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Marcel Nies

4. Jina Shantinatha
India; Rajasthan
11th century
height 137 cm.

Jina Shantinatha

Jainism has been continuously practised since at least the eight century B.C. and has a current following of some six million people. Together with Buddhism and Hinduism, it is one of the three major world religions to have emerged in India. Jains believe that an immortal and indestructible soul (jiva) resides within every living being. The goal of a Jain is to achieve a state of liberation via a chain of rebirths. They believe in a group of 24 Jinas, also known as Tirthankaras or conquerors. The 16th Jain Tirthankara Shantinatha is known as 'Shanti Natha', the lord who brought 'peace' to his kingdom. He is said to have revived Jainism at a time when it was in danger of extinction and thus assured the faith's survival. Over time he came to be invoked to avert calamities and ensure calm in the world (Shanti means 'peace' and Natha means 'lord').

Shantinatha is depicted naked in a standing posture on a simhanada (a throne comprising two lions), each of them with one of their legs raised to the Dharmacakra. Two small attendants are praying to this wheel of the law which is placed in the centre of the throne. The god is escorted by Yaksha Garuda and Yakshi Mahamanasi who are depicted at the sides of the throne. The Jina is identified by the presence of a deer depicted on the carpet coming down from his feet, the extremity visible in the base. The Mahapurusha; 'the great noble man' is in addition characterised by the length of his second toe and the prominent srivatsa mark, illustrated on his chest.

The piece is a classic example of the Jain central Indian schools of art during the 11th century. The high quality carved sculpture displays elongated body shapes and smooth modelling with a polished surface. The circular knees and nipples, the two lines in his belly, the pillared construction of the lotus throne and the symmetrical floral design (srivatsa) on his chest, are all typical characteristics, and may be compared to dated Jain images from the 11th century. See P.Pal, 'The peaceful liberators', Jain art from India, nr. 21, dated 1062 A.D.

This large imposing and monumental torso of the Jina Shantinatha is depicted with imaginative splendour and beautiful physical realisation. The elongated body shapes have fine volumes and pure lines, enhancing the wonderful presence of this Jain sculpture. With an aura of mystic silence, the piece is a superb example within the cultural heritage of Jain art, an expression of the 'ideal' of non-attachment to the physical world.

Published: 'De trap naar de verlossing', 2500 jaar kunst en religie van het Jainisme, J.v.Alphen, page 142, nr. 67.

Exhibited: Ethnographic Museum, Antwerpen, 26 May - 15 October 2000.

all text, images © Marcel Nies

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