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Browsing: Fragments of Jain manuscripts (Or. 13950)

Image: Gardabhilla kidnaps Sarasvatī

Title: Gardabhilla kidnaps Sarasvatī

Source:
The British Library Board
Shelfmark:
Or. 13950
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
unknown
Folio number:
187 verso
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

The caption in the upper left is slightly damaged, but it says: u[or a]pahara[na] – 'kidnapping'.

The illustration contains two scenes at different levels.

On the top level the man on horseback is King Gardabhilla. The blue colour of the horse is not realistic, though its form, trappings and expression are. The horse is preceded by a dog. The movement of the animals shows eagerness and haste. The king is approaching the figure on the left. This is the nun Sarasvatī, whom they are about to kidnap.

On the bottom level the mounted figure on the left is King Gardabhilla. The man on the right is one of the king’s soldiers. He is carrying Sarasvatī on his shoulders. The scene is full of movement. The nun is wearing typical Śvetāmbara monastic robes. The robes of nuns are slightly different from monks’ robes in that they continue behind the neck up the back of the head. This is a distinctive characteristic of their sex in pictures. Here Sarasvatī’s face looks feminine, but this is not always the case and it may not be that easy in Jain art to differentiate monks from nuns using only their faces.

This painting illustrates an episode in the life of Kālaka. During his mendicant wanderings, the monk Kālaka preaches to a crowd outside the city of Ujjayinī. The nuns join the crowd and among them is Sarasvatī, who is Kālaka’s sister.

Captivated by Sarasvatī’s beauty, King Gardabhilla of Ujjayinī grabs her and has her carried away to his harem. Sarasvatī calls out to Kālaka for help. The text alongside the illustration contains her desperate call for help.

The long protruding eye is a typical feature of Western Indian painting. Its origin is unclear.

Other visual elements

There are several notable things about this page, which is not in perfect condition as the edges are slightly torn.

The Kālaka story is often an appendix to Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts. In many Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts, there is a clear intention to make the manuscript a valuable and remarkable object in itself. This often holds true for the manuscripts of the Kālaka story as well. Here this aim is signalled by the:

  • shape and style of the script, which is close to calligraphy
  • use of gold ink for the red-edged border lines and ornamental diamond shapes
  • division of the text into two equally-sized panels, separated by a 2-centimetre margin containing a golden diamond
  • blue ornamental motifs around the three diamonds, in the centre and at the two sides.

There are three ornamental diamonds because this is the verso side of a folio.

This version of the Kālaka story is told in poetry. Verse numbers are at the end of each stanza. They are often in red, like here. On this page are the following numbers:

  • 10 on line 1
  • 11 on line 5.

This means that this page contains the end part of verse 10, all of of verse 11 and part of verse 12.

The bottom of the right margin contains the number 187, which is the folio number. It is a high number because this manuscript is the continuation of a Kalpa-sūtra manuscript. However, the rest of the manuscript is not available.

Script

The elaborate script used is the Jaina Devanāgarī script, which is here like calligraphy. There are a few notable features of this script.

Firstly, it is an old type in the way the sounds e and o are notated when used with a consonant, known as pṛṣṭhamātrā script.

There are red vertical lines within the text marking out verse divisions. Single red vertical lines indicate where a verse is divided in two, while double red vertical lines are found at the end of the verse.

Background

The Kālakācārya-kathāStory of the religious teacher Kālaka – emphasises the connection between religious practice and magical abilities. As an accomplished Jain teacher, Kālaka can master various magical sciences and transmute brick into gold. He uses his powers to help the Śakas, a foreign population. In exchange, the Śakas help him destroy the wicked King Gardabhilla.

This eventful tale belongs to the Śvetāmbara Jain tradition. It is known in several versions in various languages and is often illustrated.The one in this manuscript is an anonymous text in Sanskrit verse, but the first seven stanzas are missing. Also missing are folios 191 to 197, corresponding to stanzas 33 to 61.

This version is known as Śrīvīra-vākyānumatam from its starting words. It is a short recension, where the story is told in simple language without poetical embellishments. By an unknown author, it is one of the most popular versions of the Kālaka story.

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

Kalpa-sūtra
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.
Nun
A woman who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, nuns perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.
Preach
To deliver a speech on a religious topic, usually given by a prophet or