In the Digambara tradition the goddess Jvālāmālinī is the yakṣī or female attendant deity of the eighth Jina, Candraprabhanātha or Lord Candraprabha. She is a śāsana-devatā – ‘deity of the teaching’ – and is believed to help protect and spread the message of her Jina. She is also a popular goddess worshipped as an independent deity among Digambaras. Among the sect of the Śvetāmbaras she is known as Bhr̥kuṭi but has hardly any role in religious practice. Candraprabha’s yakṣa, known as Vijaya to Śvetāmbara Jains and as Śyāma to Digambaras, does not have an individual role either.
As a goddess, Jvālāmālinī is a soul subject to the cycle of birth and can intervene in human affairs, unlike Jinas, who are liberated, perfect souls, completely detached from everyday human experience. Lay Jains worship gods partly to request help with worldly matters, ranging from issues of health and fertility, and passing examinations to business success. By the tenth century several of the śāsana-devatās had developed into independent gods at the centre of their own cults. This may be because of their connections with the major Jinas, links with a prominent pilgrimage centre or various stories of their powers.
Name and roles
In addition to her role as yakṣī to the eighth Jina, Candraprabhanātha or Lord Candraprabha, Jvālāmālinī is considered to be a very powerful goddess, who can protect against evil and cure disease as well as bestow favours on devotees. The name Jvālāmālinī means ‘Flame-garlanded’ and points to her as a fire goddess.
In the Purāṇas of the Hindu religion there is a goddess with the similar name of Jvālā. In both traditions ‘the central theme appears to be the same, [namely] a fiery energy manifesting itself in the form of a Great Goddess to quell the evil’ (Settar 1969: 309).
According to the Vasudeva-ḥiṇḍī, a Prakrit work dating back to the first centuries CE, the most efficient magic power – vidyā – is Mahājvālā – ‘Great-flamed’ – (Jhavery 1944: 264), with which Jvālāmālinī can be identified. Among the Digambaras she seems to have become popular as a vidyā-devī – goddess of knowledge – and a yakṣī around the eighth century.
In folk stories (Dhāriṇī 1981 in Zydenbos 1994: 141), Jvālāmālinī helps people in trouble who perform austerities, especially fasts. However, fasting to gain her good will must be undertaken with ‘purity of purpose’, and, ultimately, it is obedience to the deity that counts. For instance, there was a man who performed austerities because he wanted to become a king. The goddess ‘told him that his effort was useless, and against her explicit order he turned to look at her in her fierce form, as a result of which he became mad’.
The extreme power and charm of Jvālāmālinī are often underlined in folklore. ‘She is said to cure all diseases, to ward off all kinds of snakes and untimely and unnatural death and above all to counter act the adverse influence of planets and ward off evil spirits of all kinds: she is described as Mahāvaśī – great subduing or controlling power’ (Jhavery 1944: 335).
How Jvālāmālinī came to be the yakṣī of the Jina Candraprabhanātha or Lord Candraprabha is unclear. However, several legends have been told about her (see Dhāriṇī 1981). These contain three main themes, namely that:
- following proper Jain principles and right behaviour is the way to achieve one’s aims
- honouring the Jina is most important
- Jainism is superior to other faiths.
According to one story, there is a prince named Puṇḍarīka who becomes angry at his horse for its exhaustion. He begins beating it as a few girls leave a nearby temple. One of those girls, Kanakamālā or Kāñcanamāle, takes pity on the horse and boldly begins to scold the prince for his cruelty. Instead of taking offence at this, the prince is charmed by the girl and her behaviour, and he tells his mother, the queen, that he wishes to marry that girl. The queen then sends for Kanakamālā and her parents, and soon the royal wedding is arranged.
Some time after the marriage, Puṇḍarīka feels that he cannot give up some of his more cruel pastimes, such as hunting, because he believes they are part of his duty as a member of a warrior caste. This upsets his wife greatly, as she sees it as a form of violence, which is against Jain principles. So she spends increasingly long periods alone in the palace garden. One day, when she stands near the pond in the garden, she sees a palace under the water and a staircase leading down to it. When she descends the stairs into the palace, she sees a goddess on a throne, attended by numerous servants. Kanakamālā is awed by the splendour of the setting and humbly asks the goddess by which vrata – observance of vows – she has attained this divine state.
The goddess explains that she had become a deity by keeping a number of vows in honour of the Jina and the goddess Padmāvati. She instructs the princess how she too could become a goddess, namely through:
- keeping particular fasts
- performing certain forms of worship at temples
- observing Friday as the day preferably dedicated to Padmāvatī.
Some of the nymphs who attend the goddess then lead the princess back up to the garden. Kanakamālā devoutly follows all the instructions the goddess has given her, and after she dies she instantaneously becomes Jvālāmālinī (Zydenbos 1981: 139ff.; 1993: 23–24).
In another tale, Jvālāmālinī is connected with the biography of the philosopher Samantabhadra, who lived in the ninth century (Zydenbos 1994: 140–141).
After listening to stories of the eighth Jina, Candraprabha, from his teacher, Prince Śrīvarma becomes an ascetic, taking the name Samantabhadra. He is then afflicted by a disease that causes permanent hunger, which cannot be satisfied by any amount of food. Samantabhadra asks his teacher for permission to fast unto death, but is refused.
Instead, the teacher sends the monk to Kāñcī, where the king brings gigantic offerings to the Hindu deity Śiva, which remain unused. Samantabhadra says he will get the stone liṅga to eat it. He is left alone in the temple, eats the food and finally gets rid of his disease.
The king believes that Śiva has accepted his offerings and is happy. But Samantabhadra is now unable to eat large amounts of food, as he used to do, which makes the king suspicious.
Samantabhadra is a devotee of the goddess Jvālāmālinī so he meditates on her. The moment the king wants to open the temple doors, ‘the goddess sends out a blinding light from the liṅga and shows the people the moon in it’ (Zydenbos 1994: 141). The moon is the emblem of Lord Candraprabha. Impressed by this, the king becomes an ascetic and later writes many celebrated scriptures.
In this account Jvālāmālinī shows her respectful subordination to the Jina with whom she is associated, as in the final episode she displays his brightness, not her own.
Image by Ramesh Kumar © French Institute of Pondicherry
Both yakṣas and yakṣīs are considered part of the entourage of the Jina image, technically known as parikara. Like all of the attendant deities, Jvālāmālinī has certain features that help to identify her and indicate her powers. These are described in, for example, texts on the iconography of the Jina, which outline the appearance of the Jina’s attendants. For instance, Jvālāmālinī is described in the Candraprabha-purāṇa, written in Kannara by Aggal̥a in 1189 CE (Settar 1969: 317). References to her description are also found in various works or verses as late as the 16th to 17th century.
- may have more than two arms or hands
- has a vehicle – vāhana
- demonstrates attributes by holding various objects
- may exhibit hand-gestures that symbolise a concept or attitude – mudrās.
Jvālāmālinī’s divine vehicle is a buffalo or bull, though there are regional variations. In her usual form she has eight hands, holding:
- a disc
- a bow
- a noose
- a hide or shield
- a trident or piercing instrument
- an arrow
- a fish
- a sword.
There may be slight variations in Jvālāmālinī’s attributes depending on the region. As with other yakṣīs, several of these attributes are weapons or weapon-like. They indicate that the goddess is caught in the cycle of rebirths and is not free from passions and desires, and also point to connections with religious traditions other than Jainism.
Jvālāmālinī is often shown with flames around her. This halo of flame is a distinctive feature that agrees with the meaning of her name.
Jvālamālinī, yakṣī of Candraprabha
Image by British Library © British Library Board on www.Europeana.eu
A 19th-century drawing of this figure is held in the British Library and presents Jvālāmālinī decked in rich jewellery and with symbols of royalty, such as a canopy. Her headdress is adorned with a small image of a Jina. She has eight arms and holds:
- an arrow – bana
- a trident – trisula
- a disc – cakra
- a sword – khadga
- a bow – dhanus
- a whip – kasha
- a conch – shankha.
The left hand resting on her thigh is damaged so it is unclear what she was holding originally. Her buffalo mount is carved below but is defaced.
This goddess is associated with the site of Simhanagadde or Narasimharajapura in Karnataka, in Shimoga district, which has an important monastery – maṭha. There is an eight-handed image here in seated posture, which the monk Samantabhadra is said to have installed.
Other centres of Jvālāmālinī worship in Karnatak are:
- Maleyur in Chamarajanagar district, also known as ‘Kanakagiri kshetra’, which houses images of Jvālamālinī, Kūṣmāṇḍinī and Padmāvatī
- Nittur at Gubbi, near Tumkur has a temple possibly dating back to the 12th century which attracts many devotees (see Iyengar 254ff.).
- a dedicated temple in Gerusoppe, in north Karnatak, where the iconography of the main idol resembles that of the Hindu goddess Mahiṣāsuramardinī (Iyengar 249).
Decorated image of Jvālāmālinī
Image by Ramesh Kumar © French Institute of Pondicherry
Jvālāmālinī is worshipped to gain protection and help, as are all Jain deities. She is the subject of many songs of devotion that praise her good qualities.
- various names of the goddess
- mantras to use for various aims, such as controlling or paralysing other people
- relevant yantras.
Another such stotra can be read on page 212 of Nawab 1937/1996.
The connection of Jvālāmālinī with Tantric worship is shown in hymns of praise or in kalpas, which set out rituals and yantras for efficient, successful worship. The ceremonies include recitation of mantras, meditation and visualisation through yantras (see Nawab 1995: 190).
The most famous of the kalpas on Jvālāmālinī is the Jvālāmālinī-kalpa, written by Indranandin in the 11th century (Nawab 1995: 42–86). It narrates how the Digambara monk Helācārya, leader of a southern monastic lineage, saw that one of his female disciples, Kamalaśrī, was possessed by a fierce demon. He took her to the top of Nīla-giri Hill to ask for help from Vahnidevī – ‘Fire-Goddess’. This goddess gave him a mantra and instructed him in its use. She recited the mantra herself to drive out the demon from the possessed woman. The monk then began to teach others the worship of Jvālāmālinī, whose name of ‘Flame-garlanded’ is a clear reminder of the original goddess (Cort 1987: 246).
Written in Sanskrit verses, the Jvālāmālinī-kalpa is divided into ten chapters and needs further scholarly exploration.
Number of verses
Mantras and gestures – mudrās – relevant to accomplishing various aims, such as controlling or paralysing others
Process of applying oil to disturb malevolent spirits
Mantras and yantras to control other people
Bath of Vasudhārā (?)
Ceremony to gain success
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John E. Cort
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