Yantra of Jambudvipa: A Map of the Known Universe

ca. 1725

Cincinnati Art Museum

Cincinnati Art Museum
Cincinnati, United States

In the Jain religious idiom, the yantra, a mystical diagram of the universe, is an important type of painting. Maps of this type typically were painted on cloth and were used as an aid to meditation. The yantra is drawn on a large scale and follows a schematic configuration based on the circle and the square.

A disk depicted in the center of the Art Museum’s map represents Mount Meru, the Universal Mountain, focal point of the Jain universe. Around its diagrammatic landscape five encircling rings represent jambudvipa, the known universe, composed of various continents, countries, seas, rivers, planets, and constellations. This complex is divided into four alternating zones of seas and continents; the seas are populated by humans and sea creatures, both real and imaginary. The map terminates in an outer ring featuring birds and animals in a continuous landscape. In each of the four corners of the diagram is a Jain saint; these are known as jinas or Tirthankaras. Symbolizing the four cardinal directions, they sit enshrined in sumptuous pavilions flanked by beasts. Four other jinas appear enshrined along the central axis of the painting, flanked by male-and-female couples.


  • Title: Yantra of Jambudvipa: A Map of the Known Universe
  • Date Created: ca. 1725
  • Location: Rajasthan, India (Bikaner School)
  • Physical Dimensions: 37 3/16 x 36 3/4 in. (94.4 x 93.3 cm)
  • Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Bimel, Jr.
  • Accession Number: 1995.81
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Opaque watercolor on cotton cloth

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