Jina fact file
Symbols and signs
The Jina is seated in the padmasana or lotus position and is meditating. Jains are meant to meditate for 48 minutes or one thirtieth of each day.
Standing postureThis is known as the kayotsarga or body abandonment posture. Standing like this, completely immobile with arms hanging free from the body, was considered a form of severe penance. It also shows that the Jinas were following the doctrine of ahimsa or non-violence as by keeping still they could not harm any creatures, even accidentally.
ClothingJinas are sometimes shown wearing very simple clothing. These sculptures were made by members of the Svetambara sect whose monks and nuns wear simple white clothing. Svetambara means 'white clad'.
NudityOther Jinas may be completely naked. A second sect called the Digambaras believe in complete renunciation and their monks renounce all possessions including clothing. Digambara means 'sky clad' or naked. Only Jinas are represented naked. Other spirits are shown clothed.
Symbol on chestMost sculptures of Jinas bear a distinctive mark on their chest known as a srivatsa. This helps to distinguish them from other religious figures especially the Buddha. Hindu images of the god Vishnu sometimes have different forms of srivatsa on one side of the chest.
Bump on the top of headSign of great wisdom.
Lotus flowers on palms of hands and soles of feetLotus flowers are symbols or purity and perfection. You may also find Lotus flowers used for decorative effect on the Jina's nimbus or on his throne.
Elongated earlobesThis reminds viewers that the Jinas renounced wealth in their search for liberation. Their ears are elongated because when they were rich they wore heavy earrings that stretched their earlobes.
Wheel of LawThis is often found under the Jina's cushion or throne. It is a symbol of Jain teaching. It is called the dharmachakra.
Three-tiered canopy or umbrellaIt was customary for kings to have umbrellas or parasols held above their heads so a canopy above the head of the Jina is a symbol of his spiritual sovereignty.
Guardian spirits and heavenly attendantsThe Jina may be attended by guardian spirits called yakshas (male) and yakshis (female) and by heavenly attendants.
Look out for the following:
Dharanendra, the Serpent King
The most easily recognisable of the yakshas is Dharanendra, the Serpent King. The serpent king protected the Jina Parsvanatha with his coils and by forming a canopy with his hoods. His consort, the Yakshi Padmavati sometimes holds an umbrella above Parsvanatha's head.
Attendants carrying garlands
Attendants carrying flywhisks
These are used by the Jina's attendants to whisk away all insects so that the Jina does not harm them accidentally when moving. They are also symbols of royalty or divinity.
Attendants carrying nooses
The attendants use these to catch evil-doers and draw them towards the truth.
Attendants carrying goads
Usually used to prod elephants, attendants use these to push those who do wrong, to steer them along the right path.
AnimalsLions are often found on the throne of a Jina.
AhimsaJain doctrine of non-violence and respect for all life
DharanendraA yakshi Serpent King
DharmachakraWheel of Law that symbolises Jain teaching
DigambaraAn austere sect of Jainism. Digambara means 'sky clad' and its followers believe in the renunciation of all worldly possessions so Digambara monks go completely naked.
Gyanbazi or GyanbajiJain version of Snakes and Ladders
JinaA series of 24 leaders or teachers whom Jains revere. Jina means 'conqueror' or 'liberator' because the Jinas succeeded in casting off all worldly concerns.
Kalpa SutraSacred Text which tells the story of the life of the Mahavira
KayotsargaStanding in the 'body-abandonment' posture
KarmaA substance that becomes attached to the soul, weighing it down and making liberation from the cycle of rebirth impossible
MaharviraThe 24th and last of the Jinas.
PadmasanaSeated in the lotus position
PadmavatiThe yakshi who is consort to Dharanendra, the Serpent King
ParsvanathaThe 23rd Jina. Usually shown protected by the Serpent King Dharanendra
RishabhanathaThe 1st Jina. Identifiable by his long hair.
SamavasaranaThe hall where Jinas preach sermons
SamvaraA demon who attacked Parsvanatha
SantinathaThe 16th Jina
SvetambaraA sect of Jainism meaning white clad whose followers wear simple white clothes
SrivatsaMark on the Jina's chest which identifies the figure as a Jina
TirthankaraJinas are also known as Tirthankaras which translates as 'ford-makers'. Jinas, unlike other liberated souls, help others to liberation from the cycle of earthly life, death and rebirth, as well as achieving liberation themselves.
UttaradhyayanasutraReligious text which sets out rules for monastic behaviour.
Yakshis and YakshasMale and female spirits that act as guardian spirits to the Jinas.
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