It is sometimes said that Jainism is atheistic nastika. If nastika means an unbeliever in a life beyond, i.e., “one who does not believe in a surviving self,” then surely Jainism is not at all nastika. If nastika, means one who repudiates the authority of the Veda, then Jainism is certainly nastika. If nastika means one who does not believe in God, then a categorical answer is not possible to make, for although Jainism does not believe in a creative God, it does believe in godhead. Jainism deliberately rejects the conception of a supreme personality responsible for the creation of the world. The Nyaya philosopher says that the world is of the nature of an effect and that it must have been created by an intelligent agent, the agent being God (Ishwar); but the argument is conclusively controverted by the Jaina. (1) The cause of an effect need not necessarily be intelligent, and if God who is regarded as the cause of the creation be regarded as intelligent on the analogy of human causation, then he must be admitted to be imperfect like human beings. (2) Also God must be admitted to have a body, for we have never seen any intelligent creator without a body. (3) Even if it is admitted for the sake of argument that a bodiless God can create the world by his will and activity, did he take to creation through a personal whim and give high status to some and poverty to others quite arbitrarily? If the creation took place simply through his own nature, then what is the good of admitting him at all? Professor Dasgupta sums up the rest of the argument like this:
“Assuming for the sake of argument that God exists you could never justify the adjectives with which you wish to qualify him. Thus you say that he is eternal. But since he has no body, he must be of the nature of intelligence and will. But this nature must have changed in diverse forms for the production of diverse kinds of worldly, things which are of so varied a nature. If there were no change in his knowledge and will then there could not have been diverse kinds of creation and destruction. Destruction and creation cannot be the result of one unchangeable will and knowledge. Moreover, it is the character, of knowledge to change, if the word is used in the sense in which knowledge is applied to human beings, and surely we are not aware of any other kind of knowledge. You say that God is omniscient but it is difficult to suppose how he can have any knowledge at all, for as he has no organs he cannot have any perception, and since he cannot have any perception, he cannot have any inference either. If it is said that without the supposition of a God the variety of the world be inexplicable, this also is not true for this implication would only by justified if there were no other hypothesis left. But there are other suppositions also. Even without an omniscient God you could explain all things merely by the doctrine of moral order or the law of “Karma.”
Jainism rejects the conception of creative divinity as self-discrepant. Its belief is that there is no God and that the world was never created. In the view the Jaina is curiously enough in agreement with the Mimansaka, the upholder of strict orthodoxy. But as we mentioned above, although Jainism does not believe in a creative God, it does believe in godhead. Theistic systems are generally anthropomorphic, they bring down God to the level of man. Jainism, on the other hand, looks upon man himself as God when his inherent powers are fully in blossom. Every liberated soul is divine. God in Jaina theory being only another word for the soul at its best. In rejecting God who is so by his own right and with it also the belief that salvation may be attained through his mercy, Jainism recognizes that karma by itself and without the intervention of any divine power is adequate to explain the whole world of experience and thus impress on the individual his complete responsibility for what he does. “Jainism more than any other creed gives absolute religious independence and freedom to man. Nothing can intervene between the actions which we do and the fruits thereof. Once done they become our masters and must fruitify.”
God in Jainism is the ideal man, that is to say, the ideal of man; there is a way to achieve it and that is the Jaina ethical way. Others have striven in that way and achieved it in the past, and their example is a constant inspiration to us. “Such an ideal carries with it all necessary hope and encouragement, for what man has done, man can do.”
PROPAGATION OF THE DOCTRINE
The last thirty years o his life. Mahavira spent in the propagation of his doctrine. He traveled through many parts of India, preaching and converting people to his faith, stopping as before for the four months of the rainy season at one place. It is possible to reconstruct a complete account of his travels from the names of the places where he passed his rainy seasons, mentioned in the Jaina texts.
CONVERSATION OF THE GANADHARAS
The Lord attained the Kevala-jnana while sitting in meditation under a Sala tree in the field of the householder Samaga outside the town Jrmbhikagrama. Immediately on the attainment of Kevalajnan, there is a Jaina tradition, the Tirthankara holds a public conference in Samavsarana and preaches the doctrine, making converts. But Mahavira made no converts in his first public audience. This in Svetambara Jaina texts is regarded as having been a very “unusual occurrence.” Probably the reason was because the public was nor available at the spot to listen to his preaching. The Digambara tradition does not admit the holding of the first samavasarana in the field of Samaga immediately of the attainment of Kevala-jnana.
