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Browsing: Caturviṃśati-stava (Or. 13623)

Image: Sketch of a Jina

Title: Sketch of a Jina

Source:
The British Library Board
Shelfmark:
Or. 13623
Author:
Yaśovijaya
Date of creation:
1733
Folio number:
60 recto
Total number of folios:
25; 2 illustrated pages
Place of creation:
western India
Language:
Gujarati in Devanāgarī script
Medium:
opaque watercolour on paper
Size:
14 x 18 cms
Image copyright: Creative Commons Public Domain

Background

Each page of this manuscript, which is a kind of prayerbook, contains the colourful image of one of the 24 Jinas with the text of a Gujarati hymn dedicated to him. Yaśo-vijaya (1624–1686), the composer of these hymns, is a famous Śvetāmbara monk, teacher, writer and leader. Well known as a logician, philosopher and polemicist, he was also a poet and Jain devotee.

Yaśo-vijaya wrote on all subjects in Sanskrit, Prakrit, Hindi and Gujarati alike. He composed philosophical treatises, but also simpler works, such as the hymns here. As an intellectual, he had to take a stand in the lively debates about the validity of image worship at the time. As a Śvetāmbara Mūrtipūjak in the Tapāgaccha, his position was in favour, and many of his writings are scholarly discussions establishing his view.

The poems of the Caturviṃśati-jina-stava are religious songs characterised by their harmonious style and the expression of devotion. Each occupying one full page, every one of the 24 poems can be seen as an individual work. Each one starts with the auspicious sign traditionally found at the beginning of a textual unit and has a final colophon. As is usual in medieval Indian devotional poetry, the author gives his own name in the last verse of the poem. Here it is the phrase vacaka Jasa, where Jasa stands for Yaśo-vijaya.

Jinas are always represented in a very stylised way in visual art, with no obvious identifying marks, except for the 23rd Jina, Pārśva. Each Jina has an emblem that is frequently included in pictures so he can be identified.

A Jina is always shown in meditation, either standing or sitting, like here. Among the Śvetāmbaras, the Jina is thought of as a spiritual king and is often depicted with ornaments and pictured seated on a throne.

Glossary

Dhyāna
Sanskrit for 'meditation', one of the six internal austerities or tapas that help purify the soul of karma. Meditation is deep thought about religious doctrine or mental focus on spiritual matters over a period of time. An important part of many religions, meditation is especially important in Jain belief because it forms key elements of religious practice and spiritual development.
Jain
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
Jina
A 'victor' in Sanskrit, a Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma and teaches the way to achieve liberation . A synonym for Tīrthaṃkara, which means 'ford-maker' or one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience through asceticism. The most famous 24 – Ṛṣabha to Mahāvīra – were born in the Bharata-kṣetra of the middle world , but more are found in other continents. There have been Jinas in the past and there will be some in the future.
Kāla
Time. One of the five insentient non-material substances that make up the universe along with the sentient substance, called jīvastikaya.
Mūrti-pūjaka
Jains who venerate and worship images of Jinas in temples.
Hymn
The terms stavan, stavana, stava, stotra and stuti are all used for a prayer, song, chant or hymn to a Jina, a god or any other holy figure. Religious songs are always hymns of praise in Jainism. These devotional songs may be performed during daily rites or on special occasions, such as completion of a fast or a wedding. The hymns may be performed:
  • solo or in groups
  • as a form of meditation
  • as a rite offered as part of worship.
Śvetāmbara
'White-clad’ in Sanskrit, the title of one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which both male and female mendicants wear white robes. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.
Tapā-gaccha
A Śvetāmbara mūrti-pūjaka sect, first established in the 13th century and reformed from the 19th century. Today nearly all mūrti-pūjak mendicants belong to this sect.
Devotee
An enthusiastic follower of a religion. Can also describe a keen enthusiast of an individual, concept or activity.
Idol
An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.
Monk
A man who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to formally enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, monks perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.
Sanskrit
A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.
Gujarati
The language that developed in Gujarat, in western India. It is also spoken in neighbouring states. Also a term for someone or something associated with or coming from Gujarat.
Prākrit
A term for any of the dead vernacular languages of ancient and medieval India. It may be contrasted with classical Sanskrit, the language used by priests and the aristocracy. The Jains used a large variety of Prakrits, with the Jain canon written chiefly in Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit.
Hindi
The most widely spoken group of languages in India, originating in the northern part of the subcontinent. Local dialects and Hindi languages are spoken all over northern India and in surrounding countries. Standard Hindi is used in administration by the central government of India, along with English.
Auspicious
Favourable or lucky. Auspicious objects bring good fortune and may predict good events or a bright future. 
Colophon
Found at the end of a Jain manuscript, a colophon is similar to the publication information at the beginning of modern books. It usually contains the title and sometimes details of the author, scribe and sponsor. The colophons of Jain manuscripts may also include the names of owners, readers and libraries where they have been stored. They frequently have decorative elements and very commonly contain a wish for good fortune for any readers. Written mainly by the scribes who copy texts, Jain colophons are often written in Sanskrit.

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