Bronze figure of a tirthankara


British Museum

British Museum

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.The figure probably comes from a shrine of the Digambara ('sky-clad'), sect of Jainism, and probably represents Mahavira. Naked and self-possessed, the bronze figure illustrates two of the common features of Jain imagery. His shoulders are exceptionally wide and strong while his long arms hand loosely by his sides almost down to his knees. The nude body, elongated arms, broad shoulders, extended earlobes and the tight curls on the head are all standard characteristic of an image of a tirthankara.

Show lessRead more
  • Title: Bronze figure of a tirthankara
  • Date Created: 1000/1199
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 44.00cm (Object); Width: 14.50cm (Object); Depth: 8.00cm (Object); Weight: 4.65kg; Height: 44.50cm (On Mount); Width: 14.50cm (On Mount); Depth: 12.50cm (On Mount)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: 1882,1010.26
  • Place: Found/Acquired Deccan
  • Material: bronze
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Elliot, Walter