark the end. Avabhrita snana is a Vedic rite in which the performer takes a ritual bath to mark the end of the diksha initiation he has taken to the Yajna. This is performed in the Hindu temple rituals also and is called avabhrita snana or tirthavari. Except the kalyanam festivals we have mentioned above there is absolutely no difference between consecratory rites of a Hindu temple and the Jaina temple as seen from this text.

We will examine this five-kalyanam festivals and their inner meaning in the sequence. It will be shown that the concepts of the five-kalyanam festivals are basically the same as the Hindu temple rituals.


The lineage of the author Nemichandra

The historic setting and the lineage of the Acharya who wrote this text is furnished in a separate chapter called Kavi-vamsa varnanam i.e. description of the family of the poet, in this text. Nemicandra, the author of this text belonged to a Brahmin family. The first Brahma called Adi-Brahma lived in Krta-yuga, the first aeon. From his body arose the last Brahma, Antya Brahma, who created Great Brahmins. Among them some intelligent Brahmins conformed to jina-marga - the path of the Jinas and followed the observances of the system in an unbroken manner. Born of these lineage some lived in the great city of Kanchipuram. They constantly performed 53 ritual acts and practiced the six acts of life. Visakhacarya blessed these men with the teachings of the secrets of Jaina observances called upasaka-mha-veda rahasya. Those born in these families observed the agamas of the Jaina systems strictly (upasaka - agama). In their youth they enjoyed all the pleasures. Receiving veneration from rulers and public at the old age under took the Jaina diksha with clear minds. Many members of these families continued their family traditions, kula-vratas in this manner. In this family was born the great Akalanka Bhattaraka who pulverized the arrogance of many debaters by his sharp and powerful verbal arguments. In this lineage was born Indra Nandi muni who was deeply learned in the Jain systems and taught all sciences of knowledge. One Anantavirya was born in this family who composed a commentary on the work of Akalanka. It was called Dipa-vartika. In this family appeared Virasena muni who made the Jain sasana shine in the horizon for a long time. One Jinasena muni enlarged the ocean of Jainism by his teachings. He was an abode of arts and bestower of nectar. Vadibha simha suri and Vadiraja, two master logicians who appropriate to their names conquered the opposing faiths were born in this family. Hastimalla, who could fight and conquer elephant like debaters and who propagated greatly the system of Arhat came next. He was a householder. Then came in the family Para-vadi-malla who was an exponent of Jaina sasanam. He was also a great debater who could defeat opponents in logics.

In this manner many Brahmins who were born in this family renounced the world and propagated the path of jina marga. There was in this family a Brahmin named Lokapalacarya, a householder. He was a great scholar worshipped by the Chola King. Along with the Chola king this Acharya reached the western country that is Karnataka-desha. He had a son a named Samayanatha a great logician. His son was Kaviraja-malla virtually a great poet. His son was Chintamani an honest and at the same time great logician. His son was Anantavirya who was an eminent exponent of Ghata-vada. His son was Parya-natha a great scholar in the science of music. Adinatha, his son mastered Ayurveda. Vedi-kodandarama his son was an exponent of the science of archery - Dhanurveda. Brahmadeva practiced the six fold duties strictly. Devendra, his son, was equal to Devendra in prowess was an expert in Samhita sastra and a great art connoisseur. He was much respected by the king and builder of Jaina temple etc. He was also a master of trivarga (dharma, artha, and kama) and beloved of his relatives. His wife Adidevika was born of Sri Vijayaparya and Srimati. She had three brothers, the learned Chandappa, Brahmasuri - the great scholar - and Parshvanatha. Three sons were born to that Devendra and Adidevi. They were named Adinatha, Nemicandra and Vijayapa. Among them Adinatha was a great exponent of the teachings of all the Arhats. He had Trailokyanathta, Jinabhadra and others as sons. Vijayapa was an expert in Astronomy. His son Samantabhadra was a learned man in literature - Sahitya. Nemicandra‘s strength was his learning in grammar, logic and agamas. He learned under the great teacher Abhayacandra he became a great authority on pada-vakya-pramana, i.e. linguistics. He had two sons named Kalyananatha and Dharmasekhara. The former became a master of all the Sastras while the later became a leading student among all the students.



