Jain Remains of Ancient Bengal

by Shubha Majumder | 2017 | 147,217 words

This page relates ‘Image worship in Jainism’ 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.

According to the Jain philosophy, the Tīrthaṅkaras have been conceived to be the form of the universe, lord of the world, possessor of the supreme knowledge and in their incarnatory forms, they are shown only with two arms like any other human being. Tīrthaṅkara is also known as the Jina which means the conqueror of the human enemies like lust, anger and others.

These “Jinas” are four fold-viz,

(i) Nāma-Jina or those who were Jinas by name, e.g. Ṛṣabha and others,

(ii) Sthāpanā-Jina or images which are installed and made of gold, stone, etc.,

(iii) Dravya-Jina or those beings who are endowed with Jina’s quality, e.g. Śreṇika and

(iv) Bhāva-Jina or those who have attained the Samavasaraṇa.

[Bhattacharya 1974: 12]

Thus, the Tīrthaṅkaras or Jinas are really a very sublime and noble iconological evolution, and not only in art but also in the religious history of India. The number 24 associated with these Jinas is curious coincidence with the 24 incarnation of Viṣṇu.

In Jainism Tīrthaṅkara are the main subject of art and the Jain art and iconography is totally based on the origin, growth and development of the Tīrthaṅkara images besides, other images of like Yakṣas and Yakṣis associated with Jainism. The origin of image worship in Jainism may on the basis of available archaeological evidence be assigned to, at least the Mauryan period. Samprati, the grandson of Aśoka, was the follower of Jainism and given much royal support to the monks of this faith. The evidence of Lohanipur statue (Pl.XV.F) (Jayaswal 1937: 130-2) does lend support to this tradition. King Khāravela of Kaliṅga (Second-first century BCE), who was a devout Jaina, styles himsef as Bhikṣu-rāja, “the monk king” in his Hātigumphā inscription. According to this inscription Khāravela in his twelfth year of his reign, after defeating the king of Magadha, took back the Jina image which was originally carried away by a Nanda king from Kaliṅga (Jayaswal and specific lāñchana of Naminātha. Besides this the others are Kūrma represents Tīrthaṅkara Muni Suvrata; Gaja represents Tīrthaṅkara Ajitanātha; Vajra represents Tīrthaṅkara Dharmanātha; Pig represents Tīrthaṅkara Vimalanātha; Nandyavarta or a kind of Fish represents Tīrthaṅkara Aranātha; Lion represents Tīrthaṅkara Mahāvīra; Śaṃkha represents Tīrthaṅkara Neminātha and Gaṇḍaka represents Śreyāṃsanātha (Pl.XV.E).

Banerji 1983: 71-89). Later he excavated a number of caves in the Kumārī parvata (Khaṇḍagiri hill) near Bhubaneshwar and built a monastery at Pābhāra, not far from these cave. During the Kuṣāṇa period Jainism was flourishing in northern India and numerous stone sculptures of different Tīrthaṅkara fashioned during this period. Beside these Tīrthaṅkara images gradually different images of other gods and goddesses including Yakṣas and Yakṣiṇīs were came out and though they are subordinate in type, however, play a significant role in Jain iconography. Except these images the Navagrahas, the Dikpālas, the Śruta-devī and Vidyādevīs, and some others Brahmanical divinities were silently assimilated into Jain pantheon. As a result of this the Jain iconography became a major subject of interest.

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