Brahmanical Deities in Jaina Pantheon and Religious Art
Dr. Maruti Nandan Prasad Tiwari
Jainism has been one of the three principal religions of India. While much work has been done an Jaina philosophy and religion, Jaina art and iconography. specially in respect of the assimilation of Brahmanical legendary characters and deities in Jaina pantheon and consequently their expression in visual and iconic forms, have remained largely ignored. The nucleus of Jaina pantheon and so also the visual manifestation, representing the concretization of thought and myth into figurative and pictorial art, was the 24 Jinay or the Tirthankaras who were venerated as the devadhideva, the supreme deity. The Jainas further developed their pantheon by assimilating and transforming different Brahmanical legendary characters and deities in Jaina creed which could distinctly be gleaned through their vast literature as well as surviving visual imagery. But while doing so they had never compromised with their basic tenets of meditation and bodily abandon- ment represented by the Jinas who were vitaragis and hence were never shown as safty-bestowing and boon-conferring deities as was the case with Buddha, Siva, Vishu, Ganesa and others. The religion can thrive only with the support of the masses and this fact was very much in the minds of the Jaina acharya’s. The majority in the masses go for different worldly or material possessions and achieve- ments, which, however, could not be obtained from the worship of the vitaragi Jinas and hence several such deities were conceived to cater the need of masses. It way through the Sasanadevatas or the Yaksas and Yaksis, joining the Jinas on two flanks, that the worshippers can get the desired boons for different material achievements. This was a great social and religious requirement as well, which paved the way for vital mutual activities and understanding between the principal religions of ancient times,
If we look at the ancient map of India, we come across several such sites which have yielded temples and sculptures of both the Brahmanical and Jaina affiliation, the most important of such sites are Mathura (U. P.), Osjan (Ralasthan). Ellora (Maharastra), Khajuraho (Mt. P.. Aihele, Halebid, Badami (Karnataka) The study of the sculptural date at these sites reveal very important points of mutual influences. For example, the Paravanatha Jaina temple at Khajuraho (CA. D. 950-70) contains all around its facades the ligures of Brahmanical denies with their respective saktis in alingans pose which include Siva. Vinu. Rania. Balaram, Kama, Agni and Kubers. Such figures in alingana pose are indeed against the accepted norms of the Jaina religion but to remain in tune with the time they were carved apparently under the influence of Brahmanical temples and sculptures at the same site. On the other hand, the figures of the Tirthankaras could be seen on the Kandariya Mahadeva and the Virvanatha temple as Khajuraho, Surya and and Harihara temples at Osian and Mukteswar temple at Bhubaneswar.
Jainas in their list of 63 Salakapurusas (great men), finalized in the Kushana period, include a number of Brahmanical deities and legendary characters, the most important of which are Bharata as Cakravartin, Ram and Balarama as Baladevas, Lakamana as Narayana and Krana as Vasudevas and Asvogriva, Taraka, Nisumbha, Madhu, Kaitabha, Bali, Prahalad, Ravana and Jarasandha as Prativasudevas. It may be noted that independent texts were also composed on Rama and Krsna. They are the Paumacariya of Vimalasuri (A. D. 473). Padmapurana of Ravisena (A. D. 678), Uttarapurana of Gunabhadra (9th century A. D). Harivansapurana of Jinasena (A. D. 785) and Trisastisalakaparusacaritra of Hemacandra (mid 12th century A. D.). Of the deities borrowed from Brahmanical sect, Rama and Krana, the two great epical characters, were undoub- tedly accorded the most exalted position in Jaina worship and religious art. They were incorporated in about first-second century A. D. The rendering of Krana along with Balarama begins as early as in the Kushana period. Balarama and Krsna were associated with 22nd Jina Aristanemi or Neminatha as cousin brothers and as a consequence they find representation in the images of Neminatha from Mathura, belonging to the Kushana period. This association distinctly explains the process of adoption and transformation of Brahmanical deities in Jaina worship and religious art. The other examples of such images are known from Bateswar (Agra) and Deogarh (Lalitapur). Owing to the kinship of the two, Balarama and Krsna were also carved in different narrative panels at Kumbharia (Gujarat) and Vimalavasahi (Delwada, Rajasthan) showing the life of Neminatha.