Nemicandra learned in all sastras fully and taught the sastras to ardent students always out of love for the Dharma. All learned men for writing Satya-sasana, Satya-pariksa, Mukhya -prakarana and other texts praised him. He defeated in arguments many times the opposing religious teachers in the Royal court and established the greatness of Jainism. He was conferred by the King palanquin, parasol and other honours. He also gave wealth to mendicants and enjoyed all pleasures. He also erected Jain temples, mandapas and colonies as well as streets. He offered music, instrumental music and dance (Gita, Veda and Nritya) in front of Parshvanatha. In this manner he was established in the trivarga namely dharma, artha and Kama and resides in the city Stira-kadamba, adored by the King and his mind deeply engrossed in the adoration of the lotus feet of Parshvanatha. Once his uncles, sons, brothers, and their sons and other learned men approached him with the request to write a treatise on Pratishta sastra - a treatise on establishment and worship of temples and images of Jinas. They requested that this text should include the five Kalyanam rituals. In response to this request Nemicandra wrote this text Pratishta tilaka, to the best of his ability. At the end he appealed to scholar to forgive him if he has omitted any part from the composition. His prayer was that this text should be used by all the Yajnikas in the yajnas as it useful for the release of all bondages. This text with excellent sutras, composed with beauty, effulgence and lucidity, and is full of gem like poetry, and that which removes the sufferings of the people, brings happiness to blameless seers and is like a spike to the opponents, may reside in the mouth of good men so long as the sun and moon last. This Jina sasana is like moon attractive to the mind and removes darkness ad is the refuge of devotees. This is the seventeenth chapter of the text Pratishta tilaka dealing with festivals and the lineage of the author.

This somewhat close rendering of the chapter on the lineage of the Kavi poet is of historic interest. It would be advantageous to give the different names of the scholars mentioned here in a tabular form for easy comprehension.


List A:

  • Adi-Brahma
  • Antya-Brahma alias Bharata
  • Brahmins

Some were the residents of Kanchipuram and were followers of Jina marga

  1. Visakha-acarya taught Upasaka rahasya mahaveda
  2. Akalanka Bhattaraka
  3. Indra Nandi
  4. Anantavirya who wrote Dipa vartika on the work of Akalanka
  5. Virasena munindra
  6. Jinasena muni
  7. Vadibha simha and Vadi raja
  8. Hastimalla
  9. Prati-vadi-malla

The above and others were born in the above families


List B:

  1. Loka-pala-acarya worshipped by the Chola king. He went with the Chola king to the West that is the Karnata desa.
  2. His son Samayanatha
  3. His son Kaviraja malla
  4. His son Cintamani
  5. His son Anantavirya
  6. His son Paryanatha exponent of sangita sastra
  7. His son Adinatha exponent of Ayurveda
  8. His son Vedi Koadanda-rama exponent of Dhanurveda Archer
  9. His son Brahma deva
  10. His son Devendra was adept in samhita sastra, Kala sastra and builder of Jain temples. He married Adi Devika. (Devika had four brothers named Candapa, Budhottama, Brahmasuri and Parsvanatha)
  11. Devendra had three sons named Adinatha, Nemicandra and Vijayapa
  12. Nemicandra had two sons Kalyana natha and Dharma sekhara

It may be observed that Nemichandra has carefully divided his lineage into two parts; part one dealing with the ancestors who lived in Kanchipuram and about whom some information was available and that they hailed from the same lineage. The names of their parents or their teachers were not known. So he confines himself to saying that they came from this family. Obviously the list furnishes the outstanding scholars who lived in antiquity.

The second list starts with Lokapala acharya whom the Chola king adored and who accompanied him to Karnataka-desha. From then on we get the names of the family of Neminatha acharya in unbroken succession and all are listed in the order of father and son. It is interesting that this illustrious family had experts in sangita, ayurveda, archery, astronomy, logic, sahitya (literature) and dance, besides the Jaina treatises. Nemicandra could name ten generations of his ancestors and show that there was a system keeping the family tree accurately at least up to ten generations. The list also has maintained the proficiency of each and every ancestor. Further we also find that the family of Nemicandra’s mother is also mentioned that shows the respect for women among Jains. Nemicandra is said to have lived in Stirakadamba city adored by the king who conferred on him the honours of palanquin and parasols. A point of interest is that Nemicandra is credited with introducing dance in the presence of Parshvanatha. He had also built several Jain temples and mandapas and streets etc. some of these acharyas are known to history and help us in understanding the context.


Tamil and Karnataka Jainism

The Gangas of Talakkadu were great patrons of Jainism. One of the Ganga rulers with the title Prithvipati II was a contemporary of Parantaka Chola I. He figures in a copper plate of Parantaka Chola dated 931 CE. He also had the title Hastimalla. It is not unlikely he obtained the name Hastimalla from the Jaina acharya who also had the title Hastimalla. The Jaina acharya Hastimalla had a son named Prati-vadi-malla who figures as the last acharya of the first part of the text Pratishta tilaka. The two acaryas Hastimalla and Prati-vadi-malla were contemporaries of Parantaka Chola I. The next acharya mentioned by Nemicandra is Lokapalacharya. He must have been a contemporary of Parantaka’s son.

This information is corroborated by inscription in an extraordinary manner. Parantaka’s son Gandaraditya is mentioned in inscriptions as "the Chola who went to the west". He was celebrated as Sivajnana-cemmal a great Shiva bhakta and one of the sacred hymns Thiruvisaippa was sung by him. An inscription from Jambai in North Arcot district is of interest in this regard. Gandaraditya’s queen was the famous Sembiyan Mahadevi who renovated many Shiva temples and consecrated several bronze images of exquisite beauty. Thus Gandaraditya was known in the Shaiva school as a great Shaivite. However his title "one who went to the west" is not explained though occurs often. As Jain palli named Gandarditya perum Palli is mentioned, it is not unlikely he leaned towards Jainism at certain stage of his life. The inscription reference to "one who went to the west" is confirmed by this text which says that the Chola king went to the west with the Jain teacher, Loka-pala-acharya. It was not known that what the term meant. It is seen from this text that the west is mentioned, as west that is "Karnata desha". It is thus clear that Loka-pala-acharya went to Karnataka-desha with Gandarditya Chola, that is in the middle of the 10th century. There was a close connection between Tamil Jainism and Karnataka Jains from early times to the present day. Many acharyas have gone from Tamilnad to Karnataka. The family of Nemichandra, the author of this text, is traced from Loka-pala-acharya. Nemichandra was the 10th in succession from Loka-pala-acarya. If 25 years is given as an average for one generation, Nemichandra would have to be placed 250 years after Lokapala and Gandaraditya Chola which would place him around 1200 CE. This gives a fairly close date to this text at the beginning of 13th century. It was the time when many Hoysala temples were being built in Karnataka. Evidently the text Pratishta tilaka could have influenced many of the temples and their rituals in Karnataka. Against this background the Jaina temple rituals need to be studied. As the text is to be assigned to 13th century, the Jain temple rituals may be considered a tradition from the 13th century But as mentioned by Nemichandra acharya this text was not his new creation but the one prescribed by eminent acharyas of antiquity like Indra Nandi.

The text calls Jain temples as "mandiram". The temple, meant for installing Jaina image - Jina-bimba - is built for daily worship and conducting great festivals. The daily worship is called "nityamaha", also named "Jina yajna", while the festival is called "mahotsava". The temple is built for the prosperity, fulfillment of all prayers, and obtaining eternal release of the the people The patron who builds the temple and is desirous of installing Jaina image is called "yashta" and the priest, Indra or Purandara. On the tenth day prior to the installation, the patron should go with family women with akshatas - sacred rice - in a receptacle to the house of the priest who will be in charge of the ritual ceremonies and invite the priest to take charge of the ceremonies of installation and worship. The patron is expected to say that he is engaged in performing Jina yajna and hence this request.

The priest thus invited should be one belonging to noble caste, region, family and observances. He should be a person of good physique and pleasant to look at. He should be a selfless (tyagi), honest (vagmi) follower of the Jaina system and observer all the vratas. He should be well learned, constantly reciting the scriptures, should know astronomy and being a scholar of temple building. The priest should also know legal procedures and be capable of deciding diputes. He should not be a shudra. He should be easily accessable, humble, a calm personality with control over senses, and deeply knowledgable in Jain iconography and installation as well as an artist, capable of creating what he sees. Such a person is called "yajaka" - the priest. Such a priest is called Jina-ijyadi-kriya-nishtah and Dharmendrah which is again called Jaina yajna.

When such a priest is invited, he performs acamana, proksahana, arghya, tarpana and japa after which he ascends an elephant and accompanied by assistants, reaches Jina temple. After worshipping the Jina he accepts the fragrance etc. and then he worships Dharmacharya and prepares for the consecratory rites. The Jaina installation worship is classified into four categories as nityamahah, Kalpadruma maha, caturmukhamaha, and ashtanhika maha.

After building Jain temple with devotion and endowing villages for meeting the expenses of daily worship, and creating a written record for the same, the kings bring from their residence materials to be used for worship in the temple and such a worship is called nityamaha. This also entails daily gifts by the Kings.

  • If similar gifts are made and performed in a grand manner by emperors it is called Caturmukha maha (also called Sarvato-bhadra).
  • If kings make some donations they want to make it is called kalpa-druma-maha. It is meant for the fulfillment of prayers of the people.
  • If all men are involved, and includes the great Indra dhvaja flag (hoisting) etc. and bali snapana etc. it is called Ashtanhika maha.
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