The Great Accomplishment of the Past Century ABHIDHAN RAJENDRA KOSH

April, 2021 by Dr.Jitendra B.Shah

Translated by Dasputra

I wish to say emphatically that in the field of Jainism, no scholar can dispense of consulting the Suri’s most valuable magnum opus, the ‘Abhidhan Rajendra’, as the big work was called very appropriately. 

– Walther Schubring (Germany)

Acharya Rajendrasurishvarji (v.s.1883 – v.s.1963), was a brilliant and blessed child of Goddess Sarasvati. He gave us ABHIDHAN RAJENDRA KOSH and left a permanent imprint on the world stage. He was a great personality of the19th century. Warmth, vitality and prowess of his speech were very influential. Hundreds of thousands of people felt his blessings even by his glimpse. He had mastered yoga, highest forms of penance, and had achieved pinnacles of knowledge.  

About 190 years ago, in the year 1827 A.D. (v.s.1883) Ratnaraj was born in Bharatpur, Rajasthan. His father’s name was Sheth Rushabhdas and mother’s name Kesarbai. At the age of eight Raj felt aversion to worldly pleasures. Inspired by Yativarya Pramodvijayji, in 1847 A.D. (v.s.1903), he took initiation from Acharyashri Hemvijayji. and was given the name – Muni Ratnavijay. Then he started systematic study the Scriptures (Aagms). At that time, he came across a perversion of the society. He stood firm against them fearlessly. Hence, he had to face many problems. In 1853 A.D. (v.s….., he received the title of Gani (Panyas) and 20 years later, in v.s.1923, he attained the status of Acharya and was given the name Vijay Rajendrasuri. 

In 1884 A.D. (v.s.1940), when Acharyashri was in Ahmedabad, some western scholars, attracted by his immense knowledge contacted him. They had questions about Agamik terms and some Jain technical terms. They presented all their questions to Acharyashri. Acharyashri not only answered all the questions succinctly but also to their complete satisfaction. They were all highly impressed by his mastery of the subject, clarity of thought and depth of knowledge. True to their western creed, they asked a question, “Is there any dictionary available now which may satisfy all our curiosity?”  Acharyashri replied in negative. But the question lingered on Acharyashri’s mind even after scholars left and he felt the necessity of such a dictionary.

During his travels through many regions, Acharyashri had seen Jain sadhus of various traditions using self-created definitions and meanings of terms from Agamic literature. This phenomenon troubled him a lot. He thought that if there was a dictionary consisting of true definitions and meanings of Agamik terms, no one would resort to creating his or her own meanings. He felt this on many instances, and this encouraged him to create an encyclopedic dictionary. He kept thinking about the format of such a dictionary for years. He pondered over the fact that the language of Agams is Ardhamagadhi and the words of Ardhamagadhi have multiple meanings which changed depending on the contexts. People will stop making up wrong meanings only after getting adequate answers to such quandaries if the meanings of Prakrit words and terminologies are explained satisfactorily. This will help people understand the proper spirit of the Agamik literature. After years of such mental debate, he resolved to create Abhidhan Rajendra Kosh (ARK).

In 1890 A.D. (v.s. 1946), in Siyana, Rajasthan, Acharya Rajendrasuriji started creating ARK. He was then sixty-three years old. This herculean task required insightful knowledge of Jain Agams, extensive reading of Jain literature, an exhaustive study of various Indian philosophies, thorough knowledge of grammar and dictionaries. Acharyashri had acquired all of these attributes, but still, there were many challenges. Considerable Jain literature was available all over India. Most of which was in the form of handwritten manuscripts and they were not easily accessible. He had to persevere under such strenuous conditions for creating ARK.

In addition, he maintained the strict code of conduct of a Jain Sadhu with vigorous bare-foot traveling schedule. One can easily understand the difficulty of finding time for the creative work of writing and attending to other spiritual tasks like granting monkhood to aspirants and teaching them, officiating Pratistha (inauguration) ceremonies of new Derasars, performing Anjanshalakas, Sangh-yatras to various Tirths as well as debating scriptural meanings with critics. The physical act of writing also required preparing the ink in the traditional method by soaking solid dyes in water and writing with a sharp reed.

He used to collect various Granths very patiently, select Jain technical terms, and write down their meanings. He wrote down Agamik meaning, theoretical meaning, philosophical meaning as well as details of its scriptural discussions if any had taken place.    

Under all these challenging pressures, the creation of ARK kept on progressing slowly and steadily. When we see the volume of the work accomplished, we can envisage the giant personality of the creator but can hardly realize a petite body with immeasurable intellect that could only be attributed to the rarest of the souls. 

The encyclopedic dictionary is divided in seven volumes. The complete dictionary comprises of 9150 pages and about 80,000 words are explained   in it. 

