North Indian Digambara Jainism (13th-17th century): the age of the Bhattarakas

01 January 2012 → 31 December 2017
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • History
    • Linguistics
digambara Bhattarakas Sanskrit Asia Area studies History Religion
Project description

Jainism is a living Indian religious tradition, which rose around the sixth century BCE and
later developed into two branches: Digambarism and Śvetāmbarism. Central to Digambarism’s identity (dig-ambara, lit. "clothed in air") is the ideal of the naked, possessionless monk seeking salvation through meditation. Contrary to this ideal, from the thirteenth century onwards, the Digambara community was headed by Bhaārakas, clothed
monks, who held seats in temples and monasteries and adorned themselves with royal
paraphernalia. Considered significant promoters of Digambara culture, these Bhaārakas
helped shape many North Indian cosmopolitan centers. In the seventeenth century, Bhaārakas disappeared in North India following the rise of a reform movement, lead by lay
intellectuals (Pa>?itas), who protested against the Bhaārakas’ decadence and authority.
Despite their significance, the history and development of the Bhaāraka institution has never been thoroughly examined. My preliminary research of previously unstudied sources has
disclosed data which raise questions about present scholarly assumptions on the Bhaārakas.
This project aims to uncover the history of the Bhaāraka institution, evaluate their
importance to North Indian culture, and set the record straight about their demise, based on literary and inscriptional sources, through methodologies of textual criticism (lower and higher), genealogy and prosopography.