What Does “Jai Jinendra” Mean?

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What Does “Jai Jinendra” Mean?
By Christopher Miller, PhD

Jains routinely say “Jai Jinendra” to one another when they meet. But where does this greeting come from, what does it mean, and why don’t Jains just say hello?


As this article will briefly show, “Jai Jinendra” is used not only as a salutation, but when we think about it more deeply, it reminds Jains of their commitment to the Jain path and those enlightened and liberated souls who inspire them to stay on course.


What is equally fascinating, however, are some of the speculative origins of this famous Jain greeting.


Speculative Origins of Jai Jinendra

The exact origins of “Jai Jinendra” are not precisely known. Some speculate that it could reach all the way back to the time of Acharya Bhadrabahu. Like many other South Asian teachings, this phrase has been passed down orally from generation to generation. But what does actual evidence tell us about the origins of this oft-repeated phrase?


There is some very speculative, yet limited evidence regarding the origins of “Jai Jinendra.” Dating to perhaps the 5th century CE, for example, we find the following text inscribed on copper plates honoring the Halasi grant from Kākutstha who gifted land to Śrutakīrti, a devout Jain, who wanted to create a place for the worship of the Jinas in South India (Sohoni 1979: 18-21). The first two lines of this text read as follows:


jayati bhagavāñ jinendro guṇarundraḥ pra[thi]ta[parama*] kāruṇikaḥ [|*]

trailokyāśvāsakarī dayāpatākocchritā yasya || 

(text from from Bisschop and Cecil 2021)


Victorious is the Blessed Jinendra, who is rich in merits, who is celebrated for his supreme compassion, who comforts the three worlds, whose banner of sympathy is raised up!” (translation from Bisschop and Cecil 2021)


In the first line of this translation, we encounter “jayati bhagavāñ jinendro,” where we notice “jayati” (“Victorious,” literally “he is victorious”), “bhagavāñ” (“blessed” or “holy”), and “jinendro” (which is “jinendraḥ”in its full form, meaning “lord of the Jinas”). 


Who is this victorious Jinendra, “lord of the Jinas?” Many assume it is Mahāvīra, or perhaps all the Jinas collectively. 


However, at the end of the inscription, we find the salutation, “ṛṣabhāya namaḥ,” meaning “salutations to Ṛṣabha.” Ṛṣabha is of course the first of twenty-four Jinas, or Tīrthaṅkaras, in the Jain tradition. When giving praise to the “lord of the Jinas,” this 5th c. CE salutation therefore pays tribute to Ṛṣabha (Bisschop and Cecil 2021: 616).


The opening salutation, “jayati bhagavāñ jinendro,” is subsequently replicated in other writings. We find evidence for this in 1901 in the work of F. Kielhorn who translated the same opening words from the beginning of a much longer poem written in Sanskrit and Kannada. It appears in the Aihole inscription at a Jain temple atop Meguti hill in Aihole, Karnataka, and dates to the year 634 CE. 


The poem was written by the poet Ravikirti who was patronized by the powerful Chalukya ruler Pulakeshin II. Reflecting the Halasi grant, it begins as follows:


jayati bhagavāñ jinendro vītajarāmaraṇajanmano yasya | 

jñānasamudrāntargatam akhilañ jagad antarīpam iva ||

(text from from Bisschop and Cecil 2021: 616 fn 17)


Victorious is the holy Jinendra— he who is exempt from old age, death and 

birth — in the sea of whose knowledge the whole world is comprised like an island.”

(translation from Kielhorn 1901: 7)


Following our previous translation, “jayati bhagavāñ jinendro” again here means, “Victorious is the blessed/holy Jina.” And notably, Ravikirti does not pay homage to Ṛṣabha at the end of his inscription, so which Tīrthaṅkara “Jinendra” refers to is more open to speculation.


These references to “jayati bhagavāñ jinendro,” an opening salutation replicated in other early South Indian inscriptions, present early evidence of the use of what is today simply expressed in the greeting “Jai Jinendra.” 


A closer look at the etymology of “Jai Jinendra” helps us see how the early inscriptions may in fact be directly related to the greeting Jains use today.


Meaning of Jai Jinendra

Two key words in the salutation “jayati bhagavāñ jinendro“ found in the inscriptions mentioned above directly relate to today’s greeting, “Jai Jinendra.” These are the words “jayati,” which comes from the same verbal root as “Jai,” and “jinendro,” which in its root form is “jinendra,” precisely as we find it in the vocative greeting “Jai Jinendra” today.


