Bhagavati-sutra (Viyaha-pannatti)

by K. C. Lalwani | 1973 | 185,989 words

The English translation of the Bhagavati-sutra which is the fifth Jaina Agama (canonical literature). It is a large encyclopedic work in the form of a dialogue where Mahavira replies to various question. The present form of the Sutra dates to the fifth century A.D. Abhayadeva Suri wrote a vritti (commentary) on the Bhagavati in A.D. 1071. In his J...

Publisher’s note

The fifth Jaina Āgama, popularly called the Bhagavatī Sūtra, is an encyclopaedic work produced by the traditional Jaina scholarship which, because of its colossalness, is also called Viāhapaṇṇatti. Other titles by which the work is known are Bhagavatī-Viyāhapaṇṇatti, Vivāhapaṇṇatti, or simply Paṇṇattī. The title Bhagavatī, which perhaps arose later, is originally an adjective meaning ‘holy’, which is an honorific title to signify its importance. In the main, the text contains questions and answers, Mahāvīra replying to the questions of hiis chief disciple Indrabhūti, but it also contains material in the form of dialogue-legend (itihāsa-saṃvāda). The Sūtra gives a very good account of the life and work of Mahāvīra, whose dissertations on saṃsāra and karma, on niyati-vāda, and many others, are worth noticing. The Fifteenth Book of the Sūtra contains legendary or semi-historical material relating to Mahāvīra’s life and his relation with some of his predecessors and contemporaries. The text makes frequent references and cross-references to the Paṇṇavaṇā, the Jīvābhigama, the Vvavāyiya, the Rāyāpasenaijja, the Nandi and the Āyāradasāo Sūtras.

The Sūtra in its present form has come down to us from Vīra Samvat 980 (approximately A. D. 553) according to the followers of Skandila, and from Vīra Samvat 893 (A. D. 466) according to the followers of Nāgārjuna when the fourth and the last Jaina Council met at Valabhi in Saurastra under the Chairmanship of Devardhigaṇi Kṣamāśramaṇa. At this Council, not only this Sūtra, but all the Canonical texts that have come down to us in later period took shape. Abhayadeva Suri wrote a Vṛtti on the Bhagavatī Sūtra in A. D. 1071. In his Jiṇa-ratna-koṣa, H. D. Velankar mentions about 10 more commentaries on this Sūtra.

Because of its enormity and complexity, even in the monastic order, the reading of the Bhagavatī Sūtra is usually permitted to those who are well-advanced in age and learning. In recent years, efforts have been made to bring it within easy reach of a wider section of readers, and versions in Hindi, some exhaustive and others in summary form, have made their appearance. Besides, some studies based on portions of this Sūtra have appeared in English language. This is a very timely move in the right direction. It indicates that an ever-increasing number of scholars are getting interested and involved in working on this Sūtra. But so far, the complete text of the Bhagavatī Sūtra has not been printed through the medium of English.

So when it came to our knowledge that Professor K. C. Lalwani who has already done some translation work on the Jaina Canons is working on the Bhagavatī Sūtra, we considered it worth our while to undertake its publication from our Research Centre. As both the parties readily agreed, the work of its production and publication in book form has been taken up by us to fit in with the very auspicious occasion of the 2500th nirvāṇa anniversary of Bhagavān Māhāvīra late next year. In view of the enormity of the work, however, we have decided to put up the first volume comprising the first two Śatakas of the original a little ahead of the anniversary date, but on no less an auspicious day than that of Mahāvīra Jayantī of the year 1973. Meanwhile the work of translation of the remaining Śatakas of the Sūtra and seeing it through the Press will continue apace.

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