Early Jaina Iconography (Part 2)

Posted: 05.12.2011
Updated on: 02.07.2015


This essay was published in Berliner Indologische Studien No. 19. 2010, pp. 123-169. To make this online reissue citeable, the page numbers are added to the text (see squared brackets).


Early Jaina Iconography - An Overview (Part 2)


4. Categories

See Schubring Do: 247-290 (general), §§ 137 and 163 (categories). Refer for analogous groups in early Buddhist art to Skilling No: 74-77 (categories in Gandharan art) and 72-74 (nuns and lay-sisters as donors). At Mathurā, the 'categories' enrich pedestals; they consist mostly of miniature figures. [133|134]

Ancient Indian religion is to some extent dominated by the complexities of monasticism. We isolate (in connection with art) in the first place monks belonging to the Ardhaphālaka group; the other categories (traditional monks, nuns, lay-brothers, lay-sisters: the Jaina community) are mentioned in brief. We base our Ardhaphālaka survey largely on the studies of S.R. Quintanilla (2001,2004, 2007). - Our present discussion (Section 4) begins with a bibliographical review supplying references to individual themes (>>). We do not recapitulate the Ardhaphālaka discussion (H. Jacobi and others) which took place before the studies of S.R. Quintanilla. The detailed Ardhaphālaka investigation of S.R.Q. is a model of exactness which could be applied with advantage to related fields of sculpture.

  • General information [except S.R.Q.]
    • Schubring Do §§ 140-141 (mendicant hierarchy);
    • Schlingloff Ja (> lists of monastic communities as literary topics).
  • Jinakalpa and Sthavirakalpa:
    • Schubring Do: §§ 26, 142-143, 184;
    • Deo Mo: 82-84,615 and 624 (further references);
    • Wiley Di: 108 (Jinakalpa and Sthavirakalpa);
    • Basham Āj: 107-116 (> nudity: Ājīvikas, Jainas, and others).
  • Details, mainly Ardhaphālakas:
    • Jacobi Śv (> Ardhaphālakas);
    • Joshi Ea: 343 (not quite clear: Ardhaphālakas and others);
    • Joshi Ea: 347b and 358a fn.20 (> Ardhaphālaka sect);
    • Mitterwallner Fr: 36-37 (> Ardhaphālakas);
    • Gail Ja: (> Ardhaphālakas);
    • Hariea Br (see Wiley Di > Hariṣeṇa);
    • Wiley Di (> Ardhaphālakas and > Yāpanīyas);
    • Dundas Ja: 48-49 (> Ardhaphālakas and Yāpanīyas);
    • Zin Mi: 130 (> two Ardhaphālakas; fig. 4).
    • Quintanilla An (> Ardhaphālakas);
    • Quintanilla Āy (the same);
    • Quintanilla Cl (the same);
    • Quintanilla Ea (Index: 'ardhapālaka Jaina monks').

There are no references to Ardhaphālakas in the rich canonical and post-canonical literature of Jainism (not to speak of non-Jaina sources): the word A. does not occur in pre-Kuṣāṇa and Kuṣāṇa time (the term is a late element), and characteristics of the A.s (cloth etc.) are nowhere mentioned. There are ordinary Ardhaphālakas and saintly A.s (distinction derived from the reliefs). The A.s include no nuns. A.s have no names, and the complete group of A.s is anonymous. The A.s and normal monks ('canonical' monks) are apparently parallel groups. Jina images (seated/standing) belonging to the Ardhaphālakas ambience (i.e. having A.s as subsidiary figures) have not been found. S.R. Quintanilla writes, "In this paper I shall follow the precedent of the few scholars who have discussed these early Jain monks of Mathurā and use the [134|135] term 'Ardhaphālaka' to refer to them, though it probably was not the name these monks used for themselves" (Quintanilla An: 188-189).

S.R. Quintanilla concentrates in her article in Mārg (Quintanilla Cl) on the Ardhaphālakas, defined by her as naked Jaina monks with cloth (colapaṭṭa) draped over the left forearm (Quintanilla Cl: 67b). The word ardhapālaka does not occur in Jaina literature before Hariṣeṇa (not before the 10th Century?). The meaning is, according to Quintanilla An: 189, "those with a partial piece of cloth", but scholars use for the cloth concealing the genitals the canonical term colapaṭṭa (Schubring Do: 258).

