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Harappa & Jainism

    By Mr. T. N. Ramachandran

    The most monumental products of the Indus Civilization are stone sculptures. 13 pieces of statuary, including two well known and much discussed stone statuettes from Harappa have so fare come to light. Three of them represent animals. Five represent stereotyped squatting God. The two statuettes from Harappa have revolutionized existing notions about ancient Indian Art. Both the statuettes, of less than 4″ in height, are male torsos exhibiting a sensitiveness and a modeling that was both firm and resilient. In both there are socket holes in the neck and shoulders for the attachment of heads and arms made in separate pieces. In one of the statuettes under discussion the body is represented as a volume modeled by an unrestrained life-force pressing from within, activating every particle of the surface. It is in the throes of a subtle and rumbling movement emanating from the core of the body. The figure which appears to be modeled from within, is actually at rest, yet brims with movement. The figure is so full of strength that it appears to grow in stature as well, but actually it is tiny, being 3″-31/4″ high only. The massive torso unfolds life that has mysteriously crept into the forms, keeping it all alert though seemingly at rest like the gyration of a top. In short, the statuette records unconsciously the inner movement of life within the plastic walls of its body. As such it is a sculpture of “modelled mass”. This physical type continues through the ages as the veritable standard in Indian Art for divinities in whom the force of creative activity held under control is to be shown, as for example, in the Jinas or Tirthankaras or deities deep in penance or meditation.

    The other statuette, also from Harappa, represents the nimble figure of a dance whose gliding curves and emphasized planes are intertwined as it were in space in the endless function of following the movement of the dance. The volume of the figure is not only evenly distributed round its axis but also well balanced in the intersection of the place all within the very space created by its body movements. The body’s external movements are so well expressed that they govern the unit of space and volume in which the torso exists. In other words, it is a sculpture of line and planes curved into space. This and the other static statuette already described represent two characteristic modes of Indian sculpture, the one recording the inner unconscious movement of life within the plastic walls of the body and the other the outer movement of the body by an act of will within the space encircled by that very movement. Both statuettes are dated about 2400-2000 B.C. The head or heads, arms and genital organ of the dancing figure were carved separately and socketed into drilled holes of the torse. The legs are broken. The nipples were cut separately and are fixed with cement. The navel is cup shaped. A hole is drilled on the left thigh. The other static figure presents an adipose youth in an element of “frontality” in the muscular forms delineated with careful observation, restraint and breadth of style which is a notable feature of the engraved seals of Mohenjo-Daro. The dancing figure is so lively and fresh that it has no affinity to the dead formalism of the Mohenjo-Daro statuary. It appears to be ithyphallic, lending force to the suggestion that it may represent a prototype of the later day Nataraja, the dancing form of Siva. All art-critics have declared that for pure simplicity and feeling, nothing that compared with these two master-pieces was produced until the great age of Hellas.

    The stone statuette in the element of “frontality” also establishes a fundamental truth about ancient Indian Art, namely, that Indian art is as firmly rooted in nature as it is well established in its social environment and its supramundane origin. It at once represents a divinity with all the virtues of strength and creative activity held under control, not to be thrown out but to be utilized for introspective peace (Santi). This indeed is what we see associated with the Jaina Gods and Tirthankaras whose colossal images such as Sravanabelgola, Karkal and Yenur in Mysore arrest public attention. With senses controlled by physical effort, with strength and creative activity restrained metaphysically by the silken thread of Ahimsa and with the physical features (limbs) completely abandoned to the rigours of clime and weather, in the pristine and natal state of absolute nudity the colossal statues of the Jaina Tirthankaras and Jaina ascetics such as of Babu Bali at Sravanabelagola in Mysore have a lesson to humanity that non-violence is the only panacea for human suffering (Ahimsa Parmo Dharmah). The Harppan statuette being exactly in the above specified pose, we may not be wrong in identifying the God represented as a Tirthankara or a Jaina ascetic or accredited fame and penance. Though its date – 2400-2000 B.C. – has been disputed by some archaeologists, there is nothing in its style to differentiate it from that of certain terracotta figurines and representations on some of the engraved seals from Mohenjo-Daro. In this connection, Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s views on this statuette as published as published in his Indus Valley Civilization (Cambridge History of India, 1953), page 66, are worth quoting :

    “These two statuettes, just under 4″ in height as preserved, are male torsos exhibiting a sensitiveness and vivacity of modeling entirely foreign to the works considered above. So outstanding are their qualities that some doubt must for the present remain as to the validity of their ascription to the Indus period. Unfortunately the technical methods employed by their finders were not such as to provide satisfactory stratigraphical evidence; and the statements that one, the dancer, was found on the granary site at Harappa and that other was 4’10” below the surface in the same general area do not in themselves preclude the possibility of intrusion. Attribution to a later period is also not free from difficulty, and doubt can only be resolved by further and more adequately documented discoveries of a comparable kind.”

