The Full Wiki

Jain cosmology: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Jain cosmology

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is part of a series on Jainism
Prayers and Vows
Navakar Mantra · Ahimsa ·
Brahmacharya · Satya · Nirvana ·
Asteya · Aparigraha · Anekantavada
Key concepts
Kevala Jñāna · Cosmology · Samsara ·
Karma · Dharma · Mokṣa ·
Gunasthana · Navatattva
Major figures
The 24 Tirthankaras · Rishabha ·
Mahavira · Acharya  · Ganadhar ·
Siddhasen Divakar · Haribhadra
Jainism by region
India · Western
Svetambara · Digambara · Terapanthi ·
Early Jainist schools · Sthanakvasi ·
Bisapantha · Deravasi
Kalpasutra · Agama ·
Tattvartha Sutra · Sanmatti Prakaran
Timeline · Topics list
Parasparopagraho Jīvānām

Jainism Portal
 v • d •  e 

Jain cosmology considers the loka or universe as an uncreated entity, existing since infinity having no beginning or an end. [1] Jain texts describe the shape of the universe as similar to a man standing with legs apart and arm resting on his waist. This Universe, according to Jainism, is narrow at the top, broad at the middle and once again becomes broad at the bottom. [2] Mahāpurāṇa of Ācārya Jinasena is famous for this quote:

"Some foolish men declare that a creator made the world. The doctrine that the world was created is ill advised and should be rejected. If God created the world, where was he before the creation? If you say he was transcendent then and needed no support, where is he now? How could God have made this world without any raw material? If you say that he made this first, and then the world, you are faced with an endless regression."


The Concept of reality – the constituents of the Universe

This Universe is made up of what Jains call six dravya or reals or substances classified as follows –

  • Jīva i.e. Living Substances
Jīva i.e. Souls - Soul (Jīva) exists as a reality, having a separate existence from the body that houses it. It is characterised by chetana i.e. consciousness and upayoga i.e. knowledge and perception. [3]Though the soul experiences both birth and death, it is neither really destroyed nor created. Decay and origin refer respectively to the disappearing of one state of soul and appearing of another state, these being merely the modes of the soul. [4]
  • Ajīva i.e. or Non-Living Substances
    • Pudgala i.e. Matter - Matter is classified as solid, liquid, gaseous, energy, fine Karmic materials and extra-fine matter i.e. ultimate particles. Paramāṇu or ultimate particle (atoms) is the basic building block of all matter. One of the qualities of the Paramāṇu and Pudgala is that of permanence and indestructibility. It combines and changes its modes but its basic qualities remain the same. According to Jainism, it cannot be created nor destroyed.
    • Dharma-tattva i.e Principle of Motion and
    • Adharma-tattva i.e. Principle of Rest - Dharmastikāya and Adharmastikāya are distinctly peculiar to Jaina system of thought depicting the principle of Motion and Rest. They are said to pervade the entire universe. Dharma and Adharma are by itself not motion or rest but mediate motion and rest in other bodies. Without Dharmastikāya motion is not possible and without Adharmastikāya rest is not possible in universe.
    • Ākāśa i.e Space - Space is a substance that accommodates the living souls, the matter, the principle of motion, the principle of rest and time. It is all-pervading, infinite and made of infinite space-points.
    • Kāla i.e. Time - Kāla is a real entity according to Jainism and all activities, changes or modifications can be achieved only through the progress of time.

Time Cycle

According to Jainism, the time is beginningless and eternal. The Kālacakra, the cosmic wheel of time rotates ceaseless. The wheel of time, is divided into two half-rotations - Utsarpiṇī or ascending time cycle and Avasarpiṇī, the descending time cycle, occurring continuously after each other. [5]Utsarpiṇī is a period of progressive prosperity and happiness where the time spans and ages are at an increasing scale, while Avsarpiṇī is a period of increasing sorrow and immorality with decline in timespans of the epochs. Each of this half time cycle consisting of innumerable period of time is further sub-divided into six Aras or epochs of unequal periods. The currently, the time cycle is in avasarpiṇī or descending phase with the following epochs[6] :

Division of time as envisaged by Jains.
Name of the Ara Degree of happiness Duration of Ara Average Height of People Average Lifespan of People
Suṣama-suṣamā Utmost happiness and no sorrow 400 trillion sāgaropamas Six Miles Tall Three Palyopama Years
Suṣamā Moderate happiness and no sorrow 300 trillion sāgaropamas Four Miles Tall Two Palyopama Years
Suṣama-duḥṣamā Happiness with little sorrow 200 trillion sāgaropamas Two Miles Tall One Palyopama Years
Duḥṣama-suṣamā Sorrow with little happiness 100 trillion sāgaropamas (less 42,000 years) 1500 Meters 705.6 Quintillion Years
Duḥṣamā Sorrow 21,000 Years 6 Feet 130 Years Maximum
Duḥṣama- duḥṣamā Extreme sorrow and misery 21,000 Years 1 Hatha 16-20 Years
  • Suṣama-suṣamā - During the first ara of Suṣama-suṣamā of the Avsarpini , people lived for three palyopama years. During this ara people were on average six miles tall. They took their food on every fourth day; they were very tall and devoid of anger, pride, deceit, greed and other sinful acts. Various kinds of the kalpa trees fulfilled their wishes and needs like food, clothing, homes, entertainment, jewels etc.
  • Suṣamā-During the second ara, Suṣamā, the people lived for two palyopama years. During this ara people were on average 4 miles tall. They took their food at an interval of three days, but the kalpa trees supplied their wants, less than before. The land and water became less sweet and fruitful than they were during the first ara.
Jaina units of time on a logarithmic scale
  • Suṣama-duḥṣamā - During the third ara of Suṣama-duḥṣamā, the age limit of the people became one palyopama year. During this are people were on average 2 miles tall. They took their food on every second day. The earth and water as well as height and strength of the body went on decreasing and they became less than they were during the second ara. The first three ara the children were born as twins, one male and one female, who married each other and once again gave birth to twins. On account of happiness and pleasures, the religion, renunciation and austerities was not possible. At the end of the third ara, the wish-fulfilling trees stopped giving the desired fruits and the people started living in the societies. The first Tirthankara, Ṛṣabhdeva was born at the end of this ara. He taught the people the skills of farming, commerce, defence, politics and arts and organised the people in societies. That is why he is known as the father of human civilisation.
  • Duḥṣama-suṣamā - During the fourth ara of Duḥṣama-suṣamā, people lived for 705.6 Quintillion Years. During this are people were on average 1500 Meters tall. The fourth ara was the age of religion, where the renunciation, austerities and liberation was possible. The 63 Śalākāpuruṣa’s or the illustrious persons who promote the Jain religion regularly appear in this ara. The balance 23 Tīrthaṅkars, including lord Māhavīra appeared in this ara. This ara came to an end 3 years and 8 months after the nirvāṇa of Māhavīra.
  • Duḥṣama - As per Jain cosmology, currently we are in the 5th ara. As of 2010, exactly 2,537 years have elapsed and 18,463 years are still left. It is an age of sorrow and misery. The maximum age a person can live to in this ara is 130 years. The maximum height a person can be in this ara is six feet. No liberation is possible, although people practice religion in lax and diluted form. However, at the end of this ara, even the Jain religion will disappear, only to appear back with the advent of 1st Tirthankara in the next cycle.
  • Duḥṣama- duḥṣama- The sixth Ara, Duḥṣama- duḥṣama will be the age if intense misery and sorrow, making it impossible to practice religion in any form. The age, height and strength of the human beings will decrease to a great extent. In this ara people will live for no more than 16-20 years. This trend will start reversing at the onset of utsarpiṇī kāl.

In utsarpiṇī, the order of the aras is reversed; starting from Duḥṣama- duḥṣamā, it ends with Suṣama-suṣamā and thus this never ending cycle continues.[7] Each of these aras progress into the next phase seamlessly without any apocalyptic consequences. The increase or decrease in the happiness, life spans and length of people and general moral conduct of the society changes in a phased and graded manner as the time passes. No divine or supernatural beings are credited or responsible with these spontaneous temporal changes, either in a creative or overseeing role, rather the human beings and creatures are born under the impulse of their own karmas.[8]

Jain geography

Structure of Universe as per the Jain Scriptures.

