Jain Remains of Ancient Bengal

by Shubha Majumder | 2017 | 61,684 words

This page relates ‘Images of Tirthankara Ajitanatha’ 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.

Ajitanātha, the second Tīrthaṅkara of Jainism, the son of king Jitaśatru and queen Vijayā, was bon in the royal family of Ayodhya (Uttarapurāṇa Parva 48). He obtained the kevalajñāna under a Saptaparṇa tree and nirvāṇa in the Mt. Sammeta Śikhara. The lāñchana or the emblem of this Tīrthaṅkara is elephant (Gaja). The origin of his name and symbol can be traced of the diffeternt Jain books. Bhattacharya states that, “an elephant in India is always connected with kingly power. After his birth all his father’s enemies were conquered (Jita), hence his name “the invincible one”” (1974: 37) His attending yakṣa and yakṣiṅī were respectively Mahāyakṣa and Rohiṇī (Dig.) or Ajitā (Śve.) (Triṣaṣṭiśalākāpuruṣacarita, vol. II: 28; Tiloyapaṇṇatti, 4.934-937). The earliest representation of Ajitanātha is found in a āyāgapata from Mathura belonging to the Kushana period. It is important to note that a bronze image of Ajitanātha has been found in the Aluara hoard of the Manbhum district of early days. This image now preserved in the Patna Museum, has been assigned to c. eleventh century CE (Shah 1987: 128-30). In our present study area I have been able to document three images of this Tīrthaṅkara and all of them are from Zone I (two from Purulia and one from Bankura region).

The image of Tīrthaṅkara Ajitanātha (Pl.XXIV.A) which was recovered from Khamardanga of Khatra subdivision of Bankura district and presently in the collection of Sub Divisional Office of Khatra (Chattopadhyay, Acharya & Majumder 2010:84), is very simple and measure 67 x 47 x 10 cm. Stylistically this image is quite unique and does not similar with the other Jain images of this concerned region. The Jain stands in kāyotsarga posture on full blown lotus placed on a tri-ratha pedestal. The central portion of the plinth contains the lāñchana of the Jina, i.e, elephant flanked by the crouching lions facing opposite directions. The remaining portion of the pedestal is decorated with series of ratna-pātra heaped with offerings. The back-slab of the image is completely plain. The back of the throne consists of jewelled posts supporting a cross-bar on which are triangular foliated plaques. The Jina is flanked on both sides by male caurī-bearers. Both hold the cāmara in their right hands, parallel to their arms (the cāmara of the left bearer is broken), and have their left ones placed on their bent legs. They wear deeply incised loin cloth and elaborate jewellery including wristlets, neckless and ratna-mukuta. The Jina has elongated ear-lobes and his hair is arranged in schematic curls with a prominent uṣṇīṣa. The hands of the Jina simply hang down. A plain circular śiraścakra adorns the head of the savior and kevala-vṛksa emanating from the both sides of the śiraścakra. Above this the depiction of a tri-linear chatra flanked by two vidyādharas holding long garlands. This image stylistically may be assignable to c. tenth to the twelfth century CE.

The next image of this Tīrthaṅkara (Pl.XXIV.B) is now present at a modern Jain temple of Baramoshya, Purulia district. This is a pañca-tīrthika type of image measure 68 x 32 x 10 cm. In this image the mūla-nāyaka stands in kāyotsarga posture on a double-petalled lotus placed on a pañca-ratha pedestal. A circular śiraścakra with leafed edges adorns the head of the Saviour. Above the śiraścakra, a tri-linear chatra is found near the curved top portion of the back-slab and the latter is flanked by two vidyādharas holding long garlands and also the divine hands playing on the drum and cymbals. The Jina is flanked on both sides by stout male caurī-bearers. They are both wearing a three-tiered almost conical head-gear and long dhoti-like lower garments finely incised. Their left hands rest on their thighs while the right hands hold fly-whisks. On the edge of the back-slab are carved four images of miniature Tīrthaṅkaras in kāyotsarga posture. They stand in kāyotsarga posture on double-petalled lotus pedestals and their respective lāñchanas carved below each on a small lotus throne. The elephant lāñchana of the mūla-nāyaka, is neatly carved at the centre of the pedestal (a portion of it is buried in the soil) between a male and a female devotee in namaskāra-mudrā. Both the extreme rathas of the pedestal depict two crouching lions. Stylistically, both the images may be assignable to c. tenth to the twelfth century CE.

The remaining image of Tīrthaṅkara Ajitanātha (Pl.XXIV.C) was discovered from the site Palma and presently displayed in the Patna Museum, Bihar. In this image the Jina is shown as installed within shrine which is fronted by a trefoil arch and surmounted by a curvilinear śikhara of the nagara order. The Jina stands in kāyotsarga posture on a double-petalled lotus placed on a sapta-ratha pedestal. The Jina is flanked on both sides by stout and partially damaged male caurī-bearers. They wear deeply incised loin cloths and elaborate jewellery and both of them have plain, small oval shaped halos. Obviously, the modulation of surfaces apparent from the drapery and jewellery are restricted to these parikara elements. These caurī-bearers stand in ābhaṅga pose and hold a fly-whisk in their right hands and their left hands are in kaṭyāvalambita posture. The edge of the back–slab is relieved with twelvefigures of miniature Jinas arranged on either side. Like the principle image they also stand in kāyotsarga posture with their respective lāñchanas carved below each on a small lotus throne. The extern end of the back-slab consist the gajaśārdūla on the both side. The pedestal of the image is of considerable iconographic interest. At the centre of the sapta-ratha pedestal an elephant is depict flanked by a ratna-pātra heaped with offerings. Stylized representations of crouching lions occupies the both the extreme end of the pedestal.

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