Knowing that a big Yajna had been organized by a Brahman Somilacarya at a place at some distance from Jrmbhikagrama, he moved on to that place and held his second public audience there. He explained his own doctrine of the, Karma, Asrava, Bandha, Nirjara and Moksa and then went on to say that “four things of paramount value are difficult to obtain here by a living being; human birth, instruction in the Law, belief in it and energy in self-control. The Universe is peopled by manifold creatures, who are in this samsara born in different families and castes for having done various actions. Sometimes they go to the world of gods, sometimes to the bells, sometimes they become Ksatriyas, or Candalas or Bukkasas, or worms and moths, or (insects called) Kunthu and ants. Thus living beings of sinful actions, who are born again and again in ever-recurring births, are not disgusted with the samsara, but they are like warriors (never tired of the battle of life). Living beings bewildered through the influence of their actions, distressed and suffering pains, undergo misery in non-human births. But by the cessation of Karman, perchance, living beings will reach in due time a pure state and be born as men. And though they be born with a human body it will be difficult for them to hear the Law, having heard which they will do penance's, combat their passions and abstain from killing living beings. And though, by chance, they may hear the Law, it will be difficult for them to believe in it; many who are shown the right way, stray from it. And though they have heard the Law and believe in it, it is difficult for them to fulfill it strenuously; many who approve of the religion, do not adopt it. Having been born as a man, having heard the law, believing in it, and fulfilling it strenuously, an ascetic should restrain and shake off sinfulness. The pious obtain purity, and the pure stand firmly in the Law; (the soul afterwards) reaches the highest Nirvana, being like unto a fire fed with ghee.” Mahavira’s fame as an omniscient seer began to spread fast and widely; and among others, eleven of the learned Brahman teachers, who had come with a band of disciples to participate in the Yajna, felt persuaded to visit him.
The visit and conversion of these eleven Brahman teachers has been described in some detail by the Jaina texts, both Svetambara and Digambara. Digambara accounts mention that Indrabhuti, who had become a very learned pandit and grown extremely vain of his learning, was once questioned by an old man and asked to explain the meaning of a verse. The verse had been repeated to him by Mahavira, who had immediately afterwards become so lost in meditation that he did not get an explanation of it from the saint. It contained references to kala and dravya, pancastikaya dravya and lesya not one of which terms did Gautama Indrabhuti really understand. Nor, being a true scholar, could he pretend to have a knowledge which he did not possess. So he sought our Mahavira for an explanation. In the presence of the great ascetic all his pride fell from him and he became a pupil of Mahavira along with his band of disciples and learned brothers. The Svetambara account ascribes the meeting between Mahavira and Gautama Indrabhuti and others to a denunciation on the part of Mahavira of the animal sacrifice at which they were assisting. They were naturally much enraged at his audacity and came forward to oppose him and expose the falseness of his teaching; but when they listened to Mahavira’s discourses and heard the gentle and thoughtful answers he gave to all questioners, they became convinced of the truth of his way, decided to cast in their lot with his and became his chief disciples or Ganadharas. Under these Ganadharas were placed all the monks of the Order.
“Why has it been said that the venerable Ascetic Mahavira had nine Ganas but eleven Ganadharas? The oldest monk of the Venerable Ascetic Mahavira was Indrabhuti of the gotra, who instructed five hundred sramanas; the middle aged monk was Agnibhuti of the Gautama gotra, who instructed five hundred sramanas; the youngest was Vayubhuti of the Gautama gotra, who instructed five hundred sramanas. The Sthavira Arya-Vyakta of the Bharadwaja gotra instructed five hundred sramanas; the Sthavira Arya-Sudharman of the Agnivaisyayana gotra instructed five hundred sramanas; the Sthavira Mandikaputra of the Vasisthagotra instructed two hundred and fifty sramanas; the Sthavira Mauryaputra of the Kasyapagotra instructed two hundred and fifty sramanas; the Sthavira Akampita of the Gautama gotra and Sthavira Acalabhrata of the Haritayana gotra, both Sthaviras instructed together three hundred sramanas each; the Sthaviras Metarya and Prabhasa, both of the Kaundinyagotra, instructed together three hundred sramanas each. Therefore it has been
said that the venerable Ascetic Mahavira had nine Ganas but eleven Ganadharas.”
These conversions gave to Mahavira a respectable community of 4,411 Sramanas. It is presumable that at this place not only Sramanas but also lay disciples joined Mahavira’s order; in Jaina texts there are references to the Lord having established a community of four orders i.e., monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen at the same time. We have already mentioned that unlike Parsva, who seems to have grouped all the laymen and similarly laywomen together, Mahavira made a clear distinction between ordinary laymen who merely expressed their sympathy with the Jaina doctrine and faith as Jainas and the body of laymen who took a special type of Diksa and who clearly undertook to observe the twelve lay vows. As Mrs. Stevenson has said, the genius for organization which Mahavira possessed is shown in nothing more clearly than in the formation of this and the order of laywomen Shramanro- pasika. These two organizations gave the Jaina a root in India that the Buddhists and, the other systems of Parivrajaka orders, never obtained, and that root firmly planted amongst the laity enabled Jainism to withstand the storm that drove Buddhism out of India.
INFLUENCE AT ROYAL COURTS-
Magadha : From the scene of Somilacarya’s Yajna Mahavira proceeded to Rajagrha, old capital of Magadha, where Srenika (Bimbisara) was the ruling monarch. As we have stated before, Mahavira was a Jnatrka from his father’s side, but his mother was sister to Cetake, the king of Vaisali, who belonged to the Licchavi sect of the Ksatriyas. Cetaka had seven daughters, out of whom one preferred to be a nun and the other six were married in one or the other royal family of Eastern India. Srenika, the ruler of Magadha, was the husband of the youngest of these princesses, Cellana, who became a lay follower of Mahavira, of the Sramanopasak variety. It is possible that there had been some connection between Magadha and the Jaina Church of the age previous to that of Mahavira. The Jaina text Uttaradhyayana mentions two early kings of Rajgrha named Samudravijaya and his son Jaya; of these Jaya, the eleventh cakravartin, “together with thousands of kings, renouncing the world, practiced self-restraint and reached perfection which has been taught by the Jinas.” But during the rule of the Saisunagas, right from the beginning there undoubtedly existed strong personal connections between Mahavira at Rajgrha, during the period of his preparation and after his attainment of the Kevala; and it is certain that at least during the later period he repaired to the city “not merely as an independent preacher but as one who had the State behind him to directly patronize and sympathize with him in his great mission.”
Videha : As with the rulers of Magadha, so with the other ruling houses in Eastern India, Mahavira had personal connections; and these connections must have inevitably helped him to gain followers for his order. From Rajgrha, where he gained numerous, both monks and laymen, including the princes Megha Kumar, Abhaya Kumar and others, the Lord proceeded towards Videha country. The capital of Videha was Mithila, which is identified by some scholars with the small town of Janakapura just within the Nepal border. The Videhans seem to have been an adventurous people, scattered as far as Vaisali itself. Mahavira’s mother, who was a princess of Vaisali, is spoken of in the Jaina texts as Videhadatta; and there is ample evidence to prove that Mahavira was closely connected with the Videhans. The Videhans has a living interest in the Jaina Church. Form Kalpa-sutra we know that Mahavira spent six rainy seasons at Mithila, the Metropolis of Videha,.
Vatsa : The capital of Vatsa, Kausambi, was also visited by Mahavira several times both during the period of preparation and after the attainment of the Kevala. The ruler of Kausambi was King Satanika, Mrgavati the third daughter of Cetaka was married to him. Both the King and the queen were devotees of Mahavira and followers of the Jaina order. The Jaina tradition also affirms that the king’s amatya (minister) and his wife were Jaina by faith. Satanika’s son and successor, Udayana, was a great king who made some conquests and contracted matrimonial alliance with the royal houses of Avanti, Anga and Magadha. The Jaina literature claims him as a follower of the Jaina order.
