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Browsing: Saṃgrahaṇī-ratna (IS 2-1984)

Image: Seven armies of the Bhavanavāsin king

Title: Seven armies of the Bhavanavāsin king

Source:
Victoria and Albert Museum
Shelfmark:
IS 2-1984
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
1630
Folio number:
8 recto
Total number of folios:
single folio
Place of creation:
western India, probably Rajasthan
Language:
not applicable
Medium:
watercolour on paper
Size:
8.25 x 10.5 cm
Copyright:
V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Description

The picture has nine red panels depicting lively animals or human figures. All of them are facing left except the first pair, who gaze towards the others.

In the top-left panel a woman is waiting on a man with four arms sitting on a lotus flower. The man’s blue skin, four arms and crown indicate that he is a king of the gods. Looking towards some of his subjects, he is also identified as an asura king in the caption above – asurendra.

Looking from the top left, the contents of the panels are as follows:

  • second panel – two female dancers
  • third panel – two male musicians, identifiable from their mṛdanga drum and cymbals
  • fourth panel – a richly caparisoned horse
  • fifth panel – a blue elephant with a similarly costly harness
  • sixth panel – two horses pulling a chariot with a charioteer and a passenger
  • seventh panel – two men carrying weapons
  • eighth panel – a bull with a collar round its neck
  • ninth panel – a buffalo with a collar round its neck

Note that the bull and buffalo have the hump characteristic of cattle and buffalo in India.

Each of these panels has a caption above, identifying them as the elements of a divine army. The various classes of gods in Jain cosmology are each led by a king, who has up to nine parts in his army. This picture presents the king of the asura type of deity and representative elements of his army.

There is no other text apart from captions on this image, but the text on the verso has verses from the Saṃgrahaṇī-ratna by Śrīcandra. This is probably the most popular Śvetāmbara Jain cosmological work.

Background

In the Jain conception of the universe there are several categories of deities. Each category is led by an indra, which means 'king' or 'chief'. All kings have an army of six elements although the kings of certain classes of gods have seven.

The kings of all types of god have six elements in their armies:

  1. dancers – naṭṭa 1
  2. musicians – gandharvva 2
  3. horses – ghoḍau 3
  4. elephants – hāthī 4
  5. chariots – ratha 5
  6. soldiers – subhaṭa 6

The kings of Vaimānika deities have a seventh element – the bull – vṛṣabha 1. However, the kings of the Bhavanavāsin and Vyantara deities have the buffalo – mahiṣa 2 – as the seventh part of their armies.

Dancers and musicians are always available for entertainment. Others are always ready to fight for their master and to serve him.

There is no other text apart from captions on this image but the related verse can be found in other manuscripts and editions. It reads:

gandhavva naṭṭa haya gaya, raya bhaḍa aṇiyāṇi savva idāṇaṃ

vemāṇiyāṇa vasahā, mahisā ya ahonivāsīṇaṃ

Musicians, dancers, horses, elephants, chariots, [and] soldiers are the armies of all chiefs. As for [the kings of the] Vaimānikas they have the bull [as the seventh component], whereas [deities] living in lower dwellings have the buffalo [as the seventh].

The Saṃgrahaṇī-ratna belongs to the tradition of Śvetāmbara writings on the Jain universe. The monk Śrīcandra wrote Prakrit verses in the 12th century consolidating previous writings on cosmology. It is called Jewel of Summarised Verses, a phrase which underlines the condensed nature of the work.

Though Saṃgrahaṇī works describe the universe, they are mainly concerned with the beings who live in different parts of the Jain world. They go into detail about their life-duration, karma and spiritual progress much more than the geography.

Cosmological writings have generated numerous commentaries in Sanskrit or the vernacular languages. Teaching and learning cosmology remain an important part of monastic education. A rich pictorial tradition has also grown up round the Saṃgrahaṇī works, as visualisation is part of the transmission of knowledge on the Jain universe and is helpful as a means of understanding.

Jain cosmology is complex. Human beings live in the Middle World, which is the smallest of the three worlds that make up world spaceloka-ākāśa. In world space all the souls live in the different body-forms they take according to their rebirths, in the various worlds. Outside world space is the non‑world space – aloka-ākāśa – which is endless. However, the Middle World is the most important area from the spiritual point of view because it is the only part where human beings can live.

