Digambara Jain: Origin, Beliefs & Sub-Sects

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Digambara Jain

Digambara Jain is an ancient Indian sect within the broader Jain religion. It is one of the two main sects of Jainism, the other being Svetambara Jain. Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that is based on the teachings of twenty-four spiritual teachers known as Tirthankaras. Digambara Jainism is known for its strict ascetic practices and its belief in nudism as a means of renunciation. Founded on the principles of non-violence, truth and self-discipline, Digambara Jains follow a distinctive path in their spiritual journey. In this blog, we delve into the beliefs, rituals, and traditions of Digambara Jain and learn about their subsects too.

What was the Origin of Digambara Jain?

Digambara Jainism traces its origins back to the teachings of Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara, who is believed to have lived in the 5th century BCE. According to Jain tradition, Lord Mahavira was born into a royal family in what is now modern-day Bihar, India. At the age of thirty, he renounced his worldly possessions and set out on a spiritual journey in search of eternal truth and liberation.

The Digambara sect of Jainism believes in rigorous asceticism as the path to salvation. The term “Digambara” translates to “sky-clad” or “naked,” reflecting the sect’s belief in shedding all material possessions, including clothing, as a means of renunciation.

Gautam Buddha was a Contemporary of Lord Mahavira.

But they never met each other.

How is Digambara Jain different from Svetambara Jain?

There are many differences as Digambara Jains come from the lines of Bhadrabahu who came from South after the famine. Some of them are – 

  1. Attire:
  • Digambara Jains do not wear any clothes, considering nakedness as essential for spiritual liberation.
  • However, male monks wear minimal white robes known as Mendicant Robes in public to comply with legal requirements.
  1. Beliefs and Practices – 
  • Digambara Jains believe in males monks who can achieve spiritual enlightenment.
  • They practice nudism as a symbol of renunciation and complete detachment from material possessions.
  • Digambara monks do not wear any clothes and carry a peacock feather broom to sweep the ground before them, avoiding harm to any living being.

Also Read – Jain Councils: History, List and Reasons

  1. Scriptural Canon –
  • Digambaras primarily follow the Jain scriptures known as the Twelve Angas, which are written in the Ardha Magadhi language.
  • Digambara Jains believe that all the original scriptures, including the 12 Angas and 34 Vardhaman Purti, were lost during a famine and cannot be revived.
  • They accept the authority of 14 Purvas as their main source of teachings.
  1. Worship and Rituals-
  • Digambaras focus primarily on internal meditation, often performed in solitary seclusion.
  • Their rituals are simpler compared to the Svetambaras, involving practices like fasting, meditation, and prayers.

Lord Mahavira was the Last and 24th Tirthankara of Jainism

Different Sub-Sects of Digambara Jain

Within the Digambara Jain tradition, there are several sub-sects that have evolved over time, each with its own unique practices and beliefs. There are major and minor sub-sects, they are – 

  • Major Sub- Sect 
  1. Terapantha
  2. Bisapantha
  3. Taranapantha or Samaiyapantha
  • Minor Sub-Sect
  1. Gumanapantha
  2. Totapantha
Digambar Jain Caves at Ellora

The Sub-Sects Explained

The characteristics of the Major Sub-Sects and Minor Sub-Sects are explained in detail. Let’s know them together.

The Terapantha

  • This sect evolved as a revolt against the conduct and domination of the Bhattarakas, who were the religious authorities.
  • The followers of this sect do not worship any other idols other than the idols of Tirthankaras
  • They worship the idols with Sacred Rice called Akshat, cloves, almonds, dates, sandal, etc. They believe that “Sacchita” things like flowers, or green vegetables and fruits should not be used.
  • This sect also do not perform Arti and neither distributes Prasada. 

Also Read – Gautam Buddha: Real Name, Life and Teachings

The Bisapantha

  • This sect believed in Dharma Gurus and supported the Bhattarakas who were the heads of Jaina Mathas.
  • They worshipped idols of Tirthankaras along with other idos of Ksetrapala and Padmavati and others.
  • The followers worshipped the idols with saffron, flowers, incense sticks, fruits, etc. 
  •  This sect performs Arti and distributes Prasada. They believe in standing while worshipping.

The Taranapantha or Samaiyapantha

  • The followers of this sect worship Sarnaya i.e sacred books and are against idolatry.
  • They do not perform any Arti pr worship through various things instead believe in gaining knowledge through the sacred books.
  • They worship the fourteen sacred books or Sarnaya which is written by their founder Tarana-Svami.
  • This sect is against caste distinctions and opened its doors to other casts as well.
Sri Lal Digambar Jain Mandir

The Gumanapantha

  • This sect is a minor sect and was started by Pandit Gumani Rama or Gumani Rai.
  • They only visit the temples and do not light up diyas or give any offerings.
  • The followers of this sect believe in purity of conduct and self-discipline that is pure or sacred traditions of Jainas.
  • The sub-sect originated in the 18th century AD in Rajasthan.

The Totapantha

  • This sect evolved as a result of differences that existed between Bisapantha and Terapantha sub-sects.
  • They believe in some rituals and doctrines of Bisapantha and some of Terapantha.
  • There was a compromise between Bisa means Twenty and Tera means Thirteen and thus they came up with Sadhesolah or Tota means sixteen and a half.

The sub-sects of Digambara Jain however believe in the common ideals of Ahimsa i. e. non-violence and the path that is shown by Lord Mahavira.


What is a Digambara in Jainism?

Digambara is one of the two main sects of Jainism, an Indian religion. It is known for its male ascetics who do not wear any clothes and renounce all possessions. They follow the principle of nonviolence and use a peacock-feather duster to gently remove any insects from their path, in order to avoid causing harm to them.

What are the rules of Digambar Jain?

Digambar Sadhus adhere to a set of 28 fundamental attributes that include the observance of five crucial vows, namely ahimsa (non-violence), truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy, and non-possession. They are permitted to keep only three possessions with them: a feather whisk, a water gourd and scripture.

Who was the founder of the Digambara?

Bhadrabahu I is believed to be the founder of Diamabara. He was a revered Jain religious figure and monk in ancient India who is closely linked with one of Jainism’s main branches, the Digambara sect. He passed away in 298 BCE.

Is Jain a Hindu religion?

Although Jainism and Hinduism have differences in their theological beliefs, such as the concept of the universe’s creation, they still have several similarities in their teachings and practices.

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