Tirthankara – Chandraprabha (?)

For sure it is one of the twenty-four Thithankara from the Jaina faith. The Tirthankaras are identified by their cognizance, the identity of the Sassana Devatas, or in two cases by the Cobras protecting them.

In this case, the identification is based on a weak engraving of the crescent moon, just below the seated figure and in between the two lions.

This Vigraha, at 11.5 cm in height, is packed with details, one is left wondering about the techniques used to make this. Going from the bottom to the top along the Prabhavali, the detailing of the Sasana Devatas (one level below the main figure), the Chamara ladies, the kneeling Ghandaras and the elephants (in line with the Parasol) make this sculpture a delight. The inner part of the Prabhavali projects outwards making the Prabhavali a three-dimensional one.

Despite the small population of Jains, you tend to see quite a few of these sculptures. Multiple reasons.

  • Offering these figures to the Jain temples is quite common.
  • The twenty-two Thirthankaras tend to look the same, adding to the perception of numbers.
  • For some reason, these figures tend to be ‘faked/copied’ a lot more.

There are some inscriptions on the back and they are not intelligible to the untrained eyes.

This Vigraha is from Western India and may be dated to the sixteenth century. The unusual feature is the height of 11.5 cm. Normally you tend to see figures that are about 20-22 cm in height. In this case, despite the miniature size, there is no compromise on the quality or detail.

One theory: Given that there are twenty-four Tirthankaras, of which twenty-two are ‘kind of similar’, it is possible that the craftsman makes them in their generic form. And based on the order engraves the Cognizance on the panel. This si one such example. The other example I have, Suparsvanatha, also shows the engraved cognizance.

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