Śvētāmbara Jain bhagwan ,23rd tirthankar, parashwanath, southern india. Note crown and inlaid eyes, that characterize Śvētāmbara Tirthankara images.

The Śvētāmbara (/ʃwɛˈtʌmbərə/; Sanskrit: श्वेतांबर or श्वेतपट śvētapaṭa; also spelled Svetambar, Shvetambara, Shvetambar, Swetambar or Shwetambar) is one of the two main branches of Jainism, the other being the Digambara. Śvētāmbara "white-clad" is a term describing its ascetics' practice of wearing white clothes, which sets it apart from the Digambara "sky-clad" Jainas, whose ascetic practitioners go naked. Śvētāmbaras, unlike Digambaras, do not believe that ascetics must practice nudity.[1]

Śvētāmbaras also believe that women are able to obtain moksha. Śvētāmbaras maintain that the 19th Tirthankara, Māllīnātha, was a woman.


The Śvētāmbara tradition follows the lineage of Sthulabhadra. The Kalpa Sūtra mentions some of the lineages in ancient times. The Śvētāmbara monastic orders are branches of the Vrahada Order, which was founded in 937 CE. The most prominent among the classical orders today are the Kharatara (founded 1024 CE), the Tapa Gaccha (founded 1228 CE) and the Tristutik Gaccha.

A major dispute was initiated by Lonka Shaha, who started a movement opposed to idol worship in 1476. The Sthānakavāsī and Terapanth orders are branches of this movement.

Major reforms by Vijayananda Suri of the Tapa Order in 1880 led a movement to restore orders of wandering monks, which brought about the near-extinction of the Yati institutions. Rajendrasuri restored the śramaṇa organization of the Tristutik Gaccha.

Some Śvētāmbara monks and nuns cover their mouth with a white cloth or muhapatti to practise ahimsa even when they talk. By doing so they minimize the possibility of inhaling small organisms.


Tirth Pat on display at Prince of Wales museum, Mumbai

The Śvētāmbara sect was divided into different orders. First some saints left Śvētāmbara sect to form the Lonka sect in 1474,[citation needed], which eventually led to forming of the Sthānakavāsī in 1653. In 1760, thirteen Saints started their own order called the Terapanth.[2]

So now at present there are three orders in the Śvētāmbara sect: Murtipujaka (Deravasi), Sthānakavāsī and Terapanth. The Sthānakavāsī believe in praying to Saints rather than to an idol in a temple, the same philosophy is carried on by the Terapanth. Other difference between Deravasi Jains and Sthānakavāsī Jains is that the saints (monks) of Deravasi do not wear a muhapatti near their mouth to cover it, they hold it in hand. Sthānakavāsī and Terapanthi saints wear muhapatti held in place by white cotton thread tied to their ears. They do not keep Idols in their Jain temples but pray and bow to the Pancha Mahamantar. The Murtipujakas keep idols of the tīrthaṅkaras at their temples and worship them.

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