Jaina Rāmāyaṇas

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Jaina Ramayanas, Jaina RAmAyaNas, Jaina Raamaayanas

The two great epics, Rāmāyana and Mahābhārata, have made a deep impression on the mind of masses. The core part of both the epics have hence percolated into the literature of other religions of Indian origin like Jainism and Buddhism. In the Jaina tradition, more than one Rāmāyaṇa exists. Eleven well-known Jaina works, of fairly early period, deal with the story of Rāma. Out of these, the Paumacariyam of Vimala Suri (circa CE 300-500) in Prākṛt is the most famous.

Evolution of the story of Rāma and the allied literature continued for several centuries (7th to the 14th). Some of the works were in Sanskrit and some in Prākṛt and Apabhramśa[1] languages.

Vimala Suri declares that the Rāmāyaṇa stories are full of absurdities, fabrications and contradictions. To remove these, he undertook the composition of Paumacariyam.[2]

These Rāmāyaṇas or Rāma-stories were used more to propagate Jainism than to narrate the story itself.

Contrasting Points with Original Rāmāyana

Though Vimala Suri follows the main outline of Vālmīki’s story, he has made several changes giving the whole work a Jaina concept. Many other changes have been introduced into the body of the story. These changes include :

  • Rāma never killed the golden deer or Vāli
  • He never ate meat
  • The vānaras were actually vidyādharas[3] and not monkeys
  • The rākṣasas were highly cultured persons
  • Vāli handed over his kingdom to his younger brother Sugrīva and became a Jain monk
  • Lakṣmaṇa killed Rāvaṇa
  • Lakṣmaṇa ultimately went to hell since he refused to become a Jaina monk
  • Kaikeyi, Sitā and other ladies became Jaina nuns
  • Sītā was the daughter of Rāvaṇa and Maṇdodari
  • Lakṣmaṇa killed the śudra ascetic Sambuka by mistake


  1. Apabhramśa is crude forms of Sanskrit and local variations.
  2. Pauma means Padma or Rāma.
  3. Vidyādharas is a race of supernatural beings possessing extraordinary powers.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore