Kundakunda Ãchãrya: His Names and His Era

March, 2024 by Dhruti Ghiya Rathi
Various names assigned to the highly venerated Ãchãrya Kundakunda have always been intriguing to a reader, as to the cause of associating so many names to one person? Could there be a possibility that we are mixing personalities? What other references are available to corroborate the traditional view? In Prakrit, he is known as KondaKundai. Konda, per some authors is his place of origin and hence the name Kunda (flower) from Konda. Earlier scholars list his other names as Padmãnandi, Vakragriva, Griddhra Pinchchha and Elãchãraya. Widely accepted to be from the southern India, evidence from the south should be given more importance. In Karnataka, Jainism is credited with the development of its literature and language. Jain inscriptions found at Sravan Belgolã, Karnataka are written in old Kannada, pronounced as Hãle Gannadã.

Prakrit author Kundakunda of 84 Pãhuds (gifts), propounded the knowledge of Shrutakevali and Jinendra. Unfortunately, only a few are currently available. His Samaysãr contains the path to liberation for a monk and is the most  revered text for Digambars.

Multiple Names of Kundakunda

Digambar Pattãvali C mentions the above five names of Kundakunda in a footnote based on an unidentified source, possibly from Nagaur. Jaysen Ãchãrya (12th c.CE), Shrutsagar, Chakravarti, and most scholars reiterate these names. However, this view is negated by several inscriptions at Sravan Belgolã as interpreted by Rice (ASI Mysore). It is interesting to read the content therein, of which two are contemporary to Jaysen’s period as shown below:

Inscription at Chandragiri, Sravan Belgolã (BCE) with two flowers, likely lotuses (Padma), stating the arrival of Bhadrabãhu on account of famine.

Inscription 40 (12th c CE)

Praise Tirthankaras ending with Mahâvira. Praise of Gautama, in whose line arose the Sruta-kêvali Bhaddrabáhu. His disciple was Chandra-Gupta, whose glory was such that his gana of munis was worshipped by the forest deities.

In whose line arose Padmanandi, which was his first name, but called Kondakunda the first famous munisvara.

Then there was Umâsvâti, who had the name âchâryya following the word Griddhra-pinchchh : there was none equal to him in his time in discerning the padirtha.

His disciple was Balâka-pinchchha, in whose line arose Samanta-bhadra, a lion among disputants.

After him was Dêvanandi, which was his first name….,  from his two feet being worshipped by the deities, named Pújyapâda.

Inscription 43 (12th c CE)

…..arose Padmanandi, who had for his second name the word âchâryya following after Kondakunda. (Then) there was Umâsviti munisvara, who had the name âchârya following after the word Griddhra-pinchchha: in that line no other was equal to him in his time in understanding the padartha His disciple was Balüka pinchchha,

Inscription 105

there was born for the merit of the world, the yatindra Kundkaunda. It was in order to show that both within and without he could not be assailed by rajas (passion, or dust), methinks, that the yati moved about leaving a space of four inches between himself and the earth under his feet.

The honourable Umâsvâti, he was the yatisa who published the Tatvârttha Sutra, which is a guide to the worthy in following the path that leads to mukti.

After him was his disciple Griddhrapinchha, the second name to whom was Balâkapinchchachla, the jewels of whose discourse were as ornaments to the lady mukti.

Gunabhadra Who by his two disciples Pushpadanta and Bhutabali was made illustrious, as if the tree of plenty had put forth two new shoots to give fruit to the world.

Arhadbali, he formed from the Mula-Sangha of the Kondakundânvaya four divisions of Sangha made, in order to lessen (the chance of) enmity and other (such evils) springing  among them in course of time.

Inscription 108

…..Bhadrabãhu, though the last among the munis who were S’ruta kêvalis here below, by his exposition of all the meaning of the sruti was the first among the learned.

His disciple was Chandragupta, a chief among the gods in the possession of all goodness, the greatness of whose penance caused his exalted fame to be spread into other worlds. From the mine of whose race came forth yatis, a celebrated garland of faultless jewels; among whom, as a central jewel, shone the munindra Kundalunda, of powerful discipline.

Then arose Umâsvati muni in that pure race, ….the wise call him châri, after his name Griddhra-pinchchha.

Thus, these inscriptions differentiate between Kundakunda (Padmanani ) from Griddhrapinchchha (Umaswati). Chakravarti cites Mantra Lakshan shloka where Elãchãrya is mentioned as a leader of the Drãvid Sangha as stated below:

Dakshina desa malaya Hemagrame munir mahatmasit,

Elacaryo namna dravilaganadhiso dhiman

Considering Malay as Tamil Nadu and Hemgram as Ponnur, and associating footprints of Elãchãrya at Nilgiri hills, Chakravati infers Elãchãrya to be Kundakunda. But Indranandi states Dravid Sangha arose later. The segregations in Pattavali C are listed as Swetambar, Yapaniya, Kekipiccha, Svetvasa,Niapiccha and Drãvid.1 Devsen Ãchãrya’s (933 CE) Darshansãr (28) indicates that the Drãvid Sangha formed in 469 CE (VS 526) in the south in Madurai and was formed by Vajranandi (24), disciple of Pujyapãda. Pujyapãda from Belgolã inscriptions is the second name of Samant Bhadra. This clearly indicates Drãvid Sangha and Elãchãrya to be later than 1st c.BCE. M B Patil associates Padmaprabh, known as Padmanandi Bhattarak after his dikshã from  Ãchãrya Jinchandra of Pengondã Sangha. However, no references of such a sangha or Padmaprabh is found at Sravan Belgolã or in Pattãvalis.

Sravan Belgolã inscriptions as seen earlier confirm that Kundakunda was a second name given to Padmanandi and it was often followed by the epithet Ãchãrya. A N Upadhye and H L Jain concur Padmanandi as the name of Kundakunda.

Guru of Kundakunda

Pattãvalis state Kundakunda as a disciple of Jinchandra. Jaysen Ãchãrya (12th c. CE) considers him to be the disciple of Kumãrnandi SiddhãntDev which is doubtful per Hemchandra Jain. Shrutsagar (15th c.CE) considers Jinachandrasuri Bhattarak2, as the Guru of a Padmanandi Bhattarak. Bhattarak tradition started in the 14th c.CE in Gujarat, where Bhattarak title was conferred on a Padmanandi. (Pattãvali D,B,P Hoernle:1892).3

Multiple views regarding Kundakunda’s Guru, Gana, his origin and birth exists. It thus becomes imperative to give importance to Kundakunda’s  own words that he is the disciple of Bhadrabãhu, a Shrutakevali who was his Gamaya Guru (Bodh Pãhuda-61-62). Kundakunda lists the knowledge of 12 Angas and 14 Purvas, known by Shrutakevali, after naming Bhadrabãhu, Hemachandra Jain considers Gamak to mean as one who has understood and explained the meaning. Gamaya in ArdhaMãgadhi (Ratnachandraji)4 can be understood as  “narrated, described, to go”.

In Samaysãr, he writes, as “spoken” (भणिंद in Ardha Magadhi) by the Shrutakevali.

Kundakunda is likely indicating that his Guru Bhadrabãhu, a Shrutakevali, who spoke about the knowledge and explained to him, being his disciple, has gone. It is unlikely that Kundakunda would misrepresent the name of his Guru or his level.

Upadhye cites the importance of clarifying details associated with his names as well his time,5 and above inscriptions amply clarify the names. Besides, the inscriptions indicate only two names of a person. Sravan Belgolã inscription (105)  matches closely with the pontiff list of the Pattãvali A and C but lists only one Bhadrabãhu who is a Shrutakevali. Swetamber literature also lists only one Bhadrabãhu and a Shrutakevali too. After Bhadrabãhu, the Swetamber sect had an independent record of the traditions. Hence, it supports the Digamber Pattavalis origin with Bhadrabãhu and the  listing  of Kundakundãnvaya from Kundakunda, likely his disciple and leader of the Mula Sangha (Digambar).

Time of Kundakunda Ãchãrya

Hoernle laments on the difficulty to decide on the origin of the Pattãvali as it could be either of the three Bhadrabãhus mentioned in Pattãvali E. Hoernle suggests Bhadrabãhu III  to be same as Bhadrabahu II of other Pattãvaliis and Bhadrabahu II to be considered as the point of origin of Pattãvalii, closer to Vikram Samvat. Kundkunda is shown therein as a pontiff in 49 VS, or 8 BCE. J L Jain6 mentions a Nagaur record of a Kundakunda from Palliwal caste, mirroring the details in the Pattãvalii. J L Jain also shares opinion on the recording the caste of an Ãchãrya was  done after 10th CE. Per both records, Kundakunda lived for 95 years and ascended as pontiff in his 44th year. His timeline per Hoernle is 51 BCE- 44 CE which is widely accepted.

