Jul 3, 2008

A Jaina Motif In Indian & Eastern Architecture

Mr. S. K. Saraswati


Logically and rationally it is not possible, nor desirable, to classify Indian architectural styles according to their religious affiliations. At the same time, however, it cannot be ignored that a few of the Indian religious systems developed some special forms or types of monuments which may be described to be distinctively their own For instance, one may cite the stupa and the caitya shrine each of which, as a form of architecture, is known to have intimate associations with Buddhists religious beliefs and usages. The Buddhists owed their inspiration for raising stupas to earlier pre-Buddhist practices. As a form of memorial the stupa was not known to the Jainas. But it is the Buddhists who particularly selected and adopted it to their own use and much of the development and elaboration of the design and form of the monument in course of time was, in a large measure, due to Buddhist patronage. It is not surprising, hence, that as a form of architecture the stupa, had acquired a special and almost exclusive Buddhist connotation. The caitya shrine is exclusively Buddhist in inspiration, the design and form being, to a great extent, determined by the needs and exigencies of that particular belief in the worship of the caitya which was almost universal in the early days of Buddhism. With the introduction of the image of the Master and the occupation of its rightful place in the beliefs and rituals of his followers, the caitya shrine as a form of monument went out of use, the few experiments, to utilised it to new usage having proved unsatisfactory and unsuitable.

Jainism is still a living faith in India and Jaina patronage has played a not insignificant part in the history of Indian art and culture. So far as architecture is concerned, the Jainas are known to have been responsible for the creation of important groups of temples in different parts of India, some of which (the Dilwara group, for instance) are justly regarded as outstanding creation. But Jainism, or for the matter of that Buddhism or Brahmanism, cannot be said to have developed a particular style of temple exclusively its own. A survey of Jaina temples in different parts of India would tend to show that basically and fundamentally they have affiliations with the style or types prevailing in the regions and periods in which they were erected. The few Jaina temples in South India have clear affinities with the Dravida temples style of the south. The Jaina temples of Khajuraho belong to the Central Indian expression of the Nagara temple style. The Dilwara temples, as much as other Jaina temples in the west, are intimately related to the Western movement of the Nagara style. It would be futile to separate the Jaina temples as a class apart from the monuments of other creeds. There are minor variations no doubt, due to the exigencies of the beliefs and rituals of Jainism; but such variations are not fundamental enough to affect their basical relation with the styles and types in regard to time and space.

A distinctive Jaina inconographic motif, however, seems to have been responsible for inspiring a rate type of Indian temple, a type that may be found to have significant reverberations in South East Asia. A four-faced image, usually known as Chaturmaukha or Caumuha , has been a very popular Jaina iconographic theme from fairly early times. Such and image has been described as Pratima Sarvatobhadrika in inscriptions of the early centuries of the Christian era. It takes of the shape of solid square obelisk with four images on its four faces or sides. The image depicted on the four face are usually those of the four Tirthankaras - Risabhnath (Adinatha), the first; Santinatha , the sixteenth; Parsvanatha, the twenty-third; and Mahavira, the twenty-fourth. Sometimes, the figure of the same Tirthankara is repeated on all the four faces. This variation, however is immaterial. The name Sarvatobhadrika means 'pleasing' or 'auspicious' from all directions. It is important ot observe that the Jainas had conceived a four-faced votive object which is naturally and logically expected to be approached from the four directions.

The sanctum cella (garbha-griha) is meant for the enshrinement of the image of a divinity, and as such is regarded as the holiest of the holies in the entire temple complex which, not infrequently, assumes extensive proportions. Almost invariably the garbha-griha consists of a square chamber with a single entrance facing the image installed inside. A sanctum with a single entrance generally suits the needs of worship according to the rituals and beliefs of the different Indian creeds, the majority of the images of the various pantheons having been conceived for confrontation by the worshippers from one direction only, i.e., from front. But the four-faced votive object of the Jaina, as the motif itself suggests, requires to be confronted from four directions and a shrine with four entrances on four faces is the most suitable design for the proper installation of such a quadruple image. A four-faced shrine appears to be the natural and logical answer, hence, to the four-faced votive image conceived by the Jainas.

