Jain shrine, copper alloy with silver inlays, maker unknown, Gujarat, Western India, 1400-1600
This small copper alloy Jain shrine represents a Jina, one of twenty-four historical Jain teachers who have attained complete liberation. Jain image worship is of a meditational nature and the Jina is seen merely as an ideal, a certain mode of the soul, a state attainable by all embodied beings. Jains stress the importance of austere and rigorous practices and also believe in the existence of a soul.
The shrine is part of a collection of forty-one Indian miniature bronzes assembled by the donor, most of which reflect Hindu iconography. The figures were made in India over a period spanning eleven hundred years, and were produced for use in temples or in household shrines and by pilgrims. As an example of Jain iconography, this image represents one of the India's ancient religious traditions.
These images were intended to remind people of spiritual truths and sacred stories and to function as aids to meditation. They follow forms and dimensions that are carefully prescribed for each deity, and all parts and attributes such as the position of the body, the emblems and ornaments, and the accompanying minor divinities have significance.
The Jina sits on a cushion inside the shrine in the lotus position with his hands in the dhyana position (right hand inside the left hand in the lap, palms upwards) indicating a state of deep meditation. Above his head is a three-tiered umbrella, to the left and right of which are small fly whisk bearers, below which again are two small figures, one on each side. Two larger figures are depicted one each side of the Jina. Behind his head is a halo-like design in the shape of a many pointed star or flower.
The nine holes in the base of the shrine represent the nine planetary deities. The back of the shrine is quite plain but appears to have been inscribed at one stage, possibly with the name of the Jina or with a devotional message from the donor. Silver inlay has been used to mark the eyes, the srivatsa mark on the middle of the chest, and the parasol.
The shrine is copper alloy, probably cire perdue (lost wax) method. While said to have been made in Gujurat, Dr P Pal, in 'The Peaceful Liberators, Jain Art from India', states that most bronzes of the early period reveal high copper content, which remained the case in many parts of India. In Gujurat and Rajasthan, however, shiny brass became the favorite material from about the ninth century.
Small bronze figures like this, representing deities from the Hindu pantheon or the great Hindu epic poems, were made in large quantities throughout India for use in temples, in domestic shrines and by pilgrims. Small figures were more cheaply produced and were portable.
Part of a collection of small bronze figures assembled by the donor. Most of them portray a variety of deities from India's Hindu pantheon and heroes of the Indian epic poems the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, although this small shrine is Jain. The donor purchased the first two pieces for this collection from Spink in London in 1968, and the rest from a variety of sources during the 1990s. This piece was acquired in March 1999 from Spink in London for 1700 pounds.