The early Jains contemplated over the nature of the earth and universe and developed a detailed hypothesis on the various aspects of the astronomy and cosmology. According to the Jain texts, the universe is divided into 3 parts [9 ]

  • Urdhva Loka – the realms of the gods or heavens
  • Madhya Loka – the realms of the humans, animals and plants
  • Adho Loka – the realms of the hellish beings or the infernal regions

The Jain texts on geography

Work of Art from 15th century CE Manuscript of Sūryaprajñapti

The Jain texts provide a detailed description on The following Upanga āgamas describe the Jain cosmology and geography in a great detail [9 ]  :-

  1. Sūryaprajñapti – Treatise on Sun
  2. Jambūdvīpaprajñapti - Treatise on the island of Roseapple tree; it contains a description of Jambūdvī and life biographies of Ṛṣabha and King Bharata
  3. Candraprajñapti - Treatise on moon

Additionally, the following texts describe the Jain cosmology and related topics in details:-

  1. Trilokasāra – Essence of the three worlds (heavens, middle level, hells)
  2. Trilokaprajñapti – Treatise on the three worlds
  3. Trilokadipikā – Illumination of the three worlds
  4. Tattvārthasūtra – Description on nature of realities
  5. Kṣetrasamasa – Summary of Jain geography
  6. Bruhatsamgrahni – Treatise on Jain cosmology and geography

Urdhva Loka, the upper world

Udharva loka consists of 12 Dev Lok, 9 Greveyak and 5 Anutar Viman, which are the realms of the Vaimaniks or the astral gods who are non-liberated gods. Above the Anutar vimans, at the apex of the universe, is the Siddhasila, the realms of the infinite liberated gods also known as the Siddhas, the perfected omniscient and blissful beings, who are venerated by the Jains.[10 ]

Below the siddhasila are the five Anutar Vimans named :

  1. Vijay
  2. Vijayant
  3. Jayant
  4. Aparajit
  5. Savarthsiddha

Below the Anutar Vimas are the 9 Greveyaks whose names are :

  1. Bhadre
  2. Subhadre
  3. Sujae
  4. Sumanase
  5. Priydansne
  6. Sudansne
  7. Aamohe
  8. Supadibaddhe
  9. Jasodhare.

Below the Greveyaks, are the 12 Devalokas whose names are :

  1. Sudharma
  2. Ishan
  3. Sanatkumar
  4. Mahendra
  5. Brahmloka
  6. Lantak
  7. Mahashukra
  8. Sahastrar
  9. Aanat
  10. Pranat
  11. Aaran
  12. Achyuta.

Vaimanik devas are divided into, two groups i.e. –

  • The higher groups, dwelling in 9 Greveyak and 5 Anutar Viman. They are independent and dewelling in their own vehicles. The anuttara devas attain liberation within one or two lifetimes.
  • The lower groups, organized like earthly kingdoms - rulers (Indra), organized like earthly kingdoms - rulers (Indras), counselors, guards, queens, followers, armies etc.

Madhya Loka, the middle world

Image depicting map of Jambudvipa as per Jain Cosmology

Madhya Loka, at the centre of the universe consists of 900 yojans above and 900 yojans below earth surface. It is inhabited by [10 ]:

  1. Jyotishka devas (luminous gods) - 790 to 900 yojans above earth
  2. Human, Tiryanch (Animals, birds, plants) on the surface
  3. Vyantar devas (Intermediary gods)- 100 yojan below the ground level

Madhyaloka consists of many continent-islands surrounded by oceans, first eight whose names are :-

Continent/ Island Ocean
Jambūdvīpa Lavanoda (Salt - ocean)
Ghatki Khand Kaloda (Black sea)
Puskarvardvīpa Puskaroda (Lotus Ocean)
Varunvardvīpa Varunoda (Varun Ocean)
Kshirvardvīpa Kshiroda (Ocean of milk)
Ghrutvardvīpa Ghrutoda (Butter milk ocean)
Ikshuvardvīpa Iksuvaroda (Sugar Ocean)
Nandishwardvīpa Nandishwaroda

Mount Meru is at the centre of the world surrounded by Jambūdvīpa, in form of a circle forming a diameter of 100,000 yojans [10 ].

Work of Art showing maps and diagrams as per Jain Cosmography from 17th century CE Manuscript of 12th century Jain text Sankhitta Sangheyan

Jambūdvīpa continent has 6 mighty mountains, dividing the continent into 7 zones (Ksetra). The names of these zones are:

  1. Bharat Kshetra
  2. Mahavideh Kshetra
  3. Airavat Kshetra
  4. Ramyak
  5. Hairanyvat Kshetra
  6. Haimava Kshetra
  7. Hari Kshetra

The three zones i.e. Bharat Kshetra, Mahavideh Kshetra and Airavat Kshetra are also known as Karma bhoomi because practice of austerities and liberation is possible and the Tirthankaras preach the Jain doctrine. The other four zones, Ramyak, Hairanyvat Kshetra, Haimava Kshetra and Hari Kshetra are known as akarmabhoomi or bhogbhumi as humans live a sinless life of pleasure and no religion or liberation is possible.

Adho Loka, the lower world

The lower world consists of seven hells which is inhabited by Bhavanpati demigods and the hellish beings. Hellish beings reside in the following hells -

  1. Ratna prabha-dharma.
  2. Sharkara prabha-vansha.
  3. Valuka prabha-megha.
  4. Pank prabha-anjana.
  5. Dhum prabha-arista.
  6. Tamah prabha-maghavi.
  7. Mahatamah prabha-maadhavi

Śalākāpuruṣas- The deeds of the 63 Illustrious Men

During the each motion of the half-cycle of the wheel of time, 63 Śalākāpuruṣa or 63 illustrious men, consisting of the 24 Tīrthaṅkaras and their contemporaries regularly appear. [11]. The Jain universal or legendary history is basically a compilation of the deeds of these illustrious men. They are categorised as follows :-

  • 24 Tīrthaṅkaras – The 24 Tīrthaṅkaras or the ford makers appear in succession to activate the true religion and establish the community of ascetics and laymen.
  • 12 Chakravartīs – The Chakravartīs are the universal monarchs who rule over the six continents.
  • 9 Baladevas and 9 Vāsudevas or Nārāyaṇas (heros) – Baladeva and Vāsudeva are half brothers who jointly rule over three continents.
  • 9 Prativāsudevas (anti-heros) – They are anti-heros who are ultimately killed by the Vāsudevas.


  1. ^ “This universe is not created nor sustained by anyone; It is self sustaining, without any base or support” “Nishpaadito Na Kenaapi Na Dhritah Kenachichch Sah Swayamsiddho Niradhaaro Gagane Kimtvavasthitah” [Yogaśāstra of Ācārya Hemacandra 4.106] Tr by Dr. A. S. Gopani
  2. ^ See Hemacandras description of universe in Yogaśāstra “…Think of this loka as similar to man standing akimbo…”4.103-6
  3. ^ Ācārya Kundakunda, Pañcāstikāyasāra, Gatha 16
  4. ^ Ācārya Kundakunda, Pañcāstikāyasāra, Gatha 18
  5. ^ Jaini (1998)
  6. ^ Glasenapp (1999) Pp. 271-272
  7. ^ Glasenapp (1999) Pp.272
  8. ^ Dundas (1999) p.40
  9. ^ a b Shah, Natubhai (1998). p. 25
  10. ^ a b c Schubring, Walther (1995)Pp. 204-246
  11. ^ Jaini, Padmanabh (1998)


  • Dundas, Paul; John Hinnels ed. (2002). The Jains. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-26606-8.  
  • Glasenapp, Helmuth von; (Tr.) Shridhar B. Shrotri (1999) (in English, translated from German). Jainism: An Indian Religion of Salvation. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publ. ISBN 8120813766.  
  • Gopani, A. S.; Surendra Bothara ed. (1989). Yogaśāstra (Sanskrit) of Ācārya Hemacandra. Jaipur: Prakrit Bharti Academy.  
  • Jaini, Padmanabh (1998). The Jaina Path of Purification. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 81-208-1578-5.  
  • Nayanar, Prof. A. Chakravarti (2005). Pañcāstikāyasāra of Ācārya Kundakunda. New Delhi: Today & Tomorrows Printer and Publisher. ISBN 81-7019-436-9.  
  • Schubring, Walther (1995). "Cosmography". in (ed.) Wolfgang Beurlen. The Doctrine of the Jainas. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publ.. ISBN 8120809335.  
  • Shah, Natubhai (1998). Jainism: The World of Conquerors. Volume I and II. Sussex: Sussex Academy Press. ISBN 1898723303.  

See also


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address