In this context it may be useful to mention that Indian literature on art frequently refers to a type of temple called sarvatobhadra. There are variations in the descriptions of the type in the different texts. All texts, however, are agreed that the fundamental design of a sarvatobhadra temple admirably suits the needs of a four-faced Jaina image, pratima sarvatobhadrika , and it is not without significance that the term sarvatobhadra has been used as a qualifying designation in each case. The iconographic theme and the architectural design seem to go together, one being complementary to the other.

The number of Jaina sarvatobhdrika images of the early centuries of the Christian era is not small. From Eastern India have been discovered also a fairly substantial number of such images of the early mediaeval epoch. Unfortunately, the shrines in which such images were installed have disappeared. As already observed, the name sarvatobhadra for the architectural design appears to have significant relations with the term sarvatobhadra used for the iconographic motif. The linking together of the two seems to be not without interest. In this situation it is possible to presume that the Jainas might have introduced the design of the four-faced shrine, i.e., a shrine without entrances, in the four cardinal directions, in order to suit the needs of the four-faced votive object that they had evolved. In a manner this supposition finds confirmation in a number of monolithic votive templets from Eastern India, now in the State Archaeological Gallery of West Bengal. They belong to the early mediaeval period and each of them shows four figures of four Tirthankaras on four sides of a cubic block topped by a graceful curvilinear shkhara , thereby reproducing, in all probability, a shrine with four entrances confronting the dour figures of the block installed within a cubic sanctum cella. Such a shrine, i.e., one with four entrances might also have been employed for installation of a pratima sarvatobhadrika of the early Christian epoch. The type ;of shrine with four doors on four cardinal faces appears, thus, to have evolved by the Jainas for the proper installation of their sarvatobhadrika images at a fairly early date. The Yugadisvara temple at Ranakpur of the fifteenth centuries may be recognised to be the most elaborate expression of the simple four-entranced cubical shrine of the Jainas of the early phases.

Among the Buddhists the idea of Jaina sarvatobhadrika finds expression in two votive templets, done in stone from Dinajpur and the other in bronze from Jhewari (Chittagong District ), both in Bangla Desh. Each of them is in the form of shrine surmounted by a sikhara, the cubical block in the lower section having four figures in niches (the niches in the bronze specimen are now empty ). These votive offerings of Buddhist affiliation, there is hardly any doubt, echo the motif of the Jaina sarvatobhadrika and reproduces the design of a four entranced shrine.

It will be useful to mention in this context a few early temples of Burma consecrated for Buddhist usage. They repeat not only the iconographic motif of Sarvatobhadrika image but the architectural design of Sarvatobhadra temples in a clear and explicit manner. In such shrines the iconographic motif in each case occupies the position of the altar. The earliest of these temples seems to have been the Lemeythna at Hmawza (Thayetkhettaya - old Srikshetra). The exact date of this structure is not known. Some scholars would assign it to a date between the fifth and the eighth century with the inherent probability that it might have been the earliest of the extant monuments in this old city. In spite of its battered state it is possible to determine the fundamental features of its composition,. It is seen to be a cubical shrine with four entrances on its four main sides, each entrance being further strengthened by two projecting buttresses flanking the sides. In the interior one finds a solid masonry obelisk of square shape occupying the middle of the sanctuary. This obelisk is faced on four sides by four sculptured figures, each in axial with the entrance doorway on each of the sides. This obelisk shoots high up to roof and the space between the obelisk and the walls forms a continuous gallery around. It is not impossible to find in this Buddhist monument a faithful expression of the sarvatobhadra shrine together with a reproduction of iconographic motif of the sarvatobhadrika.

