Apr 24, 2008


(C. 200 B.C.-200 A.D.)

By: Priyatosh Banerjee, Archaeological Section, Indian Museum, Calcutta.

It is difficult to say when first the Jainas took to the practice of worshipping images.[1] Stevenson states that an image of Mah¡v¢ra[2] was installed in Upake¿apattana during the leadership of the Jaina leader Prabhava (4th century B.C.). That image-worship was in prevalence among the Jainas about the same time is supported by archaeological evidence. The H¡th¢gumph¡ inscription of Jaina king Kh¡ravela records that he took back from P¡¶liputra the Jina idol which was carried off by one of the Nandar¡jas from Kali´ga.[3] This shows that the Nandas who ruled in 4th century B.C. were followers of Jainaism[4], Kali´ga was an ancient centre of Jaina faith, and T¢rtha´kara images were made for worship as early as the days of the Nandas. It may be noted here that among the Patna Museum exhibits there are two nude mutilated statues[5] found in Lohanipur, Patna Town. One of them possesses polish characteristic of Maurya age and can be attri-buted to 3rd century B.C. and the other can be attributed on stylistic grounds to 2nd century B.C. It is quite possible that they represent T¢rtha´kara images of 3rd century B.C. and 2nd century B.C. respectively. The author of Artha¿¡stra seems to refer to the Jaina gods in Jayanta, Vaijayanta and Sarv¡rthasiddhi[6]:

Most of the important caves, viz. Ananta, R¡¸¡ and Ga¸e¿a Gumph¡s in Orissa were excavated in 2nd century B. C. The Ananta Gumph¡ contains symbols like Tri¿£la and Svastika on its back wall. Moreover, the courtyard of the cave possesses images of many Jaina deities and saints[7]. The R¡¸¢gumph¡ is elaborately decorated with scenes of human activities some of which may represent Jaina religious festivals[8]. These facts wouId show that image worship was popular among the Jainas several centuries earlier than Christan era.
Mathur¡ was a very important seat of the Jainas during the period under review. The archaeological excavations[9] there have laid bare the remains of a Jaina stupa, temples and sculptures ranging from 2nd century B.C. to 3rd century AD. mostly. The Mathur¡ sculptures have placed at our disposal immense and varied materials with regard to the study of jaina deities. They represent most of the T¢rtha´karas inluding Rishabha, the earliest one which shows that the belief of the Jainas in all the 24 T¢rtha´karas was an established fact during the period under review.

The Tirthafikara images arc purely Indian conceptions and do not betray any foreign influence. One of the striking features of the Jaina figures is their nudity which distinguished them from Buddha and Buddhist images. Nudity however is true only of the Digambara images, whereas the ávet¡mbaras clothe their figures. The Jinas bear symbols not only on the palms and soles but also in the centre of their breasts. The hair is usually arranged in short curls in the shape of spirals turned towards the right as is also the case with the most Buddha images. But in the earlier specimens we find sometimes a different treatment. The hair assumes the appearance of a perwig or it hangs down on the shoulders in strange locks. In contradistinction with Buddha the earlier T¢rtha´kars have neither Ush¸¢shes nor Ur¸¡ but those of the latter part of the middle ages have a distinct excrecence on the top of the head[10]".

A very interesting type of the Tirtharikara images of our period in Mathura is that of the Jina quadruple which is known in Jaina inscriptions and literature as Sarvato-bhadrik¡ pratim¡. 'They consist of a block square in section' with a T¢rtha´kara carved on each of the four faces.[11] There is no injunction however as to the particular T¢rtha´karas to be figured there, but generally the most important ones are chosen. A quadruple image of an 'unnamed Jina perfectly nude' is represented on an inscribed sculptured panel found in Ka´k¡l¢ mound in Mathur¡[12]. The epigraph records that it was the gift of Kum¡ramit¡, the first wife of áresh¶hin called Ven¢. The gift was made at the request of the venerable Vasul¡, a female pupil of venerable Sanghamik¡ who is inturn a female pupil of venerable monk Jayabh£ti. The inscription has been assigned to the Kush¡¸a Period on palaeographical grounds.[13] From the same site, that is Ka´k¡l¢ mound in Mathur¡, we have another very interesting representation of an inscribed Sarvatobhadrik¡ Pratim¡ of our period. The Jina shown there is p¡r¿van¡tha with trace of his snake canopy. The inscription states that this fourfold image was dedicated by one Sthir¡ for the welfare and the happiness of all creatures. This inscription also belongs to the Kush¡¸a period[14].

We may refer now to a few early specimens of other types of sculptured represention of Jaina T¢rtha´karas in Mathur¡. An elaborate sculpture containing the figure of seated Jaina was found in Ka´k¡l¢ mound in February 1890. Unfortunately the head of the figure is missing. The Jina is shown with numerous attendant deities. On the pedestal are two lions and two bulls. From the presence of the bull it is evident that the Jina depicted here is Ëdin¡tha or Rishabhadatta. The inscription (defwcd) at the base seems to be in early scripts[15].

Another specimen of Ëdin¡tha figure (belonging to Kushana period) is to be seen on the Mathura Museum panel No. B4. The figure was set up in a Jaina monastery as the inscription states by alady in the year 84 of the reign of Sh¡hi V¡sudeva[16], the Kush¡¸a king. The relief in front of the pedestal contains a Dharma Chakra on a Pillar being worshipped by human devotees including the male and female as well.

A mutilated figure of Aran¡tha[17] is found represented on a sculptured panel which was got in Ka´k¡l¢ mound in the year 1890-91. It belongs to the Kush¡¸a period. The Jina is shown standing by the side of a wheel placed on Tr¢¿£la with a piece of cloth in his left hand. Namin¡tha and Nemin¡tha, the 21st and 22nd Jaina T¢rtha´karas seem to have been representated along with P¡r¿van¡tha and Mah¡v¢ra on a broken sculptured panel which might have formed part of the decoration of a Tora¸a Pillar[18] of a Jaina monastery in Mathur¡ during our period. There is a fine specimen of Neminatha figurer[19] in Mathura Museum which Vogel has described in his catalogue of the Mathura Museum antiquities. Nemin¡tha is seated 'cross-legged in the attitude of meditation' on the throne. The throne rests on two pillars and a pair of lions. Behind the pillars are two figures with hands joined in adoration. From the throne an ornamental cloth hangs down between the two lions. Below it there seems to be a wheel. There is conch-shell (symbol of Nemin¡tha) on the plain rim of the pedestal.

The Jaina legends introduce very often the story of Krish¸a V¡sudeva and his family. In the Antaga·a Das¡o[20] we are told that some members of Krish´a's family joined the Jaina church at the instance of Arish¶anemi, and Krish¸a also, as the legend goes, was proclaimed by him, that is Arish¶anemi, to be the 12th among the T¢rtha´karas who would arise in the Dushama Sushama age. There is a sculptured panel[21] of Mathur¡ which represents an ascetic receiving homage from the female devotees. The inscription records that the panel was a gift of the wife of a person called Dhanahastin. It bears the year 95 of Kush¡¸a King V¡sudeva's reign probably. The word Ka¸ha árama¸a[22] occurs in bold types between the head of the ascetic and that of the lady devotee to the proper right. This Ka¸ha may be the Krish¸a V¡sudeva of the Jaina legend. Whether the Jaina viewpoint, regarding Krish¸a V¡sudeva and his family is accepted or not, this much is true that Jainism and Vaishnavism came to a close contact with each other during the time of Arish¶anemi who was a cousin of Krish¸a and Baladeva. Because of the family relationship between Arish¶anemi and Krish¸a V¡sudeva, Jainism was co-existent with Vaishnavism since Arish¶anemi's time in places like
Dv¡rak¡, central India, and Yamun¡ valley, the sphere of Y¡dava influence. Arish¶anemi's emblem is a conch which may be reminiscent of his relationship with the Vaishnavite family of Krish¸a and Balar¡ma.
P¡r¿van¡tha occurs very frequently in Mathur¡ art of our period. We have already referred to his representation as sarvato-bhadrik¡ Pratim¡. We shall consider now one or two other specimens of his figure preserved in the Mathur¡ Museum. The mathur¡ Mesuem panel B. 70 represnts a stele[23] (1' 101/2' in height) with nude Jina figures standing, one each on the four sides. Three fourth figures have been provided with haloes, the fourth one is represented with a sevenhead N¡ga hood. This fourth figure represented with no doubt p¡r¿van¡tha. The Mathur¡ Museum panel B 71 also contains a represntation jof p¡rsvan¡tha with similar N¡ga hood.[24] Both these figures belong perhaps to our period.

Vardham¡na Mah¡vir¡ is the most popular of all the T¢rtha´kars. There are innumerable sculptured representations of his figure in Mathurg and other centres of Jaina faith. We shall, however, for our present purpose refer only to two Vardham¡na images found in ka´k¡l¢ mound in Mathur¡ which belongs perhaps to early centuries of the Christion era. In one panel[25] he is shown seated under his sacred tree with several attendant figures, one of whom is a N¡ga with a canopy of cobra hoods. There is a defaced inscription on the pedestals of his image which begins with 'Namo'[26] in early scripts. The other image in question is seated under a small canopy with two attendants, one on either side.[27] Both the Vardham¡na a figures are seated in dhy¡n¡sana posture, and have, besides the attendants, two lions on the pedestal and angels or Gandharvas, hovering in the air and offering garlands.

The Jainas were primarily founder worshippers, but their mythology includes besides the 24 T¢rtha´karas a number of other deities. One of the most important deity of this class is Naigamesha. Naigamesha is represented on the obverse of a fragment of a Jaina sculpture discovered at Mathur¡.[28] The inscription incised on the panel is written in scripts of the beginning of the Christian era. The deity (Naigamesha) is a goat-headed one seated on a low seat in an easy attitude. He is shown with his face turned to the proper right, as if addressing to another personage, whose image has been lost.[29] To his right there are three female figures standing and an infant is shown close to the knee. The deity is called in the inscription 'Bhagavat Nemeso.'
Nemeso of the present inscription is a variant of the name of the deity Hari¸egamesi in the Kalpas£tra, Naigameshin in the Nemin¡tha Charita and Nejamesha or Naigameya in other works.[30] In Jaina religious art he is depicted as a figure either with the head of a ram or antelope or a goat. In the Mathur¡ sculpture which is the subject of discussion here he is found bearing a goat's head. Cunningham discovered four mutilated figures of Naigamesha which he failed to identify and described them simply as deities with Ox's head.[31]
According to Buhler the sculpture depecting Naigamesha with female figures and a small child refers most probably to the legend which narrates the exchange of the embryo of Devanand¡ and Tri¿al¡.[32] The legend in the Kalpas£tra in short is this. Mah¡v¢ra took the form of an embryo in the Br¡hma´¢ Devanand¡'s body. Thinking that an Arhat ought not to be born in a low Brahmanical family, Indra 'directed Hari¸e gameshi, the divine commander of infantry to transfer Mah¡v¢ra from the body of Devanand¡ to Tri¿al¡, a lady of the Ju¡tri of Kshatriyas, who was also with a child. Hari¸egameshi carried out successfully Indra's order.

In Jaina mythology Naigameshin is regarded also as a deity of procreation. The Antaga¸a-Das¡o refers to the story as to how, lady Sulas¡ propitiated Naigameshin and had a conception through his compassion.[33] The ancient Jainas represented Naigameshin in both male and female forms as presiding over child birth. The sculptures of the Curzon Museum, Muttra, Nos. 2547 and E. I. represent the deity in his male aspect, and sculpture No. I. E2. (of the same museum) in her female aspect as the goat-headed mother goddess.[34]
The Jaina pantheon includes the deities like Sarasvat¢ and Ga¸e¿a etc. which figure prominently in Hindu pantheon also. We have from the Jaina mound of Ka´k¡l¢ two headless female statues. One of them has not been identified,[35] the other is the figure of Sarasvat¢.[36] The goddess is seated on a rectangular pedestal 'with her knees up.' She has a manuscript in her left hand and the right hand which was raised up is lost. There is a small attendant on her either side. The inscription on the pedestal consists of seven lines in Indoscythic scripts.[37]

