The concept of the Tirthankaras, is idealized in the sanctuaries on the slopes of the eSs of Gopachal. These are those, that are said to have conquerred the worldly bonds sUCCessfully moved to the shore of Eternal Bliss.
The Hindu gods and goddesses, take their incarnations into different forms again and aip in this world. On the other hand the Tirthankaras by their sheer personal efforts, edeem themselves from wordly human associations, responsible for the inflow of the j,arniic influx, and attain nirvana, the complete extinction of the worldly human soul. They thus become the Jinas or victors, that conquer the world of human existence.
The iconography of Tirthankaras
The ways are different, but as many as 24 beings have achieved the enlightenment each in his own way, starting from Adinatha to Mahavira the last of the twenty-fourth Tirthankara. The name of the former, indicates the Jain tradition of conqurering the earthly lures, through ‘sramana sakti’ or intense austeric practices.
His personal effort or ‘krsi’ is symbolized by the animal vrsabha the bull. Mahavira is the great victor (Vira) that has experienced enlightenment, through his principle of ahimsa. His determination of becoming a yogi the hero is symbolized by the majestic animal simha the lion.
Thus, the personal efforts varied from Tirthankara to Tirthankara. The means of achieving their ends are indicated by different symbols like elephant (Ajitanatha), horse (Sambhavanatha), monkey (Abhinandananatha), Kraunca or heron (Sumatinatha ) etc.
These are discussed in a tabular form elsewhere and shown separately for each Tirthankar. (See table in page 102)
Accoding to the Jain Puranas, the efforts of the Tirthankaras are assisted by divine beings, the yakshas and the yakshis. In the case of Adinatha, the associated yaksha is Gomukha. He is shown with a bovine face and the yaksi is Chakreshvari, with a wheel in hands.
Similarly, Mahavira is said to be assisted by Matanga yaksha and Siddhayika yaksi- In the caves of Gopachal, almost all the 24 Tirthankaras are shown, along with their Symb ls and some with yakshas and yakshis.
Again, after the enlightenment, each Tirthankara is said to be associated with other ,v,ne Matures under the name pratiharyas. These are popularly represented in Gopachala and other Jain caves in a sloka thus.
and temples. In the text of Mahapurana hSy are shov,n
Asoka puspa surapuspa vristih divya dhvani sea ma re sasanasca bhamandalam dundubhi ratapatram tatpratiharyani jinesvaranam II
Among these, the Asoka tree is represented by two pillars on either side of the Tirthankaras in Gopachala. The capital of the pillars is shown with a wavy scroll work, the centre of which bears, the figure of two elepants that empty the pots of auspicious water over the head of the Tirthankaras. This is describd as the gajakalasha motif.
At places, where they are represented, with a pot of foliage overhead, it is indicated as ghatapallava (vase of foliage).
Thus, the divine tree is shown differently in caves and reliefs. Sometimes, the pillar- gajakalasha representations are shown with Kirtimukha, a lion face, in the center; with two elephants holding a plant. At times, the same is seen as an overflowing torana. But all these are only later adaptations that stand for the auspicious trees, under which, they got the enlightenment.
As regards, the divine flowers, that rained on the Tirthankaras after the enlightemnt, usually, the lotus is preferred. The ‘lotus’ is considered as the floral form of ambrosia or nectar amrtasya-puspam-in most religions. It is said to be the flower, that isssues forth any divinity. Sometimes, in sculptural tradition, the hands, legs, heads are shown with lotus flowers to indicate, that the floral nature of the divinity is present, even in the limbs.
The divinity implied in limbs of Tirthankaras is excellently portrayed at Gopachala. The hands and legs are shown with full blossomed lotuses (see sketch No. 5). The halo around the heads is circular or oval shaped. I n this context It is shown as padmaprabhavah.
As regards the bearers of garlands and fly whisks, Gopachal sculptures show the former prominently, near the head over separate pedestals, while the later, on either side near the legs, the trumpets, that produce divine muisic or sound, is generally not repressed in the sanctuaries.
However, a triple-umbrella is seen adorning the heads of Tirthankara5, In the earlier Jain iconography the same motif is popularly referred to, as trichhtra Study of Tirthankaras.
In the case o standing Tirthankaras, the proportion maintained especially in the length of the images was thrice compared with the width between in the two shoulders. In the case of seated and smaller images, the proportion of length and width was 5:4, Here the width is considered as the measurement, from knee to knee.
Sometimes the length between the shoulders is considered for width. In any case, it can be stated that care was taken more towards presenting the image more impressive, than with the scientific iconometric point of view.
