The Jaina contribution to Indian Art had not received the attention it deserves, till the last four or five decades. Unlike Buddhism and Hinduism Jainism did not spread beyond the frontiers of India, while the other two seem have so such influenced the life and cultures of central, eastern and south-eastern Asia that they readily attracted the attention of modern western scholars. Unlike Buddhism Jainism has been a living faith in India and has continued as such without a break for at least 2500 years. It has, therefore, a very long heritage, both rich and varied. extended in time as well as space. The Jaina contribution to Indian Art and Culture is both substantial and significant and can never be overlooked by a serious student of Indian Art and Culture.
Excluding the Proto-Historic finds, the earliest known ancient Indian cult images are those of Yakshas and Yakshinis assigned to the Mauryan period on account of the high polish on them and several terracotta figurines of mother- goddesses. These do not belong to the Brahmanical, Buddhist or Jaina faiths but are object of worship of the Mother-goddess and Yaksha-Naga cults of the ancient Indian masses. Of about the same age is a rare highly polished headless stone figure, with only the torso and parts of legs preserved. of a nude standing Tirthankara in the kayotsarga posture, obtained from the Mauryan site of Lohani pur near Patna (ancient Paraliputra), during excavations which revealed founda- tions of a brick structure. The bricks were of the size used in the Mauryan age. this coupled with the fact that only a few punch-marked coins (and no, later coins) were obtained from the area, and the fact that in the Jaina canonical texts we are told that Udayi, the founder of Pataliputra, had built a Jaina temple in the city. and the fact that one more later torso of a Jina in kayotsarga mudra was also obtai ned from the big compound of this small structure (obviously a temple), should leave no doubt about the fact that the Polished torso belonged to a Tirthankara image of the Mauryan period probably of the age of Samprati, the grandson of Ash oka. Samprati, converted to Jaina faith by Arya Suhasti was a great patron of Jainism and is said to have built shrines and installed Jaina Tirthankara images. The Lohanipur polished torso and the temple site should, therefore, be regarded as the earliest known Jaina image and shrine in India. The Buddha image, which came to be worshipped at a later date both in Bihar (Magadha) and in Gandhara had for its proto-type the Jaina image and the images of Yakshas of the ancient Yaksha cult.
The earliest image of Sarasvati, the Goddess of Learning, discovered hither to, also belongs to the Jaina faith and was obtained from Kankali Tila, Mathura, But a where an ancient Jaina Stupa, probably of pars vanatha, but later mistakenly believed to be of Suparivanatha, existed. The Sarasvati image, inscribed in Samvat 54, dates from the second century A. D. and refers to Arya Mangu, a great Jaina scholar and monk who is known to have stayed in Mathura, relief panel from the same site, now in the State Museum, Lucknow, showing a scene identified as that of the Dance of Nilanjana and subsequent renunciation of Rshabhanatha, is assignable to the Sunga period, c. second, century B. C.
At Udayagiri and Khandagiri in Orissa, a group of caves with inscriptions of King Kharavela (c. first cent. B. C. or a little earlice), his queen and prince, show that the donors followed Jainism. Navamuni, Barabhuji and Mahavira caves on Khandagri contain later inscriptions and relief carvings of Tirthankaras and their attendant yakshinis. On top of the Khandagiri are found, in excavations. ruins of an apsidal shrine which obviously must have been a Jaina one.
A cave inscription from Pabhosa near Kausambi, Allahabad district, refers to king Bahasatimitra and the excavation of the cave for the Kasyapiya Arhats. Since Mahavira, the twenty-fourth Tirthankara, belonged to the Kasyapiya gotra. the cave could have been excavated for the use of Jaina monks, in the second century B. C. It is interesting to note that inside the cave, on the southern side, is a stone-bed with pillow for the monks to rest.
This practice of carving stone-bed with pillow for Jaina monks living in rock-cut caves and natural caverns is also discovered from various sites in Tamil Nadu. Scattered all over the Tamil country such caves and caverns with stone beds and pillow, and inscribed in early Brahmi chararters and the Tamil language, are found at several spots on the Eastern Ghats, particularly in the region around Madurai. The dates of these inscriptions vary from c. second century B.C. to c. third century A.D.. the earliest inscription being perhaps the one from Mangulam.
It is presumed that the Jainas reached this area from the Karnataka region, through the hills of the Congu country (Coimbatore area). the region west of Tiruchirapalli, further south to Pudukotted and dien to the hills of Madurai However, this belief rests in the general, tur relatively late, accounts of Chandragupta Maurya and Acharya Bhadrabahu migrating to Sravans Belagola from the north in the early third century B. Q. The earliest reliable archaeological wurce for this belief is an inscription at Sravans Belagola, which, as this writer has shown elsewhere, clearly shows that it was not the Srutakevali Bhadrabahu (Bhadralsihu first) but another later Bhadrabahu, and the inscription itself gives names of some of the Jaina acharyas who flourished between the two Bhadrabahus So it is not impossible that this earlier evidence of Jaina monks in Tamil Nadu was the result, perhaps, of the infiltration from Pratisthanapur, either during the reign of Samprati, the grandson of Ashoka (as the Brhat-kalpa-bhashya suggests) of during the rule of some early Satavahana rulers who had Jaina leanings. There is no evidence, as yet discovered, of the existence of Jainism in Karnataka (and especially at Stavana Belagola) before the Christian era. As yet no art or archaeological evidence of Jainism before even the third or fourth century as found so far as Karnataka is concerned.
Rajgir in Bihar is one of the very old sites of Hindu. Buddhist and Jaina aaociations. The Son Bhandara cave and the cave adjacent to it (on the Vaibhara hilly were carved, for the use of Jaina monks and for the worship of images of Arhats, by Acharyaratna Muni Vairadeva of great lustre, identified with Sthavira Arya Vajra, who died in c57 AD.. according to Pattavalis. Attempts have recently been made to equate the Prakrit name Vairadeva with Viradeva but Vaira in Prakrit can only be Vajra in Sanskrit. It is not unlikely that the inscrip- tion referring to Vairadeva in such glorious terms was recorded at a later date (in the fourth century A.D) when the adjacent cave fell into the hands of followers of Vishnu (The architecture of the cave is of early type comparable with that of the Barabara cave and the Son Bhandara cave still retains traces of Mauryan Polish on its wall.
The Various finds of the Jaina Stupa at Kankali Tila, Mathura, include figures of Tirthankaras sitting in padmasana or standing in the kayotsarga posture, Ayagapatas or Tablets of Homage which are known to the Jaina canonical texts as Silapatas and which are evolved from the Silapatas of Mahavira’s time worshipped in Yaksha shrines like the Purnabhadra Caitya, various auspicious symbols later crystalised into ashtamangala (eight aususpicious symbols), representations of worship of Stupas, Pillars surmounted by Dharmacakra or the Dhvaja symbols of various Tirthankaras. Such Dhvaja Pillars were erected in front of shrines of different gods in ancient India and the Jainas also erected pillars in front of shrines of different Tirthankaras. Such a pillar was surmounted by the dhvaja-symbol of the Ksatriya family of the Tirthankara in front of whose temple the pillar was erected and worshipped. The Jainas also worshipped another type of pillars known as Manasamblias having images of four Tirthankaras facing four quarters, carved on their tops or bottoms. Such quadruple images when separately installed were known As Pratimasarvatobladrika, later more popular as Chaturmukha or Caumukha images. A relief panel, obtained from Kankali Tila, Mathura, shows Harinegamesin scared on a throne which connot be regarded as supporting the existence of the later Svetambara belief in the transfer of Mahavira’s embryo. Negamesin is an ancient god, associated with children, whose worship was popular amongst masses.
Terracotta figures of this goat-faced deity are obtained from various sites in North India. Three Vedic mantras addressed to Nejamesa are used in the Hindu Simantonnayana ceremony. The Jainas also prayed to Negamesin for obtaining children.
Of about the Kushana period, except three or four bronzes of the Gupta and Post-Gupta periods, are the Jaina bronzes discovered from Chausa near Buxur in Bihar, they are an important landmarks in the history of Indian bronzes. There is a bronze figure of standing Parsvanatha in the Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay, which, according to this writer, dates from circa second century BC. while some other scholars assign it to 1st-2nd cent A.D
Of the group of caves known as Bawa Pyara’s Math near Girnar, Junagadh, at least a few might have been of Jaina association because of the carving of some of the ashramangalas above the entrance of two caves and on account of an inscribed slab found buried near the entrance of one of these caves. The inscrip- tion on the slab belongs to the Kshatrapa period and refers to monks who have obtained Kevalajnana. Digambara Jaina traditions also refer to the existence of a Chandrasala guba near Girnar.
