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Burial Ad Sanctos at Jaina Sites in India

Published: 15.03.2011
Updated: 10.03.2015

International Journal of Jaina Studies
(Online) Vol. 7, No. 4 (2011) 1-37


Peter Flügel

This article is an expanded version of the research report “New Developments in Aniconic Jaina Iconography” in Jaina Studies Vol. 5. Fieldwork in India was conducted in winter 2009/10 and in 2011 funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Fellowship AH/I002405/1. All photographs are the author’s, with exception of Fig. 8 (Courtesy Puruṣottam Jain & Ravīndra Jain, Māler Kotlā). I am grateful to Robert del Bontà and John E. Cort for their valuable comments on an earlier draft of this article.


The analysis of the process of gradual integration of religious artefacts into the originally anti-iconic protestant Jaina traditions, starting with relics of renowned saints, and the evolution of pilgrimage centres from the early nineteenth century onwards shows that it followed the same logic as proposed by the theory of aniconism for the development of anthropomorphic images in ancient India: relics, stūpas, aniconic representations, anthropomorphic iconoplastic representations. It is argued in this article that it is unlikely that extant aniconic Jaina religious art from ancient India evolved along similar lines for at least four reasons: The absence of (1) doctrinal aniconism in early Jainism, (2) of a notable cult of the relics of the Jina, (3) of evidence for Jaina stūpas antedating anthropomorphic miniature reliefs, and (4) of sharply demarcated Jaina sectarian traditions before the Digambara-Śvetambara split. The reputedly oldest iconographic evidence from Mathurā rather suggests a parallel evolution of iconic and aniconic representations; with footprint/foot-images (caraṇa-pādukā) as a relatively late addition to the vocabulary of aniconic Jaina art. The apocryphal development of aniconic iconography in protestant Jaina traditions with progressive emphasis on the individual identity of renowned gurus and gurunīs of particular monastic traditions seems to replicate earlier developments in the iconic traditions which must have started in the early medieval period. The particular evolutionary sequence and selectivity of aniconic Jaina iconography with its characteristic exegetical impediments against the worship of Jina images and increasing emphasis on the practice of burial ad sanctos and cities of the dead however represents a genuine novelty not only in the history of Jainism but in Indian religious culture as a whole.


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Burial Ad Sanctos at Jaina Sites in India

There are two principal ways in which the main objects of worship in the Jaina tradition, the liberated Jinas and mendicants reborn in heaven,[1] are nowadays materially represented: by statues, bimbas, caityas, pratimās or mūrtis, and by footprint-images, caraṇa-cinha or caraṇa-pādukās.[2] Jaina temples and statues are the subject of numerous scholarly publications. However, footprint images and related features of aniconic Jaina iconography, funeral monuments and memorials of prominent monks and nuns in particular, have not been systematically investigated.4[3]U.P. Shah (1955, 1987), in his classic work Studies in Jaina Art does not even mention caraṇa-pādukās in the context of his examination of aniconic symbols in Jainism and devotes only a half sentence on them in Jaina-Rūpa-Maṇḍana, nor does K. Bruhn (1994) in his summary article "Jaina, Iconografia", despite the rich pictorial record in illustrated Jaina pilgrimage guides, indicating their continuing cultural significance from at least medieval times onwards. [4] Information on relic shrines of historical Jaina monks and nuns, known as cabūtarā nisidhi, samādhi, stūpa or smāraka, and frequently marked by caraṇa-pādukās,[5] has only recently come to light, particularly in the aniconic traditions;[6] despite the fact that there is no evidence for a widespread cult of the bone relics of the Jina comparable to the relic stūpas of the Buddha. [7]

In this article I will briefly review the development of aniconic iconography in the originally anti-iconic or protestant Śvetāmbara Jaina movements that emerged from the 15th century onwards, the Loṅkāgaccha, Sthānakavāsī and Terāpantha Śvetāmbara traditions, and consider what it may teach us about allegedly similar developments in ancient India. These are discussed under the label "aniconism".[8] In the Study of Religions the term "icon" (Greek eikōn: image, figure, likeness) refers to an artistic representation of a sacred being, object or event. The term "aniconic" is often used as a synonym of the words "anti-iconic" and "iconoclastic" which designate the rejection of the creation or veneration of images, and the destruction of images of a sacred being, object or event.[9] In Art History, the word "aniconic" is used in a less loaded way as a designation for a symbol that stands for something without resembling it.[10] Because of these ambiguities, the specific attributes of an "aniconic tradition" need to be identified in each case.

While the role of aniconic representations in the early history of Jaina religious art remains uncharted territory, and will continue to be a subject for informed speculation, the re-emergence of selected forms of image-worship in the aniconic Jaina traditions can be reconstructed. In the absence of proof, frequently suspected Islamic influence on the founders of the anti-iconic Jaina traditions, expressed mainly by representatives of the Jaina image-worshipping traditions, must be discounted.[11] There is no doubt that the rejection of the acts of violence implicated in mūrtipūjā, image- or idol-worship,[12] is articulated by the protestant Jaina traditions with exclusive reference to Jaina scriptures.[13] External political changes may have indirectly contributed to the success of this internal cultural realignment.[14] However, temple construction seems to have continued unabated at the time.[15]

As a consequence of the reforms of Loṅkā and the founders of the Sthānakavāsī and Terāpantha orders, in the anti-iconic traditions the mendicants became again the main focus of religious attention. In contrast to the dual, mendicant and temple oriented cult of the Mūrtipūjaka and mainstream Digambara traditions, living mendicants remained the only acceptable tangible symbol of the Jaina path of salvation. Objects of veneration themselves,[16] they were inspired by the example of the Jinas, which they and their followers praised and venerated mentally, through bhāva-pūjā, with a selection of hymns, prayers and mantras, most prominently the Namaskāra-Mantra, without reference to images.[17] Such non-material devotional practices are still dominant today. Yet, the exclusive stress on ascetic practice and non-material forms of worship did not last for long. With the exception of a handful of orders, sampradāyas, of the Sthānakavāsī tradition, none of the aniconic traditions remain anti-iconic in their practice to this day. The surviving segments of the Loṅkā tradition, now almost extinct, many Sthānakavāsī traditions, and the Terāpantha, all slowly (re-)introduced forms of aniconic iconography as substitutes for tabooised anthropomorphic representations into the religious cult, such as stūpas, footprint images, relics of use such as empty thrones or inscriptions of sacred texts, which partly resemble the repertoire of early Jaina and Buddhist aniconic art. Amulets, wall paintings, posters, photos, reliefs and most recently even portrait statues of deceased monks and nuns have become integral décor of the contemporary aniconic Jaina cult of the saints.[18] Only material representations of the liberated Jinas, always depicted as living omniscient beings, continue to be taboo, in particular three-dimensional statues and temples housing them.[19] Loṅkāgaccha and Sthānakavāsī mendicants who reverted to full iconic worship of the Jinas and to temple construction, such as Ācārya Megha (1572) or Muni Ātmārāma, also known under his Tapāgaccha designations Ācārya Vijayānandasūri and Ātmānanda (1875), officially re-joined the Mūrtipūjaka tradition.

The original exclusive focus on the physical veneration of living mendicants, as the only tangible symbols of Jaina values, was thus increasingly supplemented by forms of worship of material substitutes, often relics or aniconic symbolic representations of deceased monks or nuns. The development can be characterized as a progressive replacement of a radical anti-iconic – though rarely iconoclastic[20] – orientation by a doctrinally ambiguous aniconic cult with dual focus on both the living mendicants and non-anthropomorphic ritual objects. Broadly, three phases can be distinguished: (1) The dominance of anti-iconic movements between the 15th to 18th centuries; (2) the consolidation of a physical infrastructure of upāśrayas or sthānakas and isolated funerary monuments in the late 18th and 19th centuries; and (3) the full development of sectarian networks of sacred places and of an aniconic Jaina iconography during the time of reinvigoration of Jainism in the 20th and early 21 st centuries; including imagery displayed and published in books and on the internet; and recently even portrait statues of deceased mendicants, which are however still without significant ritual function.

Within the aniconic traditions, the gradual integration of religious artifacts into the cult seems to have followed the same logic as proposed by the theory of aniconism for the development of anthropomorphic images in ancient India. It started with relics (bone relics, relics of use) and stūpas, followed by non-anthropomorphic representations and culminated, finally, in the creation of anthropomorphic images and three-dimensional portrait statues of venerable ascetics.[21] This process can be described as a progressive abstraction from, or rather schematization of, the physical traces of a deceased individual ascetic and the stepwise transformation of a living symbolic focus into an impersonal generalized material medium of religious communication.[22] In contrast to stūpas and caraṇa-pādukās, which of course remain controversial in the aniconic traditions and in contrast to the Mūrtipūjaka traditions are never found independently from a samādhi, three-dimensional portrait statues of famous mendicants, in the manner of Mūrtipūjaka and Digambara paradigms, do not yet feature as official objects of worship,[23] but only as means of commemoration, sometimes at sites far removed from the places of cremation and relic deposits.[24] With S.J. Tambiah (1984: 203, 335) one can usefully distinguish between "sites of commemoration" and "sites of empowerment" in the Jaina context as well.[25] The contrast between the two, I have argued,[26] is indirectly reflected in contemporary Jaina iconography itself in terms of the distinction of footprint-images (caraṇa-pādukā), symbolizing the possibility of continuing direct physical contact with relics of deceased Jinas[27] or famous mendicants, and images (pratimā, etc.), symbolizing abstract inner qualities of the soon to be liberated omniscient Jina for meditative contemplation and emulation. Naturalistic portrait statues for the commemoration of particular historical saints can be placed in between these two extremes, despite the fact that their form of representation seems less abstract than footprint/foot-images. In all cases, general concepts of Jainism are primarily represented and rarely the particular characteristics and powers of the individual saint; at best (using photographs today) the physical appearance. Like Jaina hymnology, the iconography appeals to different levels of conceptual imagination.[28] Aniconic representations of absence, in particular, such as partial representations of the body, like feet or hands, can imply multiple connotations as Metzler (1985-6: 102f.) noted with reference to aniconic representations in general.

To illustrate the actual function of the concept of the "site of empowerment"[29] in Jaina religious imagination, the following observations focus on the unprecedented construction of tīrthas, places of pilgrimage, featuring multiple stūpas with or without caraṇa-pādukās, in contemporary aniconic Jaina traditions.[30]

Burial ad sanctos

A most remarkable development of the last hundred years, not yet recorded in the literature, is the emergence of the phenomenon of the necropolis in the aniconic Jaina traditions, which in certain respects serves as a functional equivalent of the temple city in the Mūrtipūjaka and Digambara traditions,[31] though on a smaller scale.[32] For the aniconic Jaina traditions, which by doctrine are not permitted to build temples and to worship images, the mendicants are the only universally acceptable symbols of the Jaina ideals, and the focus of religious life. It is not surprising, therefore, that in those aniconic traditions that permitted the erection of samādhis for renowned mendicants sacred sites with multiple funeral monuments developed, which became places of pilgrimage for purposes of purification (request for forgiveness of mistakes) and empowerment (request for the fulfillment of wishes) though the grace (kṛpā) of the saint.[33] Typically, pilgrims fast before their visit. After bowing to the shrine, first the Jinas and the Jaina mendicants in general are venerated, through the Namaskāra-Mantra and through the Tikkhutto, the veneration of the (this) guru. Often money is put in the donation box. This is followed by prolonged meditation (Namaskāra-Mantra-Japa) with the help of a rosary. After the meditation, usually silent requests are made to the saint in return for the promise of service. If a wish comes true further cash and/or other offerings are made on a return visit. Selected contemporary examples from northern India will suffice to demonstrate how the Jaina cult of the stūpa became the seed of an aniconic cult of the tīrtha.[34]

The oldest and generally largest Jaina sites with multiple samādhis belong to the Uttarārdha Loṅkāgaccha and to the Pañjāb Lavjī Ṛṣi Sampradāya and the Nāthūrāma Jīvārāja Sampradāya of the Sthānakavāsī tradition.[35] The majority of the sites with multiple shrines of the Uttarārdha Loṅkāgaccha, in Gujarāṃvālā, Maler Kotlā, Nakodar, Paṭṭī, Phagvāṛā, Rāniyā, Samānā, and Sirsā, are associated with yatis of the nineteenth century. But they are not precisely datable. Some of the shrines, in Samānā or Sirsā for instance, are constructed next to an older Dādābāṛī shrine of the Kharataragaccha. After the demise of both the Mūrtipūjaka and the Loṅkāgaccha traditions in the Pañjāb and Hariyāṇā, both sites (and others) were taken over by local Sthānakavāsī Jainas, who added their own samādhis. Similar historical processes of appropriation and reappropriation of older shrines of traditions that have died out can also be observed within the Sthānakavāsī tradition, the focus of the following analysis. Table I lists some of the largest sites with multiple samādhi in the tradition with reference to the stūpa of the oldest Sthānakavāsī monk (except for the sites in Samānā and Sirsā).

Table I: Selected Sthānakavāsī Sites with Multiple Samādhis

Sunāma Ācārya Mahāsiṅha (died 1804) Pañjāb Lavjī Ṛṣi Sampradāya (S.) 1804
Māler Kotlā Ācārya Ratirām (died 1840) Nāthūrāma Jīvarāja S. 1841
Ambālā Muni Lālcand (died 1843) Nāthūrāma Jīvarāja S. 1877
Lohā Maṇḍī Muni Ratancand (1793-1864) Manoharadāsa Dharmadāsa S.
Rohtak Muni Kanhīrām (1852-1872) Nāthūrāma Jīvarāja S. 1902
Jagarāvāṃ Svāmī Rūpcandra (1812-1880) Nāthūrāma Jīvarāja S.
Rāykoṭ Svāmī Rūpcandra (1812-1880) Nāthūrāma Jīvarāja S. 1885
Samānā Muni Maheśdās (died 1882) Nāthūrāma Jīvarāja S. 1882
Māler Kotlā Ācārya Rāmbakṣ (1846-1882) Pañjāb Lavjī Ṛṣi S.
Ludhiyānā Ācārya Motīrām (1821-1901) Pañjāb Lavjī Ṛṣi S.
Mūnak Muni Javāharlāl (1856-1932) Pañjāb Lavjī Ṛṣi S.
Carakī Dādarī Muni Jñāncandra (1894-1952) Manoharadāsa Dharmadāsa S.
Khannā Muni Chaganlāl (1889-1971) Svāmīdāsa Dīpacanda Jīvrāj S 1973
New Delhi Muni Choṭelāl (1902/3-1981) Nāthūrāma Jīvarāja S.
Auraṅgābād Muni Gaṇeślāl (1879-1962) Daulatarāma Hara S. (Koṭā S. I) 1987
Kupa Kalāṁ Gaṇāvacchedaka Lālcand (1857-1938) Pañjāb Lavjī Ṛṣi S. 2009

With the exception of Samānā and Sirsā these are the oldest surviving local Jaina funerary shrines. Many of these sites accreted also relic shrines of nuns, while there are only few sites with more than one relic shrine for nuns alone.[36] Because of renovations, reliable dates for the oldest stūpa construction can rarely be established with certainly.

Three multi-shrined sites featuring samādhis (stūpa) with or without cāraṇapādukās and/or other iconographic elements will be looked at in greater detail. The first example is the Mahān Gurūo Jain Samādhi Sthal next to the Mahākālī temple in Ambālā City, which features no less than twenty samādhis for Sthānakavāsī mendicants of which at least nine are dedicated to sādhvīs (some are unmarked). The suspicion that most of the samādhis are relic stūpas is supported by a plaque which records that the cost of the relic vessel, kalaśa, and the dome, samādhi guṃbad, of the central shrine was paid for by an Osvāl from Ludhiyānā for the auspicious memory, puṇya smṛti, of his deceased wife.[37] This is also common knowledge and orally confirmed by local Jains. The samādhis are tightly packed together, forming a mélange of different architectural styles. Four architectural types, reflecting developmental stages (of renovation), can be distinguished. Twelve smaller solid or hollowed out shrines with niches for oil lamps or offerings, some of them with domed chatrīs, all painted in pink and red, form a stylistic ensemble. According to inscriptions, cross-referenced with list of Sthānakavāsī mendicants,[38] most of them were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s. The two oldest and most important shrines, of "Camatkārī Tapasvī" Muni Lālcand or Lālacandra, a native of Ambālā, a poor shoemaker from a low caste who became a Sthānakavāsī monk under Muni Uttamcand or Uttamacandra of the Nāthūrāma Jīvarāja Sampradāya and died in 1843 through the religious rite of voluntary self-starvation, known as sallekhanā or santhārā,[39] and of "Pañjāb Kesarī" Ācārya Kāṃśīrām (1884-1945), one of the most important leaders of the Pañjāb Lavjī Ṛṣi Sampradāya, were renovated in the same modern style in which the funerary monument of Kāṃśīrām's monastic great-grandson disciple, prapautra, Tapasvī Sudarśana Muni (1905-1997) was constructed. (Fig. 1) These modern buildings are not solid structures but feature interior shrines with caraṇa-pādukās; in the case of Lālcand a two-storey marble-clad construction with spaces for circumambulation of the footprintimage on the upper floor and of posters with detailed instructions on the preferred mode of worship and its "miraculous" benefits on the ground floor.

Fig. 1 Samādhi Sthal of “Tapasvī” Sudarśan Muni and other “Great Gurus” near the samādhi of Muni Lālcand in Ambālā

The perceived importance of the deceased is reflected in the relative size of the renovated stūpas. Older stūpas were simply replaced, except for the cover of the entombed relics. Some older unmarked smaller shrines, painted in white, the third type, were integrated in the shrine of Kāṃśīrām with a new common roof. The oldest shrine for a nun is dedicated to Sādhvī Prako (Premo) who died in 1934. The three most recent relic shrines for "Tapasvinī" Sādhvī Svarṇa Kāṃtā (1929-2001) and two of her associate nuns are marked by small interconnected platforms, cābutarās, made of shiny marble and attached posters with their photos and biographical data. The combined shrine is covered with a roof made of corrugated iron. Key to the site in Ambālā City are the enduring belief in the miracle working power of Muni Lālcand and of his remains, and the connection with the line of the Pañjāb Lavjī Ṛṣi Sampradāya of Ācārya Kāṃśīrām and his disciples, for whom the Hariyāṇā town of Ambālā, the "Gate to the Pañjāb" with its strategically important upāśraya, became a preferred place for performing the Jaina rite of death through selfstarvation. In recent decades, many mendicants of the Pañjāb Lavjī Ṛṣi tradition (now part of the Śramaṇasaṅgha) came to spend their old age (sthirvāsa) in Ambāla in the auspicious presence of Lālcand in order to benefit from his "good vibrations", as the present writer was told, that is, to derive inspirational strength for the willful performance of a good death, paṇḍita- or samādhi-maraṇa. Though cremations are now performed outside the sprawling city, the bone relics of the mendicants are buried next to Lālcand. In this way a veritable Jaina necropolis emerged over the last one and a half centuries. It is a significant development in the Jaina tradition, nowhere more evident than at this site in Ambālā, that an increasing number of sādhvīs are honoured with funerary monuments, reflecting changing social values.

The second example is a site known as Samādhi Bhavan. It is located at Pacakuriyāṃ Mārg in Lohā Maṇḍī, a small town in Uttar Pradeś which is now part of Āgrā. The site is owned by the local Jaina Agravāla organisation, which from the eighteenth century onwards was closely associated with the Manoharadāsa Dharmadāsa Sthānakavāsī tradition, and still serves as a cremation ground for both laity and mendicants. Laypeople are cremated in a large dugout called svarga-dhām, heavenly paradise, that is fortified with bricks, and their remains are discarded in the Yamunā River, while mendicants are incinerated on a permanent raised platform constructed on the lawn in the small park adjacent to the main cremation ground. Their remains are entombed on site. Seventeen samādhis are currently identifiable, many of them unmarked. At least two are dedicated to named nuns Sādhvī Campakamālā (1904-1995) (Fig. 2) and Sādhvī Vuddhimatī (Buddhimatī) (died 1997), both of the Pañjāb Lavjī Ṛṣi Sampradāya.

The name of the site is derived from the 1947 renovated shrine of the principal local saint Muni Ratnacandra or Ratancand (1793-1864), a well-known scholar born in a Rājpūt family near Jaipur who held debates with Jesuits,[40] Muslims and members of other religions. He belonged to the Nūṇakaraṇa line of the Manoharadāsa Sampradāya. Since the male line of this tradition, which for a while was well integrated into the Śramaṇasaṅgha, has now died out, the necropolis is an enduring monument to its memory (even if some of the few unmarked monuments may have been built for mendicants of other Sthānakavāsī lineages). Most samādhis were recently renovated and feature caraṇa-pādukās. The renovated samādhis additionally display portrait photographs and supplementary texts and/or colourful reliefs which narrate the life story of the saints. The samādhis, renowned for their wish-fulfilling qualities, are venerated daily by individual members of the local Sthānakavāsī community.

Fig. 2 Footprint image of Sādhvī Campakamālā with Namaskāra-Mantra and photo in the “Samādhi Bhavan” in Lohā Maṇḍī

However, since the funerary park is distant from the main Bāzār area where many Jaina Agravāls still live, a small commemorative shrine, a glass cabinet containing a printed reproduction of a painting of Ratancand and a rajoharaṇa, a whiskbroom carried by Jaina mendicants, was created in the main monastic residence, sthānaka, of Lohā Maṇḍī. The colourfully painted assembly hall of the sthānaka features an empty throne, gaddī, made of marble and an imposing Namaskāra-Mantra relief as the main aniconic objects of veneration. This seat is not a personalised "relic of use",[41] an item actually used or touched by a mendicant, like the surviving gaddīs of the Loṅkāgaccha yati Ācārya Kalyāṇacandra or Kalyāṇcand (1833-1887) or of famed Sthānakavāsī ācāryas in Gujarāt, but a generalised symbolic object, explicitly dedicated to the five Jaina parameṣṭhīs.

As in Ambālā, in Lohā Maṇḍī the development of the necropolis as a sacred site is historically linked to the attempt of a locally dominant monastic sub-lineage to establish durable institutional roots in a dynamic sectarian milieu. A motivating factor is the belief in the continuing powers of a deceased saint and the ensuing practice of burial ad sanctos. While avoiding outright idol-worship, two-dimensional iconic images, particularly posters of paintings and photographs, and three-dimensional aniconic images are systematically used for this purpose. Most significant are the footprint-images which only mark cremation or burial sites in the aniconic traditions. They are rarely openly displayed, but housed in shrines of different shapes and sizes - sometimes older structures being wrapped in layers of later, grander structures through successive renovations. The shrines are generally venerated individually once a day through informal rituals involving touch, bowing and silent prayers or meditation. Occasionally, veneration – performed both for soteriological and for instrumental purposes or simply out of habit - involves the application of flowers, but despite many parallels, there is never an elaborate pūjā ritual as at the dādābāṛīs of the Kharataragaccha tradition studied by J. Laidlaw (1985: 60f.) and L.A. Babb (1996: 127-30).

The last example is the shrine of Muni Maheśadāsa or Maheśdās (died 1882) of the Nāthūrām Jīvarāja Sampradāya in Samānā. It was built next to a seventeenth century Dādābāṛī of Dādā Jinacandrasūri (1537-1612) and several older unmarked samādhis which, according to local informants, must have been constructed for local yatis of the Uttarārdha Loṅkāgaccha. Several later samādhis were erected for monks of the Pañjāb Lavjī Ṛṣī Sampradāya. The samādhi of Maheśdās is remarkable, because it comprises well preserved nineteenth century frescos with descriptions in Urdū, uniquely even portraits of Maheśdās, painted in a style which was apparently typical for many samādhis constructed at the time, as similar examples in Māler Kotlā (Ratirām Samādhi, now destroyed through renovation), Sunāma and Nakodar indicate. The frescos in Samānā were painted by a devotee of Gorakhnāth as many references to this Hindu saint in the Urdū texts demonstrate. The texts also tell us that the shrine was built by Javālādās Bhāvaṛā (Osvāl) in memory of his father Salekhcand of the Minhānī caste and mention the lineage of Maheśdās, beginning with Ācārya Nandālāl.[42] Paintings in the same style at other sites in the Pañjāb do not feature depictions of Sthānakavāsī monks, but ornaments and mythological scenes from the Hindu Epics. In this respect they resemble the famous samādhi of the Sikh king Ranjīt Siṅgh in Lāhaur, which was studied by N. S. Naeem (2008, 2010, 2011), who confirmed that his shrine is a relic stūpa as well, despite principal rejection of relic worship by the Sikh religion today.[43] It is possible that the fashion of fresco painting in Jaina samādhis in the Pañjāb of the mid-nineteenth century was triggered by the paradigm of the royal samādhi in Lāhaur. Recently, the wall murals of "Camatkārī" Muni Maheśdās were defaced by unknown thugs, as were the reliefs of the Dādāgurus in the adjacent newly renovated c. 400 years old "ecumenical" Dādābāṛī, constructed around the footprints of Jinacandrasūri, which is nowadays owned and managed by Sthānakavāsīs who took over after the Kharataragaccha lost influence in the Pañjāb under Muslim rule. (Fig. 3) Acts of retaliation can not be excluded. Court cases are ongoing.

Fig. 3 Defaced wall painting of Ācārya Maheśdās inside his samādhi in Samānā

Looking at all three examples selected from the great variety of aniconic Jaina traditions together, a clear new pattern emerges. The structural relationship between sthānaka and samādhi sthal in the three examples resembles the relationship between upāśraya and mandira in the idol-worshipping Jaina traditions, both serving as complementary localized centres of religious activity supplementary to the itinerant mendicant groups. But in the aniconic Jaina traditions, in contrast to the image-worshipping traditions, the main symbolic representations of Jaina ideals remain the mendicants, living or dead, rather than anthropomorphic statues of the Jinas (photos or drawings of Jina statues are widely used by followers of the aniconic traditions but remain peripheral to their religious culture). A problem for the cult of the samādhi and of the multi-shrined necropolis is that they primarily celebrate the example, values and powers of particular deceased mendicants and of their lineages, but not the Jaina tradition in general. This limits the potential for symbolic universalisation within the aniconic traditions and propels them back toward either idol-worship or imageless meditation – or both.

Ecumenical Pilgrimage Centres and Guru Pratimās

One of several new ecumenical shrines intended to serve as a common reference point for all branches of the Sthānakavāsī and Mūrtipūjaka Śvetāmbara traditions in the Pañjāb, which seems to underscore these conclusions, is the Ādīśvara Dhām that is currently under construction in the village of Kupa Kalāṃ next to the Ludhiyānā–Māler Koṭlā highway. It was inspired by the late Vimalamuni or Vimalmuni (1924-2009), a politically influential modern monk of the Pañjāb Lavjī Ṛṣi tradition, who after leaving the Śramaṇasaṅgha received an honorary ācārya title from Upādhyāya Amarmuni at Vīrāyatan in Rājagṛha/Bihār in 1990. The unique design of the religious site was approved in 1992 with Ācārya Vijaya Nityānanda of the Mūrtipūjaka Tapāgaccha Vallabha Samudāya II and Ācārya Dr Śivmuni of the Śramaṇasaṅgha, the leaders of the two main rival Jaina traditions in the Pañjāb, who both supported the project. The main shrine combines a traditional Ādīśvara temple in the Mūrtipūjaka style on the first floor of the tower of the main shrine, prāsāda, with a large Sthānakavāsī style assembly cum meditation hall (which is usually situated in a sthānaka) in place of the maṇḍapa of the classical Hindu and Jaina temple. The balcony of the first floor of the hall leads to the shrine of Ādīśvara. It features a "mūrti gallery" of Jina statues amongst them an image of the tīrthaṅkara Sīmandhara Svāmī "currently living" in Mahāvideha and a plate with the Trimantra of the Akrama Vijñāna Mārga. The design of the shrine is quite unusual. Though based on classical paradigms in the Śilpaśāstras, in this case the Śilparatnākara by Narmadā Śaṅkara Sompurā (1939/1990: 288), creative modifications were introduced.[44] Vimalmuni insisted on a disproportionately large meditation hall, which dominates the tower, śikhara, housing the main shrine. The allocation of the garbhagṛha with the Ādīśvara image to the first floor further changed the symmetries of the classical paradigm. Yet, the key innovation is the construction of two additional underground levels not found in any other shrine.[45] Located below the central pravacana hall is a large meditation hall oriented toward a covered aperture at the centre. A barely visible flight of stairs, locked with iron gates, leads to a second underground level, the so-called gurumandira. (Fig. 4)

Fig. 4 Portrait statues of renowned Pañjābī Sthānakavāsī and Mūrtipūjaka monks under the Ādīśvara Dhām in Kupa Kalāṃ

The visitor arrives first in a square antechamber, facing two rows of quasi naturalistic portrait statues of six famous Pañjābī monks of the last two centuries, four of the Sthānakavāsī Lavjī Ṛṣi Sampradāya, one of the Sthānakavāsī Nāthurāma Jīvārāja Sampradāya, and one of the ex-Sthānakavāsī Mūrtipūjaka ācārya Vijayānandasūri. An adjacent platform features portrait statues of three renowned sādhvīs of the Pañjāb Lavjī Ṛṣi tradition, amongst them Sādhvī Svarṇa Kāṃtā. From the antechamber, a meandering passage leads to the central shrine, a medium-sized spherical room located right underneath the central point of the meditation hall above to which it is connected with an oblique round opening in the ceiling. In a series of niches along the wall eleven portrait statues of Sthānakavāsī monks are displayed. From left to right the first of the five ācāryas of the Pañjāb Lavjī Ṛṣi Sampradāya are followed by the three deceased Śramaṇsaṅgha ācāryas, including two non-Pañjābīs, and finally three further renowned Pañjābī Sthānakavāsī monks. On the marble pedestal at the centre of the room, containing a collection box, are portrait statues of Vimalmuni's three immediate predecessors (guruparamparā) presented underneath the opening towards the meditation hall above: Gaṇāvacchedaka Lālacandra or Lālcand (1857-1938), Gaṇāvacchedaka Gokulacandra or Gokulcand, and Jagdīśamuni or Jagdīśmuni (died c. 1999). According to local informants, buried underneath the pedestal cum collection box are relics of the three saints brought on request of Vimalmuni in 2009 from the samādhis at their sites of cremation in Syālkoṭ/Pakistan and Caṇḍīgaṛh. But their existence is, as usual, not indicated. The two underground chambers housing this unique ensemble of statues are constructed in such a way as to amplify sounds in order to invite meditative humming in front of the statues. The sound travels through the opening in the ceiling from the bedrock of the shrine upwards to the larger meditation hall. Pūjā is not to be performed.

This so-called guru mandira was inaugurated on 18 May 2005 by Ācārya Dr Śivmuni and Ācārya Vimalmuni. Next to the Ādīśvara Dhām are four other buildings: two administrative blocks, one vast upāśraya which will serve as a "retirement home" for old nuns, and a Dhyāna Sādhanā Sādhu-Sādhvī Sevā Kendra, constructed on request of Ācārya Dr Śivmuni for the practice of meditation as outlined in his books. Officially, this new Sthānakavāsī pilgrimage centre is dedicated to the practice of meditation in the style advocated by Ācārya Dr Śivmuni. However, it is a multi-functional religious site. It has a temple under the management of Ācārya Nityānanda of the Tapāgaccha (who rejected the installation of an additional Kharataragaccha image) and several samādhis of monks of the line of Gaṇavacchedaka Lālcand of the Pañjāb Lavjī Ṛṣi tradition. Located near the gate to the Ādīśvara Dhām is the samādhi of Muni Rāmamuni (Rāmnāth) (died 2005) and a new samādhi for the late Vimalmuni is under construction next to the main shrine. Vimalmuni's relics in a copper vessel were entombed on 20.12.2010 with a small and simple ceremony in the presence of a modern nun who is associated with Vimalmuni's group.

Ecumenical shrines such as this, shared by Mūrtipūjaka and Sthānakavāsī traditions,[46] were first intentionally devised by the Jaina Diaspora[47] (which also contributes funding for the Ādīśvara Dhām). Yet, few of the iconographic innovations were introduced by NRIs. Already half a century ago, if not earlier, it became customary in most aniconic traditions in India to display photographs of prominent monks and nuns in upāśrayas, samādhis and in the homes of disciples for commemoration if not for worship. Often photographs of deceased saints are displayed in conjunction with a two or three-dimensional aniconic cult object, such as an empty or occupied "lion throne" or siṃhāsana.[48] The ensuing controversy over the religious status of two-dimensional representations such as photographs, line drawings and reliefs still divides the aniconic Jaina traditions. Three-dimensional statues such as those displayed in the subterranean vaults of the Ādīśvara Dhām presenting recently deceased monks and nuns as objects of meditative worship were previously only produced by the Mūrtipūjaka and Digambara traditions.[49]

The first statue of a Sthānakavāsī mendicant, maybe the first statue of a mendicant of the aniconic Jaina traditions, represents the famous "Karṇāṭaka Kesarī" Muni Gaṇeśalāla or Gaṇeślāl (1879-1962) of the Daulatarāma Hara Sampradāya (Koṭā Sampradāya 1) who was cremated in Jālnā in Mahārāṣṭra where a large samādhi was constructed for him. His naturalistic life-size statue, representing him in standing posture with his rajoharaṇa and begging bowl, constructed over his smāraka, was consecrated on the 16.1.1987 at the Sthānakavāsī Jaina Śikṣaṇa Samiti in Auraṅgābād. (Fig. 5)

Fig. 5 Smāraka of Muni Gaṇeślāl in Auraṅgābād

The installation of this first Sthanakavāsī "pratimā" was instigated on suggestion of Gaṇeślāl's disciple "Dakṣiṇakesarī" Muni Miśrīlāla or Miśrīlāl (1918-1993), whose own samādhi, with an opulent chatrī, was built next to the smāraka of Gaṇeślāl, as was a cabūtarā, or commemorative funeral platform, for Muni Sampatalāla or Sampatlāl (died 1998) of the same sampradāya. Placed at the centre of the shrine of Miśrīlāl is a large marble bowl, openly displaying ashes from his funeral pyre. Sampatlāl's cabūtarā even features an aperture which allows direct access to the ashes buried underneath, with an adjacent marble slab serving as a cover. (Fig. 6) To put funerary relics on open display and permitting direct access to them is yet another innovation in aniconic Jaina iconography which has since been imitated at other Jaina relic shrines in Mahārāṣṭra, such as the unassuming cabūtarā style shrine of Yuvācārya Miśrīmala "Madhukara" (1913-1983) of the Jayamala Dharmadāsa Sampradāya within the Śramaṇasaṅgha which was inaugurated at the place of his cremation in an industrial district in Nāsik in 2001.

Fig. 6 Funeral relics under the cabūtarā of Muni Sampatlāl in Auraṅgābād

The pratimā of Muni Gaṇeślāl in Auraṅgābād caused a great uproar in the Sthānakavāsī community, and could only be inaugurated after as series of court cases, briefly described by Vorā (1992: 191-3). Despite similar protests, in the last decade many portrait statues were put up by the aniconic traditions; for instance the painted statue of the Sthānakavāsī Upādhyāya Amarmuni (1903-1992) at Vīrāyatan in Rājagṛha and of the Terāpantha Ācārya Tulsī (1914-1997) in Bikaner (in a hospital) and in a commemorative shrine at New Delhi. The three portrait statues of Sthānakavāsī nuns Pravartinī Pārvatī (1854- 1939), Pravartinī Rājamatī (1866-1953), Upapravartinī Svarṇa Kāṃtā (1929-2001) of the Pañjāb Lavjīṛṣi Sampradāya in Kupa Kalāṃ may be the first stone images of female mendicants in the aniconic traditions. Physical worship is prevented in most cases across sects by either wrapping the images with shawls (cādar), as in the case of the image of the "miracle working" Muni Kanhīrāma (1852-1872) (Nāthūrāma Jīvārāja Sampradāya) next to his stūpa at the heart of a necropolis of twenty-three samādhis in Rohtak (Fig. 7), or the images of "Sant Śiromaṇi" Upapravartaka Phūlacandra or Phūlcand's (1913-2001) (Pañjāb Lavjī Ṛṣi Sampradāya) in Ratiyā (Fig. 8) and Śardūlgaṛh,[50] all represented the saints in sitting posture, or by encasing the image with glass covers or in other ways making access as unattractive as possible.

Fig. 7 Multi-shrined necropolis “Sant Kanhīrām Mahārāj Smārak” in Rohtak, with the wrapped statue of Muni Kanhīrām on top of the building behind his samādhi on the left

In reply to the question of the legitimacy of worshipping photographs, citra, and other physical representations of Sthānakavāsī mendicants, the late Jñānmuni (1958/1985 II: 366f.), a leading and sometimes controversial intellectual of the Śramaṇasaṅgha, in his book Hamāre Samādhān, Our Solution, stated the following view. From the historical perspective (aitihāsik dṛṣṭi), such images are of great benefit (baṛe lābh). But venerating (vandana) and worshipping (pūjā) is not right. If this is not done and pictures are used only for spreading information then even from a scriptural point of view (saiddhāntik dṛṣṭi) there is no fault: "The Sthānakavāsī tradition is not opposed to images but to image-worship"(sthānakavāsī paramparā kā virodh mūrti se nahīṃ hai balki mūrtipūjā se hai) (ib., p. 367).[51]

Fig. 8 Statue of Upapravartaka Phūlcand inside his samādhi in Ratiyā

The Problem of Universalisation and the Namaskāra-Mantra

Multi-functional "pilgrimage shrines" (tīrtha) featuring samādhis of historical saints are currently constructed in great numbers in all Jaina traditions. In the Sthānakavāsī milieu dozens of necropolises emerged in the last century through burial ad sanctos and evolved into alternative physical centres for religious activity besides the sthānakas. Initially, all Loṅkā, Sthānakavāsī and Terāpantha Śvetāmbara traditions rejected both image and relic worship, and many still do. Loṅkā (K 5, 46, 53) explicitly criticised the veneration of the guru through symbols. The Jñānagaccha, the Kaccha Āṭh Koṭi Nānā Pakṣa and other Sthānakavāsī traditions in Rājasthān and Gujarāt, though reliant on a network of sthānakas, remain orthodox in their rejection of all "lifeless" material representations, including print publications.[52] I have therefore used the term "idol-worship" advisedly as contextually a more appropriate, albeit old fashioned, translation of mūrtipūjā, given that many originally anti-iconic traditions came to accept and worship certain aniconic images, such as relic shrines, empty thrones or stylised footprints, that is, real or simulated relics of contact, and hence have become, to varying degrees, not only "imageusing" but also "image-worshipping" traditions in their need and desire to establish networks of abodes and of sacred sites, whether labeled tīrtha, dhām or aitihāsik sthal, as durable institutional foundations for sectarian proselytisation.[53] This is often done in the name of material security, in particular for nuns and old mendicants, the stalwarts of the Śvetāmbara Jaina tradition.

Without an institutional base, supported by devout laity, even the potential alternative to image worship of an aniconic cult of the holy book or manuscript[54] rather than teaching (pravacana) is difficult to realise.[55] When in 1930, the strategically placed first book publication featuring images of Mahāvīra and Bāhubali wearing Sthānakavāsī mukhavastrikās appeared ("Picture for Information, Not for Veneration"),[56] the resolution for the creation of a nationwide institutional framework for all Sthānakavāsī mendicants taken at the Ajmer Sammelan in 1933 was only two years away. The context of the first book publications of the aniconic traditions, including editions of Āgamas, was more political than religious. However, in one respect the cult of the sacred text is the most significant innovation in the repertoire of aniconic Jaina iconography on display at the reviewed new sacred sites. In almost all modern shrines of the aniconic traditions physical representations of the Namaskāra-Mantra are now centrally displayed, carved in marble, cast in bronze, painted or printed, on the wall or on a stele; despite the fact that this universally accepted ritual text, to be recited not to be worshipped, has no canonical status in the aniconic Jaina traditions,[57] and is too well known to be in need of mementos. Increasingly popular is also the use of the so-called tīrtha-kalaśa, which elsewhere is known as maṅgala-kalaśa, or auspicious pot. (Fig. 9) It is a silver vessel inscribed with the Namaskāra-Mantra and sealed with an auspicious silver coconut, representing the fruits of Jaina practice, both in the other world and in this world. It is portable, like the Jina statues used for processions, and can be utilised as a tangible cult object in variable contexts. Only in combination with the "Navkār Mantra", which "establishes a clear hierarchy among ascetics, with the Tīrthaṅkaras unambiguously on top" (Babb 1996: 112), relic shrines, footprint images or photographs of individual Jaina saints can gain universal appeal and become potential tīrthas or crossing points over the ocean of suffering. The material representation of the Namaskāra-Mantra is the iconographic solution for the problem of universalisation faced by relic shrines of historical saints.


At the outset of this article it was noted that within the surviving aniconic Jaina traditions the gradual integration of religious artifacts into the cult seems to have broadly followed the same logic as proposed by the theory of aniconism for the development of anthropomorphic images in ancient India: relics, stūpas, non-anthropomorphic representations, anthropomorphic images and anthropomorphic portrait statues. It seems, however, unlikely that the extant aniconic Jaina religious art from ancient India evolved along similar sequential lines. There are at least four negative reasons for this conclusion:

The absence of (1) doctrinal aniconism in early Jainism,[58] (2) of a notable cult of the relics of the Jina, (3) of evidence for Jaina stūpas antedating anthropomorphic miniature reliefs,[59] and (4) of sharply demarcated Jaina sectarian traditions before the Digambara- Śvetāmbara split.[60] The reputedly oldest iconographic evidence from Mathurā rather suggests a parallel evolution of iconic and aniconic representations;[61] with footprint/footimages as a relatively late addition to the vocabulary of aniconic Jaina art. The apocryphal development of aniconic iconography in the protestant Jaina traditions, with its increasing emphasis on the individual identity of renowned gurus and gurunīs of particular monastic traditions, seems to replicate earlier developments in the iconic traditions,[62] which must have started already in the early medieval period.[63] The particular sequential evolution and selectivity of aniconic Jaina iconography with its characteristic exegetical impediments against the worship of Jina images and increasing emphasis on the practice of burial ad sanctos leading to the emergence of a network of cities of the dead which effectively function as tīrthas[64] represents a genuine novelty not only in the history of Jainism but in Indian religious culture as a whole.[65]

Fig. 9 Tīrtha kalaśas in front of a painting of the first leader of the Sthānakavāsī Śramaṇasaṅgha, Ācārya Ātmārām (1882-1962), in the “Ātma Smṛti Kakṣa”, Jain Dharmaśālā Ludhiyānā


EC = Epigraphia Caranatica. Vol. II. Inscriptions of Sravana Belgola. Revised Edition. By Rao Bahadur R. Narasimhachar. Bangalore: Mysore Government Central Press, 1889/1923.

K = Keha nī Paramparā Chai? By Loṇkā. Ms. No. 2989, L.D. Institute, Ahmedabad. Published in: Mālvaṇiyā 1963: 80-82; Hastīmal 1995: 691-693; reprinted in Jain & Kumār 2003: 537-539, with a Hindī translation pp. 118-120; English translation by Flügel 2008a: 235-243.

L = Luṅkā nā Aṭhāvana Bolo. By Loṅkā. Ms. No. 2989, L.D. Institute, Ahmedabad; Mss. No. 19224 & 19225, Oriental Institute, Baroda. Published in Mālvaṇiyā 1963: 52-82, Hastīmal 1987/1995: 655-691. Summary in Hindī by Jain und Kumār 2003: 403-537, in English by Flügel 2008a: 225-233.

SPV = Senapraśna. Śubhavijayagaṇi Viracit. Vijayakumudasūri-kṛt Gurjarabhāṣā- Paryāyātmaka. Līṃc: Māstar Nhālcand Ṭhākarśī, Paṇḍit Maṇivijaya Granthamāḷā 4, 1940 (Reprint: Bombay: Jinaśāsana Ārādhanā Trust, 1989).

SRM = Sikh Reht Maryada. The Code of Sikh Conduct & Conventions. Translated by Kulraj Singh. Amritsar: Dharam Parchar Committee (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee), 1945/1994/2009.

TŚPC = Triṣaṣṭiśalākāpuruṣacaritramahākāvyam. Kalikālasarvajña Hemacandrācāryaviracitaṃ. 1 Parvāṇī, Sampādaka: Muni Caraṇavijaya. 2-3-4 Parvāṇī, Sampādaka: Muni Puṇyavijaya. 5-6-7 Parvāṇī & 8-9 Parvāṇī, Sampādakauḥ Ramaṇīkavijaya Gaṇi & Vijayaśīlacandrasūri. Ahmadābād: Kalikālasarvajña Śrī Hemacandrācārya Navama Janmaśatābdī Smṛti Śikṣāṇa Saṃskāranidhi, 1990, 2001, 2006.

Viy. = Bhagavaī. Viāhapaṇṇattī (Bhagavatī. Vyākhyāprajñapti). In: Aṅgasuttāṇi 2. Vācanā Pramukha: Ācārya Tulsī. Sampādaka: Yuvācārya Mahāprajña. Dvitīya Saṃskaraṇa, Lāḍnūṁ: Jaina Viśva Bhāratī Saṃsthāna, 1974/1992.

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Hastīmal, Ācārya. Jaina Dharma kā Maulik Itihās. Vol. 4. Jaypur: Jaina Itihās Samiti, 1987/1995.

Jain, Sāgarmal & Vijay Kumār. Sthānakavāsī Jain Paramparā kā Itihās. Vārāṇasī: Pārśvanāth Vidyāpīṭh, 2003.

Hegewald, Julia A. B. "Domes, Tombs and Minarets: Islamic Influences on Jaina Architecture." The Temple in South Asia. Edited by Adam Hardy, 179-190. London: British Association for South Asian Studies, 2007.

Hegewald, Julia A. B. "Jaina Temple Architecture: A Progression from Images to Shrines and Temple Cities." South Asian Archaeology 1999. Proceedings of the Fifteenth International Conference of the European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, held at the Universiteit Leiden, 5-9 July, 1999. Edited by Ellen M. Raven, 427-437. Groningen: Egbert Forsten, 2008.

Hegewald, Julia A. B. Jaina Temple Architecture: The Development of a Distinct Language in Space and Ritual. Monographien zur indischen Archäologie, Kunst und Philologie Band 19. Berlin: G.H. Verlag, 2009.

Hegewald, Julia A. B. "Visual and Conceptual Links between Cosmological, Mythological and Ritual Instruments." International Journal of Jaina Studies (Online) Vol. 6, No. 1 (2010) 1-19.

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Jñānmuni [Muni Jñān]. Hamāre Samādhān. Vol. I-II. Sampādak: Muni Samadarśī. Karaṛ/Ropaṛ: Śāligrām Jain Prakāśan Samiti, 1958/1985.

Johnson, Helen M. The Lives of Sixty-three Illustrious Persons (6 Vols.). Translation of Hemacandra's Triṣaṣṭiśalākāpuruṣacaritra. Baroda: Oriental Institute, 1931-1962.

Johnson, William J. "The 'Jina Experience': A Different Approach to Jaina Image Worship." Jainism and Early Buddhism: Essays in Honor of Padmanabh S. Jaini. Ed. Olle Qvarnström, 217-230. Fremont: Asian Humanities Press, 2003.

Joshi, N. P. "Early Jaina Icons from Mathurā." Mathurā. Edited by Doris M. Srinivasan, 332-367. New Delhi: American Institute of Indian Studies, 1989.

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Laidlaw, James. "Profit, Salvation and Profitable Saints." Cambridge Anthropology 9, 3 (1985) 50-70.

Laidlaw, James. Riches and Renunciation: Religion, Economy, and Society among the Jains. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.

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Laughlin, Jack. C. "The Pādukā in Jain Art and History." Jinamañjari 31 (2005) 23-35.

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Naeem [Khan], Nadhra Shahbaz. "Frescos Unveiled: Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Samadhi in Lahore." Marg 59, 4 (2008) 54-59.

Naeem [Khan], Nadhra Shahbaz. "Frescoes in Ranjit Singh's Samadhi Lahore: Paintings, Murals, and Calligraphy (Edited by Barbara Schmitz)." Marg 61, 4 (2010) 72–85.

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