Article: Śītala

Śītalanātha or Lord Śītala is the tenth of the 24 Jinas of the present cycle of time. The word Jina means ‘victor’ in Sanskrit. A Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma through practising extreme asceticism and teaches the way to achieve liberation. A Jina is also called a Tīrthaṃkara or ‘ford-maker’ in Sanskrit – that is, one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience.

Śītala is not an historical figure. He is not singled out for individual biographies in the Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures. Treated like most of the other Jinas, he is provided only with basic biographical information. This information is fairly standardised and remains identical throughout later sources except for occasional variations, or confusions, in numbers.

The meaning of his name is straightforward. Śītala is the Sanskrit term for ‘cool’ temperature. It has a positive connotation as it refers to the ideas of appeasement or serenity.

There are minor differences between the accounts and descriptions of this Jina among the two main Jain sects. According to Śvetāmbara biographies, Śītala married princesses and governed the earth as a king before leaving worldly life for monastic initiation. According to the sect of the Digambaras, none of the Jinas assumed the responsibilities of a householder or king before becoming monks.

Basic information

This 19th-century temple in Kolkata is a Śvetāmbara temple dedicated to the tenth Jina, Śītalanātha or Lord Śītala.

Śītalanātha Temple
Image by pm107uk – Paul © CC BY-NC 2.0

Each Jina has standard biographical information found in various sources. Among the earliest Śvetāmbara canonical sources that provide biodata of all the 24 Jinas is the final section of the fourth Aṅga, the Samavāyānga-sūtra and the Āvaśyaka-niryukti. Among the earliest Digambara sources is a cosmological work, the Tiloya-paṇṇatti.

The standard Digambara biography of Śītalanātha or Lord Śītala is found on pages 71 to 75 of the 1968 edition of Guṇabhadra’s Uttarapurāṇa in Sanskrit and Hindi. The standard Śvetāmbara biography is on pages 337 to 346 in volume II of Johnson’s English translation of Hemacandra’s work, Tri-ṣaṣṭi-śalākāpuruṣa-caritra.

The biographical data can be categorised in a standard manner, and includes numbers, which are significant in wider Indian culture. These standard details can also be used to identify individual Jinas in art, since they are usually depicted as stereotyped figures. Pictures or statues of Jinas present them in either the lotus position or the kāyotsarga pose. Both of these imply deep meditation.

Parents

The important feature of a Jina’s father is that he is a king, from the kṣatriyacaste.

A Jina’s mother has an important role because she gives birth to a future Jina, and in practice a Jina is often called ‘the son of X’. Another reason for her importance is that the names given to the various Jinas are said to originate either in pregnancy-whims or in a dream their mothers had, at least in Śvetāmbara sources. This dream is specific, and adds to the traditional auspicious dreams that foretell the birth of a child who will become a Jina.

In the case of ‘Śītala’, which means ‘cool’, Śvetāmbara sources state that this name was given to him for reasons that are not connected with dreams or fancies during pregnancy. Hemacandra relates that when he was in the womb his mother’s touch cooled his father’s hot body (Johnson’s translation of Hemacandra, Triṣaṣṭi-śalākāpuruṣacarita, volume II, page 340).

Parents of Śītala

Mother

Father

Nandā – Śvetāmbara
Sunandā – Digambara

Dṛḍharatha

Places

Seeing thousands of pilgrims each year, Mount Sammeta – Sammeta Śikhara – in north-eastern India is one of the holiest places for Jains. Auspicious events – kalyāṇakas – connected with many Jinas occurred here, including the liberation of 20 Jinas

Peaks of Mount Sammeta
Image by CaptVijay © public domain

Of the five auspicious events that mark a Jina’s life – kalyāṇakas – four take place on earth and are associated with a specific village or town in the sources. Archaeological evidence often helps to identify the old names with modern places. Even when it is lacking, there is a tendency to carry out this identification process. Associating auspicious events with certain locations makes these places sacred to Jains, so that they are potential or actual pilgrimage places and temple sites.

Places associated with Śītala

Last incarnation and birth place

Initiation and omniscience

Emancipation

Bhadrilapura

Sahasrāmravana

Mount Sammeta

Bhadrilapura is identified by some Jains as modern Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh (Shah 1987: 146). There is a shrine dedicated to Śītalanātha or Lord Śītala.

The existence of Bhadrila and its connection with this Jina are recorded in the Vividha-tīrtha-kalpa, a 14th-century work on sacred places by the Śvetāmbara monk Jinaprabha-sūri. He also recognises the town of Prayāga – modern Allahabad – in Uttar Pradesh, as a sacred place associated with the tenth Jina. These places appear in a list of those where a Jina was born, all of them praised as destinations for pilgrimage.

Dates and numbers

The five auspicious events that mark a Jina’s life – kalyāṇakas – are traditionally associated with a specific date. This is given according to the system of the Indian calendar:

  • month
  • fortnight
  • day in the fortnight.

Astrological considerations also play a role here and the texts normally mention the constellations when an auspicious event takes place.

Dates associated with Śītala

Last incarnation

Birth

Initiation

Omniscience

Emancipation

12th day of the dark half of Māgha

12th day of the dark half of Māgha

14th day of the dark half of Pauṣa

  • 2nd day of the black half of Vaiśākha – Śvetāmbara
  • 8th day of the bright half of Āśvina – Digambara

The dates associated with these events are potential or actual dates of commemoration. These may be marked in festivals, which determine the Jain religious calendar.

There may be variations in the dates in different sources, Śvetāmbara on one side, Digambara on the other. But there are also cases of differences within the same sectarian tradition.

There are also other numbers connected with the life of this Jina.

Other numbers associated with Śītala

Height

Total lifespan

90 bows

100,000 pūrvas

Monastic and lay communities

This miniature painting shows the tenth Jina Śītalanātha or Lord Śītala. This Śvetāmbara image depicts the Jina bedecked in jewellery and sitting on a throne under an ornate parasol. These royal symbols signal that he is of exalted status

Painting of Śītala
Image by Anishshah19 © public domain

A Jina is not an enlightened being who exists alone after reaching omniscience. After perfect knowledge comes general preachingsamavasaraṇa. This sermon, which is attended by all, is reported in the scriptures as resulting in large numbers of listeners being inspired. Many turn to religious life, becoming monks or nuns, while many others make the vows that lay peopleśrāvaka and śrāvikā – can follow in their everyday lives. Further, the Jina’s teachings are preserved and passed on by his chief disciples – the gaṇadharas. This is why a Jina is also called a Tīrthaṃkara, meaning ‘ford-maker’ or ‘founder of a community’.

Each Jina establishes a ‘fourfold community‘, led by the chief disciples. Made up of monks, nuns, lay men and lay women, the fourfold community follows the principles the Jina has set out in his preaching. How members follow the religious teachings vary according to whether they remain householders or take initiation into mendicancy. Individual figures relating to each Jina are thus important.

Śītala’s fourfold community

Chief disciples

Monks

Nuns

Lay men

Lay women

81, led by Ānanda – Śvetāmbara
81, led by Anagāra – Digambara

100,000

100,006 led by Suyaśā – Śvetāmbara
380,000 led by Dharaṇā – Digambara

200,000

300,000

Identification

All Jinas have individual emblemslāñchanas – and colours that help to identify them in artwork. They also have attendant deities known as yakṣa and yakṣī, who often appear flanking them in art.

Colour, symbol, yakṣa and yakṣī of Śītala

Colour

Emblem

Yakṣa

Yakṣī

gold

śrīvatsa – Śvetāmbara
svastika – Digambara

Brahmā

Aśokā – Śvetāmbara
Mānavī – Digambara

More details

This 16th-century manuscript painting shows a Jina in the lotus position of meditation. His jewellery and headdress show that he is a spiritual king. Jinas are always pictured in a very stylised way and this Jina has no identifying emblem.

A Jina meditating
Image by Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford © Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Besides the basic information, the sources provide more details on various topics. These are almost infinite and vary depending on the sources. Such information differs between Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras. Here are only a few instances of extra detail.

All of the princes who become Jinas are carried on a palanquin to the park where they perform the ritual gesture of initiation into monastic lifedīkṣā. The palanquin of Śītalanātha or Lord Śītala is named Candraprabhā. On this occasion, he is accompanied by numerous kings.

He performs a two-day fast. The next day he breaks his fast at the house of King Punarvasu in the town of Riṣṭapura.

Śītala wanders for three months as an ordinary ascetic and reaches omniscience under a fig tree.

Events, stories and hymns

The life of Śītalanātha or Lord Śītala is almost eventless. In the ninth-century Lives of the 54 Jain Great MenCauppaṇṇa-mahāpurisa-cariya – written in Prakrit by the Śvetāmbara monk Śīlānka, the chapter about the tenth Jina has only one page.

The 12th-century Sanskrit text Tri-ṣaṣṭi-śalākā-puruṣa-caritra, written by Hemacandra, is also short.

Śītala is mainly praised alongside other Jinas in hymns dedicated to the 24 Jinas. One instance is the devotional song dedicated to this Jina in the Gujarati set of hymns composed by Yaśo-vijaya in the 17th century. This example can be found among the manuscripts digitised on JAINpedia.

Temples and images

An idol of the tenth Jina Śītala in a temple in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, is kept secure behind a window. This image sits in the lotus pose of meditation under the golden parasol of royalty. The shrine is adorned with svastikas and other auspicious symbols.

Statue of Śītala
Image by Romana Klee © CC BY-SA 2.0

Śītalanātha or Lord Śītala is not one of the most popular Jinas. Yet he is known through a number of stone sculptures (Shah 1987: 145-146), such as:

  • those in cave 8 and 9 at Khandagiri, in Orissa
  • the standing image in the Bhaṇḍāra Basti at Shravana Belgola, where he is flanked by his yakṣa and yakṣī
  • those in the western Indian temples of Vimala Vasahiat Mount Abu and at Kumbharia in Gujarat with identifying inscriptions.

Metal images showing Śītala alone or with other Jinas are also available in temples and museums.

Reading

Jaina Temple Architecture in India: The Development of a Distinct Language in Space and Ritual
Julia A. B. Hegewald
Monographien zur Indischen Archäologie, Kunst und Philologie series; volume 19
Stiftung Ernst Waldschmidt, G+H Verlag; Berlin, Germany; 2009

Full details


Vividhatīrthakalpa
Jinaprabhasūri
edited by Muni Jinavijaya
Singhi Jain series; volume 10
Shantiniketan; Bombay, India; 1934

Full details


The Jain Saga: 63 Illustrious Persons of the Jain World, Brief History of Jainism
Hemacandra
translated by Helen M. Johnson
edited by Muni Samvegayashvijayji Maharaj
Acharya Shrimad Vijay Ramchandra Suriswarji Jain Pathshala; Ahmedabad, Gujarat and Mumbai, Maharashtra, India; 2009

Full details


Triṣaṣṭiśalākapuruṣacaritra: Lives of the Sixty-three Illustrious Persons
Hemacandra
translated by Helen M. Johnson
Gaekwad’s Oriental series; volume 3
Oriental Institute; Baroda, Gujarat, India; 1949

Full details


Historical Dictionary of Jainism
Kristi L. Wiley
Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies, and Movements series; series editor Jon Woronoff; volume 53
Scarecrow Press; Maryland, USA; 2004

Full details


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