Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (4): Ācārya Devaṛṣi (II), 51st Pontiff Of Lord Mahāvīra Tradition

Published: 20.08.2016

Birth V.N. 1554
Initiation into monkhood V.N. 1564
Attained Ācārya status V.N. 1589
Heavenly Abode V.N. 1644
Period of household life 10 years
Period of ordinary monk 25 years
Period of Ācārya status 55 years
Complete monkhood 80 years
Life span 90 years

After Ācāryaśrī Vijayaṛṣi, the 50th Pontiff of fundamental pure Jain tradition, the four-fold congregation of Lord Mahāvīra appointed Śrī Devaṛṣi (II) as the 51st successor-Pontiff in V.N. 1589.

Jinavallabha Sūri

(Disciple of Abhayadeva Sūri & Author of Navāṃgī Vṛttis)

Jinavallabha Sūri, a charismatic ācārya adorned the tradition of the religious reformer Varddhamāna Sūri, which with the passage of time came to be known as Kharataragaccha. He was an outstanding connoisseur in scriptures, expert debater, a scholar in science of omens and an ambassador of revolution. His entire life was spent in conflicts and struggles. He not only faced troubles from the opponent Temple dweller tradition but also encountered animosity from some scholars who claimed themselves as the monks of Suvihita tradition. The struggle with Temple dwellers continued throughout his life. After the religious reformer Varddhamāna Sūri and Jineśvara Sūri, a great debater Jinavallabha Sūri contributed considerably to put an end to the glory of Temple dweller tradition.

According to Kharataragaccha Vṛhad Gurvāvalī, Jinavillabha Sūri hailed from Āśīdurga. He lost his father in his early childhood. His widowed mother brought him up enduring pains. Jineśvara Sūri, the ācārya of Temple dweller tradition was the Chief of Kūrcapurīya temple in Āśīdurga. The sons of the laity of Āśīdurga residents used to come to his monastery to study. When Jinavallabha attained suitable age, his mother too sent him to the monastery. Jinavallabha had very sharp grasping power from childhood itself. He started studying with great dedication. Within a short period of time, he was considered as one of the best students of monastery.

Ācārya Jineśvara Sūri perceived that the boy was intelligent and virtuous by birth and that he would obviously become an impressive ācārya in future. Deliberating on these lines, he convinced Jinavallabha's mother and made him his disciple. He initiated Jinavallabha into his tradition and taught him many subjects like science of omens and so on. Thus monk Jinavallabha attained erudition in many subjects.

One day Jineśvara Sūri had to go to another village on a very important assignment. He handed over the responsibility of the matha to Jinavallabha.

The second day after his guru's departure to other village, Jinavallabha took out a bundle of books from a box. He took out a scripture from the bundle and started reading it. He was perplexed reading the words of sages in the book. He suddenly uttered these words, "Today, the conduct of our yatis is exactly contrary to that described in these scriptures. Such type of perverted code of conduct does not elevate us; instead it leads us to the netherworld - to our destruction". He indecisively took some determinations and kept the book and the bundle back in its original place. Just then Jineśvara Sūri returned to the monastery and felt happy seeing the monastery running smooth and efficient. He decided to appoint Jinavallabha as ācārya perceiving him as a worthy monk. "Jinavallabha acquired profound knowledge in all the subjects except in the doctrines. So I think it is essential to send him to Abhayadeva Sūri to gain expertise in scriptural knowledge. When he returns from Abhayadeva Sūri mastering the scriptures I will make him ācārya". Contemplating thus, he appointed him as discourse-ācārya. Consequently he sent Jinavallabha to Abhayadeva Sūri, who stayed in Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa to learn the scriptures. The ācārya also gave him 500 gold coins and sent a disciple named Jinaśekhara along with him to serve him. Jinavallabha with his companion set out for Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa. On the way, he halted in the house of a lay devotee called Māṇu in Marukoṭṭa for the night. The next day they renewed their journey and eventually reached Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa and presented themselves in the service of Abhayadeva Sūri. Just in a glance Abhayadeva Sūri noticed the gracious personality of Jinavallabha with auspicious marks. Further with 'Cūḍāmaṇi Jṅāna' he perceived that Jinavallabha was a righteous person. On being questioned the reason for their approach, Jinavallabha Sūri with all humility said, "Revered Ācārya Deva! My Guru Jineśvara Sūri sent me at your feet to study the scriptures."

