Jaina Art

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The earliest works of art connected with the Jaina faith are the group of cave monasteries at Udayagiri and Khandagiri in Orissa. At Udayagiri an inscription of King Kharavela, a follower of Jainism belonging to 150 B.C., has been discovered. Outside some of these caves there are richly carved relief’s stylistically resembling the carving of Bharhut and Sanchi. Along with general scenes with warriors, charioteers, men and women, animals and vegetation, there are other recognizable motifs of the enclosed tree or elephants illustrating a goddess which are more obviously connected with Jainism and Buddhism. These monasteries were excavated “by King Kharavela for the use of Jaina monks. Tirthankara image in human form was not worshipped in this early period. A hoard of Jaina antiquities found at Kankali mound, Mathura, dating from 150 B.C. to the end of the first millennium of this era provides an interesting study of evolution of Jaina iconography. A few stone tablets of homage belonging to the 1st century B.C. indicate that Jainas worship Tirthankaras through such symbols as stupa, caitya-trees, dharmacakra etc. In addition, such symbols as srivatsa, swastika, lotus bud, a pair of fish and full vase which later on crystallized in the sets of eight auspicious marks of both the sects. Along with the various symbols the earliest anthropomorphic image of the Tirthankara also appeared on these tablets. The tablet of the wife of Sivaghosaka, assigned to the 1st century A.D., shows a figure of Parshwanatha, the 23rd Jina, being worshipped by two naked monks flanking him.

These early Jinas were depicted seated in padmasana with open palms, placed one over the other, resting on the lap, eyes concentrated in. Meditation and the hair on the head either shaven or shown as curled locks. Most of the basic features of the standard jina image through the centuries remain the same as in the period of its origin. The jina images of the Kushana period are, as a rule, naked and are found both in padmasana or in kayotsarga, standing posture. These images though bulky are devoid of any symbol of cognition or attendant yaksha or yakshi. In most cases there is an halo behind the head . Such features as the long Jocks of hair, hanging over the shoulders in the case of Rsabhanatha image and seven-hooded snake-crown in that of Parsvanatha, got crystallized in this early period of Jaina art. Except two tirthankaras the rest of the 22 are depicted without any difference in their appearance.

In the Gupta period the Jaina cult image was evolved three-dimensionally. The figures became more sophisticated and light in modeling. Other features of the images of this period include an elaborately carved halo, often approached by two flying figures of worshippers or garland-bearers, a pedestal with two lions on the sides and a wheel in the centre, two attendant chauri-bearers, often standing on 1otus pedestals. Some of the representative examples of this type are preserved in the Mathura and the Lucknow museums. In the post-Gupta period the Jaina pantheon, as depicted in art, was enlarged. Each Tirthankara had a pair of his attendant yaksha or yakshi. The symbol of cognition became a regular feature. Triple umbrella over the head and figures of nine planets started to appear on the pedestal. Hundreds of images of this period have come to light from Deogarh, Chanderi, etc., in central India. Belonging to the early post-Gupta period are the remarkable examples of Jaina eave temples at Badami and E1lora. Here in the: most elaborately fashioned cave temples there are relief sculptures of Jinas. In Indra Sabha at Ellora there are the popular relief’s of Parshwanatha’s rescue by the serpent king and the queen and of Gommata’s austerities. Meditating Parsvanatha was attacked by a demon and was rescued by a serpent king and his consort who later became his yaksha and yakshi. Gommata or Bahubali, the son of Vrishabhanatha, renounced the world after a conflict with his brother Bharata and practised such severe austerities that creepers grew around him and snakes resided in the groves nearby. In the period between 10th and 13th centuries there is a multiple activity of temple construction). The temples of Swetambara faith are mainly in western India. The marble shrines at De1vada, Mt. Abu, and Kumbharia in north Gujarat are magnificent monuments of fine and intricate workmanship. At Mt. Abu the 16 Mahavidyadevis, the goddesses of magic, appear in full iconographic detail and so also the yakhas-yakshis and the guardian of directions. Of the same period and mode but somewhat lesser known examples are the Mahavira temple, asian, and the Taranga hill temple, north Gujarat. In the same context may also be mentioned the later but exquisite shrine at Ranakpur, Rajasthan. At Palitana, Satrunjaya hill, there are temple-cities dating from medieval to modern period. At Surat. and Patan in the late medieval period, many small wooden shrines were constructed, marked by intricate carving which is also common to many secular buildings of Gujarat.

Monuments of the Digambara faith from the medieval period come mainly from central India. The most noteworthy examples are the Jaina temples at Khajuraho, the shrines of Deogarh (Uttar Pradesh), Chanderi Gyeraspur and Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, and the exqui., site pillar of glory at Chittorgarh in Rajasthan. Also, in southern India the Jainas created important monuments of art. In the Chalukya period several shrines were constructed at Aihole and Pattadakal of which the Meguti hill temple at Aihole is the most remarkable for its plan, and for the sculpture of Mahavira’s yakshi, Siddhaika, riding a lion. At Sittanavasal, there are remains of jaina paintings of the 9th century. In the 10th century the famous 21-m high colossus of Gommata was installed at Sravanabelagola in Karnataka. Characteristic creepers entwine the body of the majestic ascetic. On the opposite hill there are remains of monasteries, cult images, relief’s with scenes of the life of monks, etc. All south Indian monuments belong to the Digambara sect. In a later period under the Hoysala rulers, many jaina shrines such as Lakkundi were built in local style in Karnataka.

In jaina temples, along with the main image many smaller ritual images of bronze are installed. The earliest bronze objects date from 1st century B.C. from Bihar. Of Gupta period there are bronzes from Chausar in Bihar and from western India the superb bronzes of the so called Akota hoard. Jaina bronzes of Chola style from Sittanavasal are remarkable for refinement of modelling. Of medival period there are in addition to hundreds of Jina images. Other bronze objects such as the yantras, the replicas of samavasarana (the devine preaching hall for Tirthankaras), figures of goddesses, models of mythical mount Meru, plaques depicting auspicious symbols, etc. Most of these objects are worshipped in temples at Surat, Patan, Ahmedabad, etc., in Gujrat, Jaisalmer, Osian, Jaipur in Rajasthan and many other shrines in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. The bronzes provide interesting material for the study of minute differences of iconography of the Swethambara temple and Digambara variations as well as northern and southern types.

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Post Author: JHC