Jain Symbols and Their Meanings
Symbols and Totems in Jainism
Laanchhans and Their Meanings: 1. Bull-
Jainism was propagated by 24 great Teerthankars in different periods. Rishabh was the first Teerthankar of them and Mahavir was the last one. Jains worship the idols of these Teerthankars. Idols of theteerthankars are same in appearance and we can find out whose idol is it just by seeing the symbol marked on the base of the idol. This symbol is called as Laanchan. Most of the laanchhans are images of various animals like Bull, Snake, Lion, Horse, Buffalo, Rhinoceros, tortoise, Monkey etc. Some laanchhans are symbols like Moon, Swastik, Shankh etc.
For many days I was thinking on the Laanchans of the JainTeerthankars. What is the meanings of the laanchhans? I asked about it to many Jain scholars but did not get any acceptable answer. I found that no research work is done in this subject. While reading about Totems and Totemism, I realized that most of the Laanchans are nothing but the totems of the tribes/communities to which the Teerthankars belonged. Here I would like to share some basic things I have found.
Bull of Rishabh
According to Jain myths, Rishabh, the first Teerthankar invented agriculture. It is believed that the original Jain culture was culture of cultivaters. Today also, a large part of Jain community is farming community, especially in South India and in East India. The meaning of the word `Kshatriya' is not only the warrior, but also a cultivator or a farmer. This word is formed from the original Prakrit word `Khattiya'. In Hindi language we can see the word `Kheti' for the farm and `Khetihar' for the farmer. Both the words are derived from the original Prakrit words `Khatti' and `Khattiya'. It should be noted that in India, right from the ancient period, the largest number of soldiers were from farming communities. Today also, the famous regiments of Indian army like Jat Regiment, Maratha Regiment, Rajput Regiment, Sikh Regiment, Punjab Regiment etc. belong to the soldiers from farming communities.
The Bull was the totem of ancient cultivators. Bull was the most important animal for the farmers and so they accepted it as their totem. The totem became the laanchan of Rishabh as he had invented cultivation. Rishabh also taught the art of battle to the people, but their main occupation remained cultivation. We can trace Teerthankar Rishabh and the Bull in Indus ValleyCivilization. In Indus valley many seals bearing images of Bulls have found. In the Vedic culture, cow is the most important animal, but in Indus valley not a single image of cow is found. It is the fact that the Indus Valley Civilization was a civilization of cultivators and businesses related to farm products, which were exported to Middle East countries.
Although idol wroshipping is a later developement in Jains and the laanchhans carved on the base of idols are of more later period, Jains choosed specific symbols for specific Teerthankars relating to the ethnic origin of the Teerthankars.
Jain Symbol Buffalo
Buffalo of Vasupijya Buffalo is the laanchhan of Teerthankar Vasupujya, the 12th
Teerthankar. Vasupujya was born at Champa in Bihar. The animal Buffalo is found across Indian subcontinent. This is an indigenous animal and has no positive importance in Vedic culture. Rather this animal is insulted by making it the vehicle of Yam, the God of death. In Bramhinic Purans, we find a story of Mahishasur (Buffalo demon). The Goddess Durga killed him.
It is proven that the asurs were followers of non-vedic religions, mainly Shramanic religions. They were black in color. Buffalo was popular animal in Asurs, Dravidians and other indigenous people. This animal was used for milk and also for agriculture. For Aryans this animal was not `their' and just an animal of enemies. That is why they presented this animal with negative approach in their literature.
Today also, the Yadavs, Ahirs and general population of cultivators are more dependents on female buffalo for milk and very less on cows. The laanchhan of Teerthankar Vasupujya is a buffalo just because he must be a Dravidian.
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