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Browsing: Jina images (Add. 26519)

Image: Worship of Pārśva

Title: Worship of Pārśva

Source:
The British Library Board
Shelfmark:
Add. 26519
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
possibly 18th century
Folio number:
106 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 green figure sits on a throne in a three-domed temple structure, flags flying from the outer domes. Sitting in the lotus posture of meditation, he wears an intricate headdress and jewellery. He sits under small bells and is flanked by male and female figures wearing snakehoods. A snake slithers below the throne. Above his head is a kind of double-ended lotus stalk, which is an ornament and probable symbol of purity.

The man and woman either side of the large figure each have four hands, one of which raises a fly-whisk. There are gratings above them on both sides.

Below on the left a woman is climbing steps.

On the right, a man squats to grind something while in front of him a woman holds various jugs and tools on a tray. She is looking over her shoulder towards the woman going up the stairs.

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 is the 23rd Jina, Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva, enthroned. This Jina is clearly identified through his body's typical green colour, the nine snakehoods above his head and the snake as his symbol below his throne.

The two figures with snakehoods are the pair of attending deities each Jina has. On the left is the yakṣa and on the right the yakṣī. They are named Dharaṇendra and Padmāvatī. Their four hands show that they are non-humans. The fly-whisk – cāmara – they each hold is used in non-religious contexts as a royal insignia, so this implement underlines the equivalence between a Jina and a king. The male figure also holds a flower in one of his hands. These attending deities are clearly depicted as devotees to the Jina, whom they serve.

Beneath them on the right, the 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 small jug in front of him is meant for water or milk. Such implements are used in worship ritualspūjā – to sprinkle liquids on the statue of the Jina. The tray is used to transport the implements and may also carry flower petals to be placed in front of or on the Jina image. These preparations take place in the courtyard outside the temple.

The painter does not use perspective, but does represent the journey through the court to the temple and then inside. The temple court, where the temple servant is 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

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. The snakes that form his headdress are Pārśva’s emblem and make him easy to identify among the 24 Jinas. He has nine snakehoods in this picture although the number varies between seven and nine. Seven is the most common number.

In the 12th century Hemacandra tells the story of how Pārśva became for ever associated with snakes.

One day, [Prince] Pārśva is in his palace and sees crowds of people hurrying along with flowers. On asking why, he is told that they are going to worship the ascetic Kamaṭha, who has recently come to town. He decides to go too.

[Thanks to his advanced spirituality, which gives him great knowledge,] Pārśva knows that a snake is hiding inside one of the logs being added to one of the fires. He orders a servant to take out this piece of wood and to split it carefully. A large snake slithers out, half-burnt but alive.

Pārśva has the namaskāra-mantra recited for the snake. Absorbed in pure meditation, the serpent looks at Pārśva with its eyes moist with compassion. The power of the namaskāra-mantra and the sight of Pārśva causes the snake to be reborn as a Nāga-king, Dharaṇendra.

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.
Jñāna
'Knowledge', of which there are five main types:
  • mind-based and sensory knowledge – mati-jñāna
  • scriptural knowledge – śruta-jñāna
  • extra-sensory knowledge or clairvoyance – avadhi-jñāna
  • knowledge of others’ minds or telepathy – manaḥparyaya-jñāna
  • omniscience or absolute knowledge – kevala-jñāna.
With spiritual progress, one can gain the different types of knowledge.Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.
Namaskāra-mantra
Sanskrit for 'homage formula', the Namaskāra-mantra is the fundamental religious formula of the Jains. A daily prayer always recited in the original Prākrit, it pays homage to the supreme beings or five types of holy being:
  1. arhat - enlightened teacher
  2. siddha - liberated soul
  3. ācārya - mendicant leader
  4. upādhyāya - preceptor or teacher
  5. sādhu - mendicant
Note that chanting the mantra is not praying for something, material or otherwise. Also known as the Pañca-namaskāra-mantra or 'Fivefold Homage mantra', it is also called the Navakāra-mantra or Navkār-mantra in modern Indian languages.
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.
Yakṣī
The female attendant of a Jina, also called yakṣinī. One of the pair of guardian or protector gods for each Jina. The śāsana-devatā protect his teachings – śāsana – and can appease evil powers. The yakṣa and yakṣī's closeness to the Jina and their divine powers mean they are popular subjects of worship.
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.
Deity
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
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.
Rite
A sequence of actions that must be followed to perform a religious ceremony. The set of actions is largely symbolic, for example offering food to statues symbolises sacrificing to a deity. The ritual actions are often accompanied by set phrases.
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.
Kamaṭha
A Hindu ascetic associated with the life of the 23rd Jina, Pārśva. Sometimes described as a heretic in Jain sources, Kamaṭha practises the penance of the 'five fires'.
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.
Carũrī
Usually written as 'chowrie' in English, the Hindi carũrī is a fly-whisk or fan. It is probably descended from the Sanskrit term cāmara, which means a 'yak-tail fan'. Like the cāmara, the chowrie is used to fan royalty or priests and thus signifies high status in Indian art.
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.

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