    From the concluding remarks of Sir Wheeler it is, however, clear that attribution of a later period to the statuette is as much difficult as a negation to it of the earlier date of third millennium B.C. The chances are thus equal.

    Let us now determine the subjective and objective worth of the statuette under description. Its subjective worth has already been noticed. It is of a naked God standing erect in the element of frontality with shoulders well-backed and physical feature clear-cut delineating that life is moving within the modeled mass in a well regulated and controlled plastic order. The genital pose rhymes with the spirit of control bringing out the force of the conception of a Jina (conqueror of the senses). In contrast to this, one may study the engraved seal from Mohenjo-Daro (Cambridge Hist. of India, 1953, Pl. XXIII) of the third millennium B.C. Rudra>Pasupati>Mahadeva seated in meditation in the midst of mortals such as men, animals such as rhinoceros, buffalo, tiger, elephant, antelopes, birds and fish and exhibiting the peniserectum (Urdhva-etas) pose standing for the upward force of creative activity. The iconography of the God noticed in the Mohenjo-Daro seal is fully explained by the following Riks from the Rig Veda:-

    1. “Brahma among gods, leader of the poets, Rishi of sages, buffalo among animals, hawk among birds, axe among weapons, over the sieve goes Soma singing.”
    2. “The thrice-bent bull goes on roaring-The Great God has completely entered the mortals.”
    3. “Rudra is the lord of creatures.”

    In the light of above interpretation of the Mohenjo-Daro seal from Rig Veda it should be easy to identify the statuette under description by a reference to the Rig Veda. While leading an Archaeological Expedition to Afghanistan in the months of May, June and July, the writer of this article had occasions to verify the records of Yuan Chwang (600-654) A.D., whose itinerary in Afghanistan and elsewhere is a factual record of variety and scientific and human interest. His description of Hosina – Ghani or Ghazna, Hazara or Hosala is of great significance. He says, “Those who invoke him with faith obtain their wishes. People both far off and near show for him deep reverence. High and low alike are filled with religious awe of him… The Tirthakas by subduing their minds and mortifying flesh get from the spirits of heaven sacred formulae, with which they control diseases and recover the sick.” Ksuna Deva (Suna or Sina deva) was probably Tirthakara or Tirthankara or their follower that illumined the pantheon of Jainism, which is famous for its gospel of Ahimsa. The record of Yuan Chwan bears testimony to the spread of Jainism even in Afghanistan. In the life account of the Buddha we read that among the opponents of the Buddha stood foremost 6 chiefs or Tirthakas – Puana, Kassaya, Gosala, Kuccayana, Nigantha Nathapuytta and Sanjaya. We can recognize in Gosala the Gosala of Ajivika faith and in Nigantha Nathaputta the last and 24th Jaina Tirthankara Mahavira.Thus Yuan Chwang’s description of the god as Ksuna Deva indicates that he is referring probably to the naked Jaina Tirthankara, the term Tirthakas also standing for Tirthakaras or Tirthankaras. The advent of Jainism in Afghanistan is indeed a revelation.

    The term Ksuna Deva may probably stand for the term Suna or Sisna Deva. While going back to the Rig Veda we find that the Rig Veda refers to naked Gods as Sisna Devas in two hymns which invoke Indra for protection of Vedic sacrifices from Naked Gods (Sisna-Devas):

    “Oh Indra! no evil spirits haveimpelledus nor friends, Oh Mighty God, with their devices. Let our true God subdue the hostile rabble. Let not the naked Gods (Sisna Devas) apprach our holy yajna or worship.”

    “On most auspicious path he (Indra) goes to battle. He toiled to win heaven’s light, full fain to gain it. He seized the hundred-gated castle’s treasure by craft, unchecked, slaying (in the affair) naked Gods (Sisna Devas)”

    Mcdonnell, in his Vedic Mythology, page 155, remarks that the worship of Sisna Devas was repugnant to Rig Veda. Indra is besought not to let Sisna Devas approach Vedic sacrifices, Indra is said to have slain the Sisna Devas when he stealthily was treasures hidden in a fort provided with 100 gates.

