The Analysis of Jina Images [Part 8]

Posted: 30.01.2012
Updated on: 10.02.2012

The essay was published in Berliner Indologische Studien No. 2. 1986, pp. 133-174.


§ 15. Main figure and bhāmaṇḍala

We distinguish in the case of the main figure (Jina figure) between three sets of peculiarities which overlap to some extent:

  1. anatomical peculiarities in general,
  2. rendering of the hair (morphology of the hair and morphology of the uṣṇīṣa),
  3. attributes (i.e. attributes in general).

(i) Amongst the anatomical peculiarities are the prolonged ear-lobes with big holes and the folds on the neck (rendered as grooves); see e.g. JID 77. Both formulas belong to the common heritage of Buddha and Jina portrayal. It is in this connection important to distinguish between regional stylizations and true formulas which belong to the generally accepted canon for the representation of Buddhas as well as Jinas. Besides, it is useful to distinguish between the literary lakaa-sets and the lakṣaṇas as found in art (including the morphology of individual lakṣaṇas). - Ad hoc stylizations and regional formulas are best described in the context of image-description; see e.g. JID 77 etc. (and also JID 90): stylization of the eyes.

(ii) The subject of the hair includes curls, strands (i.e. strands on the top of the head), “lateral strands“, uṣṇīṣa, and uṣṇīṣa-lotus. For a descriptive treatment we refer the reader to the index of JID (§ 338, s.vv. “curls“ etc.). Special

problems arise in connection with the morphology of the jaṭā (see also IJI § 6, seventh para). We do have studies in the morphology of the jatā, [1] but systematic studies in the morphology of complex subjects (jaṭā, mukuṭa etc.) and simpler subjects (hand-attributes such as cakra, gadā etc.) have not yet been developed. - The attribute aspect of the hair has been discussed in IJI § 5B.

(iii) Little can be said about the other “body-attributes“ in our corpus. The uṣṇīṣa, uṣṇīṣa-lotus, and foot-lotus have already been mentioned above. The śrīvatsa-mark is in most cases hardly perceptible (JID 82 etc.), JID 42 - śrīvatsa carved in relief - being one of the few exceptions. The hand-lotus occurs possibly only once (JID 175).

In the case of the bhāmaṇḍala we distinguish between

  1. the bhāmaṇḍalas of images that do not include those of the Uncouth Class, and
  2. of bhāmaṇḍalas of images of the Uncouth Class.

A discussion of the first category belongs to the field of image-description rather than to the statistical survey. Also this is one of the cases where it would be better to treat standing and seated images together. A few short remarks on the standing images are nevertheless inevitable. We find images with an elaborate bhāmaṇḍala (JID 7A, JID 151), but as a rule the bhāmaṇḍala is either of average quality, or reduced to incision (JID 99, 100a, 103), or missing altogether. Sometimes it would appear that the bhāmaṇḍala was omitted for the sake of variation: JID 97 with and JID 98a without bhāmaṇḍala. Just as in the case of the seated images, we here also have mainly two formulas for the decorated bhāmaṇḍalas: “lotus flower“ (circle of lotus petals) and “rose and diamond“. In the case of the two very similar images JID 153 and 154, the two formulas have been used as a means of variation.

(iv) The images of the Uncouth Class show two peculiarities:

  1. deviation from the standard form, and
  2. similarity in the treatment of the main figure and the two attendant figures.

If we ignore the historical background we can say in connection with (a) that the bhāmaṇḍala is not a motif appearing “on“ the back-plate but its upward continuation. It becomes therefore difficult to describe the upper parts of the images of the Uncouth Class in terms of our graph (fig. 1). As examples for the form of the motif we mention only JID 78 (attendant figures) and JID 81a (main figure plus attendant figures). Feature (a) can nevertheless be traced back to standing prototypes of earlier centuries (general shape: Asher 157-59). The makara protomai of the Gupta prototypes are rendered in a clear manner (JID 80, JID 82), they appear highly transformed (JID 79, JID 80), or they are completely lacking. Feature (a) is also found with JID 139b. Feature (b) can easily be studied on the basis of the published photographs (references in JID pp.503-04).

We can add two general observations.The back-plate of the Uncouth Class (a) appears in some cases as a peculiarity of the attendant figures alone (see e.g. the Ṛṣabha in the Musee Guimet: Ghosh, JAA 325A). In addition, there seems to be a tendency to have a true nimbus for the main figure and oval elements (“mandorlas“) for the attendant figures: Chandra, Al. 406, 407; JID 21, 24 (33); Williams, Gu. 253. Both tendencies overlap to some extent (Musee Guimet Ṛṣabha etc.).


§ 16. The parasol-unit (squares 5-6, 11-12)

What we call “parasol-unit“ is a fairly well-defined cluster of motifs which appears in the Early-Medieval Style (standing and seated images taken together) in two different formulas:

  • Formula A (see the two seated images JID 140 and 141): Triple roof (the roofs are broad) / no parasol-stick / drum / “drummer“ (details below) / close connection between parasol-unit and garland-bearers / two optional motifs, viz. (i) “drummer“ as protome (and not as picto-graph: two hands), (ii) double-leaf.
  • Formula B (JID 137): Triple roof (the roofs are narrow) / parasol-stick optional / drum with two hands / parasol-unit (upper portion) and garland-bearers conceived as separate elements of the composition / no further motifs added.

The classification (formula A or formula B?) may become difficult when the optional elements are missing (JID 113). Different from the aspect of classification which causes few problems are two further issues: the question of the prototype or the prototypes (refer in this connection to Chandra, Al. 406-08); and the question whether we should use the A-B distinction as a stylistic guide (proposed with some reserve in JID § 97). Finally, we observe at Deogarh something that looks like a special form of B: a rendition where the roofs are narrowly executed and where the stick is part and parcel of the motif (JID 81a: standing Jina; JID 137: seated Jina). The rendering of the stick by incised lines (which have no particular aesthetic value) in JID 125 seems to indicate that certain artists regarded the stick as an essential element of the unit.

It would appear that the great Śānti (JID 8A) is the only standing image to have the drummer not as pictograph but as protome.

The later images of the Early-Medieval Style (most of them belonging to the Section of the Late Images) follow a monotonous formula which can be derived from A:

  • Formula A-late (JID 178: four seated images): Triple roof (the roofs are broad) / no parasol-stick / drum with two hands (hands often not perceptible) / double-leaf / all elements forming a compact unit (horizontal-oblong) / normally close connection between parasol-unit and garland-bearers / no further motifs included.

The formula A-late as such is definitely late but tendencies to weld the relevant sub-motifs into one unit can already be observed with earlier images (JID 24; Chandra, Al. 407).

On three images we find a miniature Jina as “intruder“ in the parasol-unit (§ 14). Image No. 1 has, besides other extensions, a very complex rendering of the parasol-unit (JID 8). The double-leaf is irregular in the case of JID 8, JID 164 + 166, and AJI 12. In JID 88 we notice an unidentified element behind the upper part of the parasol-unit.


Share this page on: