1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Indian Architecture - Jain Architecture

(Part 25)

Indian Architecture (cont.)

(c) Jain Architecture

The earliest existing work of the Jains seems to be of the 10th century. They were a sect which arose in the endeavour to re-establish Brahminism, and which first seems to have acquired importance about 450. AD. This sect rejects the doctrines of Buddhism, as also the practice of monasticism. The famous temple at Somnauth belongs to them. Mr Fergusson has given a description of that built by Vimala Sah, on Mount Abu, as a type of the ordinary Jain temple. In the centre is a cell in which is a cross-legged figure of one of the twenty-four saints worshipped by this sect; in this case it is that of Parswanath. The cell is always terminated by a pyramidal roof. In front of this is a portico of 48 pillars, disposed much like a cruciform church with a dome at the intersection of the transepts. The whole is surrounded by a species of cloister formed by double rows of columns, and a series of small chambers like the cells of a vihara. But as the sect abjure monasticism, each cell is used not as a dwelling, but as a kind of small chapel, and contains one of their cross-legged deities. One of the peculiarities of this style is that richly-carved brackets spring from the pillars at about two thirds of their height, and extend to the architraves, forming a sort of diagonal strut to strengthen and support them.

The Jains probably adopted the dome at a very early period and it is doubtful whether the Buddhists ever used this species of construction. "No tope," Mr. Fergusson observes, "has the smallest trace of such a structure, though of domical shape outside, and the design of the rock-cut temples, with the upright supports, the raking struts, and the level architraves, has manifestly been deduced from timber constructions." The Indian dome has no voussoirs radiating from the centre, as in European architecture. The courses are all horizontal; and the domes are therefore necessarily pointed in section, for they would not stand if circular. The Indian dome, however, has this merit, it requires no abutments, and has no lateral thrust. The pressure is entirely vertical; and if the foundation be sound, and the pillars stout enough, there can be no failure.

The leading idea of the plan of the Jain temple is that of a number of columns arranged in squares. Wherever it was intended to have a dome, pillars were omitted, so as to leave spaces in the form of octagons. By corbelling over the pendentives in level courses the dome was gradually formed. The plan and view of the temple at Sadree exhibit a building as large as most cathedrals. It has the great number of 20 domes, varying from 36 feet to 24 feet in diameter, and supported by 420 columns.

Like most architecture peoples, the Jains were also fond of tower-building. The Jaya Sthamba, a tower of victory erected by Khumbo Rana, to commemorate the defeat of Mohammed of Malwa, in 1439, is nine stories high, the two topmost stories being open. The general outline is not unlike that of an Italian campanile, with pilasters at the angles, and an overhanging corbelled top. It is richly ornamented from bottom to apex, and afford a very favourable idea of Indian art.

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