Jain Remains of Ancient Bengal

by Shubha Majumder | 2017 | 147,217 words

This page relates ‘Single depiction of Parshvanatha 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 Pārśvanātha sculptures

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

I recorded eight specimens of this type of Pārśvanātha sculptures from the present study area. Among these images three are from Purulia and four from Bankura (zone I) and one is from Murshidabad (zone III).

A seated variety of Pārśvanātha image (measures 69 x 37cm) was reported from Pakbirra, but at present this image is not traceable. According to the earlier report “the nude Tīrthaṅkara sits in padmāsana with his hands in dhyāna-mudrā under the shelter of a seven of seven-hooded Naga. On either side are male caurī-bearers wearing loin cloth and simple jewellery including armlets, wristlets and ekāvali. The back of the throne is plain barring a few lightly incised flowers and floral designs palced at random. Above is tri-linear parasol, on its either side pair of disembodied hands playoing on the heavenly instruments. On both sides is a flying vidyādhara carved against could form. The Jina has elongated ear-lobes and his hair is arranged in schematic curls with an uṣṇiṣa.

A full blown lotus with flower occupies the cenre of the pedestal below, which also reveals sensitively modelled figures of a naga couple and kneeling devotes in añjali-mudrā in its upper portion. On the lower portion enclosed within small sunken panels are two figures of courching lion” (Bhattacharyya, Mitra and Bhowmick 1986: 147-8).

An image of Tīrthaṅkara Pārśvanātha is plaque in the temple wall of Dharmaraj Mandir of Chharra. The image is measures 62 x 37 cm. and the Jina stands in kāyotsarga posture under the canopy of a seven-hooded serpent. The pedestal portion is not visible. The Jina is attended by two male caurī-bearers 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. The Jina’s face is more or less damaged. The upper part of the back-slab contains the usual vidyādharas and a projected tiered chatra surmounting the snakehood.

I have documented a badly damaged image of Tīrthaṅkara Pārśvanātha from Karcha (Majumder 2015: 27-8). The image is presently kept in the house of a doctor in the village. The image measures 70 x 38 x 10 cm and is made of chlorite stone. The left hand and the head of the Tīrthaṅkara are lost and on the basis of the snake coil I can identify this image as Pārśvanātha. The Jina figure is flanked by two attendants and their head is missing. The pedestal of the image is also badly damaged.

Among the four images of Tīrthaṅkara Pārśvanātha of this variety from Bankura, two are in seated type. Of the two seated images of Pārśvanātha, one is from Deulbhira (Pl.XXX.A) and the other from Ramnagar (Pl.XXX.B). The specimen of Deulbhira is now kept in the Indian Museum. “The deity shown seated in the usual yoga posture, with the seven hoods of a snake spread over his head, and his characteristic lāñchana beneath the lotus seat; the caurī-bearing figures on both sides are present, but no other Jinas are represented by his side” (Saraswati 1943: 465). The image probably belongs to the tenth century CE. The other specimen is a highly damaged piece of sculpture. The lower part is cemented with the ground. It is made of chlorite stone and measures 62 x 57 cm. The deity sits under a canopy of seven snakehoods in padmāsana, with his hands in dhyāna-mudrā, on a full-blown doublepetalled lotus. He has elongated ears and his hair is arranged in schematic curves with an uṣṅīṣa which is slightly damaged. The specimen is assignable to eleventh -twelfth centuries CE.

An extensively damaged Pārśvanātha image was reported from Joypur and presently in the collection of the Vishnupur Sahitya Parishad Museum, Vishnupur. It measures 84 x 43 cm and is made of greenish stone. The outline of this Jina conforms to the Rajgir style. The Jain is in kāyotsarga and samapādasthānaka postures and most probably stands on a lotus-pedestal. The pedestal part is missing. Close to the feet of the Jina is a nāga couple, the male with arms folded in namaskāra mudrā and the female figure is again damaged. The mūla-nāyaka bears a slender figure and stands under the towering seven-hooded snake canopy. The coil of the snake is shown on both the sides of the Jina. The Jina’s face is totally damaged. The upper portion of the back-slab has the usual vidyādharas holding long garlands. It is very difficult to fix the date of this sculpture.

The Pārśvanātha image of Dharapat measures 63 x 40 cm and it is made of greyish stone. The specimen has been converted to an image of snake hooded Viṣṇu by subsequent additions (during the early medieval period) of two hands holding śaṅkha and gadā. Such forcible transformation of a Jain image into a Brahmanical one suggests the prevalence of Vaiṣṇvism and the decline of the Jain order. The deity stands in kāyotsarga posture on a double-petalled lotus-pedestal under a canopy of seven snake hoods. The outline of its towering snake-hood (almost like the outline of an acanthus leaf) has similar counterparts in the Pārśvanātha images found from Bahulara and Joypur which are presently in the Vishnupur Sahitya Parishad Museum, Vishnupur. The arms of the Pārśvanātha are carved almost parallel to its body. The two male caurī-bearers have also been transformed into Lakṣmī and Sarasvatī. The pedestal of the image has also been changed and most probably the image has a pañca-ratha pedestal. Stylistically, the original image is assignable to eleventh century CE. This Pārśvanātha image is similar to the images of the same Jina found from the Kumari-Kansavati valley.

The Tīrthaṅkara Pārśvanātha image (Pl.XXX.C) from Jiaganj Museum of Murshidabad district is belong to this group though this is a really unique image. The Jina is standing in kāyotsarga pose, under the seven hooded snake canopy, on a double-petalled lotus placed on a sapta-ratha pedestal. The pedestal of this image is un-parallel with the other pedestals of the Pārśvanātha images from ancient Bengal as well as eastern India. In the center ratha of the pedestal a wheel with beded decorated is placed which is flanked by two snakes. Two crouching lions facing in opposite direction occupy the facets/projections adjacent to the centre ratha. The remaining projections of the pedestal are decorated with floral motifs.

The coil of the snake is shown on both the sides of the Jina. The image is executed with a high quality of craftsmanship. The mūla-nāyaka obviously devoid of any worldly attire, has elongated ear-lobes and his hair is arranged in schematic curls with prominent uṣṇīṣa.

The mūla-nāyaka is flanked (right side) by Yakṣa Dharaṇendra standing in ābhaṅga posture with namaskāra mudra. He has a five hooded snake canopy over his head. Yakṣiṇī Padmāvati is standing in ābhaṅga posture on the left side of the mūlanāyaka and holds an umbrella to protect Jina. She has a three hooded snake canopy over her head. Both the Yakṣa and Yakṣiṇī are wearing succinct lower garments and different ornaments like necklaces, keyūra, kuṇḍala, and a conical crown. Two vidyādharas holding long garlands are depict on the top corners of the back-slab. One musical instrument and drum and cymbals are depict on the both the sides of the snake hood. Above the snake hood caityavṛksa, the tree associated with the kevalajñāna of the Jina is also present. Another interesting thing of the image is the presence of a male figure just above the head of the Jina and inbetween the snake hood. He is in pranām mudra and wearing different ornaments including a conical crown. Most probably this is the representation of the snake god, which is really exceptional in this part of ancient Bengal as well as eastern India. Similar type of a rock cut Pārśvanātha image was found in the Kalugumalai area of Tamil Nadu. This area is famous for its unfinished rock-cut architecture which may be constructed during the reign of Pandyan king. Here a Pārśvanātha image is engraved very similar to the present image and there is also a figure inbetween the snakehood and the head of the mūla-nāyaka, though in this case the figure holds fly-whisk in his both hands. The present image needs more details study.

Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: