Iconography of Jain Tirthankaras
Tirthankara are supreme beings, who help human kind to cross the ocean of worldly existence. The Tirthankara is also known as Jina, the conqueror, one who conquers the internal enemies such as anger, lust, deceit, etc.
Jainism being atheistic tradition, the Philosophy underlying Jain religious practices leaves no scope for any worship of a God. But still, Jains worship Jinas, to acquire the qualities they possessed. A torso from Lohanipur, (near Patna) of 3rd century BCE.is still a controversy among scholars, whether a yogi or Tirthankara, is supposed to be the earliest found icons of the Tirthankara.
The images were simple in Mauryan and Sunga period. The icons were nude and in meditative posture either in Padmasana or Khadagasana, which are the distinguishing characteristics of Jain images. The ‘Panchakalyanakas’ in the life of Tirthankaras were also depicted in the sculptures. Gupta Period was the golden period of art in India. During that period Tirthankara images also underwent changes, becoming more stylistic and decorative.
Growth and Development of Jain Iconography
Royal patronage and the devotion of the Jain community were important factors in the growth and development of the Jain Art and Architecture. Many new concepts were introduced in the iconography like the srivastsa mark, which became a distinguishing mark of Jain images, making them different from Buddha's images. Lanchanas (Symbols associated with the Tirthankaras) were carved on the lower portion of the image of the Tirthankara as images of all Tirthankaras otherwise look alike.
The further development in the imagery showed Tirthankara icons adored as the King depicted with the ‘Asta Pratiharyas’ (8 Honors), namely;
1. Asoka Vruksa (Heavenly tree)
2. Puspavrusti (showering of flowers)
3. Divyadhavani (Drum)
4. Chhatra (Umbrella)
5. Chamara (whisk)
6. Asana (Throne seat)
7. Bhamandala (Aura)
8. Dundubhi (Heavenly Music)
Iconography of Yakshas and Yakshis
The images of Yakshas and Yakshis are also found in variety of forms. Pair of Yaksha and Yakshi, as attendants God and Goddess of Tirthankara were also added in iconography of Tirthankara. Hairs were tied in dextral curls with or without bun. Each Jina is associated with a pair of Yaksha and Yakshi. Hence, there are 24 Yakshas and Yakshis, each having their unique iconographical features.
Features of Jain Iconography
Apart from the stone sculptures, the images were carved in various metals like bronze, brass, gold, silver and pancadhatu (mixture of five metals). Images of precious and semi-precious stones like Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, Crystal, etc. were also made. The different styles of Jina icons were the Tritirthi images, Pancatirthi images, Saptatirthi images, Chaturvimsati images and Sarvotabhadra (auspicious on all sides) or Chaumukha (four-faced).