Let us therefore consider the etymology of both Jai (“jayati”) and Jinendra (“jinendro”).


Meaning of Jai

“Jai” or “Jay” is a common saying in many South Asian traditions meant to convey respect, glory, and/or the spiritual “victory” of the names that follow it.


Like the verb “jayati” we encountered earlier, the word “jai” (sometimes also written “jay”) comes from the Sanskrit noun “jaya,” which can mean “conquest, victory, triumph, winning.” The word “jaya” itself indeed comes from the verbal root “ji,” meaning “to win, be victorious.” 


When we say “Jai,” we therefore emphasize “victory” or “victoriousness.”


Meaning of Jinendra

This brings us now to the word “Jinendra,” which is comprised of two parts, “Jina” and “Indra.”


A Jina is, literally, a “victor” in Sanskrit, and shares the same verbal root with “jaya,” that is, “ji” (once again meaning “to win, be victorious”). Jina of course refers to the Tīrthaṅkaras, including the well-known Mahāvīra, but also others including Ṛṣabha as we saw in the Halasi grant inscription.


One way to translate “Tīrthaṅkara” is by breaking the word into its two main parts. A “tīrtha” is a bridge, and the noun comes from the verbal root “tṝ,” meaning “to cross over.” And is that not exactly what a bridge allows us to do? 


The word “kara,” on the other hand, means “maker” and comes from the verbal root kṛ, which means “to make” or “to do.” Together, “tīrthaṅkara” therefore literally translates as “bridge-builder,” and though this is not a common Jain understanding of the term, it points to the very important fact that the Jinas build a bridge for us to “cross over” from the world of suffering to the abode of spiritual freedom.


Moving to the second word in “Jinendra,” “Indra” is the name of a deity from the Vedic pantheon. The term can also simply be translated as “lord.” In the Jain tradition, the term takes this latter meaning, meant to convey the knowledge and power of those who bear such a title.


Taken together, “Jai Jinendra” thereby translates as something like, “Victorious is the Lord of the Jinas,” or perhaps better, “Victorious is the Jina-lord.” It therefore comes very close to the meaning of “jayati bhagavāñ jinendro,” which just adds the emphatic adjective “blessed” to describe those who it pays respects to: “Victorious is the blessed lord of the Jinas/Jina-lord.”


Concluding Thoughts

Many South Asian religious traditions use the term “Jai” plus their respective deity to greet one another, or simply to express devotion for their deity of choice. Jai Shree Ram or Jai Hanuman come to mind, for example.


What makes “Jai Jinendra” so unique is its unique praise for human beings who are said to have fully eliminated their karma and freed their soul without divine intervention, and in doing so, have set a path for others to do the same.


Specifically, the Halasi grant inscription celebrates the compassion and comfort that Ṛṣabha, the first Tīrthaṅkara, brought to the three worlds. By three worlds, the inscriptions are referring to the earth, the celestial realms, and the hell realms. To add to this, the Aihole inscription celebrates the Jina’s vast omniscience and freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth experienced in these three worlds. 


We can then at least further imply that every time we greet one another with the salutation, “Jai Jinendra,” that we are also celebrating these ancient qualities embodied and modeled by none other than the Jinas themselves. Which Jina we refer to (perhaps all of them?) when we greet one another is up to us. Which one will you?


Jai Jinendra!



Does understanding the history and etymology of “Jai Jinendra” excite you? Would you like to learn more about the origins and meanings of other traditional Jain concepts? Apply to our MA – Engaged Jain Studies program where we explore the many fascinating historical, philosophical, and anthropological dimensions of the Jain tradition and how they apply to contemporary society.




Bisschop, Peter C., and Elizabeth A. Cecil. 2021. "Jayati Bhagavah Jinendrah! Jainism and Royal Representation in the Kadamba Plates of Palasika." The Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 141, no. 3: 613-635.


Kielhorn, F. 1901. “Aihole Inscription of Pulikesin II, Saka Samvat 556.” Epigraphica Indica Volume 6: 1-11.


Sohoni, S. V. 1979. Guptas, Kadambas, Pallavas, and Kālidāsa. Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute vol. 60, no. 1: 1–40.