Vimalavasahi and Lunavasahi exhibit some of the very interesting renderings of Krsnalila and other Vaisnava themes which include Kaliyadamana, Krsna playing holi with kanakasrngakosa (as found in the Harsacarita) with gopa and gopikas, the episode of Bali and Vamana, Samudramanthana and vivid carvings pertaining to Krsna Janma and Balalilas. As compared to Krana, the rendering of Rama was not so popular and the examples are found only on the Parsvanatha Jain temple as Khajuraho where the figures of Rama-Sia-Hanuman and Site sitting in Anoka vatika and receiving the merge and ring of Ram from Hanumana are carved
Apart from the above epical characters, several other deities were adopted directly in Jaina worship with the identical tributes and other iconographic features. The concept and names of such deities are found in the early Jaina wirks darable between, third in seventh century AD but their detailed icono- graphic features are enunciated mainly in the works datable between c. eighth 16 14th century A. D. The list of such deities comprises Ganesa, Kietrapala, Laksmi, Sarawati. Astadikpalas (sometimes their number being ten including Nagaraja Dharanendra and Brahma), Navagrahas, Astavasus (carved in the Jaina temples of Khajuraho), 61 Yoginis, Indra and several other deities. In concurrence with the Brahmanical tradition the Astadikpalas and the Navagrahas were carved respecti vely on the conventional cardinal points and on the door-lintels of the Jaina temples.
There is a good number of such deities who were borrowed with certain changes either in respect of their names or the iconographic features or even the both to suit the requirements of Jaina creed. The Brahmasanti and Kaparddi Yaksas are the foremost among such deities who occupied an important position in visual representation at Svetambara Jaina temples of western India. They distinctly reveal the bearing respectively of Brahma and Siva in respect of icono- graphic features. Likewise, several of the Yaksas and Yaksis associated with the Jinas show that they are the transformations of Visnu, Siva, Brahma, Skandakartti- keya, Kali, Gauri and Vaisnavi. In some cases only the names like Garuda, Varuna and Kumara Yaksas and Kali. Mahakali Yaksas have been adopted. The Sasanadevatas of Rabhanatha are Gomukha and Cakresvari who basically represent Siva and Vaisnavi
The figures of Saptamatrikas, finding no mention in Jaina works, were also carved in some of the examples known from Mathura, Vimalavasahi and Khanda- giri. We are also encountered with the figures of several such deities, mainly the female ones, at the prolific Jaina sites like Vimalavasahi, Lunavasahi and Kumbharia who could not be identified on the testimony of the textual prescrip- tions. Most of the deities in such cases show the influence of the Brahmanical goddesses. Vimalavasahi alone has 16 such goddesses, some of which with bull as mount and holding either trisula and sarpa or trisuala in both the hands have distinct bearing of Siva.
Apart from the deities borrowed either directly or indirectly with modi- Scations, we have several such icon types at Jaina sites which virtually do not find any textual support and instead they speak of the fact that their concept and forms. were inspired by the Brahmanical images. The Jaina Caumukhi (sarvatobladra pratima) is only one of such icon types. The conception of dvitirthi and tritirthi Jina images showing two or three Tirthankaras together are also perhaps inspired by the syncretic icons in Brahmanical tradition. The images of Hariharapitamaha from Ellora, Khajuraho and elsewhere show the figures of Brahma, Visnu and Siva on single pedestal. The pala period Jina images from Rajgir in some cases show the snake canopy, but the cognizances on the pedestal are either conch (Neminatha), or bull (Rsabhanatha) or elephant (Ajitanaths) which suggest that inspired by the Brahmanical syncretic images the Jainas also attempted at such innovatory forms which have never been referred to in any of the Jaina works.