Lot 1400: Indian Parshvanatha Statuette
December 8, 2016
London, United KingdomLive Auction
Description: 10th-12th century AD. A carved stone figure fragment of Parshvanatha standing nude against a background of coiling snake body and holding lotus blossoms to his thighs; seven hooded cobra rearing above head drilled socket to the underside. Cf. Pal, P. The Peaceful Liberators: Jain Art from India, Los Angeles, 1994, p.135, for a similar statuette now in the Indian Museum, Calcutta. 9.3 kg, 37cm (14 1/2"). From an important London collection, acquired in the 1990s. Veneration of the twenty four Jinas is the most significant devotional focus in Jainism. These perfected-beings serve as role models to guide the faithful on the proper path to liberation from the endless cycles of rebirth. While all are revered as great teachers, four of the Jinas occupy the most exalted positions and have received particular attention in textual and artistic portrayals. Parshvanatha was the twenty third Jina and is believed to have lived in the eighth century BC. He was the penultimate of the Tirthankaras, or 'ford-crossers', the last being Mahavira, a contemporary of the Buddha. According to legend Parshvanatha was protected by the seven-headed snake king Dharana from the attacks launched against him by the demonic Meghamalin. Hence his symbolic creature is a snake and he is always depicted with the seven hoods of the snake rearing over him protectively. It is probable that Parshvanatha is based on a real historical person, possibly a prince, who founded the order of Nirgrantha, or 'the untrammelled', meaning those who have freed themselves from the bonds of Karma. Jinas are always shown in the seated posture or the standing body-abandonment pose, kayotsarga. The latter is a position uniquely Jain and combines vigorous austerity and non-violence through immobility, thereby avoiding even accidental injury to other creatures. Perhaps because Jain images are often indistinguishable from those of the Buddha, a distinctive chest mark, srivatsa, was introduced to establish a deity's identity as a Jina. Early in their history, due in part to a conflict over what constitutes total renunciation, Jainism split into two groups: the Svetambaras, meaning 'white clad' or clothed, and the Digambaras, 'sky clad' or naked. The Digambaras are the more austere sect and their monks consider any possessions, including clothing, a hindrance to spiritual liberation. The central teaching of Jainism is Ahimsa, meaning none-violence. This is summed up by the last Tirthankara, Mahavira who said, Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being.
Condition Report: Fine condition; arms absent.