A sacred land, with millennia of historical past, Odisha (the erstwhile Orissa) represents the very spirit of India. Located on India’s east coast, it is a veritable museum of India's sculptural and artistic heritage – known worldwide for the architectural marvels, exemplified by the awe-inspiring Sun Temple at Konark, the splendid temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri, and the imposing Lingaraj and many other temples of Bhubaneswar, among others.
In Odisha, the orthodox Jaina religion spread from the time of the Nandas – whose rule in North India preceded the Mauryas in about fourth century BC. However, it found a real impetus here in the 1st century BC, when Kalinga emperor Mahamegavahana Kharvaela: himself a devout follower of Jainism, made it the state religion, and spearheaded the Jaina art heritage, with the construction of cave temples of Khandagiri and Udayagiri hills at Bhubasneswar. In the Khandagiri caves are seen the beautifully sculpted images of the 24 Tirthankaras and Sasna Devis, besides many others.
Largely, though, adhering to canonical prescriptions, Jaina art has immensely enriched the art heritage of India. Tracing its different evolutionary phases in this eastern Indian region: from the 1st to the 11th-12th centuries, the book takes a critical look at Jaina iconography; the iconographic features of the Tirthankaras, Yaksas, Yaksinis, and other divinities; and the Jaina’s awe-inspiring cave architecture; among several other aspects. The specimens of religious art, often seen in sculptural forms in the Khandagiri cave, reflect the rigorous discipline and austerity of the Tirathankaras, Sasanadevis, and Vidyadevis. And these, says the author, have had a strong appeal for the followers of the Jaina faith. The book is abundantly illustrated.
Dr H.C. Das, (b. 1935), is widely-reputed anthropologist and historian, who has extensively written on Indian religion, history, tribal cultures, art and architecture – besides being one of the editors of Orissa Historical Research Journal, published by the Orissa State Museum, Bhubaneswar.