Ambika (Jain)

This is Ambika, a Yakshini from the Jain pantheon. Ambika, in this case, is identified by the two children and her vahana, a lion. The Jina figure above her head reinforces the affiliation to the Jain faith.

The story of Ambika, as found on the auctioneer Christies site is reproduced below.

According to Jain tradition, Ambika offered food intended for a Brahmin celebration to a mendicant Jain monk and was consequently banished to the forest by her husband, Soma. Taking her two sons with her, she sustained her children’s thirst with her tears and their hunger with mangoes, and she devoted herself completely to the Jain Tirthankaras. Fearing further punishment from her husband, she cast herself into a well, whereupon she was reborn as the glorious goddess Ambika.”

The Jina figure above her head is an intriguing aspect. The five-hooded cobra suggests the Jina is either Parasvanatha or Mahavir. More likely the former. Normally Ambika is associated with the twenty-second Tirthankara Neminatha.

The back view shows the serpent’s body, reinforcing the suggestion that the canopy above Jina’s head is indeed a Cobra. The book Jaina Rupa Mandana by Umakant P Shah (Figure 87) has an example of the Parasvanatha figure with Ambika as the Sasanadevata.

Going back to the story of Ambika, the sequel is that her Vahana is actually reborn Soma, her husband. To quote U P Shah ‘ Her husband too filled with remorse died after her, but due to Abhiyagic Karma was born a lion and became a vahana of Ambika’.

This Vigraha thus captures what happened over two births and it merges ‘time’.

This Vigraha is from Western India and it is about 12 cm in height. The inscriptions add to the intrigue of this Vigraha. This may be dated to the fifteenth century or earlier.

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