Avanti. Canda Pradyota the ruler of Avanti (Capital, Ujjain) had married the fourth daughter of Cetaka, by name Shiva. Pradyota was called ‘Canda” or fierce, for he was temperamentally very excitable and was also the possessor of a large army. There is a story which says that he was fond of Mrgavati, the elder sister of wife, who had been already married to King Satanika of Vatsa, that he asked for Queen Mrgavati from Satanika, and that on the refusal of the latter he declared a war against him. Satanika appears to have died before actual hostilities could start; and when Mahavira visited Kausambi a little later, he induced Canada Pradyota to give up his feeling of revenge and to allow Mrgavati to become a nun. Thereupon Satanika’s son, Udayana, became the king of Kausambi. Between this Udayana and Pradyota’s daughter, the peerless Vasavadatta, there developed a long romance, round which a large cycle of Sanskrit stories has been written. Udayana, as we mentioned above, is claimed by Jaina tradition as having had respect and sympathy for the Jaina church; but Pradyota also had undeniable sympathy for the Jaina faith. There is a mention that along with Mrgavati of Kausambi , eight of his own queens, Angaravati and others, with his permission, joined the order.
Campa, capital of Anga. The ruler of Campa, which was always recognized to be a great center of Jainism, was Dadhivahana, who married Padmavati, the second daughter of Cetaka. Dadhivahana’s daughter, Candana or Candanabala, was the first woman who embraced Jainism shortly after Mahavira had attained the Kevala. Jaina literature described in great detail the story of Candana. During the invasion of Campa by King Satanika of Kausambi, Candana was caught hold of by one of the enemy’s army and was sold in Kausambi to a banker named Dhanavaha. After a short time the banker’s wife Mula, felt jealous of her and having cut her hair, put her into custody. In this condition she served a part of her food to Mahavira, and finally joined his ranks as a nun. She headed the order of nuns in Mahavira’s sangha. Campa seems to have been situated at a distance of a few miles in the neighborhood of modern Bhagalpur. Its importance as a center of Jaina influence is evident from the fact that Mahavira spent three of his rainy seasons in Campa. After Mahavira’s death Campa was visited by Sudharman, the head of the Jaina Sangha, at the time of Kunika or Ajatasatru. Ajatasatru seems to have transferred his capital from Rajgrha to Campa of the death of his father; and Jaina tradition mentions that the King “came bare-footed to see the Ganadhara outside the city where he had taken his adobe,” Sudharman’s successor, Jambu, and Jambu’s successor, Svayambhava, lived at the city where he composed the Dasavaikalikasutra, containing in ten lectures all the essence of the sacred doctrines of Jainism.
LICCHAVIS AND OTHER REPUBLICAN CLANS
From this brief account of the several ruling houses of Eastern India, it will be clear that Mahavira obtained good support everywhere. His personal connections with the various rulers reached through his mother Trisala, the Licchavi Princess, and his maternal uncle Cetaka, the king of Vaisali. The Licchavis were recognized all round as high born Ksatriyas, with whom the highest born princes of Eastern India, and not only Eastern India but also as far west as Sindhu-Sauvira, considered it an honor to enter into matrimonial alliance. We have already seen that out of the seven daughters of Cetaka, Padmavati, Mrgavati, Shiva and Cellana were married respectively to the lords of Anga, Vatsa, Avanti and Magadha. The eldest Prabhavati was married to King Udayana of Vitabhaya, which has been identified at various places in the Jaina literature with a town of Sindhu-Sauvira desa. As to what part of the country is Sindhu-Sauvira-desa, whether it is “the province of Badari or Eder, at the head of the Gulf of Cambay” ) Cunningham), or “to the north of Kathiawar and along the Gulf of Cutch” (Rhys Davids) or “the
province of Multan and Jahravar” (Alberuni), or “in Sindhu or Sindh” (Satrunjaya-Mahatmya), historians are not quite in agreement about; but according to Jaina sources Udayana was the overlord of three hundred and sixty three other towns. Through his relationship Licchavis, Mahavira’s religion was greatly helped in the course of its spread over Sauvira, Anga, Vatsa, Avanti, Videha and Magadha, all of which were the most powerful kingdoms of the time. It is significant that Buddhist books do not mention Cetaka at all, though they tell us about the constitutional government of Vaisali used to be a stronghold of Jainism, while being looked upon by the Buddhists as a seminary of heresies and dissent.”
