Cosmic Man

Late 19th Century

Kalakriti Archives

Kalakriti Archives
Hyderabad, India

The cosmic man is a popular theme in late Jain painting although its origins are evident from the fourteenth century. This example is a striking and beautiful painting, characteristic of the north Rajasthan region centred around Bikaner state, and is possibly a late 19th century rendition of an earlier 17th century version (refer Pal, 1994).

The cosmological scheme of the adhaidvipa – world of the mortals – is ‘superimposed on the human body in an attempt to homologize the microcosm with the microcosm (Pal, 1994, pp231). The human body symbolism is sub-divided into the adhaloka (lower world), madhyaloka (middle world), and, urdhvaloka (upper world) each of which is represented differently. The depiction overall is thus acts as cosmic representation - both a picture for the worship of the mandala of the world of the mortals and the enormous body form of Lord Mahavira – the twenty forth Jina, which also embodies the three worlds.

The evil lower world is represented by seven horizontal registers of various colors depicting various carnal acts. The middle world, with the point of origin at Mount Meru and the concentric world of mortals, incorporating all humanity, flora and fauna, is placed over the navel of the cosmic man; the origin myths of man and universe being aligned very literally. The upper world of the gods, in its orderly formulation of courtly tiers, is located on the torso of the cosmic man. The iconography, stylization and chromatic palette of this painting draws from illustrations in contemporaneous manuscripts such as the Samgrahanisutra.

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  • Title: Cosmic Man
  • Date Published: Late 19th Century
  • Location Created: Bikaner, Rajasthan
  • Physical Dimensions: 132 x 65 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Opaque watercolor on cotton
  • Title (Original): Lokapurusa