Accordion Menu Using jQuery

The Digambara Sects

The Digambara sect, in recent centuries, has been divided into the following major sub-sects:

  1. Beespantha
  2. Terapantha
  3. Taranpantha or Samaiyapantha

The followers of Bisapantha support the Dharma-gurus, that is, religious authorities known as Bhattarakas who are also the heads of Jaina Mathas, that is. religious monasteries. The Bisapanthas, in their temples, worship the idols of Tirthankaras and also the idols of Ksetrapala, Padmavati and other deities. They worship these idols with saffron, flowers, fruits, sweets, scented 'agara-battis', i.e., incense sticks, etc. While performing these worships. the Bisapanthis sit on the ground and do not stand. They perform Arati, i.e., waving of lights over the idol, in the temple even at night and distribute prasada, i.e., sweet things offered to the idols. The Bisapantha, according to some, is the original form of the Digambara sect and today practically all Digambara Jainas from Maharashtra, Karnataka and South India and a large number of Digambara Jainas from Rajasthan and Gujarat are the followers of Bisapantha.

Terapantha arose in North India in the year 1683 of the Vikram Era as a revolt against the domination and conduct of the Bhattarakas. i.e. religious authorities, of the Digambara Jainas. As a result in this sub-sect, the institution of Bhattarakas lost respect in North India, however in South India the Bhattarakas continue to play an importent role. In their temples, the Terapanthis install the idols of Tirthankaras and not of Ksetrapala, Padmavati and other deities. Further. they worship the idols not with flowers, fruits and other green vegetables (known as sachitta things), but with sacred rice called 'Aksata', cloves, sandal, almonds, dry coconuts, dates, etc. As a rule they do not perform Arah or distribute Prasada in their temples. Again, while worshipping they stand and do not sit.
From these differences with the Bisapanthis it is clear that the Terapanthis appear to be reformers. They are opposed to various religious practices. As according to them. These are not real Jaina practices. The Terapantha had performed a valuable task of rescuing the Digambaras from the clutches of wayward Bhattarakas and hence the Terapanthis occupy a peculiar position in the Digambara Jaina community. The Terapanthis are more numerous in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

It is pertinent to note that even though the name Terapantha sub-sect appears both among the Digambara and the Svetambara sects. Still the two Terapanthis are entirely different from each other. While the Digambara Terapanthis believe in nudity and idol-worship, the Svetambara Terapanthis are quite opposed to both.

The sub-sect Taranapantha is known after its founder Tarana-Svami or Tarana-tarana-Svami (1448-1515 A.D.). This sub-sect is also called Samaiyapantha because its followers worship Sarnaya, i.e., sacred books and not the idols. Tarana-Svami died at Malharagarh, in former Gwalior State in Madhya Pradesh, and this is the central place of pilgrimage of Taranapanthis.
The Taranapanthis strongly refute idolatry but they have their own temples in which they keep their sacred books for worship. They do not offer articles like fruits and flowers at the time of worship. Besides the sacred books of the Digambaras, they also worship the fourteen sacred books written by their founder Tarana-Svami. Further, Taranapanthis give more importance to spiritual values and the study of sacred literature. That is why we find a complete absence of outward religious practices among them. Moreover, Tarana-Svami; was firmly against the caste-distinctions and in fact threw open the doors of his sub-sect even to Muslims and low-caste people.

There are three main traits of the Taranapanthis:

  1. The aversion to idol worship
  2. The absence of outward religious practices
  3. The ban on caste distinctions

They were evolved as a revolt against the religious beliefs and practices prevailing in the Digambara Jain sect, and it appears that Tarana-Swami might have formulated these principles under the direct influence of Islamic doctrines and the teachings of Lonkashaha, the founder of the non-idolatrous Sthanakvasi sub-sect of the Swetambara sect.
The Taranapanthis are few in number and they are mostly confined to Bundelkhand, Malwa area of Madhya Pradesh and Khandesh area of Maharashtra.