- The Sthanakavasis are a minority sect within the Jain community founded by a Jain layperson from K 422 Sri VidyaGujarat, Lonka Shaha, who in 1451 C.E. decided to form a new community based on a return to traditional values. He is said to have gained access to the basic texts of the Shvetambaras, which tra-ditionally only the monks could read. In reading the texts he was stunned at the laxity shown by the monks of his day. He was convinced that the rituals performed by monks in the Jain temples had nothing to do with the Jain ideals; he felt that even the act of digging in the ground to establish temples and images involved such injury to Earth beings that it was in and of itself a violation of the Jain sacred principle of ahimsa or noninjury.Shaha started a movement assisted by influential Jains to reexamine Jain life in view of the scriptures. His community, which still exists today, adopted the practice of meeting only in halls (sthanaka) and not in temples, hence the name Sthanakavasi (inhabit-ers of halls). Lonka Shaha’s fanatical opposition to the worship of icons may have been influenced by the iconoclastic Islam of his era. As a distinguishing feature, Stanakavasi monks wear a mouth covering to prevent injury to invisible beings that might be breathed in and killed.Further reading: John E. Cort, Jains in the World: Reli-gious Values and Ideology in India (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001); Paul Dundas, The Jains (Lon-don: Routledge, 1992); A. K. Roy, History of the Jainas (Colombia, Mo.: South Asia Books, 1984).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.