Religion:Jain Agamas (Śvētāmbara)

From HandWiki
Short description: Texts of Jainism based on the discourses of the tirthankara

Agamas are texts of Jainism based on the discourses of the tirthankara. The discourse delivered samavasarana (divine preaching hall) is called Śhrut Jnāna and comprises eleven angas and fourteen purvas.[1] The discourse is recorded by Ganadharas (chief disciples), and is composed of twelve angas (departments). It is generally represented by a tree with twelve branches.[2] This forms the basis of the Śvētāmbara Jaina Agamas or canons. These are believed to have originated from Rishabhanatha, the first tirthankara.[3]

The earliest versions of Jain Agamas known were composed in Ardhamagadhi Prakrit. Agama is a Sanskrit word which signifies the 'coming' of a body of doctrine by means of transmission through a lineage of authoritative teachers.[4]


Gautamasvami is said to have compiled the most sacred canonical scriptures comprising twelve parts, also referred to as eleven Angas and fourteen Pūrvas, since the twelfth Anga comprises the fourteen Pūrvas. These scriptures are said to have contained the most comprehensive and accurate description of every branch of learning that one needs to know.[5] The knowledge contained in these scriptures was transmitted orally by the teachers to their disciple saints

While some authors date the composition of Jain Agamas starting from the 6th century BCE,[6] noted Indologist Hermann Jacobi holds that the composition of the Jaina siddhanta would fall somewhere about the end of the 4th or the beginning of the 3rd century BC.[7] The general consensus amongst western scholars, such as Ian Whicher and David Carpenter, is that the earliest portions of Jain siddhanta were composed around the 4th or 3rd century BCE.[8][9] This may not be in agreement with Jain tradition according to which the agamic literature and the Purvas were passed from one heads of the order to his disciples for around 170 years after the nirvana of Mahavira. However, with time, it became difficult to keep the entire Jain literature committed to memory. In the 3rd century BCE, Chandragupta Maurya was the ruler of Magadha and Bhadrabahu, (the last knower of complete Jain agamas) was the head of Jain community. Predicting a 12 year long famine, Bhadrabahu went south to Karnataka with his adherents[10] and Sthulabhadra, another Jain monk remained behind. During this time the knowledge of the doctrine was getting lost. A council was formed at Pataliputra where eleven scriptures called Angas were compiled and the remnant of fourteen purvas were written down in 12th Anga, Ditthivaya by the adherents of Sthulbhadra. Due to the twelve years of famine it was extremely difficult for the Jain ascetics to preserve the entire canonical literature. The Purvas or the ancient texts were already forgotten and lost after the famine. According to Svetambara tradition, the agamas were collected on the basis of collective memory of the ascetics in the first council of Pataliputra under the stewardship of Sthulibhadra in around to 463–367 BC.[11]

In 453 or 466 CE that the Vallabhi council of the Svetambara Jain monks recompiled the Agamas and recorded them as written manuscripts under the leadership of Acharya Shraman Devardhigani along with other 500 Jain scholars. The existing Svetambara texts are based on the Vallabhi council texts. Digambaras reject the authority of the Agamas compiled at Valabhi.[12]


The knowledge of Shruta-Jnana, may be of things which are contained in the Angas (Limbs or sacred Jain books) or of things outside the Angas.[13]

The Agamas were composed of the following thirty-four texts:[12]

  • Twelve Angās
  • Six Chedasūtras (Texts relating to the conduct and behaviour of monks and nuns)
    • Ācāradaśāh
    • Brhatkalpa
    • Vyavahāra
    • Niśītha
    • Mahāniśītha
    • Jītakalpa
  • Four Mūlasūtras (Scriptures which provide a base in the earlier stages of the monkhood)
    • Daśavaikālika
    • Uttarādhyayana
    • Āvaśyaka
    • Pindaniryukyti
  • Ten Prakīrnaka sūtras (Texts on Independent or miscellaneous subjects)
    • Catuhśarana
    • Āturapratyākhyanā
    • Bhaktaparijñā
    • Samstāraka
    • Tandulavaicarika
    • Candravedhyāka
    • Devendrastava
    • Ganividyā
    • Mahāpratyākhyanā
    • Vīrastava
  • Two Cūlikasūtras (The scriptures which further enhance or decorate the meaning of Angas)
    • Nandī-sūtra
    • Anuyogadvāra-sūtra

Languages of Aagams

The Jain literature includes both religious texts and books on generally secular topics such as sciences, history, and grammar. The Jains have used several languages at different times and in different regions of India. The earliest versions of Jain Agamas known were written in Ardhamagadhi Prakrit language.[12][14][15][16]

Prakrit literature includes the Aagams, Aagam-tulya texts, and Siddhanta texts. The dialect used to compose many of these texts is referred to as Jain Prakrit. Composition in Prakrits ceased around the 10th century AD.


For Jains, their scriptures represent the literal words of Mahāvīra and the other fordmakers only to the extent that the Agama is a series of beginning-less, endless and fixed truths, a tradition without any origin, human or divine, which in this world age has been channelled through Sudharma, the last of Mahavira's disciples to survive.[17]


See also


  1. Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 135.
  2. Champat Rai Jain 1929, p. 136.
  3. Natubhai Shah 2004, p. 12.
  4. Dundas 2002, p. 60.
  5. Vijay K. Jain 2012, p. xi.
  6. Nagendra Kr. Singh. (2001). Encyclopedia of Jainism (Edited by Nagendra Kr. Singh). New Delhi: Anmol Publications. ISBN:81-261-0691-3 page 4308
  7. Jacobi, Hermann (1884). F. Max Müller. ed (in English). The Ācāranga Sūtra. Sacred Books of the East vol.22, Part 1. Oxford: The Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-7007-1538-X.  p. xliii
  8. Yoga: The Indian Tradition. Edited by Ian Whicher and David Carpenter. London: Routledgecurzon, 2003. ISBN:0-7007-1288-7 page 64
  9. C. Chappie (1993) Nonviolence to Animals, Earth and Self in Asian Traditions. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN:0-7914-1497-3 page 5
  10. Melton & Baumann 2010, p. 1553.
  11. Jacobi, Hermann (1884). F. Max Müller. ed (in English). The Ācāranga Sūtra. Sacred Books of the East vol.22, Part 1. Oxford: The Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-7007-1538-X.  p. xlii
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Upinder Singh 2016, p. 26.
  13. Jaini 1927, p. 12.
  14. Dundas 2002, p. 60-63.
  15. Cort 2010, pp. 100-101.
  16. Cort 1998, p. 6.
  17. Dundas 2002, p. 61.


Further reading

External links

  • Original Jain Scriptures (Shastras) with Translations into modern languages such as English, Hindi and Gujarati. Literature such as Kundkund Acharya's Samaysaar, Niyamsaar, Pravachansaar, Panchastikay, Ashtphaud and hundreds of others all in downloadable PDF format.
  • Jain Agams
  • Clay Sanskrit Library publishes classical Indian literature, including a number of works of Jain Literature, with facing-page text and translation. Also offers searchable corpus and downloadable materials.