01 April 2010
Taran-swami and his Taran-panth
The 15-16th century was an age of transition in India. During this time several reform movements arose in Jainism. Lonkashah of Gujarat founded his Dhundhia order in Samvat 1508 (1451 AD), The Terapanth (Atyadhma movement) among the Digambaras arose in Samvat 1683 in Agra. The main founders of this movement were Banarasi Das of Agra and Amarchand of Sanganer. Taran-swami in Bundelkhand founded his Taranpanth sect of the Digambaras in Samvat 1563 (1506).
The Digambar Terapanth movement was against the domination of the Bhattarakas. They opposed worship of various minor gods and goddesses. Some Terapanthi practices, like not using flowers in worship, gradually spread throughout North India among the Digambars. The Taran-panthis on the other hand, traditionally do not have idols in their shrines at all.
Taranswami was a remarkable philosopher and author. He was born in Pushpavati (now Bilahari near Katni). His father was a government official there. His mama(uncle) lived in Sironj, where a Bhattaraka institution was present. When he was 8 years old, while accompanying his father to Sironj, he came across Bhattarak Shruta-kirti. The Bhattarak persuaded the boy to start attending the lectures where "Samayasar"was discussed. Later Taran-swami organized his group , meditated and preached at Semalkheri, Sukha and Rakh. His samadhi is at Nisaiji in Dist Guna.
He wrote 14 books. His language is very unique, being a blend of Prakrit, Sanskrit and Apabhransha. Note that at this time Jains have not been using Prakit for several centuries. His language was perhaps influenced by his reading of the books of Acharya kundakunda. Copies of his books are very hard to obtain. Mostly Kanjiswami has some lectures based on Taranswami's books.
The number of Taranpanthis is very small. Their shrinesare called Chaityalya (or some times Nisai/Nasia). At the altar (vimana) they have a book instead of an idol. The Taranpanthis were originally from 6 communities. These days they are gradually merging with other Jain in the area. In recent past, some of them have been followers of Kanjiswami of Songarh.
One interesting note. Rajneesh/Osho was born in a Taranpanthi family.
 Bundelkhand region is Lalitpur (UP), Guna, Sagar, Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur, Damoh districts and nearby region. The Taranpanthis are mainly found here.
 This Shrutakirti may be the same one who wrote Dharma-Pariksha, arivansha-purana and Parameshthisarin Apabhramsha. His teacher's teacher was Devendrakirti who originated from Gujarat and had placed his students at the Bhattarak seats of Surat as well as Chanderi in Bundelkhand region.
 The term Nasia for a temple may have been derived from the practice of saying "Jay jay jay,nisahi, nisahi, nisahi" when one enters a temple.