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  • Palitana Patta

Pigment, Textile
18th century, 19th century
Gujarat, Western India

Tirthapattas or ‘pilgrimage paintings’ typically depict sacred sites, allowing devotees unable to make the journey an opportunity to symbolically partake of the spiritual merit accruing from visiting the site. Once a year, tirthapattas are displayed at Jain temples as objects of worship. These are often monumental in scale, allowing the congregation to view the details of the painted landscape without difficulty, even from a distance.

This tirthapatta or pilgrimage painting depicts the most sacred of Jain pilgrimage sites, the holy mountain of Shatrunjaya, near Palitana in Gujarat, India. The temples of Palitana and the hills they are built atop are of special importance to Jains as it is believed to be the site of the first sermon by the first Tirthankara. It is also believed to be the site where numerous great souls have attained moksha or enlightenment. Palitana is here portrayed from an aerial vantage point while the topography of the hills and the numerous temple complexes are rendered in a naturalistic manner. Images of seated Tirthankaras enshrined within certain temples emphasize those structures that are of specific religious significance. A queue of pilgrims meanders up the path leading to the temples atop the sacred hill. In the foreground, the streets and open ground are populated by hordes of pilgrims arriving in bullock carts.

The image is framed by a double-row of floral borders resembling the carvings seen in Jain temple architecture. Except for the upper side of the frame, each side sports a centrally placed, small painting inset within its own frame. The image at the base of the tirthapatta’s frame depicts an urban landscape, perhaps that of the city the tirthapatta was commissioned in. The framed images on the vertical sides each portray a woman lying on an ornate bed within a lavishly decorated haveli or mansion, and accompanied by an attendant holding a chauri or flywhisk.

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