The so called Bavangaj images (52 yards) may be consedered as the highest of the creations of the sculptures of Gopachal. They are specially seen mainly in the Adinatha images in 26th cave of Ek-patthar-ki-Bavdi and in the Urwahi groups. No doupt it is difficult to measure the height However, since they run into three chambers one over the other of equal height of 7 meters each, the height of the back wall of chambers was taken as to the standard, giving allowance of 2 meters left out, above the head, in the upper chamber.
Thus in general, it can be estimated, that their height ranges between 17 and 19 meters.
The second higher group of images range between 7-8 meters. They are mainly the mulanayakas in ‘Ek-Patthar-ki-Bavdi’. and Naminatha groups. In general, they run into two chambers, with faces prominently visible in the open area, above lintel of the entrances. Some are seated, but in many of them they are all shown as standing images.
The third group of images that are associated with mulanayakas are those that range between 3-2 m. The study showed that such images in the range, may be found on the four walls of the sanctum-sanctorum, in caves.
pattikas. Thus, the cave sanctuaries display interesting group of sculptures in diffe iconometric ranges that do not find parallel in any religion. In the Visanavite tradition ther^ are 24 forms of the God Vishnu adapted possibly after the Jain Tirthankaras.
What iconometric norms they have, cannot be estimated in one unit. But, the varieties of forms from macro-cosmic to the micro-cosmic images, as in chauvimsis can only be pointed out from the sculptural treasure, of the Jain caves of Gwalior.
1 he flow of the sculptural traditions in the images of Gopachala
Coming back to the longer images in general, it was observed earlier that there was a regular experimentation from the Gupta period onwards as evidenced at Suhania, Barai Panihar complex, Padhavali etc. Again, the inflow of the sculputral traditions could have come from the south through the Nimar valley upto the region of Gopachal. This was already indicated in the context of the sculptures in Neminath group of temples.
Moreover, the western Ganga image of Gomateswara (934 A.D.) at Sravanabelagola in the south, had initiated the tradition of making images big. There was also similar experimentations during the time of ‘Western chalukyas’ and the Rastrakutas, as found at Potelkhera, Vemulawada, both near Hyderabad, Deccan, and the Jain caves of Indra Sabha, Jagannatha Sabha at Ellora.
Since the region of the Nimar valley upto Gopachal was under the control of the Rastrakuta kings for some time, it is quite likely the Gopachal Jain sanctuaries would have had the impact of sculptural traits from Rastrakutas.
Besides the elongated images of Gopachal in the Nimar valley, there are one or two places one at Bavangaj in Nimar valley and the other at Gandharvapuri near Dewas , where similarities in Jain sculptural traditions were attempted. Thus, from the Nimar valley upto Gopachal, Jains had been experimenting, to make Tirthankara images as big as possible.
Another alternative for the flow of the sculputral traditions could be the region of Gandhara. At Bamiyan, in Afghanistan, we have the high images of the Buddha . Since the region of Gopachal was under the control of Huns (6th east A.D) who patronzed the Jain art school, they would have initiated th Gandhara traditions.
But the ethnic features found in the Tirthankara images were different from those of Bamiyan Buddha images. So, the association with the Gandharan tradition appears only in the concept of the proportion of the images.
The significance of the nudity of Tirthankaras
Although the sculptors are conscious of running the risk of poor visual effect in Image rendering he Tirthankara images in the sanctuaries of Gopachal, under religious injunctions they are obliged to make them nude without any exception.
They are however content with the age old tradition of mixing up amorous scenes and mithunas in the earliest Neminat a group o sanctuaries. But even this was disallowed in the later reliefs of the Urwahi valley and in Naminatha groups.
In Ek-Patthar-ki-Bavdi series, such scenes are completely absent. Thus, the sanctuaries have out and out nude reliefs as such they were sculptural ventures under the instructions of the chiefs of kastasangha.
What Mahavira had experienced and preached personally, was adopted for demonstrating the power of auserities, inherent in the Jain traidition of nudity.
It may be agreed that by nudity, the wordly human body becomes immune to the powerful urge for the desire of sex. Possibly, the heavenly agents like wind, water, light etc. have marvellous power of demoralising bodily sex instinct. They make them unworldly , which results in ‘desirelessness.’
To keep the body covered under the garment becomes once again, a wordly phenomenon.
But, when the mind is turned up for austerities with garments on, the worldy desires persist and retard the progress of sramana-sakti. On the other hand, the garment free body quickly responds to the influence of heavenly agents that make it desire free and at that stage the austerities undertaken are better poised for enlightenment, relieving the human soul from the karmic influx of samsara.
Finally, the unwordly phenomenon of nudity, enhances the purity of thought process which takes one to a place of permanent ‘Heavenly Bless.’ This is the message hidden in the numerous nude images of Tirthankaras in the sanctuaries of Gopachala.