MEMBERS of the Jain or Śrâvak sect are to be found in most of the large towns of the Lower Ganges and Rajputana, but the yare probably most numerous in Gujrat, Dhârwâd and Maisur. As their name implies, they are followers of the Jinas, or ‘vanquishers’ of sin – twenty-four men whom they believe to have obtained nirbarn, or emancipation from the changes of transmigration. With them life – which they not distinguish from soul, - and its vehicle matter, are both uncreated and imperishable, obeying eternal physical laws, with which asceticism and religious ritual alone can interface. Their ceremonial has, therefore, no real reference to a Supreme Personal God, and their doctrine excludes His providence. This points to their connection with the Buddhists; indeed, there can be little doubt that they owe their origin, at a very early date, to some heretical sect of Hinayâna school of that persuasion, and probably owed in part their popularity, on the decline of the purer Buddha doctrine, to their admission of the worship of some of the favourite Hindu divinities into their system and their retention of the tyranny of caste customs.1

From the tenth century, if not from an earlier date, the Jains have been distinguished as builders of sumptuous temples to their JINAS or TIRTHANKARS. These temples have bee nraised chiefly at their sacred mounts, at Parasnâth in the west of Bengal, at Śatrunjaya, near Pâlitânâ. It is coverd with temples, many of them of very recent date, and of great beauty, and is altoghether one of the most remarkable places in India.

Though Abu is not one of the greater Jaina tirthas, or holy places, it can boast of at least two of the most beautiful of their temples in India. These are at Délwàdâ or Devalwâdâ – ‘the place of temples’ – about a mile north of the station. There are five temples here in all, one of the largest being a three-storied one, dedicated to Rishabhanâth, the first of the twenty-four Tirthankaras, or deified men whom the Jainas worship. The shrie, which is the only enclosed part of this temple, has four doors. This is called a Chaumukh, and is a not unfrequent form of the image of this Tirthankar:-

“ ‘Tis lifeless stone, a rayless joyless dark
Portrayed, - stagnation, death, the grave of thought!
Yet here the worshipper hath come to gaze
On men to gods transformed; hath come to bend
Lowly as to his only God; he robbed
His nature of each godlike relic left,
Then worshipped the foul ruin of himself” 2

On the west side the temple has a double mandap or portico, and on the other three sides single ones, each supported on eight columns. The corners between these domes are occupied by six more columns, which with the four columns added to each octagon to form the square, gives sixteen on each quarter between the lines of entrance. Over the square formed by the pillars on the lines of the inner sides of the octagons, raise the pillars of the second story, whilst the walls of the shrine are carried up to the roof. This form of shrine, with its four approaches, ample domes, and shady colonnades, is a fine type of the Jaina style of temple architecture, and from it, by very simple modifications, the other prevalent forms may easily be deduced.

To the north of Rishabhdeva’s Chaumukh, and on a raised platform, is another temple, without a spire, but with a roofed mandap, and which is locally known by the ame of Bheneśah’s.

To the S.E. by S. from the Chaumukh is a third temple, enclosed by a high wall, and known as Dailak, or the temple of Adiśvara (or Rishabhnâth) an Gorakhalanehan.

But it is to the west of the Chaumukh that the two finest temples are, - that known as Vimalśah’s dedicated to Adiśvara, the first Tirthankar, and opposite it, on the north side, is the temple of Vastupâla and Tejapâla, dedicated to Neminâtha, the twenty-second of the Tirthankars. The date of the formar seems to be given in an inscription, hitherto undeciphered, but in hich can be read the sentence, -

“Samvat 1088 (A.D. 1031), by the blessing of Ambâ, Vimalśah built the temple of Adinâtha: this plate records its repair in Samvat 1379 (A.D. 1322), on Monday the ninth of the light fortnight of Jyehth.”

Several inscriptions over the shrines around the court are dated in Samvat 1245 (A.D. 1188), and record their dedication to Śâninâth, the sixteenth, and Aranâth, the eighteenth Thirthankar, by “Yasodhavala, of the race of Prâgvâta,” or his family.3

Both temples are built of white marble, and carved with all the delicacy and richness of ornament which the resources of Indian art of the age in which they were erected could devise.

“Were twenty persons,” says Mr Fergusson,4 “asked which of these two templese where the most beautiful, a large majority would, I think, give their vote in favour of the more modern one, which is rich and exuberant in ornament to and extent not easily conceived by one not familiar with usual forms of Hindu architecture. The difference between the two is much the same that exists between the choir of Westminster Abbey and Henry the Seventh’s Chapel that stands behind it. I prefer infinitely the former; but I believe nine-tenths of those who go over the building prefer the latter.

The plan of the temple of Vimalśah will be easily understood from the annexed woodcut, and it will also suffice to explain the general arrangements of Jaina temples, which, though of very great variety in size, are mostly tolerable similar in plan. It consists of a shrine [c] lighted only from the door, containing across-legged seated figure, in brass, of the first Jina – Adiśvara, to whom this temple is dedicated:-

                                “Behold the spot.
Where high upraised, with regal ensigns round,
Enthroned sits the BRAZEN DEMIGOD!
Gase on these lineaments, the awe-ful front,
Meet semblance deemed of the sublimest hope
Vouchsafed to man”5

In the front of this is a portico which, with he shrine, is raised five steps above the surrounding court. This is approached through the mandap, or outer portico, of twelve columns, arranged in a square covered by a dome resting on eight of these: the two inner columns on each side being so arranged as to form an octagon. The whole is enclosed in an oblong court-yard about 140 feet by 90 feet, surrounded by fifty-five cells, each of which contains a cross-legged statue of one or other of the Tirthankars:-

“High honoured they; in several cells apart,
each meditative god or mortal sits,
As in devoutest contemplation wrapped.”

The door-posts and lintels of these cells or subordinate shrines are carved in most elaborate devices, with human figures interspersed with foliage and architectural ornaments of the most varied complexity. In front of these cells, and forming porticoes to them, is a double colonnade of smaller pilars, their bases standing on a platform raised three steps above the court. In a small cell in the south-west corner is the image of Ambâji, a devi or familiar goddess, always associated with Neminâtha.6 Chakresvari being the Śâsana-devi of Adiśvara or Rishabha; but as Vastupalâ’s temple is dedicated to Neminâtha, and the adjoining cell contains also a colossal black marble image of the same Tirthankar, it may possibly be an indication that this temple was also at first dedicated to Neminâtha. On each side of the three outer faces of the mandap or dome, the roof is carried over four pillars so that of the corridor in front of the cells, thus leaving two small square courts near the front corners of the enclosure, besides the open space round the central shrine, to admit light to the whole area.

“Externally,” says Mr. Fergusson,7 “the temple is perfectly plain, and there is nothing to indicate the magnificence within except the spire” – or rather pyramidical roof – “of the cell peeping over the plain wall; though even this is the most insignificant part of the erection.” And, as he remarks elsewhere, “the external porch, too, is insignificant, so thato ne is totally unprepared for the splendour of the interior; but I do not know anything in architecture so startlyin as the effect when the door is opened, and the interior first bursts on the astonished traveler.” Indeed it is scarcely and exaggeration to say, - as has already been said of this and its sister temple, -

“Tis airy lightness all, as if the hand
Of Grecian Artist, in felicitous modd,
Had reared it for the Graces: Elegance
Smiles on the scene, and Beauty’s mistress
Are guardians here, and weave their light wings around,
rough thee the polished alabaster sheds
A more than earthly brightness; the white floow
Shows like a sea of milk; the pilars stand
Symmetrical, its fellow answering each,
Alike embossed, alike with quaint device
Endlessly blazoned, -or with bestial shape,
Or human, in each varying attitude
And Drapery, - flute, and song, and merry dance
Fantastically blended.”8

“Outside the temple, and facing the entrance, is a square building, supported by pillars, and containing nine elephantine statues, each of one block of white marble, about four feet in height. On each of them is (or rather was, for the Mogra,” or Mughal, “Rajâ has been at work here), besides the Mahaut, a male figure seated on a rich howdah.” They represented the worthy Śeth, or merchant, Vimalśah, and his family going in processon to the temple. He, however, having been carried off, an equastrian statue of him has been placed in the doorway – “a most painful specimen of modern art, made of stucco, and painted in a style that a sign-painter in England would be ashamed of.”

In Vastupâla’s temple this procsession, with an elaborately carved dahgoba in the centre, “occupies the place of the cells behind the vimana,” or shrine, “in that of Vimalśah, and separated from the court by a pierced screen of open tracery, the only one I know of, of that age; a little rude and heavy, it must be confessed, but still a fine work of its kind. Behind it are ten elephants of vary exquisite workmanship, and with rich trappings sculptured with the most exquisite precision. The ‘Mogra Râja’ has, however, carried off all the riders. In this case, however, the loss is not so great, as behind each elephant is a niche containing statues in alto-relievo of those who were, or were to be, mounted on them. There are Vastupâla, with his one wife, Tejpâla, with two; and their uncle who seems to have been blessed with three; in short the whole famiy party. The men are fine-looking fellows, all with long flowing beards; but I cannot say much for the ladies, who are generally sharp-visaged, sour-looking dames.”9

  • 1. For further information see Indian Antiquary, vol. ii. pp. 15, 16, 193 — 200, 261—265, &c., and Introduction to The Temples of Śatrunjaya, Bombay, 1S69.
  • 2. ”the Dilwârâ Temples of Abu,” in the Oriental Christian Spectator for 1840, pp. 523-525
  • 3. Asiatic Researches, vol. xvi, p. 312.
  • 4. Picturesque Illustrations of Ancient Architecture in Hindustan, P. 39.
  • 5. Oriental Chris. Spec., ut sup.
  • 6. Tod says this cell is dedicated to Bhavâ ni (Travels, p. 106.)
  • 7. History of Architecture (ed. 1867), vol. ii. P. 265.
  • 8. Orient. Chris. Spel., ut smp., p. 525
  • 9. Picteresque Illustartions, p. 40; and compare Tod’s Travels, pp. 107, 108, 111.