Jain Remains of Ancient Bengal

by Shubha Majumder | 2017 | 147,217 words

This page relates ‘Uncertain Tirthankaras’ 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.

Some images are either not well preserved or their emblems are abraded and indistinct. Such specimens are good in number, come from Purulia and Bankura region.

A small image of Tīrthaṅkara worshipped in the Śiva temple of Dhadki along with other two identified Tīrthaṅkara images. This Tīrthaṅkara icon whose lāñchana cannot be identified since the pedestal is quite abraded. The icon is of the pañcatīrthika type and was most probably a votive entity. It measures 22 cm x 15 cm.

On a cemented platform of a modern Kālī temple at Mukherjipara of Loulara, three Jain Tīrthaṅkaras are worshipped as village deities. All the images are significantly eroded among these three two image are unidentified. Both the unidentified Tīrthaṅkara (Pl.XXXV.D) bears the depiction of eight planetary deities on the back-slab. The larger one measures 82 x 46 x 15 cm and the smaller one measures 76 x 38 x 14 cm. Sūrya, Maṅgala, Bṛhaspati and Śani are on the right side of the Jina while on the left are Soma/Candra, Budha, Śukra and Rāhu. In the smaller image among the eight planetary deities Sūrya and Candra are missing due to damaged condition. In both the cases Tīrthaṅkara standing in pañcaratha pedestal.

Two miniature Jain Tīrthaṅkara images are documented from the Tadgram, Purulia. Both the images are unidentified due to the weathered condition of the images.

An unidentified Jain Tīrthaṅkara image is also documented from Chalka and only the middle portion of the image is remaining (head and lower portion of the image is missing). The existing portion of the present image is measure 55 x 53 x 14cm. It is also carved from a local variety of greenish stone and very badly eroded. The Jina is standing in kāyotsarga posture. In this image the Jina is flanked on both sides by stout male cauri-bearers. They wear deeply incised loin cloths and elaborate jewellery. These cauri-bearers stand on stylized lotus pedestals and their left hands are in kaṭyāvalambita posture and the right hands hold a fly-whisk.

An unidentified image of a Tīrthaṅkara, iconographically very important, measure 100 x 60 x 10cm is presently worshipped in the Bhairava sthan area of Golamara. In this image the Jina is standing in kāyotsarga posture on a doublepetalled lotus placed on a pañca-ratha pedestal. The pedestal of the image is badly damaged and the lāñchana which was most probably carved on the centre of the pedestal is completely lost. The image is also eroded and it is very difficult to study the iconic details of the present image. The deity is flanked by his two male attendants or cauri-bearers. Their left hands are kaṭyāvalambita and the right hands hold flywhisks. An almost circular śiraścakra adorns the head of the saviour. Above the śiraścakra, a tri-linear chatra is found which is flanked by two vīdyadharas holding long garlands and just above them are two disembodied hands playing drums. On the edges of the rectangular back stele, on a projected frame, miniature figures of eight planetary deities arranged in a vertical row, four on either side of the Jina. Those on the dexter side appear to be Sūrya, Maṅgala, Bṛhaspati and Śani; while those on the sinister side are Soma/Candra, Budha, Śukra and Rāhu. The 8 planetary deities are seated in padmāsana and hold their respective attributes in both the hands. They have oblong prabhāmaṇḍalas.

A good number of unidentified Tīrthaṅkara images were documented from the well known Jain site of Pakbirra (Bhattacharyya, Mitra and Bhowmick 1986: 144). Among them few are described here. A middle portion of a Jain Image measures 54 x 69 cm is noteworthy collection among them. On the extant part of this image are two graceful figures of cāmaradharas attired and bejewelled in the usual fashion. The edge of the back-slab is relieved with twelve-figures of miniature Jinas in kāyotsarga arranged in three on vertical rows of two each on either side. Below the rows of Jina figures, on the sinister side, are two figures of Jyotiska-devas in a row, and the head of a futher one below them. On the dexter side similarly there is a figure of Jyotiskadeva, the head of which only remain intact.

In another cases the main image is completely broken away (ibid.:145). On The lower register of the pañca-ratha pedestal within a band and distributed on all the facets are eight Jyotiska-devas. On he central projection, placed between figures of Budha and Bṛhaspati is a circular disc embellished with lotus petals. The upper register of the pedestal has pilastered compartments on all its facets. An exquisite figure of an eight-armed goddess riding a peacock occupies the central one. On the interior facets there are figure of gogle-eyed leoglyphs, that on the left being damaged, while the exterior facets are left blank.

