|Doctrines|| ||The Kalpasutra is a Shvetambara text with biographies of Mahavira and other Jinas together with ascetic regulations. From this it is clear that the various branches of the ascetic community even at an early date were "highly organised in accord with an essentially unified view of what was entailed in the renunciatory path" (Dundas 1992, 119).|
Each of the gacchas claimed to represent the true Jainism as laid down in the sacred texts and to be as near the original Jainism as possible. In reality the gacchas differed very little from each other in terms of doctrine.
The Ancala Gaccha has a traditional story that its name originated through permission being given by a suri, a teacher and head of a gaccha, to a laywoman who had forgotten to bring her muhpatti, mouth-shield, for temple ritual, to use the ancala, edge, of her sari instead. Another more likely derivation is that Ancal comes from acala, firm (Dundas 1992, 247. n. 61).
The doctrine of the Lonka Gaccha changed completely from the original rejection of image-worship by its founder Lonka, gradually reverting back to image-worship so that Lonka's teachings were abandoned a century after his death. Traces of the original doctrine linger, though, when a Lonka Gaccha acarya, teacher, on entering a town with a group of ascetics goes to the upashraya, monastic lodging house, first and then goes to the temple, while the acaryas of other Shvetambara gacchas pay their respects at the temple first.
Many of the lay followers of the Upakesha Gaccha were converted from the Oswal caste, who had been Vaishnavite.
It was because of the laxity of the Vata ('Figtree') Gaccha in following the doctrine that Jagaccandra Suri abandoned it and founded the Tapa Gaccha.
|History|| ||The Kalpasutra clearly shows that the Jain ascetic community from an early date was divided into various branches, each descended from prominent teachers. At first there was the gana, troop, of monks. Lack of precise evidence makes it uncertain whether there was any mainstream Shvetambara lineage before the eleventh century. Tradition states that Vajrasvamin of about the fourth century CE had four disciples who founded four kula, families or lineages, called Candra, Nirvriti, Vidyadhara, and Nagendra.|
In the medieval period the terms gana and kula were replaced by gaccha from the Sanskrit gacchati, 'goes,' and is usually translated as sect or subsect. From the eleventh century a variety of image-worshipping Shvetambara gacchas appeared. Tradition speaks of there being eighty-four gacchas, but this number is a mystical number - there are eighty-four Buddhist Siddhas too. Only a fraction of this number exists today. The main gacchas are the Tapa Gaccha and the Kharatara Gaccha. What is certain is that " the existence in the past of a large number of other gacchas with their own lists of teachers testifies to an extremely diverse Shvetambara ascetic world" (Dundas 1992, 120). The reasons for such a large number of gacchas can be found in " the accelerating expansion of local affiliations and personal associations amongst Shvetambara ascetics which led to fissions within the community, with the names of some gacchas having their origins in a particular region or caste, while others were designated by their founder's name or with reference to some important event in their history or particular ritual modification with which they were associated" (Dundas 1992, 120).
The Ancala Gaccha is still in existence today, but is almost completely unstudied from the historical point of view. After abandoning the doctrine of its founder, the Lonka Gaccha went on to consecrate temples and install images, though evidence suggests they were not fully assimilated into the image-worshipping community. Today the Lonka Gaccha is at the fringe of Shvetambara society and with no fully initiated ascetics. The lineage of the Upakesha Gaccha died out at the end of the nineteenth century or the beginning of this century.
|Symbols|| ||See Tapa Gaccha, Kharatara Gaccha, and Shvetambaras.|
|Adherents|| ||There are no exact figures on the size of the smaller gaacchas, but numbers involved are small.|
| ||Western India.|