Contributed by Knut Aukland
Nākoḍā Bhairava is a protective male deity worshipped in Nākoḍā, a Śvetāmbara Jain pilgrimage site – tīrtha – in western Rajasthan. He is very popular in the Śvetāmbara community, but also well known among Jains in general. Nākoḍā Bhairava is famous for his miraculous powers, granting boons and possessing his devotees.
Many Jains do not condone Nākoḍā Bhairava's popularity and believe that he has nothing to do with Jainism at all. Even so, both lay and ascetic Jains take part in his cult.
The present statue – mūrti – of Nākoḍā Bhairava was created and ceremoniously installed in the temple dedicated to Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva in 1934. Nākoḍā Bhairava is situated next to the temple's main image, Nākoḍā Pārśvanātha. The statue of the 23rd Jina, Nākoḍā Pārśvanātha, is reported to have been discovered underground in 1455 with the help of Nākoḍā Bhairava.
Nākoḍā Bhairava is particularly popular among Jain shopkeepers, who often keep images of him in their shops. The bhairava appears in various stories connected to the site and is today known for his ability to help devotees achieve various worldly goals such as better health and material gain. The bhairava is also believed to enter the bodies of devotees, effectively possessing them, sometimes communicating auspicious messages through them.
The story of Nākoḍā Bhairava is connected to the tale of the image of Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva in Nākoḍā – Nākoḍā Pārśvanātha. The Nākoḍā Pārśvanātha is the main idol in the temple dedicated to the 23rd Jina. Nākoḍā Bhairava became prominent in the 20th century and is now familiar to most Jains.
According to the site’s own history, Jains have resided in Nākoḍā since the second century following the nirvāṇa of the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra, which is 527 BCE in traditional Śvetāmbara dating. From this time onwards various Jain activities are reported, such as temple constructions and visits from famous monks, including the influential philosopher Haribhadra. There are stories of Jain statues that were hidden underground to protect them from attacks by intolerant rulers and chieftains during the first half of the second millennium. Many such statues were forgotten and some are still dug out today. The statue of Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva in Nākoḍā – Nākoḍā Pārśvanātha – was rediscovered in this way in 1455.
According to the story, a Jain lay man had a dream in which Nākoḍā Bhairava told him of the long-forgotten statue of Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva, the 23rd Jina, and where it was hidden. The statue was then discovered and installed in the Nākoḍā temple by the Kharatara-gaccha monk Kīrtiratna-sūri. As Kīrtiratna-sūri was carrying the rediscovered statue of Pārśva, people spontaneously formed a procession behind him. They saw Nākoḍā Bhairava in the form of a boy dancing and walking with them, eventually causing them to stop in Nākoḍā. Kīrtiratna-sūri decided to keep the Pārśvanātha statue there and installed the aniconic image – piṇḍākar – of Nākoḍā Bhairava by the temple entrance. Similar stories are found in other pilgrimage sites.
The site was later abandoned until the Tapā-gaccha nun Sundarśrī came to the Nākoḍā temple at the beginning of the 20th century and decided to spend the rest of her life working on its restoration. She raised funds and interest in the site, actively propagating the cult of Nākoḍā Bhairava, which gave rise to her nickname of the ‘Saviour of Nākoḍā Tīrtha’ – tīrthoddhārikā. The official trust overseeing the site was established in 1924.
The word bhairava is a generic term used all over South Asia to denote some form of deity. It is derived from the Sanskrit verb root bhī, meaning 'terrible', 'frightening'. The name 'Nākoḍā Bhairava' thus means the 'bhairava of Nākoḍā'. Although it is not clear what the nature of Nākoḍā Bhairava and his cult was before he was installed in the Jain temple, it seems reasonable to assume certain points.
The many bhairavas found all over India tend to be associated with the Hindu god Śiva, whose favourite weapon, the trident, is found in one of Nākoḍā Bhairava's hands. Supporting this connection to Śiva are two things. The first is magic formulas – mantras – in some of the hymns to Nākoḍā Bhairava. Secondly, there are popular emblems with an image of Nākoḍā Bhairava next to a sacred diagram – yantra.
