Jain Remains of Ancient Bengal

by Shubha Majumder | 2017 | 147,217 words

This page relates ‘Single depiction of Rishabhanatha sculptures’ 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.

Single depiction of Ṛṣabhanātha sculptures

[Full title: Images of Tīrthaṅkara Ṛṣabhanātha (1): Single depiction of Ṛṣabhanātha sculptures]

We recorded five specimens of this type of Ṛṣabhanātha sculptures from the present study area. Among these five images two are from Purulia and Bankura (zone I) and one is from Malda (zone IV).

The Ṛṣabhanātha (Pl.XVI.C) sculpture from Pakbirra is very simple and bare. The image made of quartzite schist stone and measures 63.4 cm x 25 cm x 9 cm. The Jina stands in kāyotsarga posture on a double-petalled lotus placed on a tri-ratha pedestal. The Jina has elongated ear-lobes, and wears an elegant jaṭājuṭa with keśavallarī falling down from the sides of the head and over the shoulders. The arms of the Jina hang down vertically along the slender torso and the finger tips touch the thigh on either side. A very simple almost oval śiraścakra adorns the head of the savior. Above the śiraścakra and just below the top border of the back slab is a centrally placed tri-linear chatra flanked a drum and a pair of cymbals struck by disembodied hands. The back slab reveals male caurī-bearers flanking the Jina at the lower corners, and twin vidyādharas holding long garlands at the upper–all four carved on a raised background. The caurī-bearers standing in ābhaṅga posture and their left hands are in kaṭyāvalambita posture and in the right hands they are holding fly-whisks. They wear a short skirt whose folds are indicated through incised lines and which is held by a girdle; a flat necklace and a high pointed tiara. The male caurī- bearers are backed by large halos. The back slab of the image is lightly incised floral motifs including bell-shaped Campa and rosettes etc. At the centre of the doublepetalled lotus bull, lāñchana of Ṛṣabhanātha is neatly carved between the two crouching lions.

An image of Ṛṣabhanātha of this type from Purulia is presently displayed in the Vangiya Sahitya Parisad Museum, Bishnupur measures 87 cm x 42 cm x 8 cm. The rectangular back-slab of the image is very simple and with any decoration. The upper part of this slab contains two vidyādharas holding garlands and they are flanked by a partially damaged triple chatra. The mūla-nāyaka stands in kāyotsarga posture on a double-petalled lotus placed on a pañca-ratha pedestal. The bull lāñchana is depicted at the centre of the plain pedestal, flanked by two more lions in the outer rathas. The Jina is attended by two male caurī-bearers, however the left one is completely damaged. The remaining one is wearing succinct lower garments and different ornaments. They stand in ābhaṅga posture on pedestals and their left hands are in kaṭyāvalambita posture while the right hands hold fly-whisks. This is a skilfully carved image showing a circular śiraścakra with leafed edges. Two twigs, each consisting of two leaves and a triple flower, are issuing from the upper part of the śiraścakra on either side.

In the Dhadanga image Tīrthaṅkara (Pl.XVI.D) is seated in padmāsana on a full-blown double-petalled lotus-pedestal placed on a high and simple pedestal. The mūla-nāyaka bears a svelte figure and the carving is sophisticated. The facial expression is more lucid. The chest has the depiction of nipples. The abdomen is well represented and definitely naturalistic. The Yogic or spiritual power is reflected by the skillful carving. The composition of space is well integrated. The central portion of the pedestal has the depiction of the bull, lāñchana of Tīrthaṅkara Ṛṣabhanātha. The adjoining portion shows stylized representations of crouching lions. The right corner of the pedestal depicts a kneeling donor couple while the left is decorated with a ratnapātra heaped with offerings. The Jina is attended by two stiff and robust looking caurī bearers, profusely bejewelled, with their outer hands in kaṭyāvalambita posture and their inner hands holding cāmaras, wearing short, almost transparent lower garments and simple ornaments including armlets, wristlets and ekāvalī. Behind the principal Jina, the lintel of the throne-back is indicated through flat mouldings. An almost ovoid śiraścakra is adorning the head of the saviour, the centrally placed triple chatra at the apex of the back-slab flanked by two vidyādharas holding long garlands. The image measures 65 cm x 38 cm x 14 cm and made of chlorite stone.

An image of this group of Ṛṣabhanātha sculpture was found in a ruined Muslim dargarh at Sadipur near the ruins of Gaur and is now in the Malda Museum (Pl.XVI.E) The stone slab had an eventful live of its own, since at some time in the past it was captured by the Muslims, re-cut and its back was re-used for engraving an Arabic inscription. Only an obliquely-shaped fragment of the original composition remains today, broken in two pieces.

In this image Ṛṣabhanātha is seated on a double -petalled lotus placed on a high siṃhāsana. He wears a jaṭāmukuṭa with two plaits of hair falling on each shoulder. The head is backed by a circular halo having a thick border decorated with intermittent floral designs. Behind his head rises a shaft topped by an umbrella, of which only the outline is preserved as it has been chiselled off. It is probably only the lower part of a former triple umbrella, flanked by leafs and flowers.

Due to the damaged condition nothing can be said about the motifs surrounding the Jina, except that he was certainly flanked by two standing attendants. There are faint remains of the outline of the attendant on the proper right, with only his left lower leg and foot being clearly visible. The attendants' heads were apparently backed by haloes, as is suggested by a part of a halo preserved on the opposite side.

The throne is flanked by a pair of lions. A four -armed effigy of Ṛṣabhanātha's śāsanadevatā Cakreśvarī is carved against a piece of cloth falling down in front. Her figure is enclosed in a circular band resting on a separate pedestal, only partly preserved. The depiction of Cakreśvarī within a centrally placed wheel is peculiar to Jina images from Bengal.

A seated image of Ṛṣabhanātha recorded from Sonamukhi (Pl.XVI.F) has been studied by different scholars. It has been observed by Saraswati: “A seated image of Ṛṣabhanātha at Sonamukhi (Bankura district) of circa eleventh century may be seen to be of rare iconographic interest. The Jina is seated in dhyānāsana on a lotus supported on the outspread foliage of a tree below. On both sides appear a standing attendant figure, while above, on each side of the halo, is seen a flying vidyādhara. Over the head of the Jina is seen the parasol, while in the centre of the lotus-seat is depicted the lāñchana, the bull. On the pedestal, on two sides of the tree, are shown a couple seated at ease, each with a halo around their head. On the pedestal there are also other figures of which only a pair of donors may be recognized. This rare theme is also seen in an eleventh century sculpture from north Bengal, now in the Museum of the Varendra Research Society, Rajshahi (Bangladesh)” (Saraswati 1975: 263) The specimen is quite damaged.

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