A Bhattaraka is the head of traditional Jain institution. They are responsible for training of scholars, maintenance of libraries, managing the endowments, presiding over the installation ceremonies and running of Jain institutions.
The term Bhattaraka (meaning Lord) was used for Acharya Virasena, Bhadrabahu etc. It was in the past used for leaders of other religious orders (Saiva, Buddhist, Saura), but currently it is applied for heads for traditional Digambara Jain institutions. Unlike a full monk, a Bhattaraka wears an orange robe, stays in a single place and is involved in management of assets of the institution.
भट्टारक सोहि जाण भ्रष्टाचर निवारे,
धर्म प्रकाशे दोइ भविक जीव बहु तारे|
सकल शस्त्र संपूर्ण सूरिमंत्र आराधे, करे गच्छ उद्धार स्वात्मकार्य बहु साधे|
सौम्यमूर्ति शोभाकरण क्षमाधरण गंभीरमति, भट्टारक सोहि जाणिये कहत ज्ञानसागर यति ||९||
Thus a Bhattaraka illuminates both dharmas, is an expert in all scriptures, has the authority to recite the suri-mantra (to consecrate an image). He is also responsible for preserving the order. He is the head of the six limbs of the sangh: shravaka, shravika, pandita (bramha), muni (vrati), aryika and Bhattaraka.
Once Bhattarakas were common all over India , but at the present time, they have survived only in south India. Famous bhattaraka seats include:
- Humbaj seat of Balatkara Gana-sarasvati gachchha. The Bhattaraka is named Devendrakirti. This is the original seat of the order which once had branches all north India from Idar in Gujarat to Sammet Sikhar in Jharkhand.
- Shravanabelagola seat of Desiya gana-Pustaka gachchha. The Bhattaraka is named Charukirti. This is where the siddhanta-granthas were once preserved in the library, before they were moved to Mudabidri
- Mudabidri also seat of Desiyagana-Pustaka gachchha. The Bhattaraka is named Charukirti. The original manuscripts of the siddhanta-granthas like Dhavala are preserved here.
- Nandani also seat of Sena gana-Pushakara gachchha. The Bhattaraka is named Jinasena. Acharya Shantisagar belonged to this tradition.
- Jinakanchi bhattaraka is named Lakshmisena who heads the Jains of Tamil Nadu.
Bhattaraka seats existed at the following places until recent centuries:
- North India: Delhi, Hissar, Mathura
- Rajasthan: Jaipur, Nagaur, Ajmer, Chittor, Pratapgarh, Dungarpur, Narsimhapur, Keshariaji, Mahavirji
- Madhya Pradesh: Gwalior, Sonagiri, Ater, Chanderi, Sironj, Garhakota, Panagar
- Gujarat: Idar, Sagwada, Surat, Bhanpur, Sojitra, Kalol, Jerhat
- Maharashtra: Karanja, Nagpur, latur, Nanded, Kolhapur, Nandani
- Karnataka: Malakhed, Shravanabelagola, Mudabidri, Karkal, Humach, Swadi, Narasimharajpur
- Tamil Nadu: Melasittamur (Jinakanchi)
and at several other locations.
Many Bhattaraka seats in North India existed until the beginning of the 20th century.
Theories of Origin
There are several theories of how the modern Bhattarka institution originated.
In its modern form, with the Bhattaraka as a clothed monk, its founding is often attributed to Prabhachandra of Mula Sangh, Balatkara Gana Saraswati gachchha, who travelled from Pattana (Gujarat) to Delhi, where he was anointed in a ceremony at the first Bhattaraka of Delhi. He was invited by the ruler of Delhi, who is identified as Muhammad Bin Tughlaq.
However Shrutasagar, in his commentary on Shatprabhrita, mentioned Prabhachandra's predecessor Vasantakirti has having adopted body coverage first. The lineage linking Vasabtakirti and Prabhachandra is given as following (see Balatkara Gana):
- Vasantakirti at Mandapadurg
- Vishalakirti (or Prakhyatkirti), Ajmer
- Shubhakirti, Ajmer
- Dharmachandra, Ajmer
- Ratnakirti, Ajmer
- Prabhachandra, who visited Delhi
- ↑ Vilas Adinath Sangave, Facets of Jainology: Selected Research Papers, 2001, Popular Prakashan. p. 133-143
- ↑ Vidyadhar Johrapurkar, Jain sangh ke chhah anga, Anekanta, September 1964.
- ↑ Vidaydgar Johrapurkar, Bhattaraka Sampradaya, Solapur, 1958
- ↑ Facets of Jainology: Selected Research Papers on Jain Society, Religion and Culture, by Vilas Adinath Sangave, Published 2001
- ↑ Jain Dharma Ka Maulik Itihas, Gajsimha Rathod, Jaipur