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Browsing: Fragments of Jain manuscripts (Or. 13950)

Image: Cardboard manuscript holder – front

Title: Cardboard manuscript holder – front

Source:
The British Library Board
Shelfmark:
Or. 13950
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
unknown
Folio number:
not applicable
Total number of folios:
10
Place of creation:
western India
Language:
various in Devanāgarī script
Medium:
opaque watercolour on paper
Size:
25 x 10.5 cms
Copyright:
CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
Image copyright: Creative Commons Public Domain

Description

This is the front side of the manuscript holder. The pages are placed inside. The two parts of the cover are different sizes. The front cover measures 25 x 6.5 cms.

Both the outside and the inner sides are painted. Manuscript holders have no regular illustration theme but they tend to have either auspicious symbols or scenes of the Jain community. Such scenes are meant to underline the unity of the community by depicting its different members.

Outer painting

The gallery of a house or palace is shown in eight small panels. In each are ladies or men with folded hands, or pairs of figures. In one of them a lady's hand gesture shows that she is paying homage to a Śvetāmbara monk, who seems to wear the mouth-cloth.

To the left, the style of the flower recalls what can be seen in Mughal miniatures or on the Taj Mahal.

Inner painting

In the middle five white-clad persons are shown, holding something that could be a book or a white piece of cloth. They are Śvetāmbara monks.

On the left side are women in colourful clothes. Their hands are folded in respect. They mean to pay homage to the monks, although they only see the mendicants' backs. The monks are turned towards the large group of men shown on the right side. They look like well-off merchants or princes, and wear turbans. One of them is seated in a horse-drawn carriage, and is leaving the scene.

These women and men represent the Jain lay community – śrāvakas and śrāvikās – who have come to show their devotion to the monks, who represent the Jain teaching.

Background

Sometimes the pages or folios of a manuscript are placed inside a manuscript holder, like here. The folios are kept between the outside and inner parts. These holders are generally made of cardboard and painted with colourful scenes on their front and back sides.

Jain paper manuscripts are made up of loose pages or folios that are not bound like a Western book. For this reason, they do not have title pages or introductory matter at the front. Very often the text starts directly at the top of the first page and the beginning is marked simply by an auspicious sign in red ink. There are also cases where the recto side is blank and the text starts on the verso side of the first folio.

Sometimes there are decorated paper pages at the beginning and end of a manuscript. The blank recto side is decorated with ornamental motifs so as to make what is called a citra-pṛṣṭhikā page – a ‘page with painting’. Similarly, if the text ends on a recto side, the verso side remains blank or is decorated with ornamental motifs.

In some cases there are protective covers around a manuscript. These may be a rectangular cover at each end of the manuscript. Or, as here, they may be a cardboard holder.

Assorted folios

The pages or folios under this shelfmark belong to different manuscripts. The folios show a variety of handwriting, language and artistic style and are on noticeably different paper.

The folios are from four separate manuscripts, as follows:

  • several folios are from a single manuscript of the Kālakācārya-kathā – Story of the Ācārya Kālaka
  • three folios are from different manuscripts of the Kalpa-sūtra, an extremely popular text in the Śvetāmbara canon.

There is also a manuscript holder made for an unknown manuscript.

It is not known what has happened to the rest of each manuscript.

Copies of the Kalpa-sūtra and Kālakācārya-kathā are often made in a single manuscript, which may be why these folios were bundled together. At some point in the past these folios and the manuscript holder were put into a box at the British Library and labelled ‘Frags. of Jain Mss. Skt. / Pkt.’ meaning 'Fragments of Jain manuscripts in Sanskrit and Prakrit'. However, it is important to remember that they do not belong together.

Glossary

Muhpattī
Modern Indo-aryan language term from the Sanskrit ‘mukhavastrikā'. The small rectangular piece of cloth permanently fixed over the mouth by some mendicant orders. This is to avoid being violent accidentally, either by inhaling tiny creatures or killing them by breathing over them unexpectedly.This is not the same as the mouth-cover used on some occasions by other mendicants and by laypeople when they perform certain rites.
Pūjā
Sanskrit for 'worship' or 'homage'. All Jains perform rites of honour to the 24 Jinas. Rites of worship take place daily, with more elaborate ceremonies performed on holy days. Mendicant and lay Jains perform different rituals. Some sects worship images – mūrti-pūjaka – and others do not, and different sects have various practices. Focused on images or not, worship can be:
  • external or material – dravya-pūjā – involving offerings of food, drink and precious substances
  • internal or mental – bhava-pūjā – including singing hymns of praise, reciting mantras and meditating.
Saṇgha
Sanskrit for 'community'. The Jain ‘fourfold community’ is composed of monks, nuns, lay men and lay women.
Śrāvaka
'Hearer’ of the teaching. This commonly refers to the Jain lay man, who follows the teachings of the 24 Jinas and is not a member of the clergy or a religious order. The feminine form is śrāvikā.
Śrāvikā
'Hearer’ of the teaching. This commonly refers to the Jain lay woman, who follows the teachings of the 24 Jinas and is not a member of the clergy or a religious order. The masculine form is śrāvakā.
Śvetāmbara
'White-clad’ in Sanskrit, the title of one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which both male and female mendicants wear white robes. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.
Ascetic
Someone who withdraws from ordinary life to meditate and practise physical hardships in order to advance spiritually. Jain ascetics or mendicants beg for food from devout lay followers and wander the land. Also used as an adjective to describe the practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition.
Monk
A man who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to formally enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, monks perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.
Prākrit
A term for any of the dead vernacular languages of ancient and medieval India. It may be contrasted with classical Sanskrit, the language used by priests and the aristocracy. The Jains used a large variety of Prakrits, with the Jain canon written chiefly in Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit.
Mughal
The Mughal Empire lasted from 1526 to 1858, a period noted for its wealth, overall religious tolerance, and cultural and intellectual achievements, particularly in art and architecture. Originally Muslims who swept down from Central Asia, the Mughals' best-known ruler is probably Akbar the Great (1556–1605).
Folio
A single sheet of paper or parchment with a front and a back side. Manuscripts and books are written or printed on both sides of sheets of paper. A manuscript page is one side of a sheet of paper, parchment or other material. The recto page is the top side of a sheet of paper and the verso is the underside.
Auspicious
Favourable or lucky. Auspicious objects bring good fortune and may predict good events or a bright future. 

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