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Source:
Royal Asiatic Society
Shelfmark:
065.001
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
1449
Folio number:
not applicable
Total number of folios:
1 large size
Place of creation:
western India
Language:
Prakrit and Sanskrit
Medium:
gouache on cloth
Size:
57.5 x 54 cm
Copyright:
Royal Asiatic Society Images/RAS, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Description

Eight concentric circles contain phrases in small writing. The circles are surrounded by a lot of text, filling up most of the space within the square frame enclosing the circular shape. Above the circle are two eyes looking upwards, separated by a symbol. A pair of footprints can be seen on the left, towards the bottom, in the middle of text. Decorative emblems are at the four corners of the square. All the writing and symbols on the cloth are in red ink.

This is a sūri-mantra-paṭa – a type of yantra or mystical diagram – found among Śvetāmbara monastic orders. The magic and sacred syllable hrīṃ is at the top, in the middle, with an auspicious eye each side. The circles are similar to the depiction of continents and oceans in Jain cosmology while the writing in each one consists of lines of mantras written in Sanskrit or Prakrit.

Mantras

In the circle in the middle is the principal mantra, which is devoted to ‘Gotamasvāmin’, a respectful name for Indrabhūti Gautama, the main disciple of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. The second circle from the outside is dedicated to the 24 Jinas, whose names appear in individual boxes. The other circles contain mantras offering homage to:

Dispersed around the yantra are a few Sanskrit stanzas, which pay homage to deities, such as the one to Śrīdevī in the bottom-left part. In the middle of the right-hand side is a Prakrit stanza honouring Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva, the 23rd Jina.

Kharatara-gaccha sect

One phrase appears in several places on the yantra, referring to asmad-gaccha – ‘our gaccha’. The gaccha or sect is not named but the heads of the Kharatara-gaccha monastic order are listed in the top corners, making it clear that the yantra refers to this sect.

The list begins in the top left with the monk who is said to have founded the sect in the 11th century, Vardhamāna-sūri, who died in 1031 CE, and the monk who consolidated this order, Jineśvara-sūri.

Then come his disciples and successors:

The list continues in the top right of the yantra, with the names of:

  • Jinacandra-sūri, called 'Maṇidhārī', who was Jinadatta-sūri's successor
  • Jinapati-sūri (1153–1222 CE).

The name Jinacandra-sūri appears also above the footprints – pādukās – on the lower left side of the maṇḍala. The footprints are accompanied by the phrase:

śrīJinacandrasūri-pādebhyaḥ sadā namo ‘stu //
may there always be homage to the feet of Jinacandrasūri

There are several heads of the Kharatara-gaccha with the name Jinacandra-sūri. But it is likely that the footprints and homage refer to the one listed in the top right, who is one of the Dādā-gurus. These are the major teachers of this monastic order, who largely owe their fame to their miraculous powers (see Babb 1996).

Date

In the middle of the right-hand portion is the phrase:

saṃvat 1506 pratiṣṭito ‘ya[m] ārādhaka
it was consecrated in the year 1506 of the Vikrama era. The worshipper is this

Corresponding to 1449 CE, this date makes this sūri-mantra-paṭa one of the oldest surviving examples, if it is authentic.

However, the name of the ārādhaka is missing, who is the person who would have worshipped this yantra. The absence of a name indicates that perhaps this mystical diagram was never used.

Modern label

At the very bottom of the lower-right corner is a label that was not written by the scribe who created the yantra.

It says:

//saṃvat 406 ro Sūramaṃtra ṭebā //1//
commentary on the sūrimantra of saṃvat 406

The word ṭebā is a variant of ṭabo, a Gujarati word that means 'commentary' or 'word-to-word paraphrase', while ro is the Rajasthani postposition meaning 'of'.

The date is strange but is probably meant to be (1)506, repeating the original date in the Vikrama era. It is likely that the label was written in the 19th century, when many Jain mantras and maṇḍalas changed hands, to identify the object.

Background

A sūri-mantra-paṭa is a mystical diagram on cloth, like here, or on paper, which features formulas of homage and sacred syllables – mantras. It is thus a kind of maṇḍala or yantra, which is frequently used in worship and meditation among both ascetics and lay people.

Monks of the Śvetāmbara monastic orders use sūri-mantra-paṭas when they reach the higher ranks of religious hierarchy. The yantra gets its name from the highest grade of male mendicant, which is sūri, but it can also be used among lower monastic levels. More generally, worshippers are inspired by the example of Indrabhūti Gautama or Gautama-svāmin, the foremost disciple of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. He is often shown at the centre of the diagram, although not here.

The date on this sūri-mantra-paṭa corresponds to 1449 CE, making it among the oldest known examples. All yantras include pictures and text but the muted colour scheme and chiefly textual appearance of this one contrasts sharply with modern sūri-mantra-paṭas, which are often brightly coloured and have little text.

