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The Jaina Stupa at Mathura: Art and Icons

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Item Code: NAM392
Author: Dr. Renuka J. Porwal
Publisher: Prachya Vidyapeeth, Shajapur
Language: English
Edition: 2016
ISBN: 9788191080179
Pages: 304, (19 B/W and 145 color Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10.0 inch x 7.5 inch
Weight 770 gm
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Book Description

About the Book

Mathura's Jain Stupa: Art & Icons

There are two ways in which the religious traditions in ancient India have been studied: The Indologists studying the scriptures, along with the current practices; and the Archaeologists and Art Historians studying the excavated and explored remains, or the living monuments. Scholars have come to realize now that such study only of the oral tradition and the religious practices, or only of the material remains results in a partial understanding of the past, or even of living religious traditions. In the case of the Vedic-Hindu tradition, it was Ananda Coomaraswamy and Stella Kramrisch, who first tread the path and showed how to complement the understanding of the scriptural / oral tradition with the help of the material, especially the Art Historical, evidence. Current studies carried on by scholars like Dr. Cohen (Later Phase of Ajanta) and Professor Schopen (Buddhism in Andhra Pradesh, Mahayana Buddhism) show us the way the discipline is going to take shape, in this regard, in the near future. Dr. U. P. Shah and Professor Dhaky have done pioneering work in this direction, in the case of Jainism.

I am very glad, therefore, that Dr. Renuka Porwal has taken a very bold step by undertaking the study of the Mathura Sculpture to reconstruct the History of the Jain Church. Besides Valabhi, where the Shvetambara Canon was finally redacted (in early 6th Century), Mathura is the only archeologically important site that has got potential to help understand the cultural history of Jainism.

Mathura was the southern capital of the Kushans (1st to 3rd Century C. E.), who established a vast empire that comprised regions forming parts of modern India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia. This was significant from the economic/ commercial point of view; the area ruled by them was at the hub of the famous Silk Route and Mathura was a strong commercial hand that joined the vigorous international trade with a political authority that treated different religious traditions equally. The Kushan emperors in return expected legitimation from the diverse religious communities that they ruled. The era of Kushans is significant not only archaeologically, but also art historically; it is often described as the 'melting pot' of divergent cultures, and art historically described as the 'Cusp-Era'. As a result two distinct art schools, viz. the Gandhara and the Mathura school of art took their origin and prospered vigorously, in two different parts of the empire. In the initial stages, the two exchanged certain stylistic features as also artistic motifs that helped in their healthy growth. It was natural that the Jain art very naturally expressed itself with a strong assertion, for the first time, and in plenty.

The second reason why the Mathura school prospered was the different environment that also promoted the healthy growth of diverse religious traditions, and the new trends in the three religious traditions of India. These are Pashupata, Panchratra-Satvata in the Hindu agamic, the Sarvastivadi in Buddhist, and Digambara- Shvetambara in the Jaina tradition. It is at Mathura, that for the first time we see the mukhalingas, kayalingas and shrines of acharyas that show affinities to the Lakula-Pashupata sect, the ayagapatas and images of the Jain Tirthkaras, as also the image of the Buddha in Mathura and Gandhara styles. Mathura with its many sacred woods (proverbially twelve) and ghats was not only the sacred setting for the exploits of Krishna-Gopala, but of Buddhist and Jaina acharyas, like Upagupta and Jinabhadra-kshamashramana. The Jaina tradition has a long chain of names of legendary saints right from Jambusami who visited the city. Arya Skandila was very much connected with the 3rd Council at Mathura, and the 'Mathuri vachana'. The list continues to the times of Hiravijaya-suri, a contemporary of emperor Akbar.

If Mathura was the fountainhead of new sculptural trends and iconographic innovations in buddhist and agamic iconography, for the Jain community the most important of the sanctuaries was a Jaina monument known as the 'deve-nirmita-stupa', the vibrant memories of which echoed from time to in literature and inscriptions. It is interesting to note that poet Somdevasuri, in his 10th Century work Yashastilakachampu, narrates the legend of the dispute between the Buddhists and the Jains regarding the 'divine stupa' at Mathura. There is reference in a 10th century inscription to the legendary monument. The account left by Jinaprabhasuri, in his Vividha-Tirtha-Kalpa, shows very clearly that tradition kept alive details like Jinabhadra-kshamashramana (circa 500-600 C.E.) reconstructing the moth eaten text of the Nishitha-sutra with the help of a Ms. preserved in the manuscriptorium of the famous stupa. This tradition of the 'divine stupa' must have attracted the devout Jains for more than a millennium and inspired them to contribute in terms of structures and images built continuously till at least the 11th century, as the material evidence here shows. The story ends when this great Jain heritage was razed to the ground by raiders of Gazna, and was slowly consigned to the womb of the earth. This came to be known as the Kankali tila.

The author, Dr. Porwal, takes a survey of the images of the Jinas, of the growing Jaina pantheon (comprising the yaksha-yakshis, and the other paraphernalia like Shutadevi, Lakshmi, and Balarama and Krishna), and other significant archaeological artifacts like the 'Ayaga-patas'. After the discovery and the report of Growse and Oxon (1874), and the basic study of Vincent Smith 1901) in the form of Jain Stupa and other Antiquities from Mathura, three or four generations of scholars (like V. S. Agrawala, N. P. Joshi, R. C. Sharma) who were closely associated Jain antiquities of Mathura classified the antiquities, sculpture and imagery at Mathura, and stylistically delineated their characteristics. There was another important historical aspect of the studies in the Jain antiquities, which was pursued with equal fervor, and that pertained to the epigraphs found here. Many scholars contributed to this, but most noteworthy among them were of G. Buhler and H. Luders. The latter's Mathura Inscription is still a standard research tool in present times. Dr. Porwal has been fortunate to receive the enlightened guidance of Professor Sagarmal Jain, who gave her an insight to pore into the iconographic details, not only of the imagery of the Jinas and yaksha-yakshis, but also the monks and nuns that find place in the 'saparikara' images of the Jinas, as a part of 'the four fold Jain church'. With the help of these, Dr. Porwal has made a laudable exercise to reconstruct the history of the Spread, all over India, of the Jain faith, and the different spiritual groups that form the Jain community as a whole. With the right use of the art historical and archaeological evidence this meticulous piece of research endeavors to trace origin of various schisms in the course of history of the Jain community; and put that in a rational / historical perspective. As Professor Sagarmal Jain has expressed hopefully in his Foreward to the work, this analysis will not only put the history of the Jain Church in a right historical perspective, but help overcome the chasm of sectarian feelings within the Jain community at large.




Mathura is considered as one of the most sacred city in India since ancient time. The city was also held in high esteem for Jaina Sangha, as per literature and findings. This book on 'Jainism at Mathura' reveals the history of Jainism through available images and sculptures of Jaina stupa and other sanctuaries from Mathura.

The most prestigious stupas available in India are at Sanchi, Bharhut and Mathura. Out of them, only one existing at Sanchi belongs to Buddhism. The other two at Mathura and Bharhut were excavated in 19th century by various ASI officers but were in bad condition of preservation, hence both sites were closed and the available artefacts were sent to Lucknow and Calcutta museums respectively. The stupa at Mathura was dedicated to 7th and 23rd Jain Tirthankaras, as per the scriptures and obtained artefacts, while Bharhut stupa was considered Buddhist as per available sculptures.

The Jaina stupa site - Kankali Tila, at Mathura was famous as "Deva Nirmita' among local people as referred by Growse in 'Mathura-A District Memoir', also more than three images excavated from the site hold such words. In this research work all excavated sculptures and their references in Jaina scriptures are utilized before coming to any conclusion. At Mathura historical evidences are recorded from 200 B.C. to 1200 A.D. on sculptures. Thus at one place, Jainas' fourfold community's history with genealogy of preceptors are available in Brahmi and Devanagari script. The inscriptions match with 'Theravali' of Kalpasutra and Nandisutra. The obtained images of medieval period are of both Svetambara and Digambara traditions. The folk art of Mathura- the women enjoying their routine work like playing a ball, going to adore the shrine with offerings, performing Garba dance, lighting a lamp, gathering sala flowers, playing a harp, seeing a mirror, squeezing hair after bath etc. could be seen on sculptures available from this Jaina site. Most of the material is in Lucknow, Delhi, Mathura, Calcutta, London and other museums of the world.

Last but not the least without the co-operation of my family, such a difficult task of Jainism could not be completed. My father Hiralal Shah, father-in- law Adv. V. C. Porwal, and mother-in-law Liladevi had encouraged me for further studies after I passed LL.B. My mother Saroj Shah, fully devoted to Jainism, wanted me to do some research work in Jaina's forgotten past, I, tried to achieve her wish. I am very much thankful to my grandson Akshat, daughter-in-law Rakhi, son Rahul and husband Jinendra, my brother-in-laws Rajendra, Surendra, Virendra and brother Prakash. While visiting Delhi, Lucknow, Indore, Mathura, Bulsar etc. I received great support from the families of Mr. Ramanlal Parekh, Dr. Shobhit Singhi, Nitin-Mohan Mittal, Mr. Rajendra Pandit, Mr. Sanjay Jain, Piyush Jain and many more.

I offer my gratitude towards them.




Chapter 1: Place of Mathura in Jainism 21-45
Chapter 2: The Tradition of Stupa in Jainism 46-74
Chapter 3: Mathura School of Jaina Art 75-108
Chapter 4: The gradual development of deities in Jaina Pantheon 109-130
Chapter 5: The other Excavated Artefacts of Mathura 131-155
Chapter 6: The Early Epigraphic Records of Mathura 156-232
Chapter 7: Spread of Jainism 233-238
  Bibliography 239-249
  List of Illustrations 250-304


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