"As in all pre-Kushan depictions, the colapaṭṭa is not used to cover nudity, but is nevertheless constantly present. By the Kushan Period of the second and third centuries C.E., however, the colapaṭṭa invariably covers the frontal nudity of Ardhaphālaka monks..." (Quintanilla An: 196, supra). The Ardhaphālakas disappeared after the 3rd Century A.D., and sometimes (later Kuṣāṇa period) they had been "depicted together with fully-clothed Shvetambara monks and nuns..." (Quintanilla Cl: 58a).

The Ardhaphālakas paved the way for the iconic representation of the Buddha: "... it seems likely that the Ardhaphālaka monks of Mathurā played [as monks] a major role in popularizing the image cult of early Jainism - a popularization to which their heterodox rivals for lay support, the Buddhists, seem to have at least to some degree directly responded when they introduced iconic images of the Buddha about a century later than the earliest known iconic images of Jinas." (Quintanilla Cl: 66b-67a).

Ardhaphālakas are shown with or without broom: With broom on the 'Kaa plaque' (Smith St: 24; Quintanilla Ea: 139-140, 284; JRM: pl. XI, fig. 21; 'Kaṇa or Kaha') and on the pedestal of Shah Ev: pl. 28; without broom (rare?) on the fragment of a panel (Quintanilla Cl: fig. 3) and on the Pārśva āyāgapaṭa (Quintanilla Ea: fig. 151). S.R. Quintanilla observes (An: 196-197) that the broom is 'frequently' held by Ardhaphālakas. Gritli von Mitterwallner gives a description of this broom (Fr 36: "funnel-shaped broom with a short handle"). The broom of the Ardhaphālaka (of any monk) and the flower of the lay-brother and lay-sister became similar motifs: Kaṇa plaque and Shah Ev: pl. 28. The distinction between flower and broom is 'reduced'; see our Section 1 on 'lack of distinction'.

"Fat figures" (supra) form as a category a vague subject. N.P. Joshi emphasizes (Ea: 343a), "Two fat monks or acolytes..." and "Cakra enface being borne on the head of a corpulent male … " G. Mitterwallner observes (Ya: 375a), [135|136] "In the field of decorative art, dwarfed and pot-bellied Yakṣas have been represented as genii..." The two 'fat acolytes' (a frequent motif) are in sculptural art frequently associated with Ardhaphālakas (Joshi Ea: 343a). The 'fat monks' are often grotesque, but they form a true category, appear in different contexts and are no doubt respectable figures. They exist only in art.

The canon distinguishes the Jiakappiyas from the Therakappiyas (Schubring supra) and radical monks from moderate monks (naked monks from monks wearing robes). 'Canonical' monks (opposites of Ardhaphālakas, supra) are rare in Jaina art: Quintanilla An: 198, fig. 15; Mitterwallner Ku: pl. 32. - Monks (nuns etc.) are in early Jaina art confined to Mathurā (pre-Kuṣāṇa, Kuṣāṇa periods). There is a revival of the motif (monks/ācāryas) in the Middle Ages (West India, North India, Karnatak).

The body is for the Jaina monk an object of continuous attention (how to eat, how to walk, how to wash …). Clothing, walking, washing, eating, drinking, sleeping etc. are of fundamental importance. Washing is an example of the development of rules: "... preparation for washing, water used in washing, mode of washing, time for washing,..." (Deo Mo: 260-261). Connected with the interest in the body is the emphasis on the 'status' of dress (nakedness, half-nakedness, clothing; private parts covered, private parts uncovered). Schubring Do: 258; Deo Mo: 612. Detailed information about the Ardhaphālakas is, of course, not available (few details known except the 'cloth').

