Jain Tirthas in Madhyadesha (II)

Published: 17.11.2011
Updated: 02.07.2015

The paper was published in April 1959 in Jain Yug (pp. 67-70). To make this online reissue citeable, the page numbers are added to the text (see squared brackets).

Jain Tirthas in Madhyadesha (II)

2. Chandpur [1]

[67] The deserted and dilapidated town of Chandpur in the Jhansi District has lent its name to a group of medieval temples, Hindu and Jain, whose remains are scattered over a wide area near the ruins of the former town. The temples are situated on both sides of the railway track, about three miles to the north of Dhaura Railway Station (Bhopal-Jhansi Line) and midway between Dudahi and Deogadh. As one comes from Bhopal, one will find the Hindu temples to the left and the Jain temples to the right of the rails. Nearby is the small modern village of Jājpur. The Hindu remains include a theriomorph Varāha with an inscription dated savat 1207, an inscribed monolithic pillar, and a fine Nandi bull lying in front of a ruined Śiva temple whose garbhagṛha houses a well-preserved sahasraliga. Noteworthy for their artistic merits are the Nandi-bull and most of the numerous slabs built by the Public Works Department into the enclosure wall round the Śiva temple. The Varāhamūrti and the Śiva temple are situated on the banks of an artificial lake. The Jain monuments include the colossal image of a Jina (housed in a closed structure with plain walls), the extant porch of a temple, and numerous slabs out of which we have selected two for a more detailed description. Tradition has it that the Jain temples were built by a Jain merchant “Parah Sah” (Mukherji [see below] p. 32). Almost all the Jain remains are situated within a small fenced compound bordering on the railway track.

Before entering into a discussion of the two pieces reproduced as Figs. 1 and 2, we have to acknowledge that it was Stella Kramrisch who for the first time directed the attention of the art-historians to the sculptural remains of Chandpur. In vol. II of her book on the Hindu Temple, she reproduced two photos (by R. Burnier) from Chandpur, one a partial view of the Nandi-bull (Pl. LVIII), the other a full view of a seated Jina (Pl. LVII) [2]. The credit for the exploration of the site goes again to Cunningham and P. C. Mukherji [3]. We hope that the present contribution helps to elicit some [67|68] interest for this solitary place.

The two images to be described here have been kept in the aforesaid Jain compound. The motif represented has so far puzzled all the scholars and no satisfactory explanation has yet been proposed. We have tried to shed some light on the motif in an article on Indian iconography to be published this year in the Deccan College Bulletin. The present investigation is confined to a number of details which have no direct bearing on the problem of identification and which appear only on a limited number of specimens. Since we have no name for the two figures we shall refer to them simply as the “sacred couple”.

Fig. 1. Jain image at Chandpur ("sacred couple")


(Fig. 1) The most interesting features of the first piece are the tree and the relief with the horsemen. The crown of the tree has the shape of two round arches. They consist of lanceolate leaves (forming as it were a garland) with clusters of berries or small fruits. Such “garlands” of lanceolate leaves recur on two representations of the sacred couple as Dalmī and Pākbirā (both in Mānbhūm) respectively [4] but there the fruits seem to be missing. The trunk of our tree resembles that of a date-palm. We have to explain the tree either as a highly stylized date-palm [5] or as an imaginary tree which has no model in reality but whose constituent elements reflect existing botanical forms [6]. A final solution will only be possible on the basis of a general study of tree-stylizations in Indian art. Friezes with horsemen appear in quite a few cases below the sacred couple, but serial representations of other figures (children etc.) are more common.

On an image at Būḍhī Chanderi (kept in the temple in the south-west corner of the dharmshala compound) horse-riders alternate with elephant-riders. On the Pākbirā image mentioned above the bottom frieze shows various scenes with children, including a child riding on a lion. A Gandhāra sculpture in the Peshawar Museum has on the bottom frieze among other children one seated on an unidentified mount. [7] It may be tempting to connect the riders which appear on medieval representations of the sacred couple with the riding children of Hellenistic art. But not only is the distance in time considerable, not only are the motifs different (the medieval images show riding men instead of riding children [8]), we also find no support for this theory in Gandhāra art; there the the children below the sacred couple (appearing here in its Buddhist version) are not shown as riders. The solitary riding child of the Peshawar image on [68|69] the one hand and of the Pākbirā image on the other are too weak a link to establish a firm connection between the medieval horsemen and the Hellenistic riding children.

The other elements of our image (adorants to the lower left and right, jar-bearers to the left and right of the heads, a seated Jina on the crown of the tree) are common features of medieval mūrtis and have no special connection with our motif. A child climbing the tree is found on a very large number of images of the sacred couple. That the male as well as the female figure carry a tall headdress is not very common but finds a parallel in an image at Khajurāho. [9] Since all the arms are broken it is impossible to say anything about the attributes in the hands. But the left upper arm of either figure is slightly damaged and it may be inferred that both figures carried in their left hand a child which was partly attached to the upper arm.

Although the piece has no stylistic peculiarities, we think that the tree and the horsemen-frieze display a realism seldom found on such images.

Fig. 2. Jain image at Chandpur ("sacred couple")


(Fig. 2) The second image is less carefully executed than the first but has also a few features which call for a brief comment. At the height of the heads of the principal figures a miniature-replica of the crown of the tree projects from its trunk. This is only one out of several possible elaborations of the tree of the sacred-couple-motif which may here be discussed in short:

  1. Since the Jina is usually represented under a tree, the artist adds a second crown (smaller than the first) above the crown proper on which the Jina is seated. Iconographically speaking, this second crown is only an appendix to the miniature image of the Jina; but actually it forms a very conspicuous element within the composition (Small image in Jaina temple No. 31 at Deogarh).
  2. The Jina being normally seated on a lotus, the artist represents a lotus flower - sometimes emerging from a thick stalk - in front of or rather on the crown of the tree (Image in Jaina temple No. 16 at Deogarh).
  3. A campanulate or bell-shaped member appears immediately below the crown, representing as it were the big lower branches of the tree (Image on the south-west corner of the great wall at Deogarh).
  4. A miniature-replica of the crown is added immediately below the crown proper, serving as a seat for the Jina (U. P. Shah, 1. c. Fig. 46).
  5. A miniature crown appears far below the crown proper and serves as a seat for a child (our image).

The seats of the two principal figures are clearly characterized as “mohā”. In Fig. 1 we find similar round seats, but there they are of a simpler type which is very common in representations of the sacred couple. Moreover the seat of Fig. 1 is influenced by the lotus-seat of the Jina: lotus-petals are incised on its upper and lower zone, only the middle zone being plain.

The right foot of the male figure rests on a roughly carved lotus, the right foot of the female touches the ground. In other cases it is the other way round, or both figures place their right foot on the ground, or the lotus is completely absent. The presence of the lotus below the foot of only one of the two figures does not seem to express inequality of rank or any other difference. The artists simply availed themselves of all these four possibilities. [69|70]

Caparisoned horses as they appear on the bottom frieze (first and third horse from the left) are unusual. The motif recurs on a memorial pillar from Terahi, now on the premises of the Gujari Mahal Museum, Fort Gwalior [10]. The unidentified figures on the extreme left and right of the bottom panel have nothing to do with the horsemen. On account of the remaining portions and on account of numerous parallels, we can restore the attributes in the hands of the principal figures as follows:

fruit/child --- fruit/child [11].

An exact dating of our two images will hardly be possible. Medieval pieces of the same style need not be contemporaneous, and medieval pieces of different style do not necessarily belong to different periods. It seems therefore hazardous to assign on stylistic grounds an accurate date to sculptures of the 10th-11th centuries. [70]


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Jain Yug (1959)

Compiled by PK


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