Samuel Eilenberg Collection, Gift of Samuel Eilenberg, 1987
Not on view
The oldest Jain image in the Metropolitan Museum's collection also happens to be the earliest known representation of the subject in Jain art, that of Bahubali, a prince who attained the stature of a perfected being (siddha). Although never admitted to the pantheon of twenty-four tirthankaras, he nonetheless attained jina-like status. The legend of Bahubali tells of a prince who renounces violence after coming close to slaying his brother Bharata in a battle of succession and then renounces pride and its expression—violence to other living creatures. Embracing ahimsa (nonviolence), he meditates in the "body-abandonment" posture in a forest, where he is entwined by vines and hosts birds that nest in his hair until he attains moksha.
This diminutive icon is part of a tradition that inspired the largest rock-cut icon in the Indian subcontinent, the Bahubali at Shravana Belgola, in Karnataka, a sixty-foot-high image sculpted from living rock in the tenth century. This icon has been ritually lustrated in the mahamastakabhisheka festival since that date on a twelve-year cycle, most recently celebrated in 2006.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Lotus Transcendent: Indian and Southeast Asian Art from the Samuel Eilenberg Collection," October 2, 1991–June 28, 1992.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "The Peaceful Conquerors: Jain Art from India," October 30, 1994–January 15, 1995.
Fort Worth. Kimbell Art Museum. "The Peaceful Conquerors: Jain Art from India," February 23, 1995–May 14, 1995.
New Orleans Museum of Art. "The Peaceful Conquerors: Jain Art from India," June 29, 1995–September 17, 1995.
London. Victoria and Albert Museum. "The Peaceful Conquerors: Jain Art from India," November 22, 1995–February 18, 1996.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Peaceful Conquerors: Jain Manuscript Painting," September 10, 2009–March 28, 2010.