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Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (4): Maladhārī Ācārya Hemacandra Sūri

Published: 25.08.2016

Ācārya Maladhārī Hemacandra Sūri belonged to Vikram 12th century. He was a great propagator, distinguished author and influential ācārya, honoured by the kings. He wrote 'Jīva Samāsa Vṛtti' on 4th day of waxing phase in Caitra month, Monday in Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa. It was written during the regime of Siddharāja Jayasiṃha.

As a matter of fact, Ācārya Maladhārī Hemacandra Sūri originally belonged to Praśnavāhana lineage, Madhyama branch, Harṣapurīya gaccha. He was the chief disciple of Ācāryaśrī Maladhārī Abhayadeva Sūri. True to the adage, 'as the guru so the disciple' (Yathā Guruḥ Tathā Śiṣyah ̣), Ācārya Hemacandra Sūri also was never concerned about cleaning his body or his clothes. So he too like his guru was denominated as Maladhārī.

Ācārya Hemacandra Sūri had three chief disciples: Vijayasiṃha, Śrīcandra and Vibudhacandra out of them Śrīcandra was his successor Pontiff. Ācārya Śrīcandra Sūri, in the eulogy of his work 'Muni Suvrata Caritra' wrote about his guru Maladhārī Hemacandra Sūri and Dādā guru Maladhārī Abhayadeva Sūri. Hemacandra Sūri was an eminent and proficient commentator of religious sermons. He could memorise a voluminous scripture like 'Viyāha Paṇṇatti' (Bhagawatī Śataka) and could reproduce any part of it instantly and so effortlessly as if it were his own name. During his studies, along with the Canons, Bhāṣyas and scriptures he also studied grammar, law, literature etc. thoroughly. Commentary on Viśeṣāvaśyaka Bhāṣyas is the best and the most significant of his works. He had a very good influence on kings, ministers and all classes of the society. He took immense interest in endeavours for the progress and prosperity of Jina order. He was adept and gifted with the ability of exposition. As per the request of his loyal devotees he gave lectures continuously for 3 years on an incomprehensible work like 'Upamiti Bhava Prapaṃca Kathā'. Because of his pellucid explanation, 'Upamiti Bhava Prapaṃca Kathā' became very popular during his times. He also authored many books. Finally, perceiving his death, Hemacandra Sūri too, like his guru Abhayadeva Sūri took the vow of fast unto death (saṃlekhanā-saṃthārā). After 7 days of fasting he left the mortal body. King Siddharāja also participated in the funeral rites of Hemacandra Sūri.

Paurṇamīyaka gaccha

Candraprabha Sūri was the founder of Paurṇamīyaka gaccha. According to 'Tapāgaccha Paṭṭāvalī', Candraprabha Sūri, co-disciple of Municandra Sūri, 40th Pontiff of Mahāvīra, established Pūrṇimā gaccha in Vikram 1159. In fact, Paurṇamīyaka gaccha is the branch of Candragaccha.

Candraprabha Sūri was born in Vikram 1114. At the age of 10, i.e. in Vikram 1124, he took initiation. Jayasiṃha Sūri ordained him with the rank of ācārya in Vikram 1136. Immediately after holding the post of ācārya, he started promulgating Reformed path. He took up the cause of reformation in Vikram 1149. Hence he had to involve in spiritual debates with those who were in favour of fortnightly ritualised confession on Caturdaśī (14th day of lunar month) and installation or inauguration of idols by ascetics. He defeated many ācāryas in the discourses. Eventually at the age of 52, in Vikram 1166 he left the physical body for heavenly abode.

Birth Vikram 1114
Initiation into monkhood Vikram 1124
Attained ācārya status Vikram 1136
Performance of Kriyoddhāra Vikram 1149
Establishment of Pūrṇimā gaccha Vikram 1159
Heavenly Abode Vikram 1166

He never neglected the practice of fortnightly ritualised confession (pratikramaṇa) which was propounded in scriptures. He never installed any idol or statue and never failed to observe 'Māsakalpa' - not to stay more than a month at a place in any year. Candraprabha Sūri alone condemned the degenerated path, i.e. the fortnightly festivities on Caturdaśī and inauguration of Jina idols by monks etc. and strictly followed only the Reformed path.

