Colossal Jina: The Naugaza Temple in Rajorgarh

There are several temple remains in the dense forests of Sariska Tiger Reserve in the Alwar district of Rajasthan. These remains belong to an old settlement, which was known first as Rajorgarh (Rajyapura) and then as Paranagara. Historically, the region was under the political suzerainty of dynasties like Pratiharas and Bargujars. There are over a dozen temples, mostly in a ruinous condition, datable from the 9th to 11th centuries CE. The Naugaza Temple of Shantinatha is one of the temples situated to the west of the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple, the best surviving temples in the Neelkanth Mahadev group of temples. This Jain temple was built with a colossal image of Jina Shantinatha, the sixteenth Tirthankara, in the early 10th century CE. The dating of the temple is based on an inscription found in its vicinity, currently placed in the National Museum, Delhi.

Image 1: Seen here is the view from the north of the Naugaza Shantinatha Temple. All that remains of the temple is its plinth and the colossal Jina image enshrined in the temple, which can be seen from far away. The Naugaza Temple has a garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum), mandapa (pillared hall) and mukhamandapa (front porch) in plan. The remains of the superstructure have not survived. The plinths with elephant and human figure friezes demarcate the original plan of the temple.
Image 1: Seen here is the view from the north of the Naugaza Shantinatha Temple. All that remains of the temple is its plinth and the colossal Jina image enshrined in the temple, which can be seen from far away. The Naugaza Temple has a garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum), mandapa (pillared hall) and mukhamandapa (front porch) in plan. The remains of the superstructure have not survived. The plinths with elephant and human figure friezes demarcate the original plan of the temple.

There are fascinating descriptions of this life-size image in British period records. One such description comes from a report by Sir Alexander Cunningham, the first Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). While on his tour of Rajputana, Cunningham wrote,

'In one of the ruined temples there is a colossal Jaina figure, 13 feet 9 inches high, with a canopy of a 2 feet 6 inches overhead, which is supported by two elephants. The whole height of the sculpture is 16 feet 3 inches, and its breadth 6 feet. Such is ginormous size of the temple, especially the Jina.' [sic][1]

Similar accounts appreciating the Jina image are found in the reports by Colonel James Todd, A.C.L. Carllyele, Maya Ram, and others.

Inscriptional Evidence of the Naugaza Temple

Neither the original text nor its exact find position in the Naugaza Temple is known. M.A. Dhaky, in his encyclopaedia entry to the site, states that the inscription is dated 923 CE and records the construction of a temple for Jina Shantinatha.[2] The temple was built by Sarvadeva, who was a disciple of Surasena, both belonged to the Dharkata family. The temple construction was initiated with the support of a certain king Pulindra, whose exact lineage is not known. Dhaky suggests that he could be from the Pratihara feudatories ruling the region. However, the relationship of Pulindra with the earliest known Pratihara king, Savata, from Rajorgarh is not understood.[3] The composition of the inscription is ascribed to Sagaranandi and Lokadeva, but no further details of the temple are in the inscription, in case of which the architectural and sculptural details prove useful.

Sculptural Details of the Shantinatha Sculpture

The standing image of Jina Shantinatha is placed by the rear wall of the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) of the temple. The tall, nude statue is standing in kayotsarga posture (standing upright in meditation posture) and has a chhatra (parasol) above it. The face of the Jina has calm features, a slight smile and hair arranged in curls. The hands, feet, and chest of the sculpture are slightly damaged. Near the feet, the Jina is flanked by two sculpted female attendants, which are damaged to the extent that their attributes cannot be identified. Similarly, the bust of the Jina is flanked by vidyadhara couples (celestial couples) on the makaras (mythical creatures) attached to the chhatra above the Jina’s head. This chhatra is a small umbrella protruding above the head of the Jina, and its lower portion is formed from a lotus medallion resting on a bracket formed on the makaras. This chhatra is flanked on either side by sculptures of elephants on which couples are seated. Such large statues of Jain tirthankaras are not very common. Seeing the sculpture, one is certainly reminded of the Gomateshwar statue in Shravanabelgola, which also dates back to the 10th century CE, statues of the Gopachal rock-cut monuments in Gwalior, and the Jina statue on the temple premises at Arthuna in southern Rajasthan. While the Gomateshwar statue is double in size compared to the Alwar statue, the Gopachal statues are part of a larger rock-cut monument. In Arthuna, the sculptures belong to a later period compared to the Naugaza sculpture. Thus, a colossal image enshrined in a temple, such as the one seen at Naugaza in the 10th century CE, is rare.

Image 2: The tall, nude statue of Jina Shantinatha stands in meditation posture with a parasol above it, placed at the back of the temple's inner sanctum. The statue has a calm face with a slight smile and curly hair, although some parts like the hands, feet, and chest are slightly damaged. Two female attendant figures near its feet are also damaged, making it hard to identify them. The sculpture is carved out of sandstone.
Image 2: The tall, nude statue of Jina Shantinatha stands in meditation posture with a parasol above it, placed at the back of the temple's inner sanctum. The statue has a calm face with a slight smile and curly hair, although some parts like the hands, feet, and chest are slightly damaged. Two female attendant figures near its feet are also damaged, making it hard to identify them. The sculpture is carved out of sandstone.