Looking at Jinavallabha Sūri with deep insight, Abhayadeva Sūri thought, "Though he is the disciple of Temple Dweller tradition ācārya, yet he is a worthy ascetic. The scriptures clearly state that it is better for a scholar of scriptures to leave his body together with his expertise, without imparting it to anyone, but under no circumstance should he impart the knowledge to an unworthy being. However if a worthy being approaches in quest of scriptural knowledge, he should neither be refuted nor ignored." Thinking thus he said to Jinavallabha "You did a good thing by coming here to learn scriptures". He started imparting knowledge of scriptures to his student at an auspicious time. During the study hour, Jinavallabha Sūri used to listen to every letter, every word and every sentence pronounced by Abhayadeva Sūri, with complete concentration, relishing its nectar like sweetness. This opened the inner eye of Jinavallabha Sūri. Whenever he found time, be it day or at night Abhayadeva Sūri explicated and educated his students. Thus within a short time, Abhayadeva Sūri imparted him with the knowledge of all the Sūtras.

Earlier, a certain scholar in astrology had once requested Abhayadeva Sūri to send an exceptional, intelligent and worthy disciple (of Abhayadeva Sūri) to him to study astrology. Accordingly Abhayadeva Sūri, on completion of scriptural studies, sent Jinavallabha to that astrologer to be taught astrology. The astrologer also made Jinavallabha proficient in astrology within a short time, and Jinavallabha returned to Abhayadeva Sūri.

One day, receiving the consent of Abhayadeva Sūri, Jinavallabha went to meet his Temple dwellers ācārya, following the same route by which he came to Paṭṭaṇa. On the way, he took a break in the Caitya of same lay devotee in Marukoṭṭa. He wrote reforms in that Devagṛha, in such a way that even a non-reformed Caitya becomes a reform-Caitya. In those six points of reforms he recommended pure code of conduct for Śramaṇas and prohibited discrimination on basis of caste, creed etc. to follow and practice true path.

Later he renewed his journey to meet his guru. He stopped in a village called Māīyaḍa, three miles away for Āśīdurga. Without going to his guru in person, he sent a messenger giving a letter to him, in which he wrote, "With your gracious blessings, having completed the studies of all the scriptures from Ācārya Abhayadeva Sūri, I halted in Māīyaḍa village upon my return. I humbly request my revered guru to come and meet me here".

Ācārya Jineśvara was surprised reading the letter. He wondered, "Why didn't he himself come here? Why did he send a letter with such instructions?"

In spite of this pinch, he experienced boundless happiness, on knowing that his disciple became proficient in scriptures. The next day he came to Māīyaḍa to meet Jinavallabha with a host of scholars, distinguished persons and his followers. Jinavallabha approached his guru and offered venerations. After formal exchange of enquiries about each other's wellbeing; Jinavallabha displayed many miracles with his astrological knowledge to quench the inquisitiveness of Brahmins. He also predicted the event that was going to happen after a few moments, which proved right at once. Even Ācārya Jineśvara Sūri was amazed.

Finally Jineśvara Sūri enquired his disciple in solitude, "Instead of coming straight to Āśīdurga, why did you stop in this village?"

Replying to his query Jinavallabha answered, "Honourable One! After tasting the nectar like gospels of Mahāvīra from my Guru Abhayadeva Sūri, how can I prepare myself to drink the venom by staying back in a temple?

Jineśvara Sūri tried hard to convince him in numerous ways and said in an alluring tone, "Son! I thought of appointing you as ācārya and after surrendering the responsibility of my gaccha, Devgṛha and the laity to you, I intended to join Vasativāsa tradition and stay with Abhayadeva Sūri."