Candraprabha Sūri, the founder and the first ācārya of Pūrṇimā Pakṣa, defeated many ācāryas of the above mentioned degenerated path. Out of them, he initiated 5 ācāryas into his sect.

Before Candraprabha Sūri became ācārya, barring a few instances, the idols were mostly installed by monks only. Till then, even the different gacchas of Suvihita tradition also probably followed the widely prevalent consecratory installation methods of Temple dweller tradition. In the consecratory installation method created by Ācāryaśrī Pādalipta Sūri, a married lady (whose husband is alive) should give a bath to the ācārya, who is going to install the idol, then make him wear expensive beautiful clothes, a gold bangle and a gold finger-ring. Hence the same method was prevalent in Suvihita tradition also. Candraprabha Sūri proving this method as inappropriate and totally against the code of conduct of monk and the scriptures, laid foundation for a new revolution, postulating that Jain Idol should in fact be installed by a lay devotee and not by a monk. This proposition of Candraprabha Sūri met with severe opposition. The number of devotees was considerably high, who observed fortnightly penitential ritualised confession on every Caturdaśī and annual ritualised confession on 4th day of the lunar fortnight. So Candraprabha Sūri had to face severe opposition not only from his tradition but also from Temple dwellers. Facing their wrath bravely and without abandoning his mission, he firmly preached and propagated the doctrine of Paurṇamīyaka gaccha. Until the establishment of his gaccha, Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa was under the predominant influence of Temple dwellers, enjoying patronage of kings as well. This also restricted him, for a long time from propagating his beliefs. He had to encounter strong antagonism of many well organised and powerful gacchas of Temple dwellers and Suvihita traditions.

In course of time many branches sprang out from Paurṇamīyaka gaccha. Their names are as follows:

  1. Pūrṇimā gaccha Ḍhanḍhariyā branch. It was considered as the chief branch. It was named after the third Ācārya Samudra Ghoṣa.
  2. Sārddha (Sādhu) Pūrṇimā gaccha – Actually this was a branch of Paurṇamīyaka gaccha; however, as time passed, it became independent with the name Sādhu–Pūrṇimā gaccha.
  3. Bhīmapallīya Pūrṇimā gaccha
  4. The fourth branch of Pūrṇimā gaccha. Influential ācāryas like Dharmaśekhara, Viśālarāja, Padmaśekhara and Jinaharṣa belonged to this gaccha.
  5. Pūrṇimā gaccha Vaṭapadrīya branch
  6. Pūrṇimā gaccha Borasiddhīya branch
  7. Pūrṇimā gaccha Bhṛgukacchīya branch
  8. Pūrṇimā gaccha Chāpariyā branch

Many scholarly author-ācāryas belong to Pūrṇimā gaccha. Even Paurṇamīyaka gaccha owes its origin to religious reform movement. The righteous śramaṇas, who cherished profound faith in Jain scriptures propounded by omniscient, launched religious reforms, time and again, to eradicate the non-scriptural code of conduct and dubious methods introduced into the Jain doctrine by Temple dwellers tradition when the latter was in its full glory. Paurṇamīyaka sect was the offshoot of such reform movements.

According to Paṭṭāvalī of Baḍagaccha, Candraprabha Sūri, the codisciple of Municandra Sūri, 40th Pontiff of Mahāvīra (according to Sūrināmāni, 41st Pontiff vehemently opposed the new tradition of installation of Jina idols by Sādhus. He declared that consecratory installation was not the activity of ascetics but was the duty of the laity. Ācārya s and followers of Baḍagaccha openly defied his conviction. So, Ācārya Candraprabha left Baḍagaccha and started to propagate his beliefs and ideology. Corroborating his stand he stated that, "consecratory installation is not the work of Jain monks, because it tantamount to material worship of the Lord, flowers and conscious water etc. are used in it which is totally against, the first vow of five great vows taken by the Jain monks, the vow of non-violence."

