Jain images in print

THE CHENNAI Government Museum, not content with mere possession of its rich collection of sculptures and bronzes, recently brought out a monograph on one of its most-valued collections, Jain iconography.

There are 73 Jain images in the Museum, both sculptures and bronzes. They have been visually captured in a document form. Other than information on each image, the publication also goes beyond the physical features. There are exhaustive references to Jain literature, theosophy, and philosophy, which have been used to understand the meaning of each image.

Though dealing with a heavy subject, the document, ``Iconography of the Jain images in the Government Museum, Chennai'', is sleek and has photographs of the images in colour. Authored by two senior Museum officials, its publication coincided with the celebration of the 2600th birth anniversary of Bhagwan Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara.

The book talks of the collection in the Jain Gallery that represent many shades of south Indian art developed during some of the famous dynasties. The Jain sculptures, covering a period of over 800 years from 8th Century A.D. to 16th Century A.D., are grouped geographically into three categories and from the present regions of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Detailed notes have been provided for the images which throw a lot of interesting information. There is a reference to the sculpture of Ajithanatha, the second Tirthankara. Ajithanatha was the son of King Jitasatru and Queen Vijaya of Ayodhya. He was named so because his mother could not be defeated in gambling by the king so long as he was in his mother's womb, the publication says.

A beautiful sculpture of Mahavira, depicted in seated Ardha- Paryakasana posture on a rectangular base, has been described as a fine Jain version of the Chola school of art. It was discovered in Vyasarpadi lake and the document says that this ``stands out as the best among the Jain sculptures collected in and around the city''.

Among the Jain bronzes, an icon of Tirthankara is depicted in a yogic posture. It belongs to the late Pandya period - 12th century A.D. The illustration which is portrayed in the front cover of the book is another exquisite bronze of Tirthankara. This 800-year-old image was taken from Tirumalai of Polur taluk in the erstwhile North Arcot district.

The book, priced Rs. 200, has been prepared by the Commissioner of Museums, Dr. R. Kannan, and Mr. K. Lakshminarayanan, Curator for Education Section.

By T. Ramakrishnan