Framing the Jina: Narratives of Icons and Idols in Jain History

Hardcover | January 18, 2010

byJohn E. Cort

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John Cort explores the narratives by which the Jains have explained the presence of icons of Jinas (their enlightened and liberated teachers) that are worshiped and venerated in the hundreds of thousands of Jain temples throughout India. Most of these narratives portray icons favorably, and sojustify their existence; but there are also narratives originating among iconoclastic Jain communities that see the existence of temple icons as a sign of decay and corruption. The veneration of Jina icons is one of the most widespread of all Jain ritual practices. Nearly every Jain community inIndia has one or more elaborate temples, and as the Jains become a global community there are now dozens of temples in North America, Europe, Africa, and East Asia. The cult of temples and icons goes back at least two thousand years, and indeed the largest of the four main subdivisions of the Jainsare called Murtipujakas, or 'Icon Worshipers.' A careful reading of narratives ranging over the past 15 centuries, says Cort, reveals a level of anxiety and defensiveness concerning icons, although overt criticism of the icons only became explicit in the last 500 years. He provides detailed studiesof the most important pro- and anti-icon narratives. Some are in the form of histories of the origins and spread of icons. Others take the form of cosmological descriptions, depicting a vast universe filled with eternal Jain icons. Finally, Cort looks at more psychological explanations of thepresence of icons, in which icons are defended as necessary spiritual corollaries to the very fact of human embodiedness.

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John Cort explores the narratives by which the Jains have explained the presence of icons of Jinas (their enlightened and liberated teachers) that are worshiped and venerated in the hundreds of thousands of Jain temples throughout India. Most of these narratives portray icons favorably, and sojustify their existence; but there are also...

John E. Cort is Professor of Religion at Denison University.

other books by John E. Cort

Format:HardcoverDimensions:684 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.98 inPublished:January 18, 2010Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195385020

ISBN - 13:9780195385021

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Table of Contents

Note on Language, Transliteration and NamesIllustrationsIntroduction: Lives, Frames, Terms1. The Archaeology of Jina Images2. Icons and Cosmology: A Cosmos Filled with Eternal Icons and Temples3. The Spread of Icons in Our World4. The Lifetime "Living Lord" Icon of Mahavira: Anxiety about the Authenticity of Icons5. Idols and a History of Corruption6. The Inevitability of Tangible Form: A Natural Theology of IconsConclusion: Framing the JinaAppendix: Titles of Jain TextsGlossaryBibliographyIndex