Jain Remains of Ancient Bengal

by Shubha Majumder | 2017 | 147,217 words

This page relates ‘Rishabhanatha sculptures with miniature Tirthankaras and Dikpalas’ 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.

Ṛṣabhanātha sculptures with miniature Tīrthaṅkaras and Dikpālas

[Full title: Images of Tīrthaṅkara Ṛṣabhanātha (5b): Ṛṣabhanātha sculptures with miniature Tīrthaṅkaras and Dikpālas]

The Rṣabhanāthạ (96.5 x 48.3 cm) image from Bhelua (Pl.XXIII.E) is the only example of this group presently preserved in the Dinajpur museum, Bangladesh (Dasgupta 1976: 153, Mevissen 200: 351). The mūla-nāyaka stands in rigid kāyotsarga pose on a viśvapadma. His hair is arranged in regular strands with two locks falling on each shoulder. The throne-back behind his body is reduced to a horizontal bar from which rises a tri-foil arch of peculiar asymmetrical rendering. He is flanked by twenty four miniature Jinas, twelve on either side arranged in rows of three, all equipped with small triple umbrellas above their heads. One miniature Jina lacks the triple umbrella: The middle figure in the bottom register on the proper left is Pārśvanātha backed by a seven-hooded snake-canopy. The number of twenty four miniature Jinas instead of the correct twenty three is certainly due to reasons of symmetry, a feature frequently found on caturviṃśatipaṭṭas from ancient Bengal. Ṛṣabhanātha is accompanied by two cāmara-bearing attendants, standing in a graceful flexed pose. Form behind their lotus stands rise two more double-lotuses serving as seats for a small Yakṣa/Y akṣiṇi pair, both four-armed, the yakṣi on the proper left seated in padmāsana, the Yakṣa on the opposite seated in rājalīlāsana. The centre of the pedestal is marked with Rṣabhạ 's bull lāñchana. In the recess below, the eightarmed goddess Cakreśvarī appears within a circle backed by two pillars (Pl.XXIII.F1). She is shown riding on a winged figure of Garuḍa and flanked by a pair of lions, then by two human figures, both shown in animated poses as if dancing. These are again flanked by vividly depicted elephants and, in the extreme corner, by a worshipper, perhaps the donor of the sculpture. Behind the head of Rṣabha rises a ̣ disproportionate thick shaft surmounted by a small triple parasol, the upper one decorated with garlands and crowned with a flower blossom. From the shaft issue two branches of a tree. They support a separate pedestal serving as a seat for eight miniature figures.

On close inspection it becomes clear that they represent the gods of the eight directions (Aṣṭadikpālas) (Pl.XXIII.F2). The sequence starts on the extreme right with Indra, the regent of the East, holding a small vajra in his right hand; next comes Agni (Southeast), pot-bellied with a pointed beard and a water-pot in his left hand; Yama (South) is also pot-bellied, holding his yamadaṇḍa in the right hand; and Nairṛta (Southwest), of demonic appearance, holds a sword. The sequence continues of the other side with Varuṇa (West) holding a snake; Vāyu (Northwest) with a billowing scarf encircling his head; Kubera (North), pot-bellied with a staff in his right hand; and finally Īśāna (Northeast) holding a śūla.

The representation of the Dikpālas is an extraordinary feature. Dikpālas are rarely found as subsidiary figures on Jain images; so far only three such sculptures are known from the present study region.

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