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Anekantavada Through Painting

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Anekantavada Through Painting
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Item Code: NAE290
Author: Dr. Manju Nahata
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 9788120836006
Pages: 179 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 11.5 inch x 9.0 inch
weight of the book: 984 gms
About the Book

A thought that comes on a person’s mind and picture. This image or picture is rather is externalised into speech or utterance it stays there in the form or shape of an image as a unsubstantial as long as it stays in the depth of the mind. As it gradually surfaces and resurfaces it is, then externalised and concretised in some recognisable form, as speech. Thus, it logically follows, imaging’ precedes ‘materialising’ or externalising or objectifying It is the quality of the mind that should be regarded as a mark of excellence when the image is transferred into ‘Speech’. So image making is a common feature with us and in this sense we are all artists. Now mere objectifying is not the whole truth. A true artist must bring his understanding of the subject matter into an accountable way and add to it the colour of imagination. This capability, generally speaking, is an essential mark of a true artist, so much so that he, as an artist develops the power to make the intelligent viewers happy. In fact, painting like love and music has the power to make man happy. It is the interaction 1etween the painter and the viewer that is the highest reward a painter can think of.

When it comes to considering the interaction among thought language and painting, we should at once take note of the fact that in terms of the Jam philosophy the process of thinking is known as anekänta-drsti and that the manner way of definitively expressing it through a comprehensible medium is generally called sydvada. In terms of anekãntaväda, every phenomenon contains duality in it so painting as a form of fine art cannot escape this duality or, for that matter the concept of non-absolutism. A painter, who for instance, is engaged in giving shape to an abstract idea or even a concrete matter, must also show the duality inherent in it, if he s to give it a touch of inclusive completeness. (The ultimate truth with which he is concerned through the medium of painting can be arrived at through the stepping-stones of duality that must remain implicit in his subject matter.)

About the Author

Dr. Manju Nahata hails from, Sardarshahar a small town in Rajasthan. A multi—dimensional personality, a scholar of distinction, she has won several awards and recognitions including Brahmi Kala Puraskar, Mrinal Kanti Award, Jain Vidya. Pratibha Pruraskar and Shravika Gaurav Sambodhan etc.. She has participated in many group and solo exhibitions. Having completed her Ph.D. in Chitron Mein Anekanta Darshan” from Jain Vishwa Bharti (Deemed University), Ladnun, Rajasthan.

She meticulously fuses her knowledge of Jainism and art in her scholarly and artistic pursuits. As a special endeavour she has painted approximately 1000 Jam manuscripts written by jam monks and nuns. The highlight of her career was the completion of her 4 x 56’ long mural in Indian style of painting with earth colours on the life of her spiritual guide Ganadhipati Tulsi.


The soul of Jain Philosophy is inherent in Anekantavada. Jain philosophy cannot be explained without it nor right faith can be applied. Anekantavada enlightens both the practical and the transcendental.

Many authentic provenances of Anekantavada are available in Agama literature. Acarya siddhasena Divakara Acarya Samantabhadra etc have expatiated both from subtle and comprehensive point of view. Their discussion is important both in tis literal and metaphorical senses.

Dr. Manju Nahata has so felicitously interpreted Anekantavada through paintings. This is indeed a new endeavour and perhaps one made for the first time. She has studied her subject matter with sincerity and has been avidly helped by the scholars whenever she has approached them. Additionally her husband surendra Nahata has encouragingly stood by her side in her noble endeavour as have done the other members of the family. Remarkable is that she has shown enviably virtuosity in concritising (by way of paintings) the abstract. Such an approach I think will be widely appreciated in the fields of art and philosophy.


I am a witness of the hard work and time-consuming efforts that Dr. Mrs. Manju Nahata has put into the research, which she did under my guidance and which is embodied in the present work under the title ‘Anekantavada through Paintings’.

In our own time Anekantavada, ‘the principle of co-existence of self- contradictory attributes’, is being manifested in Super Bizarre forms by the advancement of science. Take, for example, the following statement reported in the Times of India in 2005-

Super Bizarre
Science begins to take a leap into the unknown

As far as common sense is concerned quantum mechanical theory is not just counter-intuitive, it’s way beyond weird. Einstein iii fact famously described it as being downright “spooky”. Consider for instance the case of the German physicist Erwin Schrodinger who produced a seminally path-breaking paper in 1935 which described the condition of a cat in experimental situation that could be both alive and dead at the same time. Since then this kind of “superposition” as it’s called, of existentially untenable states, has become a defining as well as eerie element of the theory. Yet now, uncanny as it seems, a team of scientists lead by Professor Diet rich Leibfried of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Colorado, USA, has succeeded in producing up to a half dozen of atoms of the element beryllium which can said to be spinning simultaneously in two different directions. That’s like saying something can be going up and down, left or right or even back and forth at the same time. And they are not alone. A similar experiment conducted by Australian researchers has also been published in a recent issue of the journal Science.

One can easily imagine the plight of a person who has to deal with such bizarre subject. Fortunately for Dr. Mrs. Manju Nahata such a bizarre state of things was not present before Jainacaryas, whom she has referred to in her work. But whatever was before them, even that is so subtle that only Dr. Satkari Mukherjee, in our times, could resolve the puzzle by taking recourse to the modern concept of a priori and a posterior logic which form the basis of non-dualistic Vedanta on one hand and non-absolutism of Jainism on the other, respectively. Before Dr. Mukherjee who himself also was inclined towards Vedanta, right from Acarya Sankara up to Dr. Radhakrishan all Vedantists have criticized non-absolutism as untenable.

In between what the Times of India reported in 2005 and what Dr. Satkari Mukherjee wrote in 1978 in his excellently insightful work, ‘The Jam Philosophy of Non-absolutism,’ lies the present work of Dr. Mrs. Manju Nahata, where she takes the help of her mastery over the art of paintings to explain non-absolutism of Jainism.

In the first place, the above-mentioned reporting of the Times of India makes it clear that whether we follow a priori logic or a posteriori logic, science has now started revealing that nature can function in a way which is bizarre or beyond logic. Art by its very nature is not rigid like logic as could be clear from the paintings included in this work. These paintings are not based on logic like fixed mathematical formula. Therefore, if a particular idea is depicted by a particular symbol in a particular plate, the same could be represented by another symbol with the same force. This elasticity is not available in logic. This brings Art nearer to non-absolutism which is also elastic to the extent that it can accommodate diametrically opposed attributes. This is why art is nearer to nature than mathematics. I may he excused if 1 say that God is not so much of a mathematician as of an Artist and let me hasten to add that Jainism can be said to have replaced God by non-absolutism in as much as both of them play magic by bringing existence and non-existence together. Compare plate no. 24 of this work and the statement of Lord Krsna- ‘I am existence and non-existence’(Gita, 9.12). In fact this coexistence goes back to the Rgveda where non-existence and existence are said to he coexistent in the supreme space (Rgveda 10.5.7).

This parallelism between Jainism and the Vedic Tradition can he found almost in every dimension of non-absolutism. The co-existence of difference and identity (Plate No. 27) is proclaimed by the Rgveda- ‘the wise speak of one reality in many ways’ (Rgveda 1.164.46). Movement and non-movement (Plate No. 49) are again said to be co-existing in the Isopanisad (5) ‘It moves and it moves not’. For plate no. 47 we can refer to Rgveda (6.9. 1) where time is said to be black and white. Plate no. 46 is represented in Satapatha Brahmana ( by speaking of agni as dry or warm and soma as cool or watery, whereas B1hajjabalopanisad (2.4) speaks of the world as a conglomeration of agni and soma, inward and outward activity (Plate no. 48) is again reconciled in the Isopanisad (9.11). ‘Attached and detached is comparable to action in inaction of the Gita (4. 18). One and many (Plate no. 26) is the focal point of jflãna and vijñäna of the Gita (7.2). Permanent and temporary (Plate no. 23) is represented in the Veda by immortality and death (Yajurveda, 34.31).

This is just to show the universality of non-absolutism. It is, therefore, heartening that Dr. Mrs. Manju Nahata should have expressed non-absolutism through paintings with deep insight. Not only that, but she has also shown deep understanding of the philosophical aspect of non-absolutism in the very first chapter of this work.

In tine, I can safely say that this attempt of Dr. Mrs. Manju Nahata of studying the depths and zenith of such a simple - and, therefore, such a difficult - subject as Anckäntavada through the visual form of Art, is a class by itself. Anekanta is simple and therefore difficult just as straight line is simple and therefore difficult to draw; a zigzag line can be drawn by any untrained hand but to draw a straight line one needs training and practice. Dr. Mrs. Manju Nahata being a painter herself, knows it better than anybody else. Such is the case with Anekäntavada that it is simple if we look at the working of nature, but difficult if we wish to prove it by pure or a priori logic.

The paintings of Dr. Mrs. Manju Nahata have been exhibited and appreciated independently by the experts. The beauty of is this that it attracts even a person like me who is not an expert of the Art of painting. I see these paintings with awe and wonder, which is the essence of adbhuta rasa and the non-absolute nature of Nature is also adbhuta or bizarre as said above. Shall I conclude by saying that the present work is also adbhuta as it combines the philosophical mind of a spiritual seeker with the artistic mind of a lover of beauty?


Any idea, ideology or emotion can be expressed through five mediums of art, i.e. architecture, sculpture, painting, music and verse (literature). Religion or philosophy has used all the five mediums of art to convey its respective messages. For instance, temples and such other places of worship come under architecture and statues of gods and goddesses come under sculpture. Some sects, who do not believe in idol- worshipping, may, if necessary, take recourse to painting, music, verse as individual medium to convey their messages.

Jam Philosophy and Art
Jam philosophy has used all the five mediums of art to express its content, but it is really difficult to express non-absolutism in concrete forms, such as through architecture and sculpture which do have concrete forms. However, as far as my knowledge goes, in Jam tradition we have not found any example or information expressing anekanta by ãcãryas through architecture or sculpture. But still, it is not difficult to find anekanta as expressed through such medium of art as, say, architecture or sculpture. To take one quick example, in picture (pl. 1) a pair of feet of Parsvanatha with a snake around them are shown in opposite and impossible directions to suggest that he could see in all directions. The kevalajnana of a tirthankara that transcends the height of any other knowledge and is the acme of perfection, is thereby suggested as facing and taking into account everything all around.

Traditionally, we have only some examples of paintings in which the ideas of anekanta have been expressed as available in the history of Jam religion. However, according to the Bhagavatisütra, Mahãvira dreamt of ten dreams and from among these dreams the third dream was of a male cuckoo with strange wings (p.82 of this book), though the account of this dream is not found in the form of a painting as far as my knowledge goes; but the dream is definitely a mental picture. Pandit Dalsukh Malavaniyã stated and explained the significance of the third dream in terms of non-absolutism. Spurred on by such traditions, I felt inspired to interpret many of the principal ideas of Jam philosophy through paintings.

It is well known that according to anekantavada the concomitance of contradictory pairs are possible, such as — permanent: impermanent, existence: non-existence, one: many, universal: particular, describable: indescribable, and the like. In the Jam philosophy this theory has been interpreted clearly and extensively.

The Medium of the Expression of Anekäntavda
It is true that ‘words’ form an obvious medium of self-expression in any field of human experience. But we should note that apart from ‘words’, there are other ways of expression in such fields of human experience as painting , sculpture, to name only two. For instance, as early as the 3rd century B.C. we have evidence of the existence of the holy statues of Jinas’ made by sculptors whose names unfortunately are not known to us. But, one thing is sure that through these statues those great sculptors found a medium to express the ascetic lives led by the Jinas. The holy Jam manuscripts, which are painted, carry the Jam tradition down the ages.

The Medium of Expression: Painting
According to Jain epistomology, there are five kinds of knowledge:
I) Matijnana (empirical knowledge)
2) Srutajnana (verbal I articulate knowledge)
3) Avadhijñana (clairvoyance)
4) Manahparyavajanna (mind reading)
5) Ket’aiajI7dna (infinite/ omniscient knowledge)

From among these jnanas only srutajñäna is related to education and explanation. As knowledge is inculcated in Nandisutra, likewise srutajnana - is represented in Anuvogadvara. The meaning of ‘anuyoga’ is ‘explanation’. The medium of explanation is not only words, but also forms or shapes. As we know a thing by its name, similarly with the help of a form we clarify the shape of that thing. In this way understanding a thing with the help of a form is called (sthäpanã) ensconsing it. If the shape resembles the thing mentioned then that is called sadbhavasthapana and if the thing does not resemble its name then it is called asadbhavsthapana if this presentation is done by, carving any piece of wood or stone then it is called a sculpture and if it is painted on a surface or canvas then it is called a painting. Here, we can see that painting is also equally helpful in explaining a thing. An icon of arhat for arhat is an example of sadbhavasthapana, but sometimes conch-shell, pitcher etc, which are considered as auspicious things, are called asadbhãvasthäpanä. In my paintings, I have made use of both of these styles - sadbhavasthdpana and asadbhavsthapana .


Chapter OneAnekanta: Origin and development21
Chapter TwoPainting: Origin and form61
Chapter ThreeRepresenting Anekantavada through paintings
A. Agamic tradition81
B. Post agamic tradition85
C. Traditions other than jain94
Chapter FourTheir philosophy of Anekantavada97
Chapter FiveAnekantavada in practice110
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