The Licchavis were naturally favorable to Mahavira’s order. There are many stray references in the Jaina Sutras which confirm the fact that the Licchavis were followers of the Jaina faith. The capital of the Licchavis formed one of the headquarters of the Jaina community during the days of Mahavira. Out of forty-two rainy seasons spent as a missionary during his later ascetic life, twelve were passed at Vaisali. Like the Licchavis, the Vajji, who in fact cannot be strictly differentiated from the Licchavis, came under the influence of Lord Mahavira, for Vaisali seems to have been regarded also as the metropolis of the entire Vajji confederacy. These republics in Eastern India had a type of Government which was senatorial, like the government in the city-state of Rome. The Jnatrkas, whose most noble scion was Mahavira, also formed one of the most important clans included in the Vajjian confederacy. The several clans of the Vajjian confederacy must have been naturally affected by the doctrines of the Nataputta. The canonical literature of his bitter antagonists, the Buddhists, does not fail to make this admission, and preached his faith of unbounded charity to all living beings, the number of his followers among the Licchavis appears to have been large and some men of the highest position appear to have been among them.”
The Mallakins also seen to have cherished a feeling of respect and sympathy for the great prophet and his doctrines. Both the Buddhist and the Jaina texts agree that the country of the Mallas formed one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas. At the time of Mahavira the Mallas appear to have been divided into two confederacies one with its capital Pava and the other at Kusinara the two places being respectively the cities where the Jaina prophet Mahavira and the Buddha reached their final liberation. With the Mallas, Jainism seems to have established almost a good connections as with the Licchavis. According to Dr. B.C. Law, we get ample proof for this even from the Buddhist literature,
Geographically Kosala roughly corresponds to modern dern Oudh, and it seems to have contained three great cities namely Ayodhya, Saketa and Sravasti- the first two sometimes being often supposed to be one and the same. When one remembers that Sravasti was visited by Mahavira more than once and that he was always well received there one cannot but admit that the Kosalas also came under the influence of Mahavira.
MAP OF MAHAVIRA’S TRAVELS:
From this analysis of the various kingdoms and republics of Eastern India, it would appear that Mahavira’s reformed church gained followers practically all over the vast stretches of the country. The references in the Jaina texts enable us to draw a complete map of Lord Mahavira’s travels and to recount the names of some of his prominent followers during the period of his propagation of the faith. The following is the list of the places where he stayed for the successive rainy seasons after the attainment of Kevala-Jnana.
It has been stated above that Mahavira attained the Kevala while sitting in meditation in a field outside the town Jrmbhikagrama and that he made his first converts and established the Sangha at a Samavasarana near the place of Somilacarya’s Yajna. From there the Lord proceeded to Rajgrha, the capital of Magadha, where he initiated the princes Meghakumar and Nandisena into the order of monks, gained numerous lay followers including Sulsa, Abhayakumar, and the King Srenika (Bimbisara) himself. The first rainy season he spent at Rajgrha.
After the rains were over, the Lord turned towards Videha, and passing through many villages ultimately reached Kundagrama, his birth place. The town of Kundagrama seems to have been divided into two settlements, a Ksatriyakunda where Mahavira’s father had lived and a Brahmanakund where lived Devananda, Mahavira’s Brahman foster-mother and her husband by name Rsabhadatta. Mahavira made his stay in Brahmanakund and there converted to his order the Brahman Rsabhadatta and his wife Devananda. It was on this occasion that on the sight of Mahavira Devananda had that sight of Mahavira Devananda had that sudden material emotion to which reference has been made earlier in this book. Another important convert at Kundagrama was the Ksatriya Jamali who joined the order with his five hundred companions. This Jamali later on organized a schism in the Jaina church. From Kundagrama Mahavira proceeded to Vaisali, where he passed the second rainy season.
On the completion of the 2nd rainy season the Lord proceeded towards the Vatsa country. The ruler of Vatsa, Satanika, had died and the kingdom was administered by the widow, Queen Mrgavati, on behalf of her minor son Udayana. At Kausambi, the capital of Vatsa, Mahavira held a public audience and converted to his order the Queen Mrgavati and an aunt of the King, by name Jayanti. From there, he proceeded further to Kosala, where at Sravasti a number of sympathizers and followers were gained for the Jaina faith. The rainy season was passed at Vanijyagrama in Videha, to which Mahavira returned from Kosala. At Vanijyagrama in Videha, to which Mahavira returned from Kosala. At Vanijyagrama, the merchant Ananda and his wife Sivananda accepted the Sramanopasak vows. Ananda became one of the loyal and highly trusted followers of the Lord.
