National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of John McCarthy through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program, 2011
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Gordon Darling Foundation
The painting depicts Parsvanatha, the second last of the tirthankaras or Jinas, the founder teachers and enlightened beings who are the main figures in the Jain pantheon. Parsvanatha is regarded as an historical figure and is believed to have lived in the eighth century BCE. He is identified by his seven headed snake canopy and, because he is clothed and adorned, is associated with the Svetambara sect, one of two sects in Jain belief. Members of the ‘sky clad’ or Digambara sect eschew clothes and jewellery. Parsvanatha is seated in the lotus position on a throne, with a cosmic diagram superimposed on him. The combination of diagram and human body represents the attempt to ‘homologise the microcosm and the macrocosm’ (Pal 1994: 231). Other symmetrically placed areas of text surround the figure. The Jina is worshiped by two yakshi figures, each of which illustrates the Jain-style protruding eye.