As indicated in the inscriptions above, Arhadballi split the Mula Sangha of Kundakunda (Digambar sect) into four parts: Nandi, Sen, Dev, and Simha sects to reduce the dissent. Indranandi in Nitisãr concurs the division in the lineage of Kundakunda. Two periods of Arhadballi’s are shown. In Pattãvali A gathas, it is 565 (A.V) or 38 CE, as also at V.S. 26 or 31 BCE, if considered same as being Guptigupta.

Kundakunda is  fifth position  in  the Pattãvali, from Bhadrabahu II (V.S. 4)- Guptigupta(Arhadballi) (V.S.26), Maghanandi (V.S. 36), Jinchandra (V.S.40) and Kundakunda (V.S. 49). It shows NandiSangh (under Maghanandi) arose before Kundakunda’s pontiff period, thus contradicting the inscriptions. Further segregation order was Sangha-Amnaya-Gachchha-as in MulaSanghaNandymnaya-SaraswatiGachchha-Bãlãtkanrgana.7 As Maghanandi was the creator of Nandi sangha, why is the lineage not known under his name, but known under Kundakunda’s name is difficult to address. But it is clear, that Kundakunda’s place in the Pattãvali as the leader of the Sangha should be before Arhadballi(Guptigupta), unless there were multiple individuals bearing the name Kundakunda.

Kundkunda has not clarified his time. But in Bodh Pãhud he states being a sisya (disciple) of Bhadrabãhu and then next refers to a Shrutakevali. In Manglãcharan of Samaysãr he states he is explaining the knowledge as spoken by the Shrutatkevali. Some interpret sisya as paramparic or lineage tradition, probably guided by his accepted period of 1st BCE-1st CE. But such a definition cannot be supported. Kundakunda as head of the Mula Sangha is  known from inscriptions (55, 90). Pattãvalis of Digambar start from a Bhadrabãhu and lists the  lineage, named after Kundakunda, the leader of the undivided Mulasangha. This supports Kundakunda’s statement that he is a disciple of Bhadrabãhu Shrutakevali and hence prior to 1s BCE.

Opinion of the Scholars

Chakravarti infers: “The tendency among European scholars to postdate the historical events and person relating to India, is a just antidote to the fantastic and legendary notions of indigenous writers who generally measure time by millenniums. Nevertheless, we have to point out that the orientalists have sometimes overreached their work. They generally proceed on the assumption that writing is a late acquisition in Indian civilization. The excavations of Jaina stupas at Mathura and Mr. K.P. Jayaswal’s discovery of Konika’s Statue with the inscriptions try to set back the pendulum of Indian chronology to an earlier period. Up to the time of Bhadrabãhu migration there was no split in the Jaina fold. That the schism of the Svetambars arose about the time of the Bhadrabãhu-I on account of the hardships of the famine is more than probable. This fact is evidenced by the complete absence of Svetambars in the Deccan and South India. The Jainas in the South and Mysore always claim to be of Mula-Sangha, the original congregation.”

Hoernle: “One point of agreement comes out clearly and is note-worthy, i.e., the direction of the Digambara migration. It was from the south to the North, from Bhadalpur to Delhi and Jaipur. This agrees with the opinion that the Digambaraa separation originally took place because of the migration southwards under Bhadrabãhu in consequence of a sever famine in Bihar, the original home of the undivided Jaina community.

We have undoubtedly here two contradictory traditions of the Digambaras disclosed to us; that of their Pattâvalis places the great separation considerably earlier than Sam. 136, in the time of Bhadrabãhu. The question is who this Bhadrabãhu was. The Svetambara Pattâvalis know only one Bhadrabãhu, who, from the dates assigned to him by the Svêtâmbaras and Digambaras alike, must be identical with the Bhadrabãhu I of the Digambars. Considering the varying and contradictory character of the Digambar traditions, the probability is that the inception of the great separation took place under Bhadrabãhu I, who died 162 A. V. according to the Digambaras, or 170 A. V. according to the Svêtâmbaras. The final and definite schism may then have occurred later in Sam. 136 or, according to the Svêtambaras, Sam. 139.”8 In Sutra Pãhud (18,23), Kundakunda comments on clothes worn by monks, alluding to the change brought by famine. Ramprasad Jain suggests that Kundakunda’s period should be much earlier than 1st century CE.


