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Marble statue of a tirthankara
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THE INDIAN FAITH of Jainism arose at around the same time as Buddhism. Its followers believe in a series of 24 tirthankaras. The title tirthankara means ‘ford-maker’ and refers to these individuals making ‘fords' that allow their followers to cross over from suffering and pain to happiness and perfect knowledge. They are also called Jinas, or ‘conquerors’ because they have conquered and controlled their desires and attained a state of inner enlightenment.

This figure can be identified as a Jina due to the srivatsa mark on his chest. Only two Jinas are depicted with distinct physical characteristics: the first, Rishabhanatha, has long loose hair and the twenty-third, Parshvanatha, has a canopy of snakes over his head.

Other Jinas are identifiable by symbols or emblems. Artists did not always include these signs, however, and often, as with this example, it is impossible to identify which particular Jina is represented.

Marble statue of a tirthankara

From western India, ad 1150-1200 Fit 68.5 cm
Gift in memory of Sir Alfred Lyall

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