Jain Remains of Ancient Bengal

by Shubha Majumder | 2017 | 147,217 words

This page relates ‘Introduction’ of the study on the Jain Remains of Ancient Bengal based on the fields of Geography, Archaeology, Art and Iconography. Jainism represents a way of life incorporating non-violence and approaches religion from humanitarian viewpoint. Ancient Bengal comprises modern West Bengal and the Republic of Bangladesh, Eastern India. Here, Jainism was allowed to flourish from the pre-Christian times up until the 10th century CE, along with Buddhism.

Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts; the
book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art
.
Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two
others; but of the three, the only quite trustworthy one is the last……

John Ruskin (1993)

In the Jain religion, the Tīrthaṅkara, a Jaina, or an Arḥat has been given the highest position. Initially the Jainas started adoration of the images of their Tīrthaṅkaras only, and with the passage of time more and more secondary deities were added to the making of sculptures. The main idea for the adoration of an image appears to be that it reminds a worshipper of the condition through which a Tīrthaṅkara passes to attain salvation. In addition to images of the Tīrthaṅkaras, the images of the other Gods and Goddesses, though enjoying a subordinate position in the Jain pantheon also play an important role in the adoration of the images. In this context it should be mentioned that Hemacandra in his Abhidhāna-Cintāmaṇi kośa includes the Tīrthaṅkaras under the category of Devādhidevas, i.e., God of Gods. Apart from the Tīrthaṅkaras in this group he also includes some subordinate deities, who are almost purely of Jain origin. In the second group we find other gods, which are also included in the Brahmanical pantheon/ideology. In the earliest sculptures of Jainism, it was mainly the Tīrthaṅkaras which were depicted on stone reliefs as well as in bronze. Before worshipping the Tīrthaṅkara images, Jainas worship the different abstract forms and among them stūpa is the earliest.

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