Ambika (Jainism)

In Jainism, Ambika (Sanskrit: अम्बिका, Odia: ଅମ୍ବିକା Ambikā "Mother") or Ambika Devi (अम्बिका देवी Ambikā Devī "the Goddess-Mother") is the Yakṣi "dedicated attendant deity" or Śāsana Devī "protector goddess" of the 22nd Tirthankara, Neminatha. She is also known as Ambai, Amba, Kushmandini and Amra Kushmandini.[1] She is often shown with one or more children and often under a tree. She is frequently represented as a pair (Yaksha Sarvanubhuti on the right and Kushmandini on the left) with a small Tirthankar image on the top.[2] The name ambika literally means mother, hence she is Mother Goddess. The name is also common epithet to with Hindu Goddess Parvati.[3]

According to Jain text, Ambika is said to have been an ordinary woman named Agnila who became a Goddess.[4] She lived with her husband Somasarman and her two children Shubhanakar and Prabhankara in Girinagar. One day, Somasarman invited Brahmins to perform Śrāddha (funeral ceremony) and left Agnila at home.[5] Varadatta, the chief disciple of Neminatha,[6] was passing by and asked for food from Agnila to end his month-long fast.[7] Somasarman and Brahmins were furious at her as they considered the food to be impure now. Somasarman drove her out of the house along with her children; she went up to a hill. She was blessed with power for her virtue, the tree she sat down under became a Kalpavriksha, wish-granting tree, and dry water tank has overflown with water. Gods were angry at the treatment with Angila and decided to drown everything in her village but her house. After seeing this Somasarman and Brahmins felt this was because of saintliness and went to beg for her forgiveness. Upon looking at her husband afraid of punishment Angila committed suicide by jumping off the cliff but was instantly reborn as Goddess Ambika.[8] Her husband was reborn as a lion and he came to her, licked her feet and became her vehicle. Neminatha initiated her two sons and Ambika became Neminath's yakshi.[9][10]

Ambika is the yakshi of Neminatha with Sarvanha (according to Digambara tradition) or Gomedha (according to Śvētāmbara tradition) as yaksha .[6]

Worship of Ambika is very old, a number of images and temples of ambika are found in India.[9] Goddess Ambika along with Padmavati, Chakreshvari are held as esteemed deities and worshipped in Jains along with tirthankaras.[11][12] Ambika and Padmavati are associated with tantric rituals. These tantric rites involves yantra-vidhi, pitha-sthapana and mantra-puja.[13][14] Ambika is also called Kalpalata and kamana devi a goddess that fulfils. In Vimal Vasai Ambika is carved kalpalata, a wish fulfilling creeper.[15] Ambika is also associated with childbirth and prosperity.[8] Ambika and Sarvahana is the most favoured yaksha-yakshi pair in western parts of India.[16] Ambika is also worshiped as Kuladevi or gotra-devi.[17] Ambika is the kula-devi of the Porwad(Pragvat) Jain community. While she is worshipped by all murtipujak Jains, she is specially revered by the Porwads.[18]

According to legend, after completing construction of Gommateshwara statue, Chavundaraya organised a mahamastakabhisheka with five liquids, milk, tender coconut, sugar, nectar and water collected in hundreds of pots but liquid could not flow below the navel of the statue. Kushmandini appeared disguised as a poor old woman holding milk in the shell of half of a white Gullikayi fruit and the abhisheka was done from head to toe. Chavundaraya realised his mistake and did abhishek without pride and arrogance and this time abhisheka was done from head to toe.[19] Worship of Kushmandini devi or Ambika is an integral part of Jain rituals in Shravanabelagola.[20]

Goddess Ambika sitting on lion and mango tree branch in right arm and her son in left, Royal Ontario Museum, 8th-9th century

According to the tradition, her colour is golden and her vehicle is a lion. She has four arms. In her two right hands, she carries a mango and in the other a branch of a mango tree. In one of her left hands, she carries a rein and in the other she has her two sons, Priyankara and Shubhankara.[22][23][24][25] In South India Ambika is shown to have dark blue complexion.[21] Ambika is depicted as sashandevi for other tirthankars as well. Ambika is often represent with Bahubali.[26] Yaksha-Yakshi pair sculptures of Ambika and Sarvahanabhuti are one of the most favoured along with Gomukha-Chakreshwari and Dharanendra-Padmavati.[16]

Ambika has been popular an independent deity as well.[8][27] It is speculated that the origin of Ambika is attributed to elements of three different deities - first, goddess riding on the lion from Durga; Second, some goddess associated with mangoes and mango trees; Third, Kushmanda.[28]

A sculpture of Ambika was discovered at Karajagi village in Haveri taluk. The sculpture has a two-line Sanskrit inscription in Nagari script about the date of its installation - "Ambikadevi, Shaka 1173, Virodhikrit. Samvatsara, Vaishakha Shuddha 5, Guruvara". This corresponds to Thursday, 27 April 1251 AD.[29]