9th Century Sculpture On Display At Egmore Museum

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Chennai (Tamil Nadu), November 22, 2011: A rare Jain sculpture, said to date back to the ninth century AD, was put on display at the Government Museum in Egmore on Monday for the first time since it was gifted in 1976. Part of an exhibition during the heritage week, it will be on display till November 27.

The sculpture called ” Navadevata Chakra”, museum officials said, is the earliest evidence of the type of worship popular among members of the Digambara sect of Jainism.

“Of the 44 stone Jain sculptures in the museum, this one is unique because it contains details like petals of lotus and a cone-shaped crown. It also an improvisation of sculptures of earlier periods with more ornaments,” said museum commissioner SS Jawahar who inaugurated the exhibition.

It is aimed at highlighting the deep roots of Jainism in South India.

Usually, museum officials said, ‘Navadevata chakras’ (nine deities in a circular format) have eight deities on eight lotus petals and the ninth one on a petal in the centre.

The sculpture put on display on Monday, officials said, is slightly different in that the circular portion rises from a banded rectangular base. At the centre, Arhat, one of the nine deities, is in dhyana pose. On his either side are bearers of a chamara (frisk) in a standing position. The deities are Siddha, Arhat, Acharya, Upadhyaya, Sadhu, Chaitya (image), Chaityalaya (shrine), Dharma Chakra (wheel of law) and Sruta (scripture).

The order of the arrangement of the deities in the sculpture is similar to the latter period Navadevata bronzes found in south Indian Jain temples, officials said. For example, the bronzes at the Jain temples at Thirupparuthikkunram and Trilokyanathar in Jina Kanchi (near Kancheepuram) contain the same arrangement.

“We got the sculpture as a gift from the managing editor of the Indian Review, a news magazine, in 1976. It is the first time we have put it on display,” said curator (archaeology section) R Balasubramanian.

In South India, experts say, Jainism is more than a name with Andhra Pradesh, Karnakata and parts of north Tamil Nadu having remained centres of the religion, especially up to the 12th century when Saivism began to spread. – News Courtesy: Times News Network

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Post Author: JHC