JAIN ARCHITECTURE AND SCULPTURE IN KARNATAKA
There is an inseparable relation between the religious practices and art forms in the context of ancient Indian art and Jainism is not an exception. Karnataka which has had Jainism as an influential presence all through the previous millennium has evolved a unique art tradition which borrows extensively from the pan Indian situation also.
Jaina temples are technically known as ‘Chaityalaya’ (caityAlaya) or ‘Jinalaya’ (jinAlaya). However they are called ‘basadi’ or ‘basti’ in Karnataka. Usually, in these temples there is a synthesis between the prescriptions made in the ancient texts on architecture and iconography and the features adopted by contemporary art styles prevalent during various historical epochs. The major constituents of a Jaina temple in Karnataka are the garbhagriha (Sanctum), antarALa (vestibule), navaranga mantapa (saBA manTapa, pillared hall) and a mukhamanatapa (portico). The shapes and sizes of these structures vary based on utility. Sometimes the sanctum accommodates five or 24 teerthanakaras instead of one and consequently it will be elongated. The ground is rectangular, stellate (star shaped) or off setted depending on the choice of the architect. Once in a while there is additional sanctum above the main sanctum called ‘upparige’. This is illustrated in the ‘mElguDi’ temple at IhoLe, haLLUr and the Jinalayas at Pattadakallu and Shravanabelagola in Karnataka. The shikhara of these temples are engraved with the icons of yakshas and yakshis. Exterior walls consist of a basement, proper walls and a parapet like structure. All of them are decorated minimally.
The free standing tall pillars in front of Jaina temples are called ‘Manastambha’s or ‘Brahmastambha’s. Usually, four teerthankaras or yakshas are carved atop these stambhas in small mantapas (chaumukhas). Occasionally, round or square short stones called balistambha (or mandAra) act as substitutes for these pillars. Enclosures around these basadis are called ‘parisUtra’ or ‘paridhi’. These are present in most Jaina temples.
The building material used for the Jain temples are varied depending on the historical epochs. Wood, brick and mortar, (talakad temple) granite, (halsi temple) soap stone (haLEbID) and sand stone are some of these raw materials. This factor is dependent also on geographical specificities of the region. Architectural styles prevalent during those times were adopted by the Jain temples also whether they are drAviDa pallava as in the case of ganga basadis or ‘vEsara’ as in the case of ‘brahma jina basadi’ built by attimabbe in lakkundi.
An emphasis should be laid on the basadi at ‘halasi’ in Belgaum district built by mrigEshavarma the Kadamba king, lotus basadi in Belgaum, pentagonal basadi in humacha, thousand pillared basadi at mUDabidri, caturmukha basadi at kArkaLa, shankha basadi at lakshmEshvara as also the more celebrated basatis at Ihole, Pattadakallu and Badami if one were inclined to study the architecture of the Jaina temples in Karnataka in detail.
The sculptural wealth of Jains with respect to Karnataka may be treated in three categories namely teerthankaars, bAhubali and yaksha-yakshis. The statues of the teerthankaras do not give much scope for innovations because they are controlled by rigid prescriptions. “According to the Jaina canons of art, the Tirthankaras are to be carved either in the sitting or in the standing posture. They are not to be attributed with any ornaments. In the sitting posture, the Jina crosses his legs and places his two hands with the palms upturned on his heels. He is not even allowed to turn his face either to the left or to the right. This rigid yogic sitting posture is called paryankasana. In the standing posture Jina's feet are placed evenly and his hands are hung on either side of his thighs without touching them. No flexion in his body is permitted. This standing meditative posture is called kayotsarga.” (H.R. Raghunatha Bhat)
course, Karnataka is best known for the statues of Bahubali at Shravanabelagola,
Karkala, Venuru and Dharmasthala. The majastic icon of Lord Gomateshvara at
shravanabelagola draws pilgrims from all over
The lack of variety in the statues of the teerthankaras is more than compensated in the icons of yakshas and yakshis. They are often accorded the status of minor deities as in the case of PAdmavathi and Jvalamalini. They are sculpted in various postures, ornamentations and the yakshas are also given different weapons.
The Jaina icons are made of stone, metal and stucco (A light, malleable plaster-like substance made from dehydrated lime (calcium carbonate) mixed with powdered marble and glue and sometimes reinforced with hair.) This variety in the raw material gives room for novelty and experimentation.
In the field of painting the Jaina contribution is confined to the murals at Shravnabelagola and other places as also the paintings and drawings found on ancient manuscripts. The ‘dhavaLa’ manuscripts at Mudabidri are justly celebrated for their intricate beauty. The frescos at Shravanabelagola deserve a lot of praise.
Thus, Jainism has made a number of unique contributions to the fields of architecture, sculpture and painting in Karnataka.
1. http://jainsamaj.org/literature/jaina-220904.htm (An important article by Dr H.R.Raghunatha Bhat)
2. ‘Early Chalukya Art at Ihole’ by Sindagi Rajasekhara, 1985, Vikas Publishers.
4. ‘Janism: art, architecture, literature and philosophy, by H.Rangarajan, 2001, Sharada Publishing House.
‘Jaina Contribution to Art and Architecture’ by P.H.R.R. Bhat
2001 - Sharada Pub. House