Besides the figures of T¢rtha´karas and other deities of the Jaina pantheon the Mathur¡ sculptures of Ka´k¡l¢ mound bear isolated symbols and designs auspicious to the Jainas, such as Svastika, Vajra, shell, bulls, elephants, goose and antelope, 38

etc. Svastika to the Jainas is the emblem of Sup¡rsvan¡, the 7th Jina, and Vajra is that of Dharman¡tha, the 15th Jina, the shell is the cognizance of Nemin¡tha, the 22nd Jina, elephant of Ajitanath¡, the 2nd Jina, goose of Sumatin¡tha the 5th Jina, antelope of ¿¡ntin¡tha, the 16th Jina and bull of Rishabh¡natha, the 1st Jina. All these would show that the art of Ka´k¡l¢ mound was thoroughly imbued with the spirit of Jainism.
[1] The ideal of a Jaina ascetic is the attainment of Nirv¡¸a-freedom from the bondage of Karma through self efforts. An ascetic in his striving for Nirv¡¸a endeavours 'to suppress the natural desire of a man to worship the higher powers'. But it is not possible for any ordinary lay hearer to cling to the ideal of ascetics which requires a stern and austere training. So the religious feelings of the jaina laity, it is natural, centered round the founders and expounders of the religion, (that is the T¢rtha´karas). This gave rise to the worship of the Jinas and in its train came also the worship of some deities of popular imagination, in Jainaism. We know that the affections of the Buddhist laity also were directed to similar results (that is the worship of Buddha and a number of other deities).

[2] Stevenson, The heart of janism, p. 69.
[3] J. B. O. R. S. Vol. iii, part IV, P. 458.
[4] There are literary evidences to show that the Nanda rulers were favourably disposed towards Jainism. Hemachandra, Parisishtaparva, Cantoes VII-VIII, C.J. Shah, Jainism in Northern India, p. 129.
[5] . J. B. O. R. S., 1937: pp. 130-32.
[6] Arth¡¿¡stra, mysore Oriental series, p. 61.
[7] C.J. Shah, Jainism in Northern India, p. 152.
[8] Bengal District Gazetteer, Puri, p. 254.
[9] Vogel, Catalogue of the Archaeological Museum at Mathura, p.11, Smith, The Jaina Stupa and other Antiquities of Mathura, pp. 2-3.
[10] Vogel, Catalogue of the Archaeological Museum at Mathura, p. 42,
[11] Ibid., p. 42-43.
[12] Smith, The Jaina Stupa and other Antiquities of Mathura, p. 46, Ep. Ind. Vol. I, p. 382, No. II.
[13] Smith, Jaina Stupa etc., p. 46 .
[14] Ep. Ind., Vol. II, p. 210, Smith, The Jaina Stupa and other antiornities of Mathura. p. 46, PI. Xc., fig. 2.
[15] Smith, Jaina Stupa etc., p. 55, Pl. XCVIII.
[16] Vogel, Catalogue of the Archaeological Museum at Mathura, p. 67.
[17] Smith, Jaina Stupa etc., PI. VI.
[18] Smith, Jaina Stupa etc., Pl. XVII.
[19] Vogel, Catalogue of the ArchacoIogical Museum at Mathura, B. 77, P. 81.
[20] Antaga·a Das¡o (Oriental Translation Fund), pp. 61-62.
[21] Smith, Jaina Stupa, etc. Pl. XVII, p. 24.
[22] Ibid., p . 24.
[23] Vogel, Catalogue of the Archaeological Museum at Mathura, B.70.
[24] . Ibid., B. 71.
[25] Smith, Jaina Stupa etc., p. 49, Pl. XCI, right hand figure.
[26] Ibid.
[27] Ibid., p. 49. Pl. XCI, left hand figure.
[28] Smith, Jaina Stupa, etc, p. 25. Pl. XVIII.
[29] Ibid.
[30] Smith, Ibid., p. 25, PI. XVIII, Chapter VI.
[31] A.S.R., Vol. X X, p. 36, Pl. IV. Figs. 2-5
[32] EP. Ind. Vol. III, p. 314.
[33] Antaga·a Das¡o (Oriental Translation Fund), PP. 36-37.
[34] V.S. Agarawala, Handbook to the Sculptures of the Curzon Museum, Muttra.
[35] Smith, Jaina Stupa etc, p. 56, PI. xcix, left hand-figure.
[36] Ibid., right hand figure.
[37] Ibid., p. 57, Ep. Ind. Vol. I, p. 391, No. xxi.

38 Smith, Jaina Stupa etc., pls. Xxxvii, Lxxi, LXV-LXXVI.

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