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The Śvētāmbara (/ʃwɛˈtʌmbərə/; Sanskrit: श्वेतांबर or श्वेतपट śvētapaṭa; also spelled Svetambar, Shvetambara, Shvetambar, Swetambar or Shwetambar) is one of the two main sects of Jainism, the other being the Digambara. Śvētāmbara "white-clad" is a term describing its ascetics' practice of wearing white clothes, which sets it apart from the Digambara "sky-clad" Jainas, whose ascetic practitioners go naked. Śvētāmbaras, unlike Digambaras, do not believe that ascetics must practice nudity.
Śvētāmbaras also believe that women are able to obtain moksha. Śvētāmbaras maintain that the 19th Tirthankara, Mallinatha, was a woman.
The Śvētāmbara tradition follows the lineage of Acharya Sthulabhadra. The Kalpa Sūtra mentions some of the lineages in ancient times. The Śvētāmbara monastic orders are branches of the Vrahada Order, which was founded in 937 CE. The most prominent among the classical orders today are the Kharatara (founded 1024 CE), the Tapa (founded 1228 CE) and the Tristutik.
A major dispute was initiated by Lonka Shaha, who started a movement opposed to idol worship in 1476. The Sthanakvasi and Terapanthi orders are branches of this movement.
Major reforms by Vijayananda Suri of the Tapa Order in 1880 led a movement to restore orders of wandering monks, which brought about the near-extinction of the Yati institutions. Acharya Rajendrasuri restored the shramana organization in the Tristutik Order.
Some Śvētāmbara monks and nuns cover their mouth with a white cloth or muhapatti to practise ahimsa even when they talk. By doing so they minimize the possibility of inhaling small organisms.
The Śvētāmbara sect was divided into different panths. First some saints left Śvētāmbara sect to form Lonka sect in 1474 CE,, which eventually lead to forming of Sthānakavāsī in 1653 CE. In 1760 CE 13 Saints started their own panth called "Terapanth".
So now at present there are 3 panths in the Śvētāmbara sect: Murtipujaka (Deravasi), Sthānakavāsī and Terapanth. The Sthānakavāsī believe in praying to Saints rather than to an idol in a temple, the same philosophy is carried on by "Terapanth". Other difference between Deravasi Jains and Sthānakavāsī Jains is that the saints (monks) of Deravasi do not wear white cloth "muhapatti" near their mouth to cover it, they hold it in hand. Sthānakavāsī and Terapanthi saints wear muhapatti held in place by white cotton thread tied to their ears. They do not keep Idols in a worship place called Sthanak or Derasar but pray and bow to Panch Mahamantar. Murtipujaka people keep idols of Tirthankar at their derasars and worship them.
- Mary Pat Fisher, Living Religions (5th Edition) (2003), p. 130
- Dundas, Paul (2002) , The Jains (Second ed.), Routledge, ISBN 0-415-26605-X