Jain Altarpiece

This Vigraha is from the Jain faith. Cast and assembled as a single piece, this Vigraha shows the twenty-four Tirthankars arranged in a symmetrical fashion.

Who is a Tirthankar? “He is an ordinary soul that was born as a human and attains the status of a Tirthankar as a result of intense practices of penance, equanimity and meditation. As such, the Tirthankar is not defined as an Avatar (god-incarnate) but is the ultimate pure developed state of the soul. Thus he may be called as the God in human form.” From: https://jainworld.com/

This arrangement of the twenty-four Tirthankars in a plaque is called Caturvimsati-patta. As per the Jain faith, these are the twenty-four Tirthankars of the current world cycle.

The Tirthankars are normally identified by their cognizance and the accompanying Sastana Deities. In this case, the identification of the central Tirthankar is ruled out as the cognizance, on the front panel above the Goddess, is not discernible.

The inscriptions at the back are worn and are not readily decipherable. The inscriptions normally tend to be dedicatory in nature. The year of dedication is of main interest.

The perforated arrangement and the geometric patterns catch the eye and imagination. The lack of movement adds to the mystique.

For comparison, I have included a similar Vigraha from the Los Angeles County Museum.

The comparison does two things:

.Gently reminds us why museum-quality figures are called such.

Second, it shows the truthful adherence to the norms of the Silpasastra.

The LACMA bronze, 31 cm in height, is dated to the fifteenth century. It is quite likely the subject of this blog is from the 15th-16th century.

The Vigraha is from Western India and it is about 26 cm in height.


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