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Female Representation In Sculptural Art In Jainism

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Like the Brāhmanical and Buddhists, the Jaina iconography did not take a prominent role in the earlier period of Bengal as well as in Indian art. The images of Tīrthanakaras took a prominent part in the Jaina iconography, but the images of the other gods and goddesses never played an insignificant part in Jaina iconography. Many Brāhmanical and Buddhist gods and goddesses were assimilated into Jaina pantheon.57

The predominance of Jainism at one time in Bengal is hardly in keeping with very small number of images representing that religion. The twenty four Tīrthanakaras are normally shown as naked and stands erect with two hands hanging on sides. A rare, unique, and exceptional seated image of Ṛshavanātha was discovered at Surohor in the Dinajpur district of modern Bangladesh which belongs to the c.10th century A.D.58

Though the images of 24 Tīrthanakaras are available belongs to the Pāla-Sena period but the female divinities of Jainism like Ambikā, the Śāsanadevī, Yakshinis and Mahāvidyās related to Jainism are very few in number in Bengal which belongs to the pre-Pāla period. The chief female deity Ambikā may be regarded as Jaina female counterpart of Puranic Dūrgā. Apart from Ambikā, the Śāsanadevī (Śakti) of the 22nd Tīrthanakara Neminātha, some semi-divine, being known as Yakshinis and Mahāvidyās are also worshipped by the believers of Jainism. However, a few numbers of Jaina images have been found from several places of Bankura, Purulia, South 24 Parganas, districts of West Bengal and the adjacent part of West Bengal to the Chotonagpur plateau.59

Among the Jaina goddess, the most important and popular goddess is Ambikā. She has wide popularity in Bengal from the ancient past to the present. This goddess is sometimes absorbed in Hindu or Brāhmanical pantheon. An image of Ambikā is discovered from Chatrabhog village under Mathurapur-I Block in the district of South 24 Parganas of West Bengal and now it is safely housed in Kalidas Dutta Smriti Museum at Majilpur (DSL-6, Fig. No.120) The image is very antique and the size of the image is approximately 15.24 cm × 10.14 cm. The image is roughly damaged which made of grayish red stone. Its physical features, the style of art, religious tendencies, pose and posture, seating attitude, dresses, composition etc lead us to consider the image as Jaina Goddess. But it is very difficult to identify its surrounding images due to its erosions and dilapidated condition.

The goddess sits in lalitāsana pose on a high pedestal. Figure of a lion, the vāhana (vehicle) of the goddess in the middle of the pedestal and a standing male worshipper with folded hand on the right side of the pedestal are engraved. The two handed goddess holds a child in her left lap with the help of left hand while her right hand is damaged. The face of the child is very close to the left bosom of the goddess.60

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The goddess wears a jatāmukuta (crown head with knot hair), heavy necklace (hāra), round shape earrings (karnakuṇdalas) armlets and anklets. She has round face, width forehead, big eyes and fully damaged nose in the image. Her well developed bosom symbolizes the maternity. The upper back slab is adorned with five or six bunches of mango leafs on head. The presence of a child in her left lap and bunches of mango leafs create like a canopy on head suggest that the image represents as the goddess of Ambikā, the chief mother goddess of Jainism. From the iconographic and epigraphic point of view, it may be conjectured that the image may be assigned to the c. 6th century A.D. 61

Another image of Jaina Yakshini has been found from Kankandighi in the district of South 24 Parganas and now it is safely preserved at Khadi Museum of South 24 Parganas of West Bengal. The black basalt image (Fig No. 118) is tremendously broken and the lower part of the image from waist is fully damaged. Nose, face, left shoulder, bosom, belly and hands are already defaced. The size of the image is approximately 18 cm × 12 cm.

It is to be noted that the bulky face of the goddess is almost square type. She wears a special type coronet which extends upto ears on each side; necklace, and round shaped ear rings and the other ornaments on her body are not clearly understood. Big shape rectangular bulky face, protruding eyes, width forehead and terrific form of the image creates a fearful psychosis in human minds. It appears that the image represents as a Jaina goblin or daemon which may be assigned to the Post-Gupta period i.e. the image belongs to the Pre-Pāla period.62

A broken image of Jaina Āyogapatta, (Fig. No.129-129A) made of grayish mica stone is discovered from Harinarayanpur village of South 24 Parganas and it is safely preserved at South Bishnupur Museum, South 24 Parganas of West Bengal. Some female images, symbols of Jainism are engraved in both sides of the āyogapatta. This is a tantric plate (patta) which the Jaina believers worship in their house. The size of the plate (patta) is approximately 7.19cm×6.2cm×9.1cm and this āyogapatta belongs to the c. 1st century A.D to the 3rd century A.D.

An image of Abhiseka Lakshmi is seen seated on lotus pedestal in Vajraparjānkāsana pose in varada mudrā (gesture) in the rectangular cell of the upper portion of the patta (plate). Two big size elephant on both sides are ready to sprinkle with golden pot (jar) to the goddess. Here, the goddess is bejeweled, wearing cloths, well adorned, crowned head and she is a young handsome lady. Well developed bosom, presentable hair style, wide and magnificent necklace, thick nose and smiling face -including all, she becomes more attractive, beautiful and fascinating.

The left hand of the image is raised with a ghata (pot) which may be called ‘ratnabhānda’ (gems pot or jewel pot), an important feature of the iconography of the goddess Lakṣmī. So, it can be easily identified the image as the goddess Lakṣmī, the goddess of abundance, fortune and prosperity. The worship of mother goddess or Śakti cult in Brāhmanical, Jaina and Buddhist culture and religion had obtained firm footing in early Bengal at least first century A.D.

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