Article: Vimala

Vimalanātha or Lord Vimala is the 13th 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.

Vimala 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. Vimala means ‘pure’ in Sanskrit. Hence it has an extremely positive connotation.

There are minor differences between the accounts and descriptions of this Jina among the two main Jain sects. According to Śvetāmbara biographies, Vimala 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.

Vimala is one of the Jinas whose life is contemporary with a triad of great figures:

Basic information

Though the endless knot – śrīvatsa – on his chest marks him as a Jina, this partial figure cannot be identified as a particular one of the 24 Jinas. Dating from the 3rd century, this statue has a serene half-smile while the ornate nimbus behind him emphas

Partial image of a Jina
Image by British Museum © Trustees of the British Museum

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 Vimalanātha or Lord Vimala is found on pages 97 to 120 of the 1968 edition of Guṇabhadra’s Uttarapurāṇa in Sanskrit and Hindi. The standard Śvetāmbara biography is on pages 92 to 109 in volume III of Johnson’s English translation of Hemacandra’s work, Tri-ṣaṣṭi-śalākā-puruṣa-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.


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. 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 ‘Vimala’, it is said in Śvetāmbara sources that his mother’s body and intellect were ‘pure’ – vimala – during her pregnancy.

Parents of Vimala



Śyāmā or Somā – Śvetāmbara
Jayaśyāmā – Digambara



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 Vimala

Last incarnation and birth place

Initiation and omniscience



Sahasrāmravana, outside Kāmpīlya

Mount Sammeta

Now a village, Kāmpilya used to be an important capital in ancient India. It is located in the district of Farrukabad in Uttar Pradesh, ten kilometres away from Kayamganj railway station. Its existence and connection with this Jina are recorded and praised in the Vividha-tīrtha-kalpa, a 14th-century work on sacred places by the Śvetāmbara monk Jinaprabha-sūri. He devotes section 25 of his collection to it. According to him, the place was known as ‘Five Auspicious Events’. He lists them as being:

  • last incarnation
  • birth
  • initiation
  • omniscience
  • kingship.

As both the Śvetāmbaras and the Digambaras associate the location with Vimalanātha or Lord Vimala, both sects have temples here dedicated to this Jina.

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 Vimala

Last incarnation





  • 12th day of the bright half of Vaiśākha – Śvetāmbara
  • 10th day of the dark half of Jyeṣṭha – Digambara
  • 3rd day of the bright half of Māgha – Śvetāmbara
  • 4th day of the bright half of Māgha – Digambara

4th day of the bright half of Māgha

  • 6th day of the bright half of Pauṣa – Śvetāmbara
  • 6th day of the bright half of Māgha – Digambara
  • 7th day of the dark half of Śuci – Śvetāmbara
  • 8th day of the dark half of Āṣāḍha – 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 Vimala


Total lifespan

60 bows

6,000,000 years

Monastic and lay communities

This manuscript painting shows the 'fourfold community' of Jains listening to a Jina. All four parts of the Jain community are crucial and interdependent. Lay men and lay women are shown on the top rows with monks and a nun below

Fourfold community
Image by Wellcome Trust Library © Wellcome Library, London

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.

Vimala’s fourfold community

Chief disciples



Lay men

Lay women

57 led by Mandara – Śvetāmbara
51 – Digambara


100,800 led by Padmaśrī – Digambara

208,000 led by Tripṛṣṭha



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 Vimala







Ṣaṇmukha – Śvetāmbara
Ṣaṇmukha or Pātāla – Digambara

Viditā – Śvetāmbara
Vairoṭī or Gāndhārī – Digambara

More details

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 Vimalanātha or Lord Vimala is named Devadattā. 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 Jaya in the town of Dhānyakaṭa.

Vimala wanders for two months as an ordinary ascetic and reaches omniscience under a tree of the jambū variety.

Events, stories and hymns

This detail from a manuscript painting shows a boar. This animal is an important symbol in Jain myth, as the emblem – lāñchana – of the 13th Jina, Vimalanatha or Lord Vimala. The boar is also the symbol of the Sanatkumāra heaven, the third paradise of 12.

Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The life of Vimalanātha or Lord Vimala is almost eventless. In the 9th-century Lives of the 54 Jain Great MenCauppaṇṇa-mahāpurisa-cariya – written in Prakrit by the Śvetāmbara monk Śīlānka, the chapter about the 13th Jina is hardly more than one page.

The 12th-century Sanskrit text Tri-ṣaṣṭi-śalākā-puruṣa-caritra, written by Hemacandra, has become the standard Śvetāmbara version of the Jinas’ lives. This text gives Vimala’s life more substance because the story of the triad of Bhadra, Svayambhū and Meraka is inserted within the general frame of the story and told at length. As usual with such triads, it is a tale of war and fighting. The two main enemies are the Vāsudeva Svayambhū and the Prati-vāsudeva Meraka, whose hatred continues from their previous births.

Vimala 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 Yaśovijaya in the 17th century. This example can be found among the manuscripts digitised on JAINpedia.

Temples and images

Vimalanātha or Lord Vimala is not one of the most popular Jinas. Yet he is known through a number of stone sculptures, such as:

  • a 9th-century figure in the Digambara style, preserved in the Sarnath Museum in Uttar Pradesh
  • sculptures in the western Indian temples of Vimala Vasahi at Mount Abu and at Kumbharia in Gujarat
  • figures at Shravana Belgola, Venur and Mudbidri in Karnataka, along with sculptures of other Jinas.

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


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

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

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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