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.
Common Era
The period of time starting with the year when Jesus Christ was traditionally believed to have been born. Using CE is a more secular way of dating events in a multinational, multi-religious 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.
Gaccha
Literally a Sanskrit word for 'tree', gaccha is used by Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjak Jains to describe the largest groups of their mendicant lineages. It is often translated as 'monastic group', 'monastic order' or 'monastic tradition'. These groups are formed when some mendicants split from their gaccha because of disagreements over ascetic practices.
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.
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'.
Kharatara-gaccha
Subsect of the Śvetāmbaras, chiefly found in Rajasthan and Mumbai and established in the 11th century. 
Mantra
A sacred sound, syllable, word or phrase that is believed to produce spiritual change if recited correctly. A mantra can be recited aloud or silently, and is often repeated. Mantras are closely associated with religions that originated in India, such as Hinduism and Buddhism as well as Jainism. The chief Jain mantra is the Namaskāra-mantra, which is recited daily, while another mantra very popular in Indian culture generally is Auṃ.
Pādukā
The petrified footprint of a dead mendicant or holy figure, which is treated as a commemorative sacred object.
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.
Vikrama-saṃvat
Often abbreviated, Vikrama-saṃvat is the calendar associated with Emperor Vikramāditya. It begins in about 56 BCE so the equivalent date in the Common Era can be calculated by subtracting 57 or 56. Based on Hindu traditions, it is a lunar calendar often used in contemporary India.
Indrabhūti Gautama
Chief disciple of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. From a brahmin family, he was the first of Mahāvīra's 11 chief disciples. He became enlightened on the day Mahāvīra was liberated. He achieved liberation himself 12 years later.
Vidyā-devī
One of the 16 goddesses who personify sciences or types of magical knowledge. The vidyā-devīs live on the slopes of Mount Vaitāḍhya, in the middle world.
Ascetic
Someone who withdraws from ordinary life to meditate and practise physical hardships in order to advance spiritually. Jain ascetics or mendicants beg for food from devout lay followers and wander the land. Also used as an adjective to describe the practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition.
Deity
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
Disciple
An active follower of a religion, especially one who passes on teachings to others.
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.
Monastic order
A single-sex group of ascetics that vows to follow rules set out by a founding religious teacher. They formally renounce the world to become monks and nuns. They usually have a hierarchy of leaders at different levels to govern them.
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.
Sect
An organised group of believers in a religion, often distinguished from other groups within the same religious faith who have differences of doctrine or practice.
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.
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.
Hrīṃ
A sacred symbol or mantra that controls the false world that people experience.
Rajasthani
The language spoken in Rajasthan, in north-western India, and surrounding states. It is also spoken in some parts of neighbouring Pakistan. Also the adjective describing people, things or places in or associated with the state of Rajasthan.
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.
Consecration
A ritual in which an item or place is declared to be holy. A person may also consecrate a specific time or activity or be consecrated, which means becoming dedicated to a religious purpose.
Yantra
Sanskrit for 'instrument' or 'machine', a yantra is a mystical diagram used in religious rituals. Yantras are typically formed of symmetrical, concentric circles and may also have the diagram of a lotus in the middle of numerous squares. Containing the names of the Jinas and sacred mantras, such as oṃ, yantras are meditation aids.
Miracle
An extraordinary event that cannot be explained by natural causes or human effort and therefore is believed to be caused by divine or supernatural powers.
Auspicious
Favourable or lucky. Auspicious objects bring good fortune and may predict good events or a bright future. 
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.
Mysticism
A system of contemplative prayer, meditation and complete detachment from worldly affairs in the hope of gaining direct spiritual experience of the divine. In Jainism those who practise mystical techniques hope to gain true self-realisation and thus destroy karma and be liberated.
Scribe
Someone who copies manuscripts for a living. Scribes are common in societies where literacy is rare. In the past, however, scribes could not always read and write fluently.
Rāma
An avatar of Viṣṇu, the preserver or protector who is one of the three major Hindu gods. Rāma is a prince of Ayodhyā and is often shown with blue skin, holding a bow and arrow. The epic poem Rāmāyaṇa recounts his adventures as he searches for his wife Sītā, who has been kidnapped by Rāvaṇa. Blending Jain values into the story, the Jain Rāmāyaṇas cast him and other figures in the tale as some of the 'great men' of Jain Universal History .
Jinadatta
(1075–1154) Kharatara-gaccha monk. Later biographers give accounts of his miraculous powers, including raising the dead. He is one of the four Dada-sūris or Dada-gurus – 'granddad gurus' – of the Kharatara-gaccha , who are worshipped in western India.
Maṇḍala
From the Sanskrit for 'circle', a maṇḍala is a geometric design that symbolises the spiritual universe. It is used in religious rituals and to help meditation.
Jyotiṣka
The third class of gods, who are the astral or luminous bodies, such as the sun, moons, planets and stars. They live in the middle of the three worlds.
Dādā-guru
The four Dada-sūris or Dada-gurus – 'granddad gurus' – are venerated by the Kharatara-gaccha sect, traditionally in the form of footprint images – pādukās. They were distinguished monastic leaders whose advanced spiritual condition gave them miraculous powers.
Jinacandra-sūri
Called 'Maṇidhārī', Jinacandra-sūri (1140–1166 CE) was a prominent monk and leader of the Kharata-gaccha sect. As the second Dādā-guru, he is worshipped by members of this sect, with his shrine at Mehraulī Dādābāṛī a popular pilgrimage site.

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