Jinavallabha replied, "O Honourable One! If you have taken such a decision why do you hesitate to accept Vasativāsī tradition now itself? A discerned person should without further ado abandon the improper, unconventional path and follow the holy path".

The Guru replied, "So far I never envisaged that I will join Vasativāsī tradition without entrusting the responsibility of my gaccha and Devgṛha into the hands of an able and worthy person. Well, now you are free to accept the Vasativāsī tradition".

Thus taking the approval of his Initiation guru of Temple dweller tradition, Jinavallabha paid homage to him and set out on his journey to Paṭṭaṇa. There he presented himself in the service of Abhayadeva Sūri and offered salutations with profound devotion. Abhayadeva Sūri was overwhelmed with joy. He thought, "The very same thing happened which I considered as noble. As a matter of fact, Jinavallabha is worthy of shouldering my rank. However, as he belongs to Temple dwellers tradition, right now I cannot assign him to this post, as the decision may not be appreciated and approved by the monks and nuns and the laity of my gaccha." Keeping this in mind, he conferred the highest post of ācārya rank upon his another disciple Varddhamāna and granting his permission (upasampada) to Jinavallabh gaṇi he said - "Son! I give you permission to wander wherever you want."

Later, Abhayadeva Sūri confidentially told his trustworthy disciple Prasannacandrācārya, "Declare Jinavallabhagaṇi as my successor-Pontiff at an auspicious time".

Sometime after giving these instructions, Abhayadeva Sūri departed to heaven, according to one school of thought in Vikram 1135 and in Vikram 1139 as per the other.

Prasannacandrācārya also was waiting for an appropriate time to appoint Jinavallabha as the successor-Pontiff in accordance with the instructions of his guru Abhayadeva Sūri. Foreseeing his own approaching death, he confided the command of their Guru to Devabhadrācārya in a place called Karapaṭaka Vāṇijya and said, "I could not implement the order of our honourable guru and now it is time for me to leave for the other world. Appoint Jinavallabha as Pontiff and fulfil the last wish of our Guru."

After the demise of Abhayadeva Sūri, Jinavallabhgaṇi wandered for some time in Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa and the neighbouring areas. He comprehended that staying there he could not pursue religious activities appease his conscience and bring glory to Jina order. Soon, at an auspicious time, he left Paṭṭaṇa along with two ascetics and roamed different places like Citrakūṭa etc. to promulgate the Reformed path (Vidhi dharma) propounded by Lord Jinendra. During his journey, wherever he went, be it a village, a city or some other place, he found that all places were under the predominant influence of Temple dwellers. He wandered in those places promulgating and eulogizing the Reformed path (Vidhimarg) and reached Citrakūṭa. As the place was totally dominated by and under the influence of Temple dwellers, in spite of all his efforts, he was not offered a place to stay. The Temple dwellers laity of that city asked them to stay in Caṇḍ ī kā (maṭha) monastery, which was located in a deserted place on the outskirts of the city. Mentally contemplating on his guru and commanding (ruling deity) Śāsana Devī to protect him he entered into Caṇḍ īk ā Maṭha. Propitiated by his meditation through knowledge (jṅāna dhyāna) and practice of holy path, Śāsana Devī protected him against all calamities.

The word about Jinavallabha Sūri spread like wild fire among Cittauḍa's (Citrakūṭa) inhabitants that  he is not only a scholar in Jain philosophy but an erudite in all Indian philosophies, law, logic, Pāṇinī Aṣṭadhyāyī Grammar (earliest grammar text in Sanskrit), 84 types of plays (Nāṭaka Śāstras) and prosody. The moment this message spread around, scholars in Veda- Vedāṃgas and philosophies started pouring into Caṇḍ īk ā Maṭha. Those scholars put forward their doubts in their respective disciplines. Jinavallabha Sūri clarified their doubts to their utmost satisfaction with substantial evidences. The pleased scholars recounting the greatness of Jinavallabha Sūri spread his fame in the city, saying that it was the good fortune and destiny of the residents of Cittauḍa that such a great scholar and an erudite set foot on their land. Attracted by the fame of Jinavallabha Sūri, few lay devotees also came to behold him. Observing that he strictly adhered to the code of conduct of asceticism as described in the scriptures, the 'ordinary' laity, 'Sādhaka' laity etc. accepted Jinavallabhagaṇi as their preceptor.

