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Friday, 2 September 2011

Statues of Parshvanath Bhagavan

An ancient religion from the Indian sub-continent, Jainism shows the way to supreme bliss and liberation through ways of harmlessness and renunciation. There was a time when it was believed that most of the Jain population dwelled in India, but today followers of this beautiful religion are situated all over the world. As two of the prominent figures in Jainism are Bhagavan Mahavira and Bhagavan Parshvanath, small and big statues of these Gods are a part of a majority of Jain households.

While the profound religion has not been founded by a single great soul, prophets called tirthankaras or ford-makers have revealed the different facets of Jainism and shown the way for achieving supreme spirituality and liberation to the followers. In what jains call the present age, there have been twenty-four tirthankaras namely Adinatha (Rushabhnath), Ajitnatha, Sambhavanatha, Abhinandana Swami, Sumatinatha, Padmaprabhu, Suparshvanath, Chandraprabhu, Suvidhinath (Pushpadanta), Shitalnatha, Shreyansanatha, Vasupujya Swami, Vimalanatha, Anantanatha, Dharmanatha, Shantinatha, Kunthunatha, Aranatha, Mallinatha, Muni Suvrata Swami, Naminatha, Neminatha, Parshvanatha, and Mahavira (Vardhamana).

Bhagavan Mahavira and Bhagavan Parshvanatha are the two most loved tirthankaras. While stories and teachings of Mahavira are popular and carry all five principles of Jainism, namely no lying (satya), no stealing (asteya), no possessions (aparigraha), no violence (ahimsa), and chastity (brahmacharya), the 23rd tirthankara, Parshvanatha is closely associated with amnesty and compassion and preached the first four principles excluding chastity. Statues of Mahavira and Parshvanatha represent the three jewels of Jainism; Right Faith – Samyak Darshana, Right Knowledge – Samyak Jnana, and Right conduct – Samyak Charitra.
The two main festivals for Jains are Paryushana and Diwali. While Diwali is a festival celebrated by Hindus as well, Paryushana or Dasa Laksana, also known as Parvadhiraj is typical of Jainism and is believed of having the power of showing the path of salvation. During the eight days of Paryushana, followers pray, worship, meditate, and fast. With a purpose to purify the soul by looking inward, this festival is widely practiced by followers of Jainism, teachings of Parshvanatha and Mahavira.

Principles like not eating after sunset, not consuming food items like garlic, onions, potatoes, etc. are still followed throughout the year by some staunch jain families.

Idols of the 24 tirthankaras of the Jain religion are identical as they represent the same qualities and virtues. However, there is one unique symbol placed at the bottom or top of each idol to help differentiate between them. Statues of Parshvanatha are distinct, always represented with a hood of a three, seven or eleven headed snake (naga), while lord Mahavir’s idols can be easily recognized by the presence of the symbol of a lion at the bottom. The statues of the 23rd and 24th tirthankaras are not only popular among the Jains, but also among Hindus and art-lovers for what they represent.

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