Jains cannot advance spiritually without understanding and meditating upon cosmological theories so understanding them is crucial. Certain key religious concepts run through these theories. These include the notion of a physical soul shedding karma by moving through the cycle of rebirth to eventual omniscience and liberation, along with the cyclical nature of time, the interconnectedness of the universe, and the importance of symmetry, repetition and balance.

Glossary

Bhavana-vāsin
Sanskrit term meaning the 'Residents of Dwellings'. The class of gods that resides in mansions and lives like princes in the first hell of the Middle World.
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.
Jīva
Sanskrit for 'self', 'soul' or 'that which is sentient'. It makes up the universe along with ajīva, or non-sentient material substance. It is a material substance that changes in size according to the body it inhabits in each life. It is born in different bodies in various places in the Jain universe based on karma from earlier lives. The soul is liberated from the cycle of birth when it has achieved spiritual purity and omniscience. Also called ātma or ātman.
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'.
Karma
Action or act, thought of as physical in Jainism. Created by mental or physical action, karma enters the soul, which then needs religious restraints and practices to make it flow out. Karma can be both:
  • negative – deriving from harmful acts
  • positive – arising from beneficial actions.
Both types of karma trap a soul in continual rebirth. A pan-Indian concept, karma has extremely complex, detailed and technical divisions and subdivisions in Jainism.
Kevala-jñāna
Omniscience, enlightenment or perfect knowledge – the highest of the five types of knowledge , where one knows everything wherever and whenever it is. It is extremely difficult to attain, equivalent to the 13th stage of spiritual purity in the guṇa-sthāna. Digambaras believe only men can achieve it whereas Śvetāmbaras believe that both men and women can become enlightened.
Loka
The universe in Jain cosmology, composed of the upper, middle and lower worlds. Human beings can live only in part of the Middle World.
Madhya-loka
There are three worlds in traditional Jain cosmology. The middle world is where human beings and animals live, and sits between the upper and the lower worlds.
Saṃsāra
Cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth caused by karma binding to the soul as a result of activities. Only by destroying all karma can this perpetual cycle finish in mokṣa – liberation. The karma gained in life affects the next life, and even future lives, for example:
  • in which of the three worlds the life is lived out
  • which of four conditions – gati – the body takes, namely human, divine, hellish or as a plant or animal.
Deity
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
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.
Loka-ākāśa
To Jains the universe is composed of two types of space. A Sanskrit term meaning 'world space', loka-ākāśa is a vast but limited area, where all humans, deities and all other forms of life live. Here the souls live and travel through the cycle of rebirths. Outside it is 'non-world space' – aloka-ākāśa.
Aloka-ākāśa
To Jains the universe is composed of two types of space. Outside world space – loka-ākāśa – a vast but limited area, where the souls move through the cycle of birth is aloka-ākāśa. This is Non-World Space, which is endless and totally uninhabited.
Indra
Sanskrit word for 'king' and the name of the king of the gods in the Saudharma heaven. Called Śakra by Śvetāmbaras and known as Saudharma to Digambaras, this deity is involved in all five auspicious moments – kalyāṇakas – in a Jina's life.
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.
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.
Asura
A Sanskrit term referring to demons. In Jainism asuras are a group of deities of a lower class.
Cosmology
A belief system about the universe that covers its origin, structure and parts, and natural laws and characteristics such as space, time, causality and freedom.
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.
Vaimānika
Deities in the upper world of the Jain universe, who each have celestial vehicles or mounts. There are 26 in the Śvetāmbara tradition and 39 according to the Digambara sect. There are two types:
  • the kalpopapanna-devas in the lower heavens
  • the kalpātīta-devas in the higher heavens.
Vyantara
A category of deities that lives between the first hell and the earth. There are eight types of Vyantara. They are the second type of gods and are recognisable by their various symbols.
Verso
Known as a folio, a single sheet of paper or other material has a front and a back side. The recto page is the top side of a sheet of paper and the verso is the underside.
Commentary
An essay explaining a text. Commentaries on the scriptures are common in the Jain tradition and there are various types, including the:
  • bālāvabodha
  • bhāṣya
  • cūrṇi
  • niryukti
  • ṭīkā.
Vernacular
The everyday or common language spoken by people in a particular country or region, often contrasting with the literary form or the national or official language. Similarly, vernacular architecture reflects local conditions and conventions more than other considerations, such as national or international design trends, and may be built by non-professional architects.

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