It is difficult to identify each individual pedestal figure of an image. We concentrate here on general differences (monks, nuns etc.). Sequences (two, three, four … figures) to the left of the central symbol on the pedestal (mostly a cakra) are mostly male, and sequences to the right of the central symbol are mostly female. See e.g. Shah Ev: pl. 16 (three males and three females). Sequences are short or long (two to six figures), they consist of Ardhaphālakas, of canonical/traditional monks, of nuns, of lay-brothers and lay-sisters, and there is symmetry (left and right) within limits. See Quintanilla An: fig. 15 for a pedestal with Ardhaphālakas and a monk. Pedestals with a great number of figures are illustrated in Mitterwallner Ku: pl. 28 and in Shah Ev: pl. 28. The central motif of the pedestal (often a dharmacakra flanked by two figures) is the most variable element of the Jina image. The motif is simple or complex (e.g. Mitterwallner Ku: pl. 29/pl. 27).

There are at Mathurā attendant figures of different character (in later Jaina art we generally see Jinas with two male chowry-bearers). They appear to the left and to the right of the Jina and mostly on the same level. Their size [136|137] and individuality (most figures are motifs in their own right) varies. Well-known are Baladeva and Vāsudeva to the left and to the right of Ariṣṭanemi (our Section 7). The male attendant of a life-size Pārśva (headless) is without parallel and of special art-historical interest (Mitterwallner Ku: pl. 36 and pp. 92-93). The central medallion of an āyāgapaṭa shows Pārśva attended by two grotesque Ardhaphālakas (Quintanilla Ea: 123-124 and fig. 151). Attendant figures may be inconspicuous: Mode Ma: pl. 52 (standing Jina, two male acolytes).

Our last categories are lay-brothers, nuns and lay-sisters. - "These persons [lay-brothers] are seen well-clad and carrying long stemmed lotus flowers or garlands in both or one of their hands." (Joshi Ea: 347b). - "... on the left side of the cakra appear nuns wearing long apron like coats but no ornaments. They have rajoharaa [broom] in the right hand and sometimes a manuscript in the suspended left... In rare cases they hold a small waterpot,... or appear with folded hands … " (Joshi Ea: 347b-348a). - "The lay-sisters are well-clad in sārīs and often have a number of ornaments like bangles, armlets, anklets, etc.... Generally [they] carry long stemmed lotus flowers in their upraised right hand and hold the sash of their sārīs, which normally touches the thigh, in the left …" (Joshi Ea: 348a).

In Western Indian Jaina miniatures, attributes and attribute-like elements appear in connection with monks and Gaṇadharas (main disciples of a Jina); Bruhn We: 28-31.

Pedestal figures are a subject in its own right. There are pedestal figures on Jina images and on sarvatobhadrikās (Mitterwallner Fr: pls. 19-22); the variety of the (simple) compositions is remarkable. Seated miniature Jinas appear on āyāgapaṭas and on a tympanon (Quintanilla Ea: 233). Tympanon compositions (Jaina and Buddhist) show numerous religious motifs. See Section 13.

The sagha (Jaina community) as described in the texts is fourfold. But iconography (in particular the iconography of pedestals, which should form an ideal place for sagha representations) does not emphasize the tetrad (Joshi Ea: 347a). Pedestals with all four categories are an exception (Shah Ev: pl. 28). The rare use of the community motif is unexpected.

The parikara of the Mathurā Jinas (parikara = image-frame) is not complex. But the bhāmaṇḍala (nimbus, part of the parikara) shows decoration (Joshi Ea: fig. 34.15). The decorative enrichment of the parikara demonstrates in some cases the transition of the Mathurā Jina to the Jina of the Gupta period. [137|138]


5. 1st Jina Ṛṣabha

Ṛṣabha's biography contains rich legendary material (including descriptions of Ṛṣabha's previous existences). HTr: I, Sargas 1-6; Johnson Li: 1,1-379; Glasenapp Jn: 293-297; Deleu My: 256-257; Bruhn Śi: 47-57; JRM: 112-128 (iconography and literature).

Ṛṣabha's special iconographic feature has already been mentioned in Section 3: It is the peculiar hair style ('strands'), in the early period not very conspicuous (and almost restricted to the Ṛṣabha images of the sarvatobhadrikās), but later on often very prominent.

N.P. Joshi uses for this style the expression "Hair combed back" (Joshi Ea: 340b, references to Kuṣāṇa representations), G. von Mitterwallner says "long and thick strands" with reference to Ku: 112, pl. 45. Strands were shown on the head alone, or on the head and on the shoulders, but hair on the shoulders of the Jina ('lateral strands') is obviously not found in the Kuṣāṇa period (Shah Ev: 52 and 68, fig. 4, already Gupta period). Refer also to the Chausa Jinas (our Section 10, Ray Ea: passim). The peculiar strands are derived from Śaiva iconography (JRM: 113). The strand morphology of early Śaivism (Kreisel Śi: passim) is extensive: strands on the head with or without lateral strands. - The hair style discussion of Bruhn Gr I: 252-255 ('Types' etc.) will be revised in Overview II.

The early Gupta period (Shah Ev: fig. 4, supra) shows what we would call the 'V-pattern' of the strands and what seems to start a new phase in Jaina art (Bruhn Gr I: 253). See also Kreisel Śi: pl. 61c, late Kuṣāṇa art: early V-pattern. Refer for massive strands with V-pattern (two layers) to Bruhn Gr I: figs. 9-10 (early medieval) and to Kreisel Śi: pls. A 10a and A 10c (late Gupta). The V-pattern is included in the list of innovations in Section 14 (introduction to Overview II). - An example of an 'A-pattern' (?) appears in Ray Ea: pl. 14a (Chausa, 'early Gupta').

A combination of curls and strands surfaced at Chausa (Ray Ea: pls. 16-17). This procedure continued to some extent in later days (JRM: fig. 22, JID: fig. 187). The strands disappeared (became almost invisible) in the course of time (JID: fig. 197 et passim). But massive strands (different forms) existed at Deogarh and elsewhere up to the early medieval period (e.g. JID: figs. 81-82). - In the early period (Badami, Aihole, Ellora) Bāhubali, our Section 6, is shown with clear strands, but later on he is represented with curls (Shravanabelagola).

The influence of Śaiva iconography is not unexpected, but the restriction of the strands to Ṛṣabha (and Bāhubali: his son) is unexplained, just as [138|139] the restriction of the Nāga-element (seven/five hoods) to Pārśva is unexplained.

There is extensive Bāhubali worship in Karnataka. Ṛṣabha worship is connected with the Akaya-ttīyā festival (April/May; Dundas Ja: 217-218) and with Mount Śatruñjaya (Dundas Ja: 218, 222-223). Worship of Ṛṣabha and Bāhubali (and of Pārśva) did not exist at Mathurā.

Ṛṣabha's jaṭā is explained by a legend: When Ṛṣabha renounced the world, removing his dress and plucking out his hair, he was stopped by God Śakra. Twenty-three Jinas (2-24) plucked out their hair in five handfuls (kesa-loyas), and the hair was then received by Śakra (numerous presentations in 15th-century Western Indian miniature painting). Only in the case of Ṛṣabha (Jina 1, preceding Jinas 2-24) Śakra stopped the Jina after the fourth handful to protect the fifth, "because the Jina's hair was so beautiful" (JRM: 113). This is at least the later version of the legend.

Two early canonical sources (Ācārāṅga Sūtra and Kalpa Sūtra) have the fivefold kesa-loya of Ṛṣabha. The four-handful formula appears in the likewise canonical Jambūdvīpa-Prajñapti. The Jambūdvīpa-Prajñapti says (p. 552, Ch. 2, Sūtra 30): sayam eva cauhi muṭṭhīhi loya [Skt. loca: tearing the hair from the head] karei. Śakra is here not present, and he appears as agent only in the later tradition (HTr: I, 3.70; supra). - The Digambara sources have only the five-handful formula (JRM: 113).

The hair-removing episode (hair-cutting, rarely hair-tearing, collection of the hair by Śakra) recurs in the Buddha legend (Quagliotti Si: 227-229) in a more elaborate form and in many versions (and independent from Śaiva traditions). The episode is at any rate narrative bed-rock in Indian literature, showing through in the Buddhist and Jaina traditions. The Buddhist tradition is complex ("the Buddha's hair and nails are presences of the 'living Buddha'", Quagliotti Si: 237 etc.). See also Picron Pa: 35a and pl. 31 (mural at Pagan).

Ṛṣabha, Ariṣṭanemi, and Pārśva reflect non-Jaina influence. Jīvantasvāmī shows Buddhist influence: He is a Jaina 'Bodhisattva' or a Jaina 'crowned Lord'. But the non-Jaina influence is not indicated (directly or indirectly) by the tradition.

A few Jaina reliefs are 'connected with action', but hardly narrative in the usual sense. One relief has been identified as the "renunciation of Ṛṣabha" (renunciation of Ṛṣabha and dance of Nīlāñjanā): Shah St: 11; Quintanilla Ea: figs. 25-28. [139|140] There is furthermore the "Brooklyn group" (Quintanilla Ea: fig. 221) and the "Kaṇa plaque" (Smith St: 24; JAA I: 57; Quintanilla Ea: fig. 177). All the three reliefs are unidentified. - In contrast to Buddhist artists, Jaina artists showed neither legends (Jina legends) nor stories (Jātakas). As a consequence there were also no substitutes for the Jina(s), such as footprints etc. The problem of representation did not exist. The Jina is always isolated (no context), a mere idol, shown in two to three forms. Contrary to the Buddha, he is never a real human being.

According to later convention (literature and art), Ṛṣabha's cihna is the bull (compare Siva's bull). But the bull-cihna (as an art device) does not seem to occur before the Gupta period. It belongs to the early-Gupta tradition of twofold cihnas. See Bruhn Gr I: 257 (two bulls, two conches etc.). - Connection between name and cihna ('ṛṣabha' means bull) is rare in the UH (Jinas 1,6 and 8: Ṛṣabha, Padmaprabha, Candraprabha: bull, lotus, crescent). See Glasenapp Jn: pls. 22-23 (twenty-four cihnas) and p. 288 (sixty-three great men).


6. Bāhubali (interminable meditation)

Refer for Bāhubali's position in literature and early art to the following.

  • Literature:
    • HTr: I, Sarga 5;
    • Johnson Li: 1,273-326;
    • Glasenapp Jn: 295-296;
    • Tawney Ka: 192ff;
    • PPN: 507-508;
    • Hampa Bā: 111-125;
    • Bruhn Śi: 56.
  • Art:
    • Pal Li: pl. 44a (Eilenberg Collection);
    • PJA: pls. 120 (Aihole) and 129 (Badami). The Aihole tradition continued at Ellora.

Bāhubali, one of the sons of the first Jina Ṛṣabha, is described in literature (and shown in art) as practising (standing without interruption) for a full year asceticism. His feet were covered with an ant-hill, his body was entwined with creepers, and scorpions etc. crawled on his body. Even then Bāhubali did not reach kevala-jñāna (enlightenment) because he harboured pride against his 98 brothers (all monks). He was not prepared to bow to his (younger) brothers who were elder in spiritual rank; he did not even want to meet them. As a consequence, his father Ṛṣabha sent his two daughters to Bāhubali to enlighten him. They informed Bāhubali in enigmatic language about his harmful pride. Now Bāhubali knew the reason of his problem, overcame pride and reached at once kevala-jñāna. He returned to his father and to his brothers and "sat down in the assembly of kevalīs."

Bāhubali and Bharata (both sons of Ṛṣabha) were for a while rivals: See Glasenapp Jn (supra) for the full context of the Bāhubali episode. [140|141]

The Aihole Bāhubali shows strands with V-pattern and hanging down on his shoulders (compare Bruhn Gr I: fig. 5, Ṛṣabha). He has no uṣṇīṣa, and he is flanked by his two sisters. Bāhubali has strands (transferred from the father to the son), but medieval images (e.g. Shravanabelagola) show only curls. - The Badami Bāhubali has in addition to his two sisters two kneeling adorants (left and right); he has an uṣṇīṣa and strands (parallel strands, faint V-pattern); strands hang also down on his shoulders. - There are seventeen Bāhubali images at Ellora (Tiwari El: 339-344).

The unusual Eilenberg Bāhubali (supra, Karnatak) is shown as a 'child' (no reason), with parallel strands and with strands on the shoulders. There is no uṣṇīṣa, and there are no 'attributes' (snakes etc.) apart from the creepers. The creepers (right and left) are symmetrical. Date: 7th century (tentative dating by P. Pal).

Bāhubali images in the North are an exception. See JID: 128-129, fig. 138 (900-950); and JID: 197, Bāhubali on a frieze-slab (1050-1100). Bāhubali is rare in the North (but see the new example in Pal Li: pl. 44). Deogarh shows also Bharata (Bharata perhaps not found anywhere else in sculpture).


7. 22nd Jina Ariṣṭanemi (Nemi).

The biography of Ariṣṭanemi is linked with the triple biography of Balarāma (9th Baladeva), Kṛṣṇa (9th Vāsudeva) and Jarāsandha (9th Prativāsudeva). The quadruple construct (one plus three) is extended by various other stories (Vasudevahiṇḍi etc.), the result being an ensemble of unusual extent and complexity: The Harivaśapurāa and its parts.

There are anyway several different versions of the components of the UH and different forms of inclusion of 'other stories' into the UH.

  • Complete version:
    • HTr: VIII, Sargas 1-12;
    • Johnson Li: V, 1-314 (see also 'Neminātha' in the Glossary).
  • Monograph:
    • Alsdorf Hv.
  • Main subjects:
    • Glasenapp Jn: 315-318; Bruhn Śi: 80-93 (86-87: Nemi's marriage...);
    • JRM: 164-165 (literature and iconography);
    • Deleu My: 223-224, 244 (Ariṣṭanemi and Kṛṣṇa);
    • Uttarādhyayana Sūtra, Ch. 22 (Nemi refuses marriage, Rathanemi rejected by Rājīmatī).

In a number of cases, Nemi is flanked on his images by Balarāma (proper right) and Vāsudeva (proper left), his 'attributes' (rare type of 'attribute' in Jaina iconography). Balarāma (Baladeva) and Kṛṣṇa (Vāsudeva) were Nemi's cousins (Deleu My: 223, Yādava clan in the Jaina tradition).

Early Nemi images: Joshi Ba: pls. 10-11 etc.; JRM: 166; Pal Li: 127-128 ("Two of [141|142] Krishna's emblems, the conch and the mace, are clear, but the other objects are indistinct."); Joshi Ea: 349b-351a. In the Nemi iconography we see the types (Baladeva and Vāsudeva), not the individuals (Balarāma and Krsna). Later Nemi images: JRM: 166-170.

Balarāma is a pre-Vedic god; he is originally the ploughman, and he is drunk (Brockington Ep: 261-262 et passim). See also Joshi Ba: 90-92 (passages from Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa) and Srinivasan Sa (Balarāma and the mountain). Balarāma had a fairly uniform and simple iconography (plough etc., Joshi Ba: pl. 7 etc.); in the 'medieval' period he gradually disappeared. Pal Li: 168-169 (Baladeva '100-300'); Srinivasan Sa: fig. 2 (coin from Ai Khanoum, 2nd century B.C.). Medieval: Desai Vi: fig. 100 (Khajuraho). - There existed in the early period besides Balarāma Nāga gods like Dadhikara (Joshi Ba: 18; see pls. 1-4).

It is not clear why the drunk god with the plough became the half-brother of Kṛṣṇa (Yādava clan). It is also not clear why Nemi (mainly hero of a renunciation legend invented by the Jainas) was connected with the Brahmanical Yādava clan. That this clan was adopted by the Jainas is not unexpected (compare inter alia the inclusion of the Jaina Rāmāyaṇa into the UH). W. Ruben postulates a common prototype for the Hindu Kṛṣṇa and the Jaina Kṛṣṇa (Ruben Kr: 289).

The conch cihna surfaces already in the period of double cihnas (Section 5; Bruhn Gr I: 257). The conch is traditionally associated with Kṛṣṇa, and it seems to be the only cihna which is based on a legend (Nemi legend).

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