    These two Riks flash before us the truth that we are perhaps recognizing in the Harappa statuette a fullfledged Jain Tirthankara in characteristic pose of physical abandon (Kayotsarga) a pose which has been immoratalised in the later day colossal statues of Jaina Tirthankaras and Siddhas such as at Sravanbelagola, Karkal, Yenur etc. One may wonder if a later day Jaina iconographic plastic pose such as Kayotsarga could have appeared as early as the Harappan or Mohenjo-Daro times (third millennium B.C.). Surely, the conceptions of absolute nudity and inner abandon of all physical consciousness for the realization of the Jaina Tirthankaras and Siddhas such as at Sravanbelagola, Karkal, Yenur etc. One may wonder if a later day Jaina iconographic plastic pose such as Kayotsarga could have appeared as early as the Harappan or Kohenjo-Daro times (third millennium B.C.). Surely, the conceptions of absolute nudity and inner abandon of all physical consciousness for the realisation of the Jaina fundamental doctrine of Ahimsa can lead only to one pose. It is this pose that we find at Harappa in the statuette under description. There is thus a continuity and unity in this ideology and there are no other iconographic details in the statuette to confuse or lead us astray. Also the nude pose is in strict contrast to the Vedic description of their God Mahadeva >Rudra>Pasupat as Urdhva-Medhra the pose in which we find him depicted on the steatite seal of Mohenjo-Daro (Cambridge History of India, 1953, plate XXIII).

    The chronology and hierachy of the series of 24 Jaina Tirthankaras do not stand in the way of the date of the Harappa statuette. The present list of Tirthankaras (Vartamana Tirthankaras) include 24, of whom we know the Mahavir was a contemporary of Buddha who flourished in the 6th century B. C. Parsvanatha, the 23rd Tirthankara, flourished more than 100 years before Mahavir and Neminatha, 22nd Tirthankara, was a cousin of Lord Krishna, the friend of Pandavas of Mahabharata fame. Even on a rough computation we get a date like the 9th century B.C. for Neminatha, the contemporary of Krishna, the Lord of the Bhagavad Gita. Recent excavations at hastinapura near Meerut, the cradle of the activities of the Pandavas, has given a date as 1100-800 B.C. of occupation. We have yet to account for 21 Tirthankaras that preceded Neminatha in a hieratical order. If we push back the dates proportionately to each Tirthankara, we are lead to find the first Tirthankara, Adinatha also called Vrishabha Deva stands on the threshold of the last quarter of the 3rd millenium B.C. The statuette under description has been assigned by critics a date between 2400-2000 B. C. That the first Tirthankara, the founder of Jainism, Adinatha, also bore the name Vrishabha is significant, for the Riks of the Rig Veda are fond of repeating that it was Vrishabha that performed the functioned of proclaiming great truths including the advent of a Great God.

    That Adinatha alias Vrishabha Deva founded a new order of faith in a sheer spirit of protest against Vedic sacrifices and injury to animals is the first fundamental event that took place in the career of Jainism. Subsequent events and followers of Adinatha – the Tirthankaras and Siddhas – put his faith on a firm wheel – the wheel of Ahimsa – and set it moving which, as it moved into time and space, gained strength like electric coils and surcharged the atmosphere with the reverberation “Ahimsa parmo-dharmah”

    That Vrishabha Deva should have been naked is a point too well-known to be disputed as absolute nudity being an indispensable factor for holiness was the pivotal doctrine of the Jaina creed. If the Rig Veda seeks the help of Indra, one of the Vedic Gods, for protection of Vedic sacrifices from Sisna Devas or the naked Gods, it is obvious that the Rig Veda is only chronicling a fact of history, namely, that the origin of Jainism such as Vrishabha Deva contemplated and ushered in was with the purpose of putting an end to animal sacrifices that were associated with the Vedic Yajnas. To win the confidence of one and all and to convince humanity of the loftiness of the mission, the First Tirthankara threw away all clothing, thus exposing himself and his followers to the lime-light of self -sacrifice which began with physical sacrifice (Kayotsarga). That the other Tirthankaras perpetuated this doctrine is the delightful story that Indian art in the service of Jainism presents to humanity. The statuette under description is therefore a splendid representative specimen of this thought of Jainism at perhaps its very inception.

    Article Source : Harappa & Jainism By Mr. T. N. Ramachandran,
    Published under the guidance of Muni Shri Vidyananadji in 1987 by Kundakunda Bharati Prakashan, New Delhi.

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