Acharya Hemachandra (Sanskrit: हेमचन्द्र सूरी, 1089[1]–1172) was a Jain scholar, poet, and polymath who wrote on grammar, philosophy, prosody, and contemporary history. Noted as a prodigy by his contemporaries, he gained the title Kalikāl Sarvagya "all-knowing of the Kali Yuga".

He was born in Dhandhuka, Gujarat[1] (about 100 km south west of Ahmadabad), to Chachadeva and Pahini Devi. They named him Chandradeva. The Jain derasar of Modhera Tirtha is located at his birthplace. As a young man, Chandradeva was initiated as a monk by Devachandra at a derasar and took the name Somachandra.[1] He was trained in religious discourse, philosophy, logic and grammar. In 1110, at the age of 21, he was ordained as an acharya of the Svetambara sect of Jainism and was given the name Somachandra (popularly Hemachandra).[2]

At the time, Gujarat was ruled by the Chaulukya dynasty.[1] Hemachandra rose to prominence under the reign of Siddharaja (fl. 1092–1141) and was an advisor to his successor Kumarpal (1143–1173). During Kumarapala's reign, Gujarat became a reputed center of culture. Starting in 1121, Hemachandra was involved in the construction of the Jain temple at Taranga. His influence on Kumarapala resulted in the Jain religion becoming the official religion of Gujarat, and animal slaughter was banned.

Hemachandra and Kumarapāla

According to Prabhachandra, there was an incident where Siddharaja wanted to kill his nephew Kumarpala because it was prophecised that the kingdom would meet its demise through Kumarpala hands. Hemachandra hid Kumarpala under a pile of manuscripts in order to save him.[1] However, such motifs are common in Indian folk literature, hence there is no guarantee that this was a historical event. Also, many sources differ on what were the motives of Siddharaja.[1] However, they are unanimous in claiming that Hemachandra was responsible to make Kumarpala the king and helped him run the kingdom according to Jain principles.[3]

Taking an approach of Anekāntavāda, Ācārya Hemacandra is said to have displayed a broad-minded attitude, which pleased Kumarpal.[2] Certain people who were jealous of Hemacandra's rising popularity with the king complained that Hemacandra was a very arrogant person, that he did not respect the Hindu gods and that he refused to bow down to Śiva. When called upon to visit the temple of Śiva with the king, Hemacandra readily bowed before the idol of Śiva, but said:[2]
I am bowing down only to that god who has destroyed the passions like attachment and hatred which are the cause of worldly life, whether he is Brahmā, Viṣṇu, or Jina.
He ensured that he remained true to tenets of Jainism, namely, that a Jain should bow down only to a passionless and detached God such as a Jina, and at the same time managed to please the king. Ultimately, the king became a devoted follower of Hemacandra and a champion of Jainism.[2]


A prodigious writer, Hemchandra rote grammars of Sanskrit and Prakrit, texts on science and logic and practically all branches of Indian philosophy. His best known work, the epic poem Tri-shashthi-shalaka-purusha-charitra (Lives of Sixty-Three Great Men), is a hagiographical treatment of the sequence of teachers and their pupils who were instrumental in defining the Jaina philosophical position, their ascetisicism and eventual liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth, as well as the legendary spread of the Jaina influence. It still serves as the standard synthesis of source material for the early history of Jainism. The appendix to this work, Parishista-parvan, contains his own commentary and is in itself a treatise of considerable depth (translated into English as The Lives of the Jain Elders by Richard Fynes (Oxford University Press, 1998)). Hemachandra, following the earlier Gopala, presented an earlier version of the Fibonacci sequence. It was presented around 1150, about fifty years before Fibonacci (1202). He was considering the number of cadences of length n, and showed that these could be formed by adding a short syllable to a cadence of length n − 1, or a long syllable to one of n − 2. This recursion relation F(n) = F(n − 1) + F(n − 2) is what defines the Fibonacci sequence.[4][5]

Some of his works are:

  • Kavyanushasana: poetics or hand book of poetry/manual of poetry.
  • Desinamamala: a list of words of local origin
  • Siddha-haima-shabdanushasana: Prakrit and Apabhramsha grammars
  • Abhidhana-chintamani
  • Dvyashraya-Mahakavya

See also


External links

  • Acharya Hemchandra by Madhya Pradesh Hindi Granth Academy
  • The Rhythm of Poetry
  • The Golden Mean and the Physics of Aesthetics

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