History of Murtipujaka

Temples and images are eternal in the Jain tradition, being involved in Jain cosmography. On the continent of Nandishvara, the eighth island of the Middle World and visited only by the gods, there are fifty-two temples with Jina-images that have existed for eternity and are regularly worshipped by Indra and other gods.

History of Murtipujaka

There are other eternal Jina-images all over the universe, in heavens and on top of mountains. The Universal History of the Jains says that Bharata, first emperor of this world age, set up many images millions of years ago. One of these was of Rishabha, the first Jina and his father, on Mount Satrunjaya. Dundas cites an extraordinary account by Muni Bhadrankaravijaya of ancient Mahavira images found in Australia and Jain temples in Mecca and Medina which supposedly provide historical evidence of how ancient and widespread Jainism is and its eternal image-cult (Dundas 1992, 174).
The ancient city of Mathura was a great Jain holy place from the fourth or third century BCE and provides important evidence of early Jainism. Jina-images have been excavated as well as early temples. At Mathura is a shrine to a Jina dating to the second century BCE. Jina-image worship was therefore an important part of Jainism from the very earliest times. Inscriptions from the first century CE at Mathura show that lay people were installing images for monks. Though monks and nuns cannot have any contact with the images because of a lack of washing, they are often working in the background to inspire lay people to build temples and install images.
Jain ascetics often lived in caves and the cave temple is probably derived from this. Examples of both ascetic cave cells and cave temples can be seen at the extraordinary Udayagiri and Khantagiri Hills in Orissa. This site was shared with Buddhist monks, as were other cave monasteries such as Ellora which also included Hindu ascetics. The temple in Indian architecture then evolved out of the cave temple. There are common elements in Jain, Buddhist, and Hindu architecture. The Jains share with the Hindus the tower, symbolic of Mount Meru, for example.
Through this century Jainism has grown outside India. In 1926 a Jain temple was built in Nairobi and one in Mombasa in 1963. More recently, in Leicester, England, the largest Jain temple outside India has been constructed.


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