Nov 26, 2007

Kashtha Sangha Bhattarakas of Gwalior and Agrawal Shravakas

by Dr. K. C. Jain

Kashtha Sangha - Of the twin Sanghas working in Northern India during
our period Kashtha has been traced from the village Kashtha, near
Delhi, on the bank of the Jamuna. The early record of the activities
of the Kashtha Sangha which originated from Mathura as a matter of
fact, is not available in regular sequence except in the existence
of metallic images of the Tomara period in, Gwalior in the eleventh
century. Madhava Sena, pattadhara of Pratap Sena is said to, have
achieved victory in debate at the court of Alauddin Khilji. Earliest
date of a Kashtha Bhattarak, made available, is that of Vimalasena,
the consecrator of two images of the fourteenth century A.D. traced
in Jaipur and Delhi dated 1357 and 1371 A.D. respectively. Names of
his successors on the patta, yielded by the Kashtha Sangha Pattavali,
are Dharmasena of Hissar.15 Bhavasena and Sahasrakirti until we come
to Gunakirti whose known date is V. 1460 = 1403 A.D. when Pandit
Khemal Khandelwal had presented a copy of the Uttarpurana of
Pushpadanta to Gunakirti.

Gunakirti (1403-24) : With Gunakirti; we are on sure grounds about
the activities of the Kashtha Sangha in Gwalior for reasons which
apply equally to Bhattaraks of all Sanghas during this period
including the Mula Sangha which also flourished simultaneously in
Gwalior with exemplary fraternity16 during a period when its Kashtha
counterpart of the Mathur gachchha had completely dominated the
religious life of the Jaina Samaj in the fifteenth century rule of
the patronizing Tomaras in the background of the religio-literary
achievements of the Poet-Laureate, Mahakavi Raidhu. With the
disintegration of the Delhi Sultanate, the provincial kingdoms,
independent in all respects, proved to be the best patrons of the
Jaina local culture as we have seen in the case of the neighbouring
Mandogarh ruled by the Turkish families of Ghoris and Khilchis.
Simultaneously with Malwa, the Jaina Samaj of Gwalior not only
cultivated their time-honoured idolatry on a grand extensive scale
but a prolific devotee of Saraswati in Gwalior like Raidhu could
leave behind single handed the Mandn-Sangram-Punja trinity of
Mandogarh in the realm of idolatrous literary production. The credit
for all this distinction and development in Gwalior goes to the
Kashthasanghi Bhataraks in general and to Gunakirti and his disciple
younger brother Yashahkirit in particular.

Gunakirti was distinguished equally well in learning, penance and
resulting influence that he wielded on the local Rajput rulers of his
times and their senior ministers and treasurers of the Jaina Agrawal
community as per the tributes paid to his qualities of head and heart
by Raidhu and the writer of the Kashtha Pattavali document.
Extraordinary penance, practised by him, had reduced him to an
emaciated being. The extensive carving of images, small and
colossal, accomplished with a vengeance during the reign of Dungar
Sinha (1425 = 59 A.D.) was originally inspired by Gunakirti and his

Yashahakirti (1429-53) : Yashahakirit happens to be a younger brother
and disciple of Bhattarak Gunakirti - a writer of good hand and
scholar of Prakrit, Sanskrit and Apabhransh in which last his four
works from his pen are extant. He has been extolled in the pattavali
and by the poet Raidhu who regarded him as his 'mantra guru'. He is
known as the transcriber of the decayed and ragged fragment of the
famous Harivansha Purana of Mahakavi Swayambhudeva which he copied
out with the permission of his guru, sitting in a temple in the
vicinity of Gwalior at Kumaranagar (now Khumharapura) on the bank of
the river Murar (1521 = 1464), completing the missing portion of the
manuscript with his own composition. This autograph transcript of
Yashahakirti is preserved in the Bhandarkar Oriental Research
Institute, Poona.17 Himself the author of the four Apabhransha works
extant today, Yashahakirti encouraged Radihu to compose many
Apabhransha Kavya and caused the Jaina Seths of Delhi and Hissar to
get chiselled the colossal images of Gwalior fort by skilled

After Yashahakirti Bh. Malayakirti (1453-68 A.D.) and Bh. Gunabhadra
(1468-83) occupied the Kashtha gaddi of Gwalior of which the latter
is the author of fifteen Apabhransha Kathas, preserved in the
Panchayati Mandir of the Khajur Masjid, Delhi but written in a
Gwalior temple. The pattadhar of Gunabhadra. Bh. Bhanukirti was also
the author of a Katha called Ravivrat Katha.

The pattavali of Gwalior gaddi referred to by Parmanand Shastri18
seems to be incomplete. After Bhanukirti the name of Kamalkirti has
been introduced followed by names of Bhattaraks which seem to be
those of the Hissar patta of the Kashtha Sangha including the name of
Kamala Kirti who was the 'diksha-guru' of Raidhu and who established
the Sonagiri patta of the Gwalior gaddi on which his disciple
Shubhachandra was seated as its first pattadhara (1449-73). In the
non-availability of further link in the personnel of the Bhattarakas
of the Kashtha Sangha we have to stop here and take up the activity
of the Kashtha Sangha which constitutes virtually the Golden Age of
the Jaina Digambara Church in Gwalior under the Tomara rulers
inspired by the Kashtha Bhattarakas and their Jaina Agrawal disciples
who dominated the Court of father and son viz. Dungar Singh (1425-59)
and Kirti Singh (1459-80) with the Poet-Laureate Raidhu as their
mouthpiece and spokesman, a centenarian author of as many as thirty
books, big and small of which two dozen are reported to be extant
today. Verify the advent of the Hisar-Firuza-based Jaina Agrawals who
functioned as the ministers and treasurers of the ruling family had
turned the Rajput State of Gwalior into a Digambara Jaina Centre par
excellence representing the culture of the Agrawal multi-millionner
shravakas as sponsored by them. It was a great achievement of the
Kashtha Sanghi Bhattaraks in which they excelled their their Mula
Sanghi counterparts of the Dhilli 'patta, the shravakas leaving
behind their Svetambara rivals of Mandogarh in the literary field
thanks to the single handed efforts of the long lived Mahakavi Raidhu
as also in the realm of image carving in general and the chiselling
of the calossal images of the Gwalior Fort in particular in which the
contribution of the two Tomara rulers between themselves has left a
record of constant activities spreading over a long period of thirty-
three years.

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