Exhibitions/ Art Object

Jain Siddha Bahubali, Entwined with Forest Vines

Chalukyan period
late 6th–7th century
India (Karnataka)
Copper alloy
H. 4 3/8 in. (11.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Samuel Eilenberg Collection, Gift of Samuel Eilenberg, 1987
Accession Number:
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.
Samuel Eilenberg , New York (until 1987; donated to MMA)
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.

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