While often referred to as a guardian deity – rakṣakdev or adhiṣṭāyak deva – Nākoḍā Bhairava is also understood to be a lay follower of Jainism. This greatly affects the financial standing of the Nākoḍā trust since money donated to Nākoḍā Bhairava is interpreted as being donated to a lay man and not a statue in the system of the seven fields of donation. This gives the trust freedom to direct investment to other things than the construction and refinement of statues and temples, such as the research institution Prakrit Bharati Academy in Jaipur.
The belief and practice of avoiding the representation of divinities or other religious figures, which may also include human beings or living creatures. Aniconic followers may use images of abstract shapes or symbols, such as pillars, as the focus of religious worship. Aniconic Jains are opposed to the worship of figures of Jinas and deities.
Favourable or lucky. Auspicious objects bring good fortune and may predict good events or a bright future.
Religious activity centred around a deity or saintly figure. Religious rituals are performed regularly to the god or goddess, who may be represented in images or relics or found in natural features such as springs and trees. Shrines and temples are frequently built at the site of a cult and pilgrims arrive to worship the deity.
Vision, insight or perception. It works with the quality of jñāna – knowledge in the soul – to gain deep, true understanding and is ever-changing.
Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
An enthusiastic follower of a religion. Can also describe a keen enthusiast of an individual, concept or activity.
A donor gives freely. He or she may give alms to a mendicant or money to an institution. This donation may be for specific items or purposes, such as the creation of art. A donor, sponsor or patron may be named or pictured in the artwork.
A public commemoration of a religious ritual. Often a celebration that involves holding a religious ceremony to mark an important event in a religion's history.
Follower of the majority faith in India and an adjective describing something belonging to Hinduism. Hindus have numerous gods and diverse beliefs and practices, though many believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Roughly a billion Hindus comprise the third largest religion in the world.
The terms stavan, stavana, stava, stotra and stuti are all used for a prayer, song, chant or hymn to a Jina, a god or any other holy figure. Religious songs are always hymns of praise in Jainism. These devotional songs may be performed during daily rites or on special occasions, such as completion of a fast or a wedding. The hymns may be performed:
An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
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.
Subsect of the Śvetāmbaras, chiefly found in Rajasthan and Mumbai and established in the 11th century.
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.
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.
Release from the bondage of neverending rebirths, in which an enlightened human being undergoes his or her final death, followed immediately by salvation instead of rebirth. Note that this differs from the Buddhist concept of the same name.
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.
Supernatural event during which a human being, animal or object is controlled by a spirit or god, leading to noticeable changes in behaviour or health.
A religious communication offered by a believer to a god or object of worship. It may:
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:
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.
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.
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.
Also called Saciyā Devī or Sācikā-devī. The lineage goddess – kula-devī – of many Ośval Jains, she was originally a Rajput Hindu deity who was absorbed into Jain religious activity and belief.
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.
An ‘exceptional lay man’ – mahāśrāvaka – can make religious gifts in the seven 'fields' of:
Contemporary Śvetāmbara mūrti-pūjaka Jains classify donations in these ways but in a hierarchy that is not found in the original Yoga-śāstra of Hemacandra. This hierarchy means that donations in a lower field can be ‘invested’ in higher ones, but not the other way around.
A small structure holding an image or relics, which may be within a temple or building designed for worship. A shrine may be a portable object. Worshippers pray and make offerings at a shrine, which is often considered sacred because of associations with a deity or event in the life of a holy person.
An omniscient soul that has achieved mokṣa. All liberated souls live in the siddha-śilā, at the top of the universe, in perpetual bliss.
The principal destroyer or transformer deity in the Hindu religion. One of the triad of major Hindu gods, along with Brahmā the creator and Viṣṇu the preserver or protector. Śiva is often depicted with a third eye, a crescent moon on his forehead, matted hair and smeared with cremation ashes.
(1859–1937) Born into a Jain family in Sevadi, Rajasthan, she was initiated as a Tapā-gaccha nun shortly after her husband died. Around 1904 Sundarśrī was reportedly visited in a dream by Nākoḍā Bhairava, inspiring her to come to Nākoḍā, where she was instrumental in raising funds and increasing the popularity of the shrine.
'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.
A Śvetāmbara mūrti-pūjaka sect, first established in the 13th century and reformed from the 19th century. Today nearly all mūrti-pūjak mendicants belong to this sect.
A building reserved for public worship or prayer, usually dedicated to one religion and run by members of that religion's clergy.
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.