Mangalam Bhagwãn Viro, Mangalam Gautam Gani

Mangalam Kundkundãryo(ãdyo), Jain Dharmostu Mangalam

Kundakunda Ãchãrya is hailed in the daily morning liturgy and in the auspicious beginning of any activity, by the Digambar followers. The shloka variation of ãdyo indicates he is the first munisvara. His remarkable feat of composing 84 Pãhuds likely  contributed to his inclusion in the liturgy. Some works of Kundakunda include Samaysãr (Essence of Doctrines), Niyamsãr (Essence of Ascetic Rules), AshtaPãhud (Eight gifts), Panchastikãya (Essence of Five Reals), Pravanchansãr (Essence of Sermons), He mastered Chãranriddhi, the ability of walking four fingers above the ground, known from the inscriptions. From Devsen we know that Padmanandi went to Samosaran of Simandhar Swami to clarify his doubts. Kundakunda Ãchãrya’s image above highlights his deep concentration in preserving the knowledge of the Jinas and engrossed in writing the scriptures.

Relying just on the Pattãvalis to date the timeline of Ãchãryãs would be limiting, as the details within can be inconsistent and incomplete, as observed by Hoernle. Differing details on names, his origin, and his Guru, suggests a mix up of information on Kundakunda in the traditions. J L Jain suggests a possibility of two other Kundakunda belonging to 13th c.CE.9 Tilloyapannati indicates Chandragupta to be the last king who followed Jainism, whose period is 215 years after Mahavir Nirvãna. Based on the above facts, it would be appropriate to consider only one Bhadrabãhu who was a Shrutakevali, attested by Kundakunda and Sravan Belgolã inscriptions. The period of Shrutakevali Bhadrabãhu should be taken as 3rd -4th BCE, the historical period of Chandragupta Maurya.

If a Padmanandi Ãchãrya with five names existed, he is certainly different than Shrutakevali Bhadrabahu’s disciple. Thus, Kundakunda Ãchãrya whose first name was Padmanandi, should be delinked from other name associations as Griddhar pinchchha, Vakragriva (likely a Vakra Gachchhapati), Elãchãrya and Padmanandi Bhattãraka. Based on the findings above, credence should be given to Kundakunda Ãchãrya and his words, as a disciple of Shrutakevali Bhadrabãhu, His due place in the annals of Jain history should be appropriately considered as a Jain Ãchãrya of 3rd-4th c. BCE.

1Hoernle Indian Antiquary, 1892, Pg 71, Note 17

2Sayings of Kundakunda, Pg 25,26 https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.341293/page/n25/mode/1up?view=theater

3Hoernle, Indian Antiquary, 1892, Pg 78

4ArdhaMagadhi Dictionary, Ratnachandraji, Vol 2, Pg 6045

5Cf  A Chakravarti,  2008, Ãchãrya Kundkunda’s Samaysar

6J L Jain, Acharya Kundkund and Jain Philosophy, Pg 18

7Hoernle, Indian Antiquary, 1892 Pg 71, Note 11

8Hoernle, 1892 Indian Antiquary XXI, Pg 60

9J L Jain, Acharya Kundakunda and Jain Philosophies, Pg 16-18


A Chakravarti , 2008 Acharya Kundakunda’s Samaysar

A Chakravati, Acharya Kundakunda’s Panchastikaya

BodhPahud, Samaysar, Sutra Pahud,Niyamsar-

B.Lewis Rice, Inscriptions at Sravan Belgola, 1889

Devsen Acharya, Darshansar https://archive.org/details/Darshansar/page/n1/mode/1up?view=theater

Hemachand Jain,  2020, Translation of Pravanchansar,

AF Rudolf Hoernle, 1891, Two Pattavalis of The Sararswati Gachchha , Indian Antiquary, Vol XX

A F Rudolf Hoernle, 1892,  Three Further Pattavalis of The Digambars , Indian Antiquary, Vol XXI

Hemachand Jain,  2020, Translation of Pravanchansar, atmadharma.com

J L Jain, 1997, Acharya Kundakunda & Jain Philosophy

M B Patil, Acharya Kundakunda (Hindi)

Natubhai Shah, The World of Conquerors

Ramchandra, Punyasrav Kathakosh

M B Patil, Acharya Kundakundadev, Kundkundadeva Parmarthirk Trust https://www.atmadharma.com/shastras/AcharyaShreeKundKundJivanYatra_hin_txt.pdf

Sayings of Kundakunda  1962- Suuktiya of Kundakunda- World Jain Mission, UP


About Author


Dhruti is a New Jersey-based MBA, SAP and FJAS professional. A Pathshala and guest lecturer for Jainism at VCU University and High schools, she has spoken at Comparative Religion Conference, Religious Baccalaureates and Rotary Club in Richmond, VA. Involved with Jainism-Says-Blogspot, she researches Jain Iconography, Epigraphy, Historical and Numismatic references in Jain literature overlooked by historians, and on the applications of Jain principles. Dhruti’s research was presented at the Dating of Mahavir Nirvana Symposium by ISJS.

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