Jain Festival: Dressing up the gods and goddess


The Non-Gujarati Jains is fieldwork project by videographer and Conceptual artist, Smrita Jain. Project for Citizen Folklife Program, Brooklyn Arts Council.


In my family, we celebrate both the Digambar and Svetambar rituals and cultural practices. The differences between these two denominations of Jainism are very few.

In the Digambar denomination, monks do not wear any clothes as clothes are considered worldly possessions and non-essential in life. Monks in the Svetambar denomination wear seamless white clothes. There are other differences in rituals and practices.

I was fortunate that I was able to record the ladies at the Center at the right time when they were preparing for the festival in celebration of the birth of the god.

From The Artist/Community : 

Even though we put this anghi on Bhagwan we are not allowed to say that this anghi looks beautiful because things are not supposed to be beautiful or not beautiful to us as it is supposed to be and Bhagwan is not attached to this.

We have to say Bhagwan looks beautiful in this anghi not anghi is beautiful because Bhagwan looks beautiful in this anghi. We have to say like that. It’s not the decoration it’s the fact that Bhagwan looks so good, so beautiful in this. When we wear clothes, we usually, we comment on the clothing, “Oh that dress is so beautiful.” But it’s that dress on the person, it’s the person that looks beautiful in the dress. Not everything matches on everyone, right? So, anghi looks beautiful because Bhagwan looks beautiful in the anghi not that the anghi itself is beautiful.

Here these are almonds. This is cotton thread. These are used for the decoration. And just as we wear good clothes during festivals, we like to dress up Bhagwan also similarly. We spend 8 days to make the decorations. This is called Parushan in which just as Bhagwan does not care for the anghi and the decoration, similarly you should also detach yourself from worldly possessions and decorations. Whatever you dress up Bhagwan in, he will always look good, he will always be smiling.

So then why are we decorating Bhagwan if he is not attached to worldly possessions?

These 8 days are very important for us. If we wear good clothes, we’d like Bhagwan also to wear good clothes. Because we think of Bhagwan as a live soul. So just as we decorate and prepare for the festival, we do the same for Bhagwan. We do this for how we view Bhagwan. Even though we decorate him like a prince, he is still detached so we do anghi.

What are you doing right now?

We are doing anghi right now. Basically, this goes on top of the idol.

Okay. What is this made up of? Is this clay?

This is a paste made of sandalwood shavings and a type of wood called sukkhad. It’s mixed together and used as a glue on the anghi.

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Thu, Aug 24, 2017
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