Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (4): Kharataragaccha

Published: 02.09.2016

An objective analysis of the above mentioned data reveals the fact that amongst the number of gacchas existing in Śvetāmbara tradition currently the "Kharā" gaccha is the most ancient one which came into vogue in the second half of the 11th Vikram Century. It was founded by Varddhamāna Sūri and gained popularity due to his famous disciple Jineśwara Sūri and in course of time came to be known as "Kharataragaccha. Apart from being ancient, Kharataragaccha made interminable efforts to bring back some principles of Jain doctrine in their fundamental form as mentioned in the scriptures and to augment Jain doctrine and philosophy. Thus it made the most significant and historical contribution which is and will be written in golden letters in the history of Jainism.

In Tapāgaccha Paṭṭāvalī and Pravacana Parīkṣā authored by Dharma Sāgaragaṇi, the origin of Kharataragaccha is dated back to Vikram 1204. Apart from having a light touch of conventional prejudices, it appears that these authors had some fallacy about gaccha.

The persons who bred contempt against renowned Kharataragaccha, vilifying its contribution, called it with ugly names like 'auṣṭrika gaccha', 'cāmuṃḍika gaccha', etc. mentioning that it was founded by (Dādā) Jinadatta Sūri in Vikram 1204 and came to be known as 'auṣṭrika gaccha', 'cāmuṃḍika gaccha' and Kharataragaccha from the times of material-based monk Jinadatta Sūri itself. However according to the authentic evidences the real fact is that Jineśwara Sūri, the disciple of Varddhamāna Sūri defeated Temple dwellers in a spiritual discourse in Vikram 1080, in Pāṭaṇa, in the court of Durlabhasena of Cālukya dynasty. Impressed by his scripture-based logic and beliefs and the way he beat his opponents with his eloquence, King Durlabhasena, time and again praising Varddhamāna Sūri, Jineśwara Sūri etc. said, "They are authentic and guileless (Kharā)." From then onwards imitating the king, the people also called the disciples and monks of Varddhamāna Sūri as 'Kharā' (authentic and guileless). Thus the group of monks and nuns, who were genuine, pure, guileless and proved themselves to be as perfect and pure as gold, had been addressed by the people as 'Kharā'; and the name stayed. Hence the word is not a title but a commendatory word.

With the passage of time, the words of praise and appreciation, 'Kharā (authentic) and Atikharā' (most authentic) uttered by Durlabhasena apropos of the gaccha founded by Varddhamāna Sūri, gave it, the permanent name 'Kharataragaccha'.

Upādhyāya Dharma Sāgara gaṇi of Tapāgaccha, the author of Tapāgaccha Paṭṭāvalī of Vikram 17th century tried his best to prove that Durlabharāja did not bestow the title upon Jineśwara Sūri or Śramaṇas of their gaccha. His version was that because of his ferocity and head-strong temperament, people addressed Jinadatta Sūri as 'Kharatara' (crude). So in course of time, the gaccha of Jinadatta Sūri came to be known as Kharatara gaccha.

According to Jinapālopādhyāya - the author of Gurvāvalī, Jineśwara Sūri during the spiritual discourse with Temple dwellers, vanquished them and proved them to be heretics & practitioners of asceticism against scriptures, and themselves as followers of scripture-based path of spiritual purification. Thus, Varddhamāna Sūri prevailed over the Temple dwellers by breaking open their invulnerable fort in Pāṭaṇa. As a result, Vasativāsa tradition which had disappeared from Pāṭaṇa for centuries, once again laid its auspicious foundation there.

Prabhācandra Sūri, the author of Prabhāvaka Caritra, presented an exact opposite version from that of Jinapālopādhyāya, regarding the re-entry of Vasativāsīs into Paṭṭaṇa. He clearly states that no spiritual discourse or debate ever took place between Vasativāsī Jineśwara Sūri and the Temple dwellers in the court of Durlabharāja. Instead King Durlabharāja humbly requested the Temple dwellers to allow the virtuous Vasativāsīs, who came all the way from distant places to stay in Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa. Consenting to the king's request, the Temple dwellers allowed VarddhamānaSūri, et al to stay in Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa.

Ācārya Prabhācandra Sūri authored the book Prabhāvaka Caritra in Vikram 1334, i.e 29 years after Jinapālopādhyāya, scripted the text 'Gurvāvalī'. In the 'eulogy' of his book, he clearly mentioned 'in the history of the preceding ācāryas elucidated in my work, Most of the ācāryas belonged to different traditions. Because of the differences in tradition or due to lack of complete information about all the traditions, there are bound to be some mistakes in my presentation. So I request the scholar-readers to research and reform my mistakes.'

In such a situation, no scholar will be prepared to accept whatever he wrote in Prabhāvaka Caritra as the final and authentic evidence, about how the Vasativāsa tradition was brought into prevalence by Jineśwara Sūri in Aṇahillapura Paṭṭaṇa. In spite of thorough research, not even single evidence is available in complete Jain literature in support of the narration of Prabhācandra Sūri. In contrast, apart from the Gurvāvalī (Kharatara gaccha) written 29 years before Prabhāvaka Caritra, Jinadatta Sūri, in his 'Gaṇadhara Sārddha Śataka' clearly described that Jineśwara Sūri after subduing Temple dwellers in a spiritual discourse, established the Vasativāsa tradition in Gujarat.

With an objective analysis of the above mentioned facts it can be derived that Jineśwara Sūri after subduing the Temple dwellers in a spiritual discourse, established Vasativāsa, which had been eclipsed for centuries in Gujarat. Secondly Jineśwara Sūri won the debate only because he firmly believed only those scriptures written by Gaṇadharas and Knowers of 14 prior Canons, as authentic. Barring these, he did not consider Bhāṣyas, Ṭīkās, Chūrṇis and Vṛttis – the five limbs of five Aṃgas, as authentic.

This only illustrates the fact that the tradition of Varddhamāna Sūri, which was later named as Kharatara gaccha, firmly believed that only the scriptures were authentic. As time passed, be it due to the association with or the influence of Temple dwellers, even in Suvihita gacchas, the convention of considering Niryuktis, Bhāṣyas, Vṛttis and Cūrṇis as being as authentic as scriptures had sneaked in. Gradually, religious reformist tradition of Varddhamāna Sūri which brought in revolutionary changes in the religion was also swayed by its influence and the succeeding ācāryas adopted scriptural-opposed beliefs and rituals mimicking Temple dwellers.

To cite an example, an incident related to Ācārya Jinamaheśvara Sūri, 70th successor pontiff of Kharatara gaccha, extracted from 'Paṭṭāvalī Parāga Saṃgraha' written by the historian Kalyāṇa Vijaya is given below.


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. Caritra
  2. Dharma
  3. Gaccha
  4. Gujarat
  5. Jainism
  6. Jinadatta Sūri
  7. Kharatara Gaccha
  8. Upādhyāya
  9. Ācārya
  10. ācāryas
  11. Śvetāmbara
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