Jainism was established during the sixth century BCE. Like Buddhism, Jainism was largely formed in opposition to Brahmanism, which emphasised sacrificial rituals and the hierarchical caste system. In contrast, Jainism advocates truth, detachment, self-discipline and modesty, and opposes all violence and discrimination. The Jain religion centres on the worship of twenty-four Jinas, liberated beings whose lives epitomised Jain ideals.
Jain architectural monuments, typically adorned inside and out with elaborate carvings, are among the oldest and most sophisticated in India. It is the serene elegance of Jina imagery, however, that most strongly reflects the asceticism central to the religion. The standing Jina of this column is naked, indicating that this image was made for members of the Digambara or ‘sky clad’ sect of Jainism. Digambara monks disassociate themselves from all earthly possessions, including clothing. The Jina’s only adornments are the whorls around the nipples and the shrivatsa mark, an auspicious and ancient symbol, on his chest. The Jina holds lotus blossoms in each hand, while his long arms hang away from the body in a pose representing body-abandonment (kayotsarga). Attendants with flywhisks, celestial garland bearers and elephant riders surround the Jina.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008