Jain Art and Architecture


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Prelims: History of India

Mains  Salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times

Jain Architecture

The elements of Jain architecture are characterized by their simplicity, elegance, and emphasis on symmetry and proportion. 

  • With regard to architecture, the Jains adopted the local building traditions of Vaishnava and Dravidian styles while evolving their style.
  • The exquisite Jain architecture consists of caves, temples, monasteries and other structures.
  • In ancient times, they received great patronage under the ruling dynasties of Cholas, Pallavas, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas and other kingdoms.


Types of Jain architectures

  • Stupa (Chaitya) 
  • Layana (Caves)
  • Jinalaya (Temples) 


Stupa (Chaitya)

  • The Jains erected them for devotional purposes.
  • The earliest Jain stupa was built in the 8th century BCE, before the Jina Parsvanatha.
  • Structure: Jain stupa has a peculiar cylindrical three-tier structure that is quite reminiscent of the Samavasarana, by which it was replaced as an object of worship.
  • As used in Jain inscriptions, the name for a stupa is the standard word "thupe".
  • Mathura Jain Stupas: A Jain stupa dated to the 1st century BCE-1st Kankali Tila moundcentury CE was excavated at Mathura in the 19th century, in the
  • Ayagapatas: The Jain devotional reliefs, called Ayagapatas, show a probable design of the Jain stupa. 
    • The stupa drum is set on a high platform and accessed by a flight of stairs and an ornate torana gate, quite similar in style to the toranas of Sanchi. 
    • The drum of the stupa is elongated and cylindrical and formed of three superposed tiers separated by railings and decorated bands. 
    • The platform may have been squared, with Persepolitan-type columns in each corner.
    • On the Vasu Ayagapata, one of the Persepolitan pillars is surmounted by a Dharmachakra wheel, and the other pillar was probably surmounted by an animal, as seen in other similar Ayagapatas.


Layana (Caves)

  • Caves,  the earlier architecture found in Maharashtra, are of the Digambara Jain sect.
  • These are found from the 6th century during the Chalukya period and continued during the Rashtrakuta period.
  • Rock-cut architecture: The method of building a structure by cutting it out of raw is known as rock-cut architecture. 
    • It is done by excavating solid rock where it naturally exists to create structures, buildings, and sculptures.
    • Temples, tombs, and caves were the principal rock-cut architecture applications.

Jain Caves



Ellora Caves (Maharashtra)


  • Cave numbers 30-35 at Ellora are Jain caves carved in the 10th century.
  • These caves belong to the Digambara sect.
  • All of the Ellora monuments were built during the Rashtrakuta dynasty.
  • Emphasis is placed on the depiction of the twenty-four Jinas.
  • The Jain caves contain some of the earliest Samavasarana images among their devotional carvings. 
  • Pairing of sacred figures in Jainism, specifically Parsvanatha and Bahubali.
  • Other artworks of significance include those of the deities Sarasvati, Sri, Saudharmendra, Sarvanubhuti, Gomukha, Ambika, Cakresvari, Padmavati, Ksetrapala, and Hanuman.

Udaygiri Caves (Odisha) 

  • There are 18 caves in Udayagiri, and the most important is Rani Gumpha.
    • This cave is occupied by the Queen of Lalakendu, Kesari.
    • It contains scriptures depicting the victory march of King Kharavela.
  • Ganesh Gumpha Cave: Carvings in this cave tell the story of the Princess of Ujjayini with King Udayana of Kausambi
    • This cave has two giant statues of elephants carrying garlands at the entrance. 

Sittanavasal Caves (Tamil Nadu)

  • The monument is a rock-cut monastery or temple.
  • Created by Tamil Sramana, it is called the Arivar Koil and is a rock-cut cave temple of the Arihant.
  • It contains remnants of notable frescoes from the 7th century. 
  • Ancient structures such as Gol Gumbaz, Talagirisvara Temple, and this one are claimed to be relatively unappreciated. 
  • The Sittanavasal Cave is listed as one of the Adarsh Smarak Monuments by the Archaeological Survey of India.
  • The temple cave was initially dated to Pallava King Mahendravarman I (580–630 AD) before converting from Jainism to Hinduism as a Shaivite.

Jain caves


Jinalaya (Temples)

Jain temple architecture is a style of temple architecture that developed as a part of Jainism. This ancient Indian religion emphasizes on non-violence and respect for all living things.

  • Each element of Jain temples, like Mandapa, Garbhagriha, Mukhmandapa, Shikhar, Devakoshta etc, are designed to create a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere for meditation and worship. 
  • Some key elements of Jain temple architecture include:
  • Jain temples have numerous pillars with a well-designed structure, forming squares.
  • The squares thus formed create chambers, which are used as small chapels and contain the image of a deity.
  • From these pillars, there are richly carved brackets that emerge at about two-thirds of their height.
  • The only architectural variation specific to Jain temples is the frequently seen four-faced or Chaumukh design.
  • Types of Jain temples: There are mainly two types of Jain temples: Shikar-bandhi Jain temple and Ghar Jain temple.


Shikar-bandhi Jain temple

Ghar Jain temple

Size of temple 

They are more traditional and large temples.

These are smaller, more intimate temples meant to be used as personal shrines within a household.

Structural features

  • Dome-like structure (Shikhar) on top.
  • These temples often have multiple levels and large, elaborate entrance halls (mandapas) with intricate carvings and sculptures
  • They have many marble pillars carved beautifully with demi-gold posture. 

These temples do not have a dome and are typically less ornate than Shikar-bandhi temples.

Serves as

The central shrine in a Shikar-bandhi temple houses an image of a Tirthankara, and the temple serves as a gathering place for Jain devotees.

They are used for daily prayers and rituals.

                Types of Jain temples


Jain Religious Sites



Dilwara Temple (Rajasthan)

  • There are two major temple complexes.
    • One was built around 1030 A.D. by Vimala Shah,  dedicated to the first Tirthankara.
    • The second one was dedicated to the Tirthankara Neminatha and was founded around 1230 A.D. by Tejapala.
  • Each temple complex stands in a rectangular walled area decorated with statues in niches around the circumference. 
  • They are famous for using pure white marble and intricate marble carvings.

Ranakpur temple (Rajasthan)

  • Built by Darna Shah in 1437 CE.
  • It is a Svetambara Jain temple dedicated to Tirthankara Rishabhdev.
  • It is famous for its intricate carvings and unique architecture (Maru-Gurjara architecture).

Temples (Gujarat)

  • They are large groups of Jain temples.
  • These temples were built in and after the 11th century CE. 
  • It is one of the most sacred sites of the Svetambara tradition.
  • The main temple is dedicated to Rishabhdev.

Mount Mangi Tungi (Maharashtra)

  • Numerous temples are considered sacred in Jainism.
  • It enshrines images of Tirthankaras in several postures, including Padmasana and Kayotsarga.
  • In 2016, the Statue of Ahimsa, a 108 ft idol carved in monolithic stone, was consecrated here, and it is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest Jain idol in the world.
  • Ram and Hanuman attained moksha from Mount Mangi Tungi.

Shikharji (Jharkhand)

  • It is located on Parasnath Hill.
  • important Jain Tirtha by both Digambara and Svetambara.
  • It is where twenty of the twenty-four Jain Tirthankaras attained Moksha.
  • The current structure of temples at Shikharji was rebuilt by Jagat Seth in 1768 CE.

Khajuraho Group of Monuments (Madhya Pradesh)

  • They are a group of Hindu and Jain temples.
  • The Jain temples are located in the east-southeast region of the Khajuraho monuments. 
  • Most were built between 885 CE and 1000 CE by the Chandela dynasty.
  • The temples are famous for their Nagara-style architectural symbolism and a few erotic sculptures.
  • They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Jain religious sites



One facet of Jain art is painting, generally known as miniature paintings because most pictures are rendered in small sizes. Jain miniature paintings were developed all over India in the 7th century A.D. and reached maturity during the 15th century A.D. 

Jain Paintings

Mural Paintings


  • The work on walls or solid structures is called murals.
  • The manuscript text most frequently illustrated is the Kalpa Sutra, which contains the biographies of the Tirthankaras, notably Parshvanatha and Mahavira. 
    • The illustrations are square-ish panels set in the text, with "wiry drawing" and "brilliant, even jewel-like color." 
  • Rishabha, the first Tirthankara, is usually depicted in either the lotus position or kayotsarga, the standing position.

Western Indian style of painting



  • The Western Indian style prevailed in the region comprising Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Malwa.
  • Features: certain physical traits, such as eyes, breasts, and hips, are enlarged.
    • Figures are flat, with the angularity of features and the further eye protruding into space. 
    • palm-leaf was used for the manuscripts.
    • The Kalpasutra and the Kalakacharya-Katha, the two very popular Jain texts, were repeatedly written and illustrated with paintings.

Sittanavasal Paintings

  • Famous for its fresco-secco technique with many mineral colors.
  • The painting themes depict a beautiful lotus pond and flowers, people collecting lotuses from the pond, two dancing figures, lilies, fish, buffaloes, and elephants.
  • The paintings are on the theme of Jain Samasvasarana, the most attractive heavenly pavilion, referring to the attainment of Nirvana and Khatika Bhumi.  

Jain paintings


Jain Sculptural Reliefs

The brilliance of the Jain sculptures can be seen from the delicate images of the Jain Tirthankaras. The sculpture can depict any of the twenty-four Tirthankaras, with images depicting Parshvanatha, Rishabanatha, or Mahavira being more popular.


Mathura School of Sculptures:

This school was developed around Mathura, an important city on the Uttarapatha and the second capital of the Kushanas

  • The images discovered here belong to all three religions: Buddhism, Brahmanism and Jainism.
    • These were created using red spotted sandstone, readily available in the nearby Aravalli region.


  • Features of Jain sculptures in Mathura school:  
    • They depict Jina in a seated or standing pose.
    • The standing Jina is straight, with hands long enough to reach the knee. 
    • The seated Jina is in padmasana (lotus position or cross-legged posture) with hands in dhyana mudra. They are generally nude.
    • Jaina venerates 24 Tirthankaras who are distinguished by different emblems on their throne or chest: a lion for Mahavira, a bull for Rishabh etc.
    • They also donated reliefs to the stupa, known as ayagapatas, in the form of square slabs depicting Jina stupa, swastika, twin fish symbols, various scenes etc.
  • Jain sculptures have been recovered from a ruined stupa at Kankali Tila. 
    • Kankali Tila is a mound located in Mathura.
    • Numerous Jain sculptures, Ayagapattas, and pillars were found here during excavations.


Examples of Jain Sculptures

  • Lohanipur torso: It is a polished sandstone statue in Patliputra, Bihar, representing a Jain Tirthankara in a damaged state.
  • Gopachal rock-cut Jain monuments: located around the walls of Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh
    • They depict Tirthankaras in seated Padmasana posture and Kayotsarga posture in typical naked form. 
  • Vasantgarh hoard: it is located in Rajasthan; evidence shows a strong foothold of Jainism in this area as 240 Jain bronze idols were discovered.
    • Idols of this hoard show images of Tirthankara, sashandevatas (yaksha and yakshi) and Jain deities in Shwetambar iconography.

Previous Year Questions (PYQs)



Q) The rock-cut architecture represents one of the most important sources of our knowledge of early Indian art and history. Discuss. (2020)





Q) With reference to the history of Indian rock-cut architecture, consider the following statements:

  1. The caves at Badami are the oldest surviving rock-cut caves in India
  2. The Barabar rock-cut caves were originally made for Ajivikas by Emperor Chandragupta Maurya
  3. At Ellora, caves were made for different faiths.

        Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

       (a) 1 only

       (b) 2 and 3 only

       (c) 3 only

       (d) 1, 2 and 3

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Q) What is the Maru-Gurjara style of temple architecture?

Maru-Gurjara architecture, also known as the Solanki style, is the style of West Indian temple architecture that originated in Gujarat and Rajasthan under the Chalukya dynasty. It shows Rajasthani artisans' deep understanding of structures and refined skills of a bygone era.


Q) What is the fresco-secco technique? 

Fresco-secco is a wall painting technique where pigments mixed with an organic binder and lime are applied onto dry plaster. The treatise Silparatna by Kumaradeva gives a detailed account of fresco-secco painting technology.