The pedestal is of considerable iconographic interest. The circular disc designed with lotus petals placed at the centre of the lower register can be construed to repesent either a stylized padma or a dharmacakra. In the former case, the padma can be taken as the lāñchana and the image identified as that of Padmaprabha. However, the figure of the eight-armed goddess poses problems. Her peacock mount and attributes in hands (four right hands: varada, vajra, śakti, śūla, four left hands: bull, disc, cock, and staff) do not correspond with the description of the Yakṣī of Padmaprabha. On the other hand the goddess betrays strong resemblance to Prajnapti, the Yakṣī of Sambhavanātha.

A beautiful decorated pedestal of a Tīrthaṅkara image is preserved in Pakbirra and it is measures 67 x 82 cm (ibid.: 146). In the pedestal only the feet of Jina is visible, which is in dhyānāsana posture and seat on a lotus throne. On the upper register of tri-ratha pedestal enclosed within horizontal bands of floral scrolls and in compartments formed by stout decorated pilasters there are figures of two gogle-eyed leoglyphs flanking an eight-armed goddess seated in ardha-paryaṅkāsana on a peacock. On the lower register enclosed within similar bands are figures of eight Jyotiska-devas, a circular disc embellished with lotus petals occupies the centre of the projected portion placed between figures of Jyotiska-devas. On the extreme end of the lower register on either side is a figure of a kneeling female devotee.

A beautiful colossal Tīrthaṅkara image (Pl.XXXV.E) is presently kept in the out side of a modern Śiva temple of Palma (Mitra 1984: 174). The image measures 170 x 67 x 10 cm. The head of the image is missing and the Jina stands in kāyotsarga pose on double-petalled totus placed on a small pedestal which is really blank. The back-slab of the image is also missing and on the extant part stands two male cauribearers flanking the Jina. The head of the one is on the left side being badly damaged. Some more damaged Tīrthaṅkara images are also noticed in the Hari-Mandir area of this village. These images are badly weathered and lost the iconic details.

The Tīrthaṅkara image recovered from the Basuli temple, Salda is 61 cm in height (Chattopadhyay 2010: 201). Its lower part is embedded in the earth. It is a very well-executed image made of chlorite stone and represents the Jina in kāyotsarga pose. Other iconic features depicted here are the uśṇiṣa on the Jina’s head and attendant deities on both sides of the Jina. The facial expression of the Jina is really worth mentioning. The Jina is flanked by two attendant deities on both sides but only the left one is visible. The back-slab is decorated with some miniature shrine like structural carvings. These elaborate architectural embellishments signify the fact that sophisticated monumental structural activities were witnessed by the contemporary society.

The other unidentified Jain image has been documented from Satpatta. The lower part of the image is broken. The extant image measures 115 cm x 55 cm and is plaqued on the north wall of the temple of Satpatta. The Jina stands in kāyotsarga posture on a lotus-pedestal. He has uśṇiṣa on its head and is flanked by two attendants. The edge of the stele is designed with miniature figures of Tīrthaṅkaras.

In the Sasthitala of Punchra village two unidentified Jain images are documented in very bad stage of preservation. Both of them are made of grey stone and measured 61 x 43 cm and 58 x 36 cm. In the first image the Jina is standing in kāyotsarga posture. The lower portion of the Jina and the pedestal of the image are totally missing. The mūla-nāyaka obviously devoid of any worldly attire, has elongated ear-lobes, pronounced protruding eye-balls, and his hair is arranged in schematic curls with a prominent uśṇiṣa. The ovoidal prabhā is embellished with beads and flame-tongued border devices and has a flowering twig on its either side. Above the śiraścakra a trilinear chatra is found which is flanked by two vīdyadharas holding long garlands and just above them are two disembodied hands playing drums. The Jina is flanked on both sides by stout male cauri-bearers. The left side cauribearer of the Jina is completely damaged. On the edge of the back slab are carved four images of Tīrthaṅkara in kāyotsarga posture with their respective lāñchanas depicted on a slightly raised pedestal below them. The remaining Jain image is totally smashed and the details of the image is very difficult to describe. In this compound there is a broken head made of black stone and most probably it is a head of a Tīrthaṅkara image.

In the Manasatala area of this village an upper portion of a Jain Tīrthaṅkara image (87 x 90 x 8 cm) has been documented (Pl.XXXV.F). It is quite apparent that this remaining portion forms the part of a large sculptural specimen. Due to its abraded condition, the iconographic details are difficult to discern though the depiction of two planetary deities on the stele is evident. Among these two images one image could be identified as Rāhu, because of his large head.

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