Dec 14, 2008

Jain Art and Architecture

By Dr. N. L. Jain


The Jainas could feel proud of their rich cultural heritage since the earliest times. It has a religious orientation in its art in varied forms. Being predominatly idolators, they have good iconography and icon making art. They could make the victor's icons of different sizes, materials, (wood, stone, metal, marble etc.) and postures (seated or standing). They could carve icons out of stones also. All icons have been made according to dimensions with attractive meditating faces of victors expressing the idea of successful withdrawl from worldly life. There are many idols of international accreditation-one of Bahubali at Shravanbelgola in Karnataka (983 AD) and Lord Rishabhdev ar Barvani in Madhya Pradesh state need special mention for their magnificience and heights. The icons are worshipped only after consecration ceremony lasting for seven days with high pomp and show. This ceremony has a large frequency for the last quarter of this century.

Jaina icons are found ever since 400 BC in different parts of India. They are most numerous. Seeing a number of different icons in any museum, one can judge about the development of iconography with respect to material and aesthetic beauty. Palitana is one of the best center for variety of idols. Formerly, all Jina idols were made nude and without identification marks, but later they had the marks like lion (Mahavir), hooded cobra (Parshvnatha) and bull (Rishabhdeva) etc. sometimes with or without eight auspicious symbols on both sides of identification marks. The images of many lesser deities were also incorporated later in this art. They included demigods and the likc. Footprints are also a speciality of Jaina art to make one remember to follow the path led by the Victors.. Marked and adored images were also made for sectional identification later. This idol making art is a highly creditable one in Gujarat and Rajasthan states of India.

The temple making art is also superb in Jain architecture. Currently, one can distinguish the regional temples by their architectural designs in west and central part of the country. These temples are places of worship where Jina idols alongwith demigods and goddesses are kept on stone or marble made altar under aesthetic beauty. Many temples have fine decorative art of surprising nature such as at Khajuraho, Deogarh, Mt. Abu, Ranakpur etc. The temples sometimes have a magnificient tope in front of them such as at Hastinapur, Mathura etc. Many temples have free standing pillars called vanity-subduing pillars again a speciality of the Jains in religious field.

Cave temples-simple or rock cut are other variety found in Orissa, Bihar and south extensively. Some cave temples contain polished stone beds per chance representing the place for voluntary death. Temple arches are also found in many places. Shrines are another forms for temple- like places. The temple art has a Nagar or Dravidian style. The temples were made at distinct places some of whi,Ch have developed as temple cities now like palitana, Ahar, Kundalpur, Rajgir etc. The temple art is still continuing gracefully.

Wall paintings are also found in many temples and caves representing religious stories, tenets and prominent incidents of Victors lives, mother's dreams, legendary scenes, miniature painting and palm leaf or paper decoration (manuscripts) which has also been an art of respect. The exquisite samples of this art are found in many Jain manuscrpit libraries. Wood carving has also been an art. It seems some of these arts have been declining considerably.

The art and architecture of the Jainas have the main objective to maintain, preserve and glorify the culture extensively. They also glorify the devotees too internally with psychological bliss. Jainas realised that true art represents the spirit of true religion. Besides its religious value, it has been taken as a treasure of the country. That is why many Jain art centers have become tourist attractions now.


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