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Marble statue of a tirthankara


Height: 68.580 cm

Given in memory of Sir Alfred Lyall

Asia OA 1915.5-15.1

Room 33: Asia

    Marble statue of a tirthankara

    From western India, AD 1150-1200

    A Jain saint

    The Indian faith of Jainism arose at approximately the same time as Buddhism. Its followers believe in a series of twenty-four tirthankaras, the last of whom was Mahavira (about 540-468 BC), a contemporary of the Buddha. The title Tirthankara means 'ford-maker' and refers to these individuals making 'fords' that allow their followers to cross over from suffering and pain to happiness and perfect knowledge. They are also called Jinas, or 'conquerors' because they have conquered and controlled their desires and attained a state of inner enlightenment.

    This figure has the usual characteristics: tight curls on the head, a slight cranial protuberance, extended earlobes and a srivatsa mark on his chest. Of the 24 Jinas only two can be distinguished from the others visually: Rishabhanatha has long loose hair and Parshvanatha, the twenty-third Jina has a canopy of snakes over his head. In order to distinguish the rest one has therefore to rely on other clues, such as the mount, tree or emblem that each was given. However, as here, artists did not always include these signs, and we are not able to identify which Jina this is.

    The choie of marble, long eyes, smooth rounded face ending in a prominent chin and the long and pointed nose are all typical of western Indian style.

    S. Huntington, The art of ancient India: Budd (New York, Weatherhill, 1984)


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    Indian art in close-up detail, £14.99

    Indian art in close-up detail, £14.99