The pattern, apparently Jaina in inspiration, remained very popular among the Burmese Buddhists for a long time and several notable monuments of this order are known to have been erected in the classical phase of Burmese art and architecture. Among these, the celebrated Ananda temple at Pagan is one of the most remarkable. It was built and consecrated by Kyanzittha in A. D. 1091. In course of time there had been elaborations of the design in respect both of ground plan and elevation. But such elaborations did, in no way, affect the fundamental concept of the iconographic motif or of the architectural form. Hence in the middle of each of the four cardinal faces, one finds the square masonary pile in the centre with four colossal figure of the Buddha in recessed niches on its four sides. The altar is surrounded by two concentric galleries communicating with each other and with the approach vestibules and grilled windows in the walls by passages cutting and cross-cutting one another. Further light is admitted in the interior, especially to the niches containing the sculptures , by projecting dormer windows provided in the superstructure on the four sides. One may, perhaps, find in the Ananda temple at Pagan one of the most notable expressions of a four-faced shrine that might have started with the Jainas for the purpose of housing their caturmukha images.

In Burman the type is known to have been in use also in respect of Brahmanical shrines. Mention may be made in this regard of the Nat Hlaung Kyaung temple, which is the only Brahmanical temple, now existing, among the hundred of the Buddhist temples at Pagan. It is said to have been built in A. D. 931 by king Nyaung U. It consists of a nearly square sanctum cella accommodating in the centre a solid brick column with four large brick images, possibly of manifestations of Vishnu (as may be known from the sculptures of his incarnations on the outer walls), on its four sides. Such brick columns with sculptures on four sides, whether Buddhist or Brahmanical, may clearly be recognised, in the ultimate analysis, to be adaptations of the caturmukha or sarvatobhdrika images of the Jainas.

Mention has been made first of the Burmese temples owing to the fact that due to their comparatively fair state of preservation it is possible to recognise easily the correspondences that they bear to the iconographic motif of the Jaina sarvatobhadrika and the architectural design of the sarvatobhadra shrine. In the Indian subcontinent at least, two Buddhist temples of the early mediaeval phase may be suggested to have adopted this iconic theme as well as the architectural design. One is the colossal brick temple occupying the key position in the centre of the extensive monastic complex at Paharpur (Rajshahi District, Bangla Desh) that was once the great Somapura Vihara founded by Dharmapala, the second Pala ruler, about the close of the eighth century or the beginning of the ninth. In the earlier days there was a jaina establishment at or near the site, as is known from a copperplate grant dated in (Gupta) year 159 (A.D. 478-79). The Buddhist temple had many unusual features including elevation in successive terraces; but they do not seem to be relevant ot he scope of this paper. What is important is the nature and form of this Buddhist shrine. The present author has shown elsewhere that the shrine of this colossal monument was situated on the second terrace which consists of a square column-like pile with projected chambers , one on each of its four sides, the whole surrounded by a circumambulatory gallery. There is every possibility that on each of the four sides of the pile an image was installed in the projected chamber against pile behind thus repeating the motif of the sarvatobhadrika images of the Jainas. In this instance the ideas might have been derived from a similar Jaina votive object in the earlier Jaina monastery. The above suggestion gains further support from the extant remains of image pedestals, abutting on the walls of the pile, in a few of the projected chambers. A similar complex, in fragments, has been laid bare on the site, known as Salban Vihara, on the Mainamati hills, the complex that can be identified as the Vihara of Bhavadeva, fourth ruler of the Buddhist Deva dynasty of Eaxt Bengal. The remains of the temple in the centre of the monastic quadrangle may be seen to repeat the above plan of the second terrace of the Paharpur temple. In the Mainamati temple also one finds a square brick column with four projected chambers on its four sides. The above suggestion about the Paharpur temple that it had images on four faces of the square pile in the projected chambers seems o be supported here also by the find of a fragment of a bronze image of the Buddha in one of its projected chambers. These two Indian temples are each in an extremely fragmentary state. The above reconstruction of these two shrines gains credibility from the analogy of the Pagan temples noticed above. The Jaina motif of a four-faced altar appears to have served as the model for imitation by the Buddhists.

In the Nat Hlaung Kyaung temple at Pagan in Burma, consecrated to the worship of Vishnu, the Jaina motif is seen to have been followed, and in this context it may be useful to enquire whether the scheme finds expression in any Brahmanical temple in India or elsewhere. In Brahmanical iconography, not infrequently several divinities have been conceived each with four heads facing the four cardinal directions. But in such concepts the iconic theme in each case has been treated in strict frontal view and as such intended for approach only from the front. Such iconic motifs in Brahmanism can hardly be considered, hence, to the parallel expressions of the Jaina sarvatobhadrika in the literal sense of the term. In illustrating this point reference may be made to the Vaikuntha aspect of Vishnu and Brahma. The first of the Brahmanical triad, each of whom is to have four faces according to iconographic description. The treatment in each case in frontal and the few temples that are known to have been dedicated to their worship are each known to have one door only in front. The Lakshmana temple at Khajuraho, one of the most important enshrining and image of Vaikuntha-Vishnu has an entrance in front only. The Brahma temple at the same place is seen to have four openings on four sides, three of which are closed by stone lattices; that on the east forms the only entrance to the shrine. Such iconic themes in Brahmanism, simply because of their having four faces, are not apparently intended for approach or confrontation from all sides.

In Brahmanism an echo of the Jaina sarvatobhadrika may be recognised in the iconographic motif of Shiva-Linga with four faces or four sides commonly known under the designation of Caturmukha Linga or Caturmukha Mahadeva. The theme is conceived and treated completely in the round in accordance with the cylindrical from of the phallic emblem of the god. Representations of Caturmukha Linga are known from fairly early times and it is difficult to say which of the iconic motifs, the Jaina sarvatobhadrika or the four-faced Linga, is prior in time conceptually. But that the two are parallel expressions of a votive object in its four-fold conception admits of little doubt. A Linga with its plain and cylindrical shape or a Caturmukha Linga allows confrontation from four sides and the logical from of a shrine of this order may be expected to have the shape of a four-entranced cubical cella with the votive object installed in the centre. In the Indian subcontinent thousands of temples are known to have been medicated to the worship of the god Siva, the votive object in each being invariably the Linga, plain or with four faces around. Seldom have they been conceived with more than one entrance. Even the Caturmukha Mahadeva temple at Nachna Kuthara (Madhya Pradesh) with a Caturmukha Linga as the votive object in the shrine is seen to have a single entrance in front. The Matangesvara temple at Khajuraho has four openings in four sides; but only that on the east has been treated as the principal entrance to the shrine. The Aparajita-priccha (circa twelfth century; G.O.S No. CXVI) describes a Siva temple as having four entrances and as sarvatobhadra (sarvatra sarvatobhadras-caturdvarah Sivalayah , chapter 134, verse ). As already observed, this is the logical form that a Linga shrine is expected to have and this to have been recognised by the followers of Saivism rather late in the history of this creed. The Pasupatinatha temple in Nepal and the Visvanatha temple, as we see it today, at Varanasi are each seen to have four doors on four cardinal directions, following the scheme described in the Aprajita-prccha. They are among the most sacred of the Saiva fanes, the former housing a Caturmukha Linga in the sanctum cella. Some late mediaeval Siva temples in Bengal are also known to have four doors, following the sarvatobhadra scheme. The description in the Aprajita-paccha of a Siva temple as sarvatobhadra seems not to be without significance and may lend support to the plausibility that in a Siva shrine of this scheme might have been derived from the particular architectural motif conceived and evolved, as observed above, under Jaina patronage.

This particularly Jaina motif in architecture, as is apparent from the above survey, is thus seen to have extended its impact beyond sectarian confines and to have interesting reverberations among the votaries of other faith, namely Buddhism and Brahmanism , and territories outside. This survey, more or less in outline illustrates the need for a fuller investigation in this regard.

1 comment:

Marayamangalam Desa Mathruka said...

i want to know the jaina flag post erection ritual on their trade route.
as a part of my research. please.

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