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In Jainism, a Ganadhara is a primary disciple of a Tirthankara.[1][2] All twenty-four Tirthankaras had ganadharas, but the number varied.

Ganadhara are at the most honourable position amongst 'Sadhu Pad'. Because they are second provider of 'Diwyadhawani' after 'Teerthankara'. The main Ganadhara of Mahaveer Swami was "Gautam Swami".

The monastic sangha of a Tirthankara is divided into a number of Ganas (orders), each headed by a Ganadhara.

The place of Ganadhara is important in reference of Jain Manglacharan i.e.

"Mangalam Bhagwaan Veero, Mangalam Gautamo Gani..
Mangalam Kunkundaryo, Jain Dharmostu Mangalam"

The Ganadharas of Lord Mahavira

At that time in Pavapuri, a city of Bihar in India, there was a prosperous Brahmin named Somil. Once, he decided to organize a great sacrifice. He wanted all the well-known learned men to come on that occasion. Indrabhuti Gautam, who was the most learned Brahmin of that time, was going to be the presiding priest. His equally learned brothers, Agnibhuti and Vayubhuti, were going to sit by his side. Vyakta and other well known Pundits were also scheduled to remain present on that occasion. Somil had come to know about Sudharma and had sent the invitation to him. Sudharma did not wish to miss the opportunity to attend that great sacrifice. Moreover, he was eager to see the Gautam brothers. He therefore, willingly accepted Somil's invitation. At the appointed time, the sacrifice started in right earnest. Oblations began to be offered together with the recitation of the appropriate verses. As the sacrificial smoke rose towards the sky, they noticed the celestial vehicles coming down. Indrabhuti and other priests were satisfied that they could induce the celestial beings to come down to accept the oblations. They were, however, disappointed to see that the vehicles had diverted their direction and were descending at the other end of the city. They could not make out why, forsaking their great performance, the vehicles were bound towards a different destination.

What had happened was that after attaining omniscience, Lord Mahavira had arrived at Pavapuri that very time. The heavenly beings were therefore coming down to pay their homage to the Lord and to listen to his sermon. Indrabhuti was surprised to know that. He had never come across anyone more knowledgeable than himself. He therefore guessed that Mahavira might be an impostor who could have somehow impressed the heavenly beings. It was therefore necessary to counter his tactics immediately.

With that intention, Indrabhuti went towards the camping ground of the Lord. As he approached, the Lord welcomed him by calling his name. Indrabhuti was astonished that the impostor even knew his name. But as he looked at the Lord, he was impressed by his personality. His pride began to melt.

The Lord Mahavira soon asked him, 'Gautam, a doubt still lurks in your mind about the independent existence of the soul. Isn't that?' Indrabhuti was dumbfounded to hear those words, because he did have such a doubt. The Lord then quoted the relevant Sutra from Veda itself and explained that there was no reason to hold such a doubt. With that clarification, the doubt of Indrabhuti was eradicated. Thereupon, he decided to accept the Lord Mahavira as his Guru. So falling at the feet of the Lord Mahavira, he requested to be accepted as a pupil. The Mahavira was pleased to accede to the request and initiated him as the first pupil.

As Indrabhuti did not come back, his brothers Agnibhuti, Vayubhuti and other Pundits like Vyakta went to the Lord Mahavira one after another.Mahavira welcomed them, and, pointing out their doubts pertaining to the soul, he gave them the convincing replies. All of them were satisfied with the Mahavira's elucidation and became his pupils along with their own followers.

Now, it came the turn of Sudharma. He had the concept that every living being could reincarnate in its own species. In other words, human beings could be reborn as human only. His belief was based on the analogy of plant life. An apple tree, for instance, would produce the seeds from which only apple trees can come out. The Lord welcomed him, too, and, pointing out his doubt, he explained that as different types of plants could be produced by cross breeding, so human beings could be reincarnated as human or heavenly beings or even as animals depending upon their tendencies and longings. Sudharma was convinced with that explanation and became the Mahavira's pupil along with his 500 followers. As a Ganadhar of the Lord he came to be known as Sudharmaswami. This happened during the 42nd year of the Lord Mahavira.

The eleven Pundits who had come from Somil's sacrifice became his first pupils and later came to be known as Ganadhars.

Thereafter the Lord Mahavira lived for 30 years. During that period, he continued to move in different parts of the country in order to lay down the path of liberation. During his discourses, Sudharma swami always sat in front of him and carefully listened to what the Mahavira had to say.

That enabled him to compose the Lord's teaching in the form of Aagams. By the time of the Lord'Mahaviras Nirvan in 527 BC nine of the eleven Ganadhars had died and only Gautam Swami and Sudharma Swami had survived. Since Gautam swami had attained omniscience on the very night of Lord's Nirvan, the administration of the order was left to Sudharma swami. During the next 12 years that he remained at the helm, he efficiently managed the order set up by the Lord Mahavira and spread his message far and wide.

References

  1. ^ The Early Centuries of Jainism
  2. ^ Jain Agama Literature
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