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Jaina Relic Stūpas

Flügel, Peter (2008) 'Jaina Relic Stūpas.' Jaina Studies: Newsletter of the Centre of Jaina Studies, 3 . pp. 18-23.

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Abstract

It is a common stereotype of textbooks on world religions that Jains never worshipped the remains of the Jinas, and consequently never developed a ritual culture parallel to the cult of relics in Buddhism. Apart from isolated myths and legends in canonical and medieval Jain literature, depicting the veneration of the relics of the tīrthaṅkaras by the gods, there is no indication of bone relic worship in early and medieval Jainism to date. This report gives a brief overview of recent, somewhat unexpected, findings on the thriving cult of bone relic stūpas and the ritual role of the materiality of the dead amongst contemporary Jains. Although classical Jain doctrine rejects the worship of material objects, intermittent fieldwork in India, between 1997-2004, on the hitherto unstudied current Jain mortuary rituals furnished clear evidence for the ubiquity of bone relic stūpas and relic veneration across the Jain sectarian spectrum. British Academy funded research in 2000-2001 produced the first documentation of two modern Jain bone relic stūpas, a samādhi and a smāraka, constructed by the Terāpanth Śvetāmbara Jains. Subsequent fieldwork fundet by the Central Research Fund of the University of London demonstrated that relic stūpas are not only a feature of the aniconic Jain traditions, but also of Mūrtipūjaka and Digambara traditions. Hence a general distinction of rites commemoration and rites of empowerment in the Jaina tradition is suggested. The article reviews the potential significance of these findings for the history of religions.

Item Type: Articles
Keywords: Jainism, Jaina, Jain, relic stūpa, ceiya, caitya, jiṇa-sakahā, kāyya-nisīdīya, samādhi-mandira, smāraka, thūpa, apotrophaic ritual, rites of commemoration, rites of empowerment, dādāgurus, supernatural power, iḍḍhi, ṛddhi, Hāthīgumphā inscription, Kaṅkālī Tīla, Mathurā, Taxila, Vaddamanu, Babb, Bühler, Granoff, Lailaw, Leumann
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of the Study of Religions > Centre of Jaina Studies
Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of the Study of Religions
Copyright Statement: with permission of the editors
Depositing User: Peter Flugel
Date Deposited: 28 Feb 2008 10:31
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/3352

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