From Vanijyagrama Mahavira repaired at the end of the rainy season to Magadha, where after roaming about the kingdom for several moths he settled down for the rainy Season at Rajgrha. Among the new converts this year there were the merchants Dhanya and Salibhadra.
Campa was the next place, which the Lord visited on the completion of the rainy season. Here he converted the prince Mahacandra Kumar. From Campa he proceeded to the province of Sindhu Sauvira, where Udayana was ruling over Vitabhaya. It has been already explained how this Udayana was related to Mahavira through his wife Prabhavati. The journey to Sindhu Sauvira was very difficult, involving travel in desert areas and hard country; but Mahavira went to the place in order to give to King Udayana Diksa as a ‘Sramanopasaka’. Returning from Sindhu-Sauvira, he spent the rainy season at Vanijyagrama.
After the rainy season, a visit was paid to Benares and certain other places in the kingdom of Kasi, where numerous followers were gained for the Jaina church. For the rainy season, the Lord returned to Rajgrha. At Rajgrha he spent a highly fruitful season King Srenika had proclaimed that he would personally undertake to feed and otherwise overlook the dependents of anybody who desired to join Mahavira’s order of monks. As a result of this proclamation, thousands of people joined the order and Mahavira stayed on at Rajgrha giving Diksa to the comers for sometime even after the finishing of the rainy season. Enraged, probably at the success of Lord Mahavira’s ministry, Gosala Mankhaliputra, of whom mention has been made already, began his public criticism of Mahavira’s faith, although unsuccessfully, in the course of an argument with Ardraka, a monk of Mahavira’s order. The rainy season was spent by Mahavira again at Rajgrha.
Having spent two rainy seasons at Rajgrha, Mahavira proceeded towards Vatsa country, visiting on the way Alabhiya in the kingdom of Kasi. At Kausambi he converted queen Mrgavati and several queens of Canda Pradyota. From here he proceeded towards Videha, and spent the rainy season at Vaisali.
On the completion of the rainy season he went to Mithila, thence to Kakandi, Sravasti, and the republics of the west, and made numerous conversations. The rainy season was passed at Vanijyagrama.
From here Mahavira proceeded after the rainy season to Magadha, where there was the famous meeting between his followers and the monks of Prasva’s order. As a result of discussion of the several points of difference between the practices of the two orders, Mahavira’s leadership of the Jaina community was accepted by all. The rainy season was spent at Rajgrha.
From Rajgrha, Mahavira repaired at the end of the season to the Western kingdoms, but returned to Vanijyagrama for spending the next rainy season.
The next year was marked by the occurrence of the first schism in the community, when Jamali separated from the Lord with a small band of his companions. Mahavira himself repaired to Kausambi, then to Rajgrha, where he spent the next rainy season; then after the end of the rains to Campa, where after the death of Srenika, his son, Kunik, had transferred his capital. From Campa he turned towards Mithila and spent the next rainy season there.
It was when Mahavira proceeded to Sravasti after the rainy season that he had his famous encounter with Gosala, who after separating from Mahavira had continued to hang about the city claiming among his followers the potter-woman Halahala and the minstrel Ayampul. Gosala had of course, claimed for himself the status of a Tirthankara, so that arose the anomaly of two Tirthankaras staying at the same town. When questioned about it, Mahavira denounced Gosala and stated in a public audience that he was not a Tirthankara nor a true believer, whereupon got enraged, and visited Mahavira for a religious discussion. The discussion was, of course, inconclusive, but two disciples of Mahavira who intervened were burnt up by his fiery power. Gosala attempted to burn Mahavira himself, but was unsuccessful. The after-effects of Gosala’s fiery attack were, however, felt by Mahavira and he suffered great pain later on. The rainy season was passed at Mithila.
From Mithila, Mahavira went towards Kosala-Pancala, visiting Sravasti, Ahicchatra, Hastinapur and other towns, and returned for the next rainy season to Vanijyagrama. The last few rainy seasons were spent at Rajgrha, Vanijyagrama, Vaisali, Vaisali again, Rajgrha Nalanda, Vaisali, Mithila, Rajgrha, Nalanda, Mithila, Mithila again, Rajgrha, until at the age of 72 he attained Nirvana on Kartika Amavasya at Pavapuri.
