Jain Remains of Ancient Bengal

by Shubha Majumder | 2017 | 147,217 words

This page relates ‘Panca-tirthika type of Shantinatha 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.

Pañca-tirthika type of Śāntinātha Sculptures

[Full title: Images of Tīrthaṅkara Śāntinātha (1): Pañca-tirthika type of Śāntinātha Sculptures]

In a modern Śiva temple of Dhadki, Purulia, we recorded three Jain icons. Among these three one is identify as Tīrthaṅkara Śāntinātha (Pl.XXVII.D) and it is iconographically quite intersting. It is a well executed image of chlorite and measures 72 x 32 cm. Like the earlier images the Jina is in his usual posture on a doublepetalled lotus placed on a pañca-ratha pedestal. The portion of the back-slab from the shoulders of the Jain to the top is decorated with miniature shrine like carvings (in a descending order) surmounted by a neatly carved āmalaka above which is a kalasa. The entire composition gives the visual impression of an enshrined Jina, i.e., this elaborate carving looks like a śikhara temple within which the main Tīrthaṅkara figure was carved. Incidentally, there is a parasol above the head of the Jain bordering which is the exquisite tre-foil arch (with a beaded border) supporting the entire shrine like composition. Above the arch motif a drummer is depicted and he is flanked on either side by a vidyādhara. Bands of geometrical designs skirt the backslab (from below the architectural motif till the pedestals of the subsidiary figures) on both sides of the Jina. The back-slab also reveals the male caurī-bearers flanking the Jina at the lower corners. These caurī-bearers stand on lotus pedestals and their left hands are in kaṭyāvalambita posture and the right hands hold a fly-whisk. This is a pañcha-tīrthika type of image. On either side two miniature Jina figures are depicted. The deer lāñchana is neatly carved at the centre of the pedestal along with two devotees in namaskāra-mudrā (folded hands). At both ends of the pedestal a crouching lion is depicted.

A miniature image of this Tīrthaṅkara is documented from Baramoshya. The image is badly weathered and it measures 34 x 17 x 5 cm. The elaborate back-slab represents a tiered elevation of a bhadra or piḍha-deul topped by an āmalaka and the Jina is so carved as if it is enshrined in a temple, like the Dhadki image. The deer lāñchana is at the central projection of the pañca-ratha pedestal flankend by the kneeling devotee facing frontally and the extreme projections depict lions facing opposite directions. On both sides of the Jina slender elongated vyālas are depicts. The vyālas stand on blossomed lotuses the stalks of which issue from near the feet of the Jina. The vertical alignment of the vyālas corresponds to the almost straight suspension of the arms of the Jina although the fingers touch the thighs (as prescribed by the Jain icons). Four miniature Tīrthaṅkaras (two on the both sides) are present on the upper part of the back-slab. The back-slab also reveals the male caurī-bearers flanking the mūla-nāyaka.

An image of Tīrthaṅkara was reported from Alkadhara of Bankura and Chattopadhyay in his book identified this image as Tīrthaṅkara Ṛṣabhanātha (Chattopadhyay 2010: 197, Pl.CXVIII). However, the lāñchana of the Jain is deer not bull. So this is actually the image of Tīrthaṅkara Śāntinātha (Pl.XXVII.E). The image is made of blackish stone and measures 49 x 29 x 9.5 cm. It shows the figure of the Jaina, in kāyotsarga posture, standing on a double-petalled lotus placed on a triratha pedestal. The figure of a deer, the lāñchana of the Jaina, is carved on the pedestal. The edge of the back-slab is carved with four miniature figures of Tīrthaṅkaras. The deity is flanked by his two attendants or caurī-bearers, wearing lower garments and very simple ornaments. Two vidyādharas or garland-bearers are depicted on both sides at the top of the back-slab. The face of the Jina and other details of this image are badly weathered.

D.Mitra was reported an image of Śāntinātha from Chitgiri, Bankura. According to Mitra, the image which is 1΄ x 11˝ in measurement stands in kāyotsarga pose on a double-petalled lotus with an attendant on both sides of his legs. The backslab is relieved with four more Tīrthaṅkaras, in the same pose and two flying figures at top corners. “The cognizance below the pedestal looks like a deer; the image may, therefore, be of the 16th Tīrthaṅkara Śāntinātha” (Mitra 1958: 132 Pl. III B).

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