Architectural Details of the Naugaza Temple

The temple that enshrines the Jina Shantinatha image must have been part of a large complex in which the main shrine was surrounded by several subsidiary shrines. The principal entrance of the temple complex is oriented to the west. The entire complex is built on a high jagati (raised plinth). The walls, shikhara (superstructure), and details of the interior of the main temple do not survive, but the plinth of the temple is extant. The mouldings of the pitha (base plinth) are similar to a vedibandha (upper plinth) of the temple. It consists of plain band mouldings at the base, followed by a tall kumbha (pot-shaped) moulding, and a kapotapali (moulding resembling a parrot’s beak) which has designs of chaitya gavakshas (dormer windows) at regular intervals. This is the only ornamentation on the plinth of the temple, which is otherwise composed of plain-dressed stones. The topmost visible moulding in the plinth remains is the kalasha (pitcher-shaped moulding). The partially surviving walls above this are also plain and bereft of any ornamentation. The wall portions have been partially reconstructed along the eastern elevation of the temple. The plinth of the garbhagriha continues to the mandapa (pillared hall) and follows the same sequence of mouldings. The entrance to the temple is via the mandapa, which has two devakulikas (smaller single shrines) with low pedestals inside them. The plinth mouldings of these devakulikas and the plinths of the side shrines that surround the main temple are similar. They consist of mouldings like the jadya kumbha (cyma reversa), bands of diamond motifs, graaspatti (band of kirtimukhas or face of glory) gajathara (row of elephants), narathara (row of human figures). The stylistic pattern of the jadya kumbha moulding in these smaller shrines on the Naugaza Temple complex is comparable to the mouldings of temples at Harshnath, Atru, and Kiradu.

Presence of Jainism in Alwar

The Mahavir Jain Temple built in the Osian area of the Jodhpur district is one of the oldest surviving Jain temples in Rajasthan. The prevalence of Jainism in the Alwar region between the 10th and 11th centuries CE is evidenced by the temple remains at Rajgadh, Ajabgadh, and Naugaza, which can be ascribed to the patronage of the Gurjara Pratiharas. The popularity of Jainism continued even through the 14th and 15th centuries CE. Alwar had gained prominence as a place of Jain pilgrimage during the medieval period.[4] In the tirthamala texts (compilations of sacred places) written during this period, a legend describes Alwar as a place of sanctity dedicated to the Ravana Parshwanatha, meaning Ravana worshipped the image of Parshwanatha in this place. Because of this legend, Alwar is called as the Ravana Parshwanatha tirtha (sacred site). It is also believed that the Paranagar old town derived its name from Parshwanath Tirthankara. In this regard, the Jain temple and sculptural remains of the Naugaza Temple fit the religious context of the region.

Though most of the temples in the Neelkanth group are dedicated to Shiva, there are some vital and unparalleled Jain remains in this complex. The colossal image of Jina Shantinatha and the temple that houses this humongous sculpture are certainly Jain remains. A few other ruinous temples might also have been dedicated to the Jain tradition, a conjecture based on the plans of these temples. However, for want of data, these remains are only stray Jain fragments in Rajorgarh. Hence, the Naugaza Temple, though in a dilapidated state, becomes of the important archaeological records of the Paranagara-Rajorgarh history.

Image 3: This is a closer view of the Naugaza Shantinatha Temple along with the ancillary structures. From the plinth remains, it appears that it was a temple with a pancharatha (five projections on each side) plan, minimal sculptural depictions but intricate geometric patterns. There are remains of smaller temples to the north and east of the temple. Several architectural elements from the temples are scattered in the vicinity of the Naugaza Temple.
Image 3: This is a closer view of the Naugaza Shantinatha Temple along with the ancillary structures. From the plinth remains, it appears that it was a temple with a pancharatha (five projections on each side) plan, minimal sculptural depictions but intricate geometric patterns. There are remains of smaller temples to the north and east of the temple. Several architectural elements from the temples are scattered in the vicinity of the Naugaza Temple.

Footnotes:

[1] Cunningham, Report of a tour in Eastern Rajputana in 1882-83, 126.

[2] Dhaky, Encyclopedia of Indian Temple Architecture North India Beginnings of the medieval idiom c. 900-1000 AD, 351-52.

[3] Dhaky, 351.

[4] Jain, Jainism in Rajasthan, 49-51.

Bibliography:

Cunningham, Alexander. Report of a tour in Eastern Rajputana in 1882-83, volume 20. New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India, 2000. https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.35451/page/n5/mode/2up

Dhaky, M. A. Encyclopaedia of Indian Temple Architecture North India: Beginnings of Medieval Idiom c. AD 900–1000. New Delhi: American Institute of Indian Studies and Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, 1998.

Jain, K. C. Jainism in Rajasthan. Gulabchand Hirachand Doshi, 1963.