- India, Gujarat (or Rajasthan).
- Solanki period, first half of the 11th century
- Metropolitan Museum of Arts, New York
- Gallery 241
- White marble from Gujarat
This Jina Tirthankara, seated on a bejeweled throne cushion, was most likely intended to represent Mahavira, the historical founder of Jainism. Mahavira, who revived and preached Jainism in ancient India, was an older contemporary of Buddha Shakyamuni in the fifth century B.C.
Both Mahavira and Shakyamuni were princes from Kshatriya familes who left them to pursue spiritual attainment. Kshatriya is one of the four varna (social orders) of Hindu society, associated with warrior aristocracy.
Tirthankara refers to twenty four enlightened spiritual masters who are believed to have achieved perfect knowledge through asceticism.
In Jainism, a Tirthankara is a saviour and spiritual teacher of the righteous path. This ancient practice, celebrated in the Vedas, aims to gain spiritual wisdoms through meditation, austerities and withdrawal to the material comforts of an householder’s life. Central to Jainism belief is non violence (Ahimsa), with an absence of desire to harm any life forms. Jain's are generally vegetarian and thus they refrain from all actions that lead to direct or indirect killing of animals.
A little bit more about this sculpture. It caught my eye because the material looked so beautiful and the shapes so soft. I later learned that it’s made of white marble from Gujrata, the center of Jainism.
The flower-shaped mark on the chest of the Tirthankara is called Srivatsa, which is an auspicious symbol in Jainism. On other Jain sculptures I have researched I also noted swastika symbols which are also found in Buddhism and among many other cultures worldwide. Jainsm and Buddhism have similarities, emphasizing discipline and purification of the mind and body.
For additional context here are the resources and articles I had open to write this post:
- Tirthankara: “ford-maker”
- Remarks on Jainism and Buddhism by Dr. Ananda Guruge and P.N. Jain
- The Vedas
- Kshatriya varna
Other blog posts about Asian Art seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts: