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Browsing: Fragments of Jain manuscripts (Or. 13950)

Title: Eight Jinas

The British Library Board
Or. 13950
Date of creation:
Folio number:
unknown recto
Total number of folios:
Place of creation:
western India
various in Devanāgarī script
opaque watercolour on paper
25 x 10.5 cms
CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
Image copyright: Creative Commons Public Domain


In the upper corner of the left margin there is a damaged caption reading: …timā 6 // 37. This could stand for [Jinapra]timā – ‘Jina images’.

Four identical figures are seated in two rows in temple structures, all in the posture of meditation. They are eight Jinas.

They cannot be identified individually. This kind of depiction is a way of dealing with the 20 intermediate Jinas whose lives are not told at length in the Kalpa-sūtra. The lives of the Jinas from number 21 to 2 are summarised with little difference in the stories. The usual way to show them is to represent them, like here, as identical figures. Here only a selection of eight Jinas is shown. In other manuscripts, all 20 are depicted, either in one picture, or, more often, in two pictures each containing ten figures.

Other visual elements

As with many Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts, there is a clear intention to make the manuscript a valuable and remarkable object in itself. Here this aim is signalled by the:

  • shape and style of the script, which is close to calligraphy
  • use of gold ink in the paintings
  • division of the page into two equally-sized panels, separated by a 2-centimetre margin containing a red circle.

The red circle in the centre along the central horizontal plane is a symbolic reminder of the way in which palm-leaf manuscripts were bound at one time. Strings through this hole in the palm leaf were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The circle is in the place where the hole would once have been. One circle generally means a recto side, and three circles a verso side.

In the left margin the number ‘6’ is clear and should indicate the number of figures in the painting yet does not match what is actually shown. Such discrepancies are common in Jain manuscripts because the captions are directions for the painter, who in some cases did not follow them.

The number ‘37’ indicates the number of the picture within this manuscript. However, only one page of the original manuscript is available.


The elaborate script used is the Jaina Devanāgarī script. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here for Prakrit. There are a few notable features of this script, which:

  • is an old type in the way the sounds e and o are notated when used with a consonant, known as pṛṣṭhamātrā script
  • uses red ink for certain purposes.

Red is used to highlight stanza breaks and certain symbols and phrases, specifically:

  • the vertical lines within the text marking verse divisions, with single red vertical lines indicating where a verse is divided in two while double red vertical lines are found at the end of the verse
  • for the symbol cha, seen in the middle of line 3 and in the last line, which signals the end of a section or paragraph
  • for the phrase on line 5 taṃ jahā – ‘to wit’ – which introduces a list.


The Kalpa-sūtra is the most frequently illustrated Jain text of the Śvetāmbara sect. It is read and recited by monks in the festival of Paryuṣaṇ, which takes place in August to September each year.

The first part of the Kalpa-sūtra deals with the lives of the Jinas, especially Mahāvīra, Pārśva, Nemi and Ṛṣabha. It features almost identical stories of their births, lives as princes and then their renunciation, enlightenment and emancipation.

The second part – Sthavirāvali – is a praise of the early teachers of Jainism. The third part – Sāmācārī – deals with particular monastic rules to be followed during the rainy season.

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.


1. [Since the passing away of Arhat Ajita, namely the second Jina, 5,000,000] crores of sāgaropamas have passed / the rest
2. like for Śītala [the tenth Jina]// 3 years, 8 months and a half plus
3. 42 000 [= 42,003 years and 8 and a half months] //cha// 1 In that time
4. in that period, the Arhat Ṛṣabha from Kosala / Four [auspicious events in his life took place under the constellation]
5. Uttarāsāḍha, and the fifth took place in conjunction with Abījit. To wit:
6. He descended [from heaven] on Uttarāsāḍha, after having descended he entered the womb, etc. until
7. he was finally emancipated in Abhījit // cha// At that time.


The following elements are noteworthy in the text on this page, namely:

  • lines 1 to 3 mark the end of the section dealing with the 20 intermediate Jinas, whose lives are not told in detail in the Kalpa-sūtra
  • line 4 and the following lines begin the section where the life of the first Jina, Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha, is told at length.

The list of the 20 intermediate Jinas in the Kalpa-sūtra gives only the intervals of time between the appearance of each Jina. This is done in reverse order, starting with Jina number 21, Naminātha or Lord Nami, and going up to the second Jina, Ajitanātha or Lord Ajita.

Along with Mahāvīra, Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva and Neminātha or Lord Nemi, Ṛṣabha is one of the four Jinas whose life is narrated at length in the Kalpa-sūtra.


1. []garovama-koḍi-saya-sahassā viikaṃtā / sesaṃ
2. jahā Sīalassa // te-vāsa addha-nava-māsāhiya
3. bāyālīsa sahasse[h]i //cha//1 teṇaṃ kāleṇaṃ te-
4. ṇaṃ samaeṇaṃ / Usabhe arahā Kosalie / cau U-
5. ttarāsāḍhe / Abhīi paṃcame hutthā // taṃ jahā // 1
6. Uttarāsāḍhāhiṃ cue caittā / gabbhaṃ vakkaṃte / jā-
7. va Abhīiṇā parinivvue // cha// teṇaṃ kāleṇaṃ


Preceptor, teacher. A title given to a Jain religious teacher, usually one who is a head monk.
Sanskrit term meaning 'destroyer of enemies'. The enemies are the inner desires and passions. It is also a synonym for Jina. An Arhat is a liberated soul who has not yet left his fleshly body, but, as an omniscient being, is 'worthy of worship'.
Sanskrit for 'meditation', one of the six internal austerities or tapas that help purify the soul of karma. Meditation is deep thought about religious doctrine or mental focus on spiritual matters over a period of time. An important part of many religions, meditation is especially important in Jain belief because it forms key elements of religious practice and spiritual development.
A 'victor' in Sanskrit, a Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma and teaches the way to achieve liberation . A synonym for Tīrthaṃkara, which means 'ford-maker' or one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience through asceticism. The most famous 24 – Ṛṣabha to Mahāvīra – were born in the Bharata-kṣetra of the middle world , but more are found in other continents. There have been Jinas in the past and there will be some in the future.
The Book of Ritual attributed to Bhadrabāhu. It has three sections:
  1. 'Jina-caritra' – 'Lives of the Jinas'
  2. 'Sthavirāvalī' – 'String of Elders'
  3. 'Sāmācārī' – 'Right Monastic Conduct'.
A significant sacred text for Śvetāmbara Jains, the Kalpa-sūtra has a central role in the annual Paryuṣaṇ festival.
Omniscience, enlightenment or perfect knowledge – the highest of the five types of knowledge , where one knows everything wherever and whenever it is. It is extremely difficult to attain, equivalent to the 13th stage of spiritual purity in the guṇa-sthāna. Digambaras believe only men can achieve it whereas Śvetāmbaras believe that both men and women can become enlightened.
Second Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is gold and his emblem the elephant. There is no historical evidence of his existence.
The 21st Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is black, yellow or emerald and his emblem the blue lotus. There is no historical evidence of his existence.
The 22nd Jina of the present age, also called Ariṣṭanemi. His symbolic colour is blue or black and his emblem the conch. There is no historical evidence of his existence. The Jains hold that Nemi is the cousin of the Hindu god Kṛṣna. The tale of his renunciation and jilting of his fiancée Princess Rājīmati are famous among the Jains.
The 23rd Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is green and his emblem the snake. Historical evidence points to his living around 950 to 850 BC.
An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.
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.
Rainy season
The annual four-month rainy period in India, lasting roughly from June / July to October / November. Heavy rain, strong storms and gale-force winds are very common during this period. Mendicants cannot travel around and must stay in one place to avoid breaking their vow of non-violence and because the monsoon makes travelling on foot difficult and dangerous. It is known as cāturmāsa in Sanskrit, comāsa in Hindi and comāsu in Gujarati.
A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.
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.
Jaina Devanāgarī
The distinctive version of the Devanāgarī script found in Jain manuscripts.
Transcription of a letter symbol found at the end of chapters or at the end of works in Indian languages. It indicates that the chapter or the work is finished.
A unit in the Indian numbering system that stands for ten million or 100 lakhs. Often shortened to cr, crore derives from an Anglo-Indian term – karor – but ultimately descends from the Sanskrit koṭi.
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.
Known as a folio, a single sheet of paper or other material has a front and a back side. The recto page is the top side of a sheet of paper and the verso is the underside.

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