Hundreds of granths are used as reference books, thousands of maxims, stories and legends are employed in creating this dictionary. The extent of this dictionary is 4,50,000 shlok praman. The work of this kosh started on the 2nd day of the bright half of lunar month of Ashvin (v.s.1946) was completed on thirteenth of bright half of the lunar month of Chaitra (v.s. 1960). Thus, Acharyashri worked day and night for thirteen years and six months to finish. He started the work in Siyana, Rajasthan at the age of 63 years and completed it in Surat, Gujarat when he was about 77 years.  

What we have available today as religious texts were once handwritten manuscripts that were occasionally copied into various editions. Whatever literature that has reached us today is only a fraction of what was written earlier and much of it has been destroyed over time due to many causes like natural or man-made calamities, invasion by rulers of foreign faiths, insects and termites, etc. 

The forward of the ARK is written by Upadhyay Mohanvijayji in Hindi. Expressing his bewilderment, Upadhyaya Mohanvijayji has stated that many manuscripts are so fragile that even a very soft touch disintegrates them. Some of the pages of these manuscripts are already destroyed, missing or unreadable. The errors by the scribes, misinterpretations etc. have distorted the text. Mohanvijayji has appealed to today’s scholars to identify such errors and restore the texts their original glory. 

Pandit Dalsukh Malvania has frequently praised this work. He used to say that ‘I became world famous scholar by using this work.’

It is impossible to describe the whole encyclopedic dictionary in short. It is an impossible task akin to measuring an ocean. It has the description of about 10,000 terms in alphabetic order. For example, the first 163 pages of the first volume contains 118 poetic stanzas commentary on the eighth chapter of Siddha-Hem grammar penned by Kalikal Sarvagna Hemchandracharya.  

Six Prakrit categories – Ārsh, Shourseni, Magdhi Paishachi, Chulika Paishachi and Apbhransha with examples described poetically is also present in this analytical commentary on Prakrit grammar. All previous analysis of Grammar till date has been in prose but this poetic presentation has made it unique. In the second volume, all the stanzas of Prakrit grammar are alphabetically indexed. The third volume contains a list or series of variations of grammatical forms of Prakrit language. Thus, these three volumes are arranged in such a way that studying them can endow one the mastery of Prakrit. Many such schemes exist in ARK.

Acharyashri had patiently collected many texts, selected words from them and wrote their meanings and has given examples to elaborate the meanings. Along with the meaning of the word, he has given Agamic meaning, theoretical meaning, philosophical meaning, their differentiation, criticisms on them, scriptural citations etc. Such extensive presentation could only come from deep contextual knowledge. Together with this, collecting necessary texts, studying them, reflecting and researching on them, word association, etc. as labor of love was accomplished when modern facilities of computers or internet were not available. Acharyashri single handedly persevered without any amenities. He assembled all Jain topics and terms like Syadvad, theory of God, seven predicates of logic, six substances, nine reals, Jain Geography of the Universe, Code of conduct for Sadhu- Sadhvi, Daily duties, Dravyanuyog, Charankarunayog, Ganitanuyog, Dharmakthanuyog, etc. No subject has escaped his attention. That is why this dictionary has achieved status of world class encyclopedic dictionary. It is of seven volumes with about nine thousand one hundred fifty pages and employs eighty thousand words.

Hundreds of texts were referred to in preparation for this encyclopedic dictionary. Thousands of Stutis, thousands of anecdotes made of 450,000 stanzas are distilled while preparing ARK. After 13 ½ years of love filled labor, ARK was completed in 1904 A.D.(v.s.1960) in the city of Surat. 

He left this world in 1907 A.D. (v.s.1963) in the town of Rajgadh (Malwa).

The printing of this mammoth work in Prakrit is a story in itself. An independent press “Jain Prabhakar Press” was established in Ratalam, for publishing this magnum opus. The cooperation of many Pandits and scholars made this fault-free publishing it possible.

When Agam Prabhakar Munishri Punyavijayji saw this huge dictionary, Abhidhan Rajendra Kosh, he had commented that the importance, popularity, and usefulness of ARK will never diminish.

Famous Jain scholar Agarchand Nahata has said of this work: Acharya Vijay Rajendra Suri had mastery of Sanskrit and Prakrit grammar, Etymology and Jain religion, etc. which has made this encyclopedic dictionary, Abhidhan Rajendra Kosh possible and that has earned him status of an immortal being.

About Author

Dr. Jitendra B. Shah

Dr. Jitendra B Shah

Dr. Jitendra B. Shah is a scholar of Indian philosophical systems, in particular Jain philosophy, and is well versed in Sanskrit, Pali, and Prakrit. He has vast experience in manuscriptology. He has authored 12 books, more than 150 research articles, and has delivered lectures in Indological institutes across India.

Translated by Dasputra

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