Of the Gupta period, there is a cave at Udayagiri near Vidisa (M.P.) which has an inscription referring to an image of Parsvanatha in this cave. Of the Gupta art a few Jaina sculptures are preserved in the Museums at Lucknow, Mathura, and Varanasi, while a few more sculptures were discovered from sites like Gwalior (rock-cut), Sira Pahari near Nachna Kuthara, Durjanpur near Vidisa. Of these the recent find of three inscribed sulptures of Jaina Tirthankaras is interesting as the inscriptions refer to the donor Maharajadhiraja Ramagupta who has been identified as the elder brother of Chandragupta (the second) Vikramaditya of Indian legends.
The earliest known free standing pillar, known as Manastambha, with figures of four Tirthankaras carved on it, dates from the Gupta period and is still in situ at Kahaun in Uttar Pradesh. Of the post-Gupta and early mediaeval periods a large number of beautiful temples, sculptures, rock-cut relief and bronzes exut in various states of India. Amongst such early shrines the Meguti temple at Aibole, Karnataka dates from early seventh century AD. There is besides a Jaina cave at Aihole asignable to the late sixth arr, early seventh century A.D of about the same age is a Jaina cave at Badami the ancient capital of the Chalukyas in Karnataka, The cave has also a big panel of Mahavira with his yaksha and yakshi, carved at a later date. Scenes of Kama- tha’s attack on Parsvanatha, available in these caves at Aihole and Badami became more and more popular in the south and we have beautiful relief panels of this theme at Ellora, Kalugumalai, Humaca, Tirakkol, Kilakkudi, etc.
Of ninth century the Maladevi temple at Gyaraspur in Madhya Pradesh is especially noteworthy not only for its beautiful sculptures and iconography, but also for its architecture, being a beautiful example of Northern Indian sikhara temple. Earlier by about a century are two temples, one at Osia (Rajasthan) and the other at Devgadh fort near Lalitpur and Jhansi (UP) which are equally interesting for their architecture and sculpture.
Ranging from ninth to tenth centuries are a group of about four Jaina caves at Ellora which have not only some beautiful relief panels of scenes of aususterities practised by Paravanatha and Bahubali, and figures of Tirthankaras. of Sarvanu- bhuti Yaksha and Ambika Yakshi, but also have several paintings on their ceilings which are an important landmark in the history of painting in India. OF about this age, c. ninth century, we also have some exquisite examples of mural paintings in the Jaina cave at Sittannavasal in Tamil Nadu.
From about 8th-9th century onwards the Jaina contribution to Indian Art is so rich and varied that it is impossible to refer to it in some detail in this brief survey. Mention may however be made of some noteworthy groups of temples at Devgadh fort, chanderi, and Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, at Sravana Belgola, Humacha, Karkal, Mudabidri, Kambadhalli etc. in Karnataka, the temple complex at Tiruparuttikunram (Jina-Kanchi) in Tamil Nadu, the Delvada temples on Mt. Abu in Rajasthan, the Kumbharia temples near Abu, and the groups of temples at Satrunjaya and Girnar in Gujarat, and some individual temples like the tenth century S’italnatha temple at Zalrapatan and the Mahavira temple at Ghanerava in Rajasthan, the Navamuni and Barabhuji caves at Khanda- giri, Orissa, the Nemi-Jinalaya at Tirumalai in Tamil Nadu, a few temples at Lakkundi, Lakshmeshvar, Jinanathapuram, Venur, Halebid etc. in Karnataka, the Jaina temples at Osia, Kesariyaji, Nadol, Nadlai, Ranakpur, etc. in Rajasthan, at Taranga in Gujarat, and so on. A large number of beautiful Jaina sculptures and bronzes are preserved in the museums at Calcutta, Patna, Lucknow, Mathura Delhi, Allahabad, Baroda, Bombay, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Mysore, Madras, Bhuvaneswara Gwalior Khajuraho eu. in India, and in the British Museum, and Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Zurich Museum, Switzerland, the Berlin Museum, West Germany, the museums at New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. in USA and in a number of private collections in India and abroad
Jainism’s great contribution to the art of casting matel images it now accla med by scholars with the publication of hoards of bronzes from Vasantagadha Akota, Rajnapur Khinkhini, Chausa, Lingaur, ere. Some beautiful bromes of the Chola period are now brought to light. A few such specimens are preserved in the Government Museum at Madras
The biggest known stone image in India, about 17 meters in height, is the beautiful rame of Bahubali, popularly known as Gommatesvara, at Sravana Bela- gola, installed in about 980 AD. Of about the same height but of late period is another rock-cur figure of a Tirthankara at the Gwalior fort. Another colossal sculpture of Gommatesvara, set up on a hillock at Karkal (Karnataka). is 125 meter in height, installed in 1431-32. A third one set up at Venur in 1603-04 A.D. is about 11 meters in height.
Some of the mediaeval Jaina shrines are world famous. Of these the Delvada group of temples at Abu are especially attractive for their delicate carvings and fine chiselling of white marble. The famous Chaumukha shrine at Ranakapur in Rajasthan is noteworthy for its complex plan and a large variety of richly carved marble pillars.
Ax in the field of architecture and sculpture, the Jaina munificence is equally great in the field of painting. The Jaina contribution in this field is of great signi ficance, especially of the mural paintings at Sittannavasal. Armamalai and Tiru- malai in Tamil Nadu, and Ellora in Maharashtra. These supply important links in the history of Indian Painting. The Ellora frescoes still await better treatment and publication.
But the most prolific contribution of the Jainas is by way of book illustra tions or miniature paintings on palm-leaf and paper in Jaina manuscripts from Western India, especially from Gujarat ard Rajasthan, dating from c. eleventh century upto the end of the nineteenth century A.D.
Most of these miniature paintings so far published are from manuscripts of the Svetambara Jaina sect. Of these a manuscript of the Kalpa sutra in the Devas anapada Bhandar collection at Ahmedabad, painted at the Gandhara Bundara (port) on the west coast in c. 1475 A. D. with a lavish use of gold, lapis lazuli, carmine, etc., shows remarkable border decorations with paintings illustrating different technicalities of Bharata Natyam and Persian influence Another landus Kalpa-sutra, now in the National Museum, New Delhi, painted at Mandu in the fifteenth century is noteworthy for its colour scheme. A third Kalpa-sutra with fine decorative border designs, painted at Jaunpur in U. P. in the fificenth century, is now preserved in the Jaina Bhandara at Baroda (Vadodara). Illustrations of Kalpa-sutra manuscripts were perhaps the most popular and widely patronised, as they depicted incidents from the lives of Tirthankaras Manuscript illustrations of the Kalakacharya Kathas and the Uttaradhyayana sutra and the Samgrahani sutra (on cosmology) were very popular. During the mediaeval period, from about the fifteenth century onwards Rasa poems and Katha words provided large variety of subject-matter for illustrations. Works like the Sri-Chanda Rasa, Salibhadra Cahupai, Dhanya-Salibhadra Rasa. Nala Damayanti Rasa, Sripala Rasa, Madana Mohana Rasa, and Manatunga-Manavati Rasa etc are available with beautiful text illustra- tions. Amongst the Digambaras illustrations of the Yasodhra Charita, and of the lives of Jinas and others described in works like the Adipurana and Uttarapurana of Jinasena and Gunabhadra became very popular and have provided some exquisite examples of miniatures. Also remarkable are the palmleaf illustrations of the Dhavala and Jayadhavala manuscripts painted in the twelfth century in Karnataka
Wooden book-covers of palm-leaf manuscripts in the Svetambara Jaina collections at Jesalmer and Ahmedabad are painted with scenes depicting events from different births of Tirthankaras like Mahavira, Parsvanatha, Neminatha or Santinatha. Some book covers show scenes of Bharata-Bahubali fight etc…or the debate between Digambara and Svetambara monks, or worship of the Jina, or the 24 different Mothers of Tirthankaras or the figures of different Salakapurusan (Great Men) of Jaina mythology. Some book-covers have geometrical or floral decorations with meandering creepers having different animals in different circles. A few of the book covers discovered so far date from the eleventh and twelfth centuries A. D. while some date from the fourteenth century.
The Jainas also patronised the art of wood-carving. Beautifully and richly carved temple mandapas, miniature shrines etc. have been discovered and published.
Paintings on paper scrolls called Vijnaptipatras and Patas on paper and canvass, of both Tantric and non-tantric nature, known from several Jaina collec- tions, and some late wall-paintings representing or mapping different shrines in tirthas (places of pilgrimage) like Satrunjaya and Girnar, still existing and being set up in Jaina temples, offer interesting studies.