Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008
A terracotta image of Mallinath, the nineteenth Jain Tirthankar of the present age, has been discovered by archaeologists in Jessore, Bangladesh, and she’s all woman.
In the ancient religion of Jainism, Tirthankars are ascetics who have achieved enlightenment (aka nirvana) and are therefore no longer bound by karma to the circle of reincarnation.
There are two main sects of Jainism: Shvetambar and Digambara. Shvetambars hold that Mallinath was a woman and the only female Tirthankar of the present age. According to the Digambara, women (in the present age, at least) cannot achieve enlightenment.
The Khulna Archaeology Department kept this discovery on the down low “for security reasons”. I’m curious as to what the concern might have been exactly, but I bet it has something to do with the controversy over Mallinath’s gender.