Mahavira’s Community of Followers:
Mahavira succeeded in attracting a large number of disciples, both men and women, and organized his community into four orders. Chief among his followers were fourteen thousand monks, at the head of whom stood the eleven Ganadharas, and thirty-six thousand nuns, at the head of whom was Candana. These included “three hundred sages who knew the fourteen Purvas, who though not Jinas came very near them, thirteen hundred sages who were possessed of the Avadhi-knowledge and superior qualities; seven hundred Kevalins; seven hundred who could transform themselves; five hundred sages of mighty intellect; four hundred professors who were never vanquished in disputes; seven hundred male and fourteen hundred female disciples who reached perfection; and eight hundred sages in their last birth,” During Mahavira’s own lifetime nine of the Ganadharas attained Kevalajnana. Two survived him, Gautama and Sudharma, and as Gautama attained Kevala-jnana just as Mahavira breathed his last and obtained Nirvana, Sudharma became the head of the Order. From Sudharma it is possible to trace a whole of succession of the leaders of the order right up to the present time.
Mahavira’s third order consisted of laymen. They were householders who did not actually renounce the world but who could and did keep his rules in a modified form, while their alms supported the professed monks. As Mrs. Stevenson says, the genius for organization which Mahavira possessed is shown in nothing more clearly than in the formation of this and the order of laywomen. The laymen are said to have numbered during Mahavira’s lifetime one hundred and fifty-nine thousand men; according to the Digambara version the number given is one hundred thousand; the laywomen numbered three hundred and fifty-eight thousands.
In one of the well-known Jaina Agamas, Uvasagadasao, the names of ten of the more important lay followers of Mahavira are given. Vanijyagrama, Campa, Baranasi, Alabhiya (or Alai), Kampilyapura, Polasapura, Rajagrha and Sravasti are mentioned as the important ones along the places that were visited by the Venerable Ascetic Mahavira. The town of Campa had near it the shrine of Purnabhadra, Vanijyagrama, the shrine called Dutipalasa;
Baranasi the Kosthaka shrine; Alabhiya, the garden called Sankhavana; Kampilyapura, the garden Sahasramravana: Polaspura, a garden known by the name of Sahasramravana; Rajgrha, a shrine called Gunasil; and Sravasti, the Moshthaka shrine. In Vanijyagrama the great lay disciples of Mahavira and the lay supporters of his order were Ananda and his wife Sivananda; in Campa; Kamadeva and his wife Bhadra; in Baranasi. Culanipiya and his wife Syama, and Suradeva and his wife Dhanya; in Alabhiya, Cullasataka and his wife Bahula; in Kampilyapura, Kundakolita and his wife Pusya; in Polasapura, Sakadalaputra and his wife Agnimltra; in Rajgrha, Mahasataka; and in Sravasti, Nandinipriya and his wife Asvini, and Salatipiya and his wife Phalaguni. These lay disciples are all mentioned as persons of opulence and influence, and as those noted for their piety and devotion. Ananda of Vanijyagrama is described as householder who “possessed a treasure of four kror measures of gold deposited in a safe place, a capital of four kror measures of gold put out on interest, a well stocked estate of the value of four kror measures of gold, and four herds, each herd consisting of ten thousand herds of cattle.” He “was a person whom many kings and princes and merchants made it a point to refer to, and to consult, on many affairs and matters needing advice,............in short, on all sorts of business. He was also the main pillar, as it were, of his own family, their authority, support, mainstay and guide. In short, he was a cause of prosperity to whatever business he was concerned with.” Even the Buddhist texts bear testimony to numerous rich householders being among he lay disciples of Mahavira.
Mahavira attained nirvana at Pava in 527 B.C. at the age of 72. The Licchavis and Mallas were two peoples to whom the rise of Mahavira was an object of national pride, and accordingly, it is said in the Kalpasutra that when Mahavira died, the eighteen confederate kings of Kasi and Kosala, the nine Mallakis and the nine Licchavis, instituted an illumination saying ‘Since the light of intelligence is gone, let us make an illumination of material matter!’