On dark thirteenth day of Aśwīna month, as there was no Reformed temple (Vidhi Caitya) in Cittauḍa, Jinavallabha gaṇi consecrated 24 Tīrthaṃkara images on the upper chamber of a certain lay devotee's building, and performed the ceremony of 'Garbhāpahāra', the sixth Kalyāṇaka (auspicious events of conception, birth, renunciation, attainment of omniscience, Nirvāṇa etc,) of Lord Mahāvīra. Everyone felt delighted and after consulting each other they appealed Jina Vallabha Sūri, "If you deem it right and if it is acceptable to you, we will construct two floors of Jina temples". After getting his blessings those lay devotees decided to construct the two Jina temples.

True to their promise, the lay devotees of Jinavallabha gaṇi constructed two huge Jina temples on two floors. With all splendour they got the idols of both the temples installed by Jinavallabha gaṇi. Jinavallabha gaṇi's fame spread far and wide and everyone appreciated saying that 'a Guru should be like him'.

In course of time when Jinavallabha Sūri went to Dhārānagarī, King Naravarmā honoured and welcomed him with great devotion and reverence and entreated him to accept one lakh gold coins and three villages as a gift. Jinavallabha gaṇi replied, "O King! We are ascetics who observe five vows. Leave alone accepting stacks of money and villages as gifts, we do not even touch a coin in the name of wealth or possession. If you really want to spend these piles of money and the revenue from these three villages for a good cause, then donate them for the maintenance of two Jina temples recently constructed by the laity in Cittauḍa"

The King was astonished and at the same time pleased at the detachment of Jinavallabha gaṇi and issued an ordinance of donation to the effect that daily two parustha should be sent to two Jina temples of Citrakūṭa.

Soon after, Jinavallabha gaṇi preaching and propagating Jain doctrine travelled through many places and reached Nāgapura – Nāgaura. At the same time travelling through many places Devabhadrācārya reached Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa. There he contemplated, "Before ascending to heaven Prasannacandrācārya asked me to appoint Jinavallabha gaṇi as the Pontiff and successor of Abhayadeva Sūri. The time has ripened now." Immediately he sent a letter to Jinavallabha gaṇi who was in Nāgapura – Nāgaura asking him to come at once to Citrakūṭa along with his entourage of disciples and followers. He decided that he too would go to Citrakūṭa and complete his mission.

Accordingly Jinavallabha gaṇi and Devabhadrācārya together with their respective followers reached Cittauḍa from different places. Even Panḍita Somacandra was invited but he could not come to Cittauḍa. At an auspicious time Devabhadra Sūri appointed Jinavallabha Sūri as the Pontiff and successor ācārya of Abhayadeva Sūri, the author of Navāṃgi Vṛttis in the Reformed temple located in Cittauḍa on bright 6th day in Āṣāda month, in Vikram 1167. Afterwards, Devabhadrācārya started travelling to different places along with his disciples.

After being appointed as ācārya, Jinavallabha Sūri continuously tried to propagate and promote the 'Reformed path'. But soon he fell ill. Wondering at the sudden spell of disease he foresaw using his Nimitta knowledge that his end was nearing. Contemplating on and criticising his misdeeds, he took the vow of fast onto death on Kārtika Vadi Daśamī in Vikram 1167. Continuously chanting Namaskāra Mantra, he departed for 4th heaven after 3 days, at late hours on dark twelfth day of Kārtika month, in Vikram 1167.

Objective review of his life reveals that he was a revolutionary scholar. Jinavallabha Sūri strengthened and gave a momentum to the mission started by Śrī Varddhamāna Sūri against Temple dwellers and their lax practices in Vikram 1080. He weakened the stronghold of Temple dweller tradition. He kindled the fire of revolt in the hearts of the people against the slack methods through his literary work 'Congregation Paṭṭaka'.

