Embroidery from India and Pakistan, £10.99
Height: 13.500 inches
Gift of the Secretary of State for India in Council
Asia OA 1901.12-24.5
Room 33: Asia
Red sandstone figure of a tirthankara
Kushan dynasty, 3rd century
From the region of Mathura, central India
A Kushan image of a Jina
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 necessary iconographic requirements for a Jina: he is broad shouldered, nude and adorned with the auspicious srivatsa mark on his chest. Among other supernatural marks are the elongated earlobes and cap-like hairstyle of stylized curls shaped like snail shells.
The beautifully preserved nimbus behind the figure stresses its divinity. The busy lotus blossom pattern surrounded by a register of spearheads, symbolizing light, contrast with the plain nature of the figure itself.