Within short time, he could mobilise many followers and established an independent branch called Paurṇamīyaka gaccha in Vikram 1159, based on the tenets to observe (fortnightly) ritualised confession only on Pūrṇimā, not to celebrate annual celebration (sāṃvatsarika parva) on Paṃcamī and not to inaugurate idols it should be done by laity etc.

Thus, it is clear that though ācārya Candraprabha started his religious reform movement in Vikram 1149 but officially established an independent gaccha, i.e. Paurṇamīyaka gaccha in Vikram 1159, 10 years after the commencement of his work Tapāgaccha Paṭṭāvalī elucidates the incidents which led to the establishment of Paurṇamīyaka gaccha in the following manner.

"Two scholarly ācāryas called Yaśobhadra Sūri and Nemicandra Sūri became 40th Pontiffs of Lord Mahāvīra's tradition. Nemicandra Sūri, perceiving Municandra, his fellow disciple and disciple of Upādhyāya Vinayacandra, as deserving for the post declared him as his successor Pontiff. Municandra Sūri studied logic under Vādi Vaitāla Śānti Sūri, who impressed by his student's quick wit taught him law too.

Śrī Candraprabha Sūri, Municandra Sūri, Deva Sūri and Śānti Sūri were the disciples of the same guru – Upādhyāya Vinaya Candra, who lived during the regime of Karṇa, the Cālukya king. Once a wealthy lay devotee called Śrīdhara decided to install Lord Jinendra's idol. He approached Ācārya Candraprabha, who was elder among those four monks and requested, "O Lord! I want to install the idol of Jinendra. So please give instructions to Municandra Sūrito install the idol."

No sooner had he listened to this request than Ācārya Candraprabha was consumed by jealousy towards Municandra. He contemplated thus, "I am senior than Municandra from the point of view of initiation, age etc. Even then ignoring me he wanted the inauguration to be performed by Municandra." He declared aloud, "O Intelligent votary! You better perform inauguration ceremony following the scriptural regulations. Nowhere in scriptures is it mentioned limitation by a monk. Actually inauguration comes under the category of worshipping material. So inauguration should be carried out by votary himself. That is the most appropriate thing to do, and not by a monk".

Thus Ācārya Candraprabha announced his doctrine in Vikram 1149 itself. But the lay devotee, ignoring Candraprabha, made inauguration ceremony performed by Municandra Sūri.

Thus he started reformist movement in Vikram 1149 itself prescribing the procedure of worship, i.e. Votaries should himself carry out installation of idols, and Monks were prohibited to perform installation ceremonies. Apart from these two, he also insisted that fortnightly ceremony should be celebrated only on Pūrṇimā instead of Caturdaśī. Highlighting these three issues he set up Paurṇamīyaka gaccha separately in Vikram 1159. Even Āgamika gaccha and Aṃcalagaccha too opposed installation of idols by monks.

Thus the above mentioned reforms and whether annual festival should be celebrated on 5th or 4th date – these issues became the bone of contention among the different sects and gacchas etc. This debate continued for centuries and is still continuing, in most parts of the country in one form or the other. Reformed temples and non-reformed temples; 'Āyatana' pure tenets and Anāyatana (disrespects) were the off-springs of debates regarding idol installation started in Vikram 12th century.

In the light of above mentioned facts it becomes clear that the reform movement started by Candraprabha Sūri in Vikram 1149, laid the foundation for reforms rather modifications in some of the conventions related to material based worship rampant in Temple dweller tradition.


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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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Bhava
  2. Body
  3. Candra
  4. Candraprabha
  5. Deva
  6. Dādā Guru
  7. Fasting
  8. Gaccha
  9. Guru
  10. Hemacandra
  11. Jina
  12. Jinendra
  13. Karṇa
  14. Mahāvīra
  15. Non-violence
  16. Omniscient
  17. Pakṣa
  18. Parva
  19. Pratikramaṇa
  20. Sādhu
  21. Sādhus
  22. Upādhyāya
  23. Vinaya
  24. Ācārya
  25. ācāryas
  26. Śataka
  27. Śānti
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