It appears that even after his death, Temple dwellers enjoyed majority support in Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa. Owing to the efforts of Jineśvara Sūri, though the Vasativāsīs got the sanction to preach and spread their tradition in Paṭṭaṇa, yet Temple dwellers continued to wield strong influence on high officers, professional establishments and social organisations in Gurjara kingdom. Thus Temple dweller ācāryas had a tight grip over the congregation of Paṭṭaṇa. As already mentioned a powerful tradition, could survive in the entire Gurjara region provided only if it had an amicable rapport with the Temple dwellers. So Abhayadeva Sūri responded to the initiative of Droṇācārya and adopted a policy of mutual cooperation with Temple dwellers. As long as Abhayadeva Sūri was alive, both Suvihita and Temple dweller traditions were in good terms. When Jinavallabha Sūri left Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa for Cittauḍa, the Temple dwellers' authority was predominant even in that region too. That is why initially he could not get any suitable place to stay and had to stay in Cāmuṇḍ āmonastery (maṭha).

Jain literatures point out that a few years after Abhayadeva Sūri, the relationship between these traditions were strained. The important reason was Jinavallabha Sūri was a radical ideological scholar. He was impatient with an urge to completely erase the lackadaisical conduct and the vitiated religious methods introduced by the Temple dweller tradition into the Jina order. He got many Reformed temples (Vidhi Caityas) constructed even in Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa. But the Temple dweller tradition which was enjoying the patronage of the rulers established its authority over those Reformed temples and changed them into nonreformed temples using the name of Suvihita tradition. The revolutionary efforts of Jinavallabha Sūri not only offended the 'Temple dwellers' but also enraged the leader ācāryas, Upādhyāyas and Śramaṇa scholars of Vasativāsī tradition who lived in Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa during that time. The wrath of Temple dweller tradition against the zealous reformist rules was a natural reaction. But why were even the ācāryas, laity, and ascetics of Suvihita tradition angry? The only reason being the four fold (śramaṇa-śramaṇī and Votaries and female-votaries) congregation firmly believed that they could not strengthen their identity in the vast Gurjara region, straining their relations with Temple dwellers. So, when the Temple dwellers got enraged, they too showed their sympathy-wrath which they felt essential to maintain goodwill with them. Because of this opposition both from his own and opponent traditions, Jinavallabha Sūri was forced to leave Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa. He moved from Gurjara region towards Medāpaṭa.

Nearly up to 150 years in the second half of Vikram 12th century, the entire Medāpaṭa was dominated by Temple dwellers. This fact is confirmed by the event that took place in the life of Jinavallabha Sūri. He wanted to celebrate the ceremony of the 6th Kalyāṇaka Garbhāpahāra of Lord Mahāvīra in a certain Jina temple, but he was not allowed to enter into any Jain temple. So, placing the images of 24 Tīrthaṃkaras in the house of a lay devotee he performed the 6th Kalyāṇaka of Mahāvīra. Then he perceived that no Jina temple would be available for him in Cittauḍa to offer deferential salutations and for worshipping by the votaries, as the temples were owned by Temple dwellers. So he consented to the proposal of his laity for the construction of separate temples. Accordingly two Jina temples were constructed in two floors of a building.

It appears that on completion of the study of scriptures under Abhayadeva Sūri, Jinavallabha Sūri firmly resolved that he would not rest until and unless he totally wipes out the aberrant beliefs, rituals, methods of worship etc. introduced by the lethargic monks and saves the Jain congregation off their influence. With this resolution in mind, he started his campaign to eliminate the Temple dweller tradition and had to face the wrath of both the traditions i.e. his own and that of the opponents. Nonetheless he did not lose his courage and morale. Realising that he could not put his conviction into action in Gurjara region, especially in Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa, he targeted other places to accomplish his mission. He spent his entire life confronting the Temple dwellers. He wrote a revolutionary Vṛtti called 'Congregation Paṭṭaka' to augment the Reformed path and to destroy Temple dweller tradition. Impressed by the judicious presentation of the facts, people became his followers in large numbers. With his encouragement, Reformed temples were first built in Cittauḍa and their construction continued at different places of the country. These commandments which were contrary to the mode of rituals, religious practices and beliefs of Temple dwellers were engraved in the temples. They were:

  1. No activity which is against the scriptures is carried out here.
  2. "Snātra pūjās" (ritual to perceive and praise the virtues and attributes of 24 Tīrthaṃkaras) will not be convened at night in these Reformed temples.
  3. No ascetic can claim any type of ownership over these Reformed temples.
  4. No woman can enter these temples in the night. Their entry during night is prohibited.
  5. No discrimination is shown in these temples on the basis of caste, creed, lineage etc.
  6. The devotees should never eat betel in the temple premises.

Influenced by his reformist and revolutionary ideology, people from every nook and corner started pouring into Reformed path discarding the Temple dweller tradition.

In Vikram 1080 Jineśvara Sūri, the disciple of the great reformer Ācārya Varddhamāna Sūri, gave a death blow to the well-organised, powerful Temple dweller tradition which enjoyed a vast following. Jinavallabha Sūri successfully completed the mission by weakening its power and influence even before Vikram 1165. As a result, Suvihita tradition started gaining popularity.

Critically analysing these facts, we can conclude that Jinavallabha Sūri was an exceptionally bold, august scholar and a treasure of revolutionary ideology. In spite of severe confrontation from within and outside, he proceeded with undaunted courage and achieved success in extirpating the glory of Temple dweller tradition.

Besides being a courageous propagator of Jain religion, he was a well-known and pre-eminent literate person. Seventeen of his works which enhance the prestige of Jain religion even today are given below:

  1. Āgamika Vastu Vicāra Sāra
  2. Praśna Ṣaṣṭhi śataka
  3. Śṛṃgār Śataka
  4. Piṃḍa viśuddhi prakaraṇa
  5. Gaṇadhara Sārddha Śataka
  6. Congregation Paṭṭaka
  7. Pauṣadha vividha prakaraṇa
  8. Dharma Śikṣā
  9. Dharmopadeśamaya dvādaśamūlaka rūpa prakaraṇa
  10. Svapnāṣṭaka vicāra
  11. Praśnottara śataka
  12. Citra kāvya
  13. Ajita Śāṃti stavan
  14. Jina kalyāṇaka stotra
  15. Bhavāri-vāraṇa stotra
  16. Jinacaritramaya Jina stotra
  17. Mahāvīra caritramaya vīrastava

As already mentioned he departed to heaven in Samādhi after observing a 3-day fasting, on 11th day of dark half of lunar month Kārtika, in Vikram 1167, i.e V.N.1637.

The revolutionary ideologies of Jinavallabha Sūri left an everlasting impression on Jinadatta Sūri, his successor. He too following Jinavallabha Sūri's footsteps, spent his entire life incessantly trying to progress and enrich Jina order. In his endeavour, he endured greater difficulties than Jinavallabha Sūri, but never deviated even a little from his set path.


Title: Jain Legend: Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (4)
Acharya Hasti Mala
Shugan C. Jain
Publisher: Samyakjnana Pracaraka Mandala, Jaipur
Edition: 2011
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Ajita
  2. Body
  3. Brahmins
  4. Concentration
  5. Cooperation
  6. Deva
  7. Dharma
  8. Dhyāna
  9. Fasting
  10. Gaccha
  11. Gaṇadhara
  12. Guru
  13. Jain Philosophy
  14. Jain Temple
  15. Jina
  16. Jinadatta Sūri
  17. Jinendra
  18. Kalyāṇaka
  19. Lakh
  20. Mahāvīra
  21. Mantra
  22. Matha
  23. Maṭha
  24. Meditation
  25. Namaskāra Mantra
  26. Nimitta
  27. Nirvāṇa
  28. Pauṣadha
  29. Sanskrit
  30. Science
  31. Stavan
  32. Tīrthaṃkara
  33. Upādhyāyas
  34. Vṛtti
  35. Yatis
  36. samādhi
  37. Ācārya
  38. ācāryas
  39. Śataka
  40. śataka
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