Article: Śreyāṃsa

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Sarnath

The huge Digambara image of Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh. Inaugurated on 20 January 2005 by Āryikā Jñānamati, the statue of the 11th Jina is off the main street. Nearby are smaller temples to other Jinas linked to the area.

Large Digambara idol of Śreyāṃsa
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

Today, the place where Śreyāṃsa’s presence is particularly visible is Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh. Near Varanasi, Sarnath is where four out of five auspicious events of his life took place and boasts several temples and images of the 11th Jina.

A Śvetāmbara temple dedicated to him is found in Hirāmanpur, a small village area on the outskirts of Sarnath. It was built in 1801 CE, at the instigation of the Śvetāmbara monk Jinakuśalacandra-sūri. The temple is in a large courtyard, used during festivals, and the main image there is of Śreyāṃsa.

To the south-east of the Dhameka Buddhist stupa, for which Sarnath is most famous, is a Digambara temple dedicated to Śreyāṃsa. It was built in 1824. The image is made of black stone and features the Jina’s emblem, the rhinoceros. The Jina is shown in a seated meditation posture. The interior walls were decorated with colour paintings executed in 1900. They have been recently replaced by new paintings with different themes. Photographs of the old paintings are kept at the temple. The original paintings depicted episodes from Śreyāṃsa’s life and representations of Digambara monks. The new paintings, on which the artist was working during January 2012, do not show any clearly Digambara features.

A gigantic statue of Śreyāṃsa sits in a garden on the side of the main street of Sarnath, opposite the entrance of the Buddhist stupa. Sitting cross-legged, the idol has been installed on a platform at the instigation of the leading Digambara nun Āryikā Jñānamati on 20 January 2005 on the occasion of the festival held in commemoration of this Jina’s birth and other auspicious events. It is made of black stone and features the rhinoceros at the base. To the right of this alongside the boundary wall are four mini-temples each dedicated to the four Jinas who are associated with the region of Varanasi, namely the:

  • seventh, Supārśvanātha or Lord Supārśva
  • eighth, Candraprabhanātha or Lord Candraprabha
  • 23rd, Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva
  • Śreyāṃsanātha or Lord Śreyāṃsa.

Old images of this Jina and others connected with the region are found in the local museums of Uttar Pradesh, in Sarnath, Varanasi and Lucknow.

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