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Browsing: Jina images (Add. 26519)

Image: Worship of Mahāvīra

Title: Worship of Mahāvīra

Source:
The British Library Board
Shelfmark:
Add. 26519
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
possibly 18th century
Folio number:
107 recto
Total number of folios:
not applicable
Place of creation:
western India
Language:
Gujarati
Medium:
opaque watercolour on paper
Size:
14 x 8 cms
Copyright:
CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
Image copyright: Creative Commons Public Domain

Description

A large white figure sits on a throne in a multi-domed temple structure, two flags flying from the central dome. Sitting in the lotus posture of meditation, he wears an intricate headdress and jewellery. There are lamps on his left and right sides while above him are small bells. Above his head is a kind of double-ended lotus stalk, which is an ornament and probable symbol of purity.

He is flanked by a male figure on the left and a figure on the right who could be female. Standing under bells, they have hands folded in a gesture of homage and respect.

Below, on the right, a man squats to grind something. Squatting opposite him is another figure swathed in cloths. On the left and right three women climb steps.

Thus this lively painting features two scenes in one, namely the:

  • interior of a temple
  • landscape surrounding the temple, depicted through the sky and trees.

Inside the main cella of the temple a Jina is enthroned, and being worshipped. This Jina cannot be identified for sure, in the absence of any identifying emblem. His identification as Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina, cannot be more than a guess. The throne is where the emblem is usually found but here it is filled with only decorative motifs.

The figures on the Jina's left and right sides are lay devotees worshipping him. Their dark complexion is noteworthy. It might be a way to show that people from all social backgrounds join in Jina worship because dark skin is associated with lower castes in India. They hold pieces of cloth in front of their mouths, out of respect for the Jina. The small bells above them are used in ceremonies of worship, when devotees strike them with their hands.

Outside, two ladies are climbing steps leading to the sanctuary, to join the other devotees. The third one is delicately wiping the ground with the cotton broomrajoharaṇa – used in this way by lay devotees among the sect of the Śvetāmbaras.

Beneath them the squatting man with an uncovered torso and a plait is a temple servantpujārī – who is usually a Jain Brahmin. His job is to prepare ingredients for worship and to clean the temple and images. Here he is shown grinding something, probably sandalwood powder, as an ingredient of worship. The squatting man on the left is likely to also be a temple servant. He wears a piece of cloth over his mouth, which means that he is going to approach the Jina image or has just arrived after worshipping or cleaning it. The pujārī normally has his mouth covered when he cleans or decorates the Jina image.

The painter does not use perspective, but does represent the journey through the landscape to the temple and then inside. The temple court, where the temple attendants are working, is presented first, followed by the interior of the temple.

Other visual elements

This is a full-page painting. The elaborate floral border of the picture underscores the decorative nature of the image.

Background

This manuscript has the format of a European book and is a composite document with different items.

The 24 Jinas are always represented in a very stylised way in visual art. In some cases, however, the colour of their body is an identifying mark – green for Pārśva, blue for Nemi, for instance.

Apart from this the Jinas have no obvious identifying marks with the exception of the 23rd Jina, Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva. Pārśva is usually shown with a snake headdress, which highlights his close association with snakes – nāga. No other Jinas have a life story featuring an animal in this way.

Moreover, each Jina has an emblem that is frequently included in artwork so he can be identified.

In this album, which has five pictures, two Jinas can be definitely named:

  • the 22nd Jina Neminātha or Lord Nemi
  • the 23rd Jina Pārśva.

The identity of the other three is uncertain. They may be the other most popular Jinas:

  • the first Jina Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha, who is also known as Ādinātha – 'First Lord'
  • the 16th Jina Śāntinātha or Lord Śānti
  • the 24th Jina Mahāvīra.

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 seated on a throne. This is the case here.

Glossary

Brāhmaṇa
A member of the highest caste in Hinduism, the priests or brahmins. 'Brahminical' means 'of or like brahmins'.
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.
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.
Pūjā
Sanskrit for 'worship' or 'homage'. All Jains perform rites of honour to the 24 Jinas. Rites of worship take place daily, with more elaborate ceremonies performed on holy days. Mendicant and lay Jains perform different rituals. Some sects worship images – mūrti-pūjaka – and others do not, and different sects have various practices. Focused on images or not, worship can be:
  • external or material – dravya-pūjā – involving offerings of food, drink and precious substances
  • internal or mental – bhava-pūjā – including singing hymns of praise, reciting mantras and meditating.
Pujārī
Word used in modern Indo-Aryan languages to refer to those who are employed in temples. Neither ascetics nor priests, the male pūjārīs prepare the worship ingredients, clean and decorate the images if there are any and clean the temple. They perform daily worship for Jains who cannot attend temple each day. They receive the food offered in worship as part of their job. Because Jains cannot eat this food, the pūjārīs are often brahmin or other high-caste Hindus.
Rajoharaṇa
The cotton-thread broom used by some groups of Śvetāmbara ascetics to sweep the ground before sitting, for example, so no insects or small creatures are harmed by mistake. It is also used by lay Jains when performing certain rites.
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.
Nemi
The 22nd Jina of the present age, also called Ariṣṭanemi. His symbolic colour is blue or black and his emblem the conch. There is no historical evidence of his existence. The Jains hold that Nemi is the cousin of the Hindu god Kṛṣna. The tale of his renunciation and jilting of his fiancée Princess Rājīmati are famous among the Jains.
Pārśva
The 23rd Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is green and his emblem the snake. Historical evidence points to his living around 950 to 850 BC.
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.
Laity
Believers in a religion who are ordinary worshippers, not clergy or members of religious orders. In Jainism, lay people are often called 'householders', indicating that they live in houses and have domestic responsibilities, unlike ascetics.
Temple
A building reserved for public worship or prayer, usually dedicated to one religion and run by members of that religion's clergy.
Sanctuary
The most sacred area of a temple, church or religious building, often where the image of a deity is housed and worshipped. An outdoor space that is associated with a deity may also be considered a sanctuary.
Lotus
A plant noted for its beautiful flowers, which has symbolic significance in many cultures. In Indian culture, the lotus is a water lily signifying spiritual purity and detachment from the material world. Lotuses frequently feature in artwork of Jinas, deities, Buddha and other holy figures.
Sandalwood
A fragrant wood from trees in the Santalum genus, which is often made into oil, paste, powder or incense. Widely used in religious ceremonies across Asia, sandalwood paste and powder are used to mark or decorate religious equipment, statues or images, priests and worshippers. Also used for carvings, sandalwood produces a highly prized oil used in cosmetics and perfumes.
Caste
Hindu society is traditionally divided into numerous jātis or classes, which are usually grouped into the four varṇas – often called 'castes' – of:
  • Brāhmaṇa – priest
  • Kṣatriya – warrior
  • Vaśya – merchant or farmer
  • Śūdra – labourer.
Relating to ritual purity, castes are hereditary and probably based on occupation. Members of different castes performed particular socio-economic roles and did not mix or eat the same food. People outside the caste system were usually looked down upon.

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