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  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Temple, entrance sign
    Ellora, Jain Temple, entrance sign

    This sign says that this is a Shri Parshvanath Digambara Jain Temple. Digambara Jain monks take a solemn vow of non-violence. In order not to take any life, they wear no clothes but instead are sky-clad, or digambara. The sign also includes two prominent Jain symbols: om and the swastika. Om signifies a deep wisdom, while the swastika (Sanskrit: su + astika) indicates well-being, good fortune.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Caves, Mahavira
    Ellora, Jain Caves, Mahavira

    Mahavira, the 24th Jain tirthankara, is depicted in a seated position with back straight and eyes lowered under a double canopy. Stylized lions are at his feet.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Caves, elephant
    Ellora, Jain Caves, elephant

    This majestic and huge elephant stands at the entrance to the most complex of the Jain caves. Elephants are associated with royalty and power.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Caves, Yaksha's elephant seat
    Ellora, Jain Caves, Yaksha's elephant seat

    The yaksha guardian, Matanga, sits on a grand elephant who has knelt to offer his back as a seat for the yaksha. The sculptor has placed a lotus bud in the trunk of the elephant to show his docile nature in the presence of this yaksha protector.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Caves, Yaksha Elephant detail
    Ellora, Jain Caves, Yaksha Elephant detail

    Held in the trunk of the elephant is a lotus symboliizing spiritual pursuits and a gentle nature. Placing this lotus in the trunk of this wild and powerful beast, the sculptor may be commenting on the greater power of the Jain practice of non-violence toward all creatures.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Caves, entrance to the Mahavira shrine
    Ellora, Jain Caves, entrance to the Mahavira shrine

    This shrine to Mahavira, the 24th tirthankara, is set within a very large cave with exquisite carvings of several of the 24 tirthankaras.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Caves, tirthankara with animals
    Ellora, Jain Caves, tirthankara with animals

    Demonstrating the Jain practice of non-violence, this tirthankara is depicted with animals and insects at his feet. Near his right leg is a scorpion. Refusing to take life, even in microscopic forms, to make cloth, he lives throughout the year as a "digambara" monk, clothing himself with the sky. Bits of ancient red paint remain on this figure.

  • Thumbnail for Seated Jain statue - side view
    Seated Jain statue - side view

    Marble with details painted in black, gold and blue.19 x 15 inches. This figure, of fine quality, represents a type seen often in Jain art and frequently found in western collections. This image depicts a Jina (victor) that is religious ideal of Jain religion: this is one who is victorious over death, who has achieved spiritual knowledge--similar to the Buddha. They are also known as Tirthankara (Ford Crosser)--that is, one who has crossed to the other side (that is, beyond death). Jains recognize 24 Tirthankaras; the twenty-fourth lived at about the same time as the Buddha and thus was part of same intellectual-spiritual milieu that gave rise to Buddhism. Just as Jains accept many of same principles as Buddhists, the earliest images of Jinas arose in the same time and place as the earliest Budda images. Jinas resemble Buddhas to a great degree: shown in meditation and in yogic posture; Jinas, however, are depicted nude (unlike Buddhas)--'sky clad' being indicative of practice of extreme asceticism. Standing Jinas are always depicted stiffly upright, with unbending posture; in the Jina this distinctive posture communicates the unwavering intent and practice of his austerities, of his spiritual focus.

  • Thumbnail for Seated Jain statue
    Seated Jain statue

    Marble with details painted in black, gold and blue; 19 x 15 inches. This figure, of fine quality, represents a type seen often in Jain art and frequently found in western collections. It is valuable to include Jain images, as students will easily recognize that this image seems closely related to Buddha images--and indeed it represents a similar renunciant type. But there are several clues to its difference. This image depicts a Jina (victor) that is religious ideal of Jain religion: this is one who is victorious over death, who has achieved spiritual knowledge--similar to the Buddha. They are also known as Tirthankara (Ford Crosser)--that is, one who has crossed to the other side (that is, beyond death). Jains recognize 24 Tirthankaras; the twenty-fourth lived at about the same time as the Buddha and thus was part of same intellectual-spiritual milieu that gave rise to Buddhism. Just as Jains accept many of same principles as Buddhists, the earliest images of Jinas arose in the same time and place as the earliest Budda images. Jinas resemble Buddhas to a great degree: shown in meditation and in yogic posture; Jinas, however, are depicted nude (unlike Buddhas)--'sky clad' being indicative of practice of extreme asceticism. Standing Jinas are always depicted stiffly upright, with unbending posture; in the Jina this distinctive posture communicates the unwavering intent and practice of his austerities, of his spiritual focus.

  • Thumbnail for Sarasvati
    Sarasvati

    Information provided by the museum label states, "The religion of Jainism has existed since the fifth century B.C. Like other faiths in India, it teaches that an ultimate goal in life is to seek release from continual rebirth; it also, however, stresses individual responsibility in this process. Jainism honors a large pantheon of deities and supportive beings, many of which are borrowed from Hinduism and Buddhism. "The image of Sarasvati, a goddess respected by both Hindus and Jains, once stood in a Jain temple in India. She sits displaying vara mudra (the gesture of charity) with her left hand. In her right hand she carries a book; in her upper-left and right hands she holds a festooned noose and an elephant goad, attributes normally associated with the elephant-headed god Ganesha. He and Saravati are usually invoked together before beginning literary enterprises." -- India, Karnataka -- Gray chloritic schist -- Coll. Art Institute of Chicago (James W. and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection, 224.1997)

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Caves, yakshini guardian
    Ellora, Jain Caves, yakshini guardian

    Seated opposite her male counterpart, this protective yakshini, Siddhayika, acts as an entrance protector to the second floor shrine to Mahavira. She sits on a lion under the canopy of a mango tree heavy with fruit. Identified with the fertility of the earth, this female earth spirit holds a child on her lap (now missing its head).

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Temple, Parshvanatha tirthankara
    Ellora, Jain Temple, Parshvanatha tirthankara

    Parshvanatha, a digambara monk, is always depicted resting against the coils of a snake and protected under the hoods of snakes. He is also shown over the wheel of a chariot, with elephants, lions, and devotees at his feet.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Temple, Parshvanatha detail, close-up
    Ellora, Jain Temple, Parshvanatha detail, close-up

    Underneath the tirthankara, Parshvanatha, is another image of himself over a chakra. At the foot of the image are lions, elephants, and his protective yaksha and yakshini, all positioned in perfect symmetry.

  • Thumbnail for Seated Jain statue as displayed
    Seated Jain statue as displayed

    Marble with details painted in black, gold and blue. 19 x 15 inches. This figure, of fine quality, represents a type seen often in Jain art and frequently found in western collections. This image depicts a Jina (victor) that is religious ideal of Jain religion: this is one who is victorious over death, who has achieved spiritual knowledge--similar to the Buddha. They are also known as Tirthankara (Ford Crosser)--that is, one who has crossed to the other side (that is, beyond death). Jains recognize 24 Tirthankaras; the twenty-fourth lived at about the same time as the Buddha and thus was part of same intellectual-spiritual milieu that gave rise to Buddhism. Just as Jains accept many of same principles as Buddhists, the earliest images of Jinas arose in the same time and place as the earliest Budda images. Jinas resemble Buddhas to a great degree: shown in meditation and in yogic posture; Jinas, however, are depicted nude (unlike Buddhas)--'sky clad' being indicative of practice of extreme asceticism. Standing Jinas are always depicted stiffly upright, with unbending posture; in the Jina this distinctive posture communicates the unwavering intent and practice of his austerities, of his spiritual focus.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Caves, yaksha guardian
    Ellora, Jain Caves, yaksha guardian

    All tirthankaras are depicted with a yaksha (male earth spirit) and yakshini (female). This yaksha, probably Matanga who is associated with Mahavira, guards one side of a large balcony entrance to the cave's expansive second floor with a central Mahavira shrine. On the other side of the balcony entrance is his female counterpart, the yakshini, Siddhayika. The yaksha, a powerful earth deity, sits on the strong elephant who acts as his throne. This yaksha is framed by a canopy formed by the leaves of a lush tree.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Caves, Adinatha, first tirthankara
    Ellora, Jain Caves, Adinatha, first tirthankara

    The Jain religious tradition traces its origins to the first jina or conqueror, Adinatha, whose name means the original lord. Adinatha is accepted as the first of 24 tirthankaras, human beings who conquered desire and anger to reach a state of complete liberation. The 24 tirthankaras demonstrate that all beings have the potential to achieve liberation by following the path of absolute non-violence.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Temple, Parshvanatha tirthankara close-up
    Ellora, Jain Temple, Parshvanatha tirthankara close-up

    The serenity of this tirthankara, Parshvanatha, is depicted here in the symmetrical smooth lines of the image and in his absolute quiet in the protection of the deadly cobra. Parshvanatha exemplifies the Jain practice of non-violence as a digambara monk at peace with even the most dangerous creatures.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Caves, Mahavira shrine entrance
    Ellora, Jain Caves, Mahavira shrine entrance

    This shrine is dedicated to the 24th tirthankara, Mahavira, who is understood to have lived in the 6th or 5th century B.C.E. Mahavira is depicted seated in the lotus position having achieved a state of pure liberation. Other tirthankaras are depicted behind him.

  • Thumbnail for Ellora, Jain Temple, guru poster photo
    Ellora, Jain Temple, guru poster photo

    The guru of this temple, a digambara monk, is shown on this poster with the broom he uses to brush small animals and insects from his path in order not to harm any living being.

  • Thumbnail for Patta - Jain cosmological image
    Patta - Jain cosmological image

    From Gujarat/Rajastan; ink and colors on cloth; 63 1/2in. x 64 1/8in. (152.2cm. x 163.5cm.) This elaborate and easily readable painted image illustrates the cosmological beliefs of the Jain religion. Essentially the patta is a representation of the creation of the mortal realm. Brightly colored concentric circles superimposed upon meandering streams, figures and texts create a vivid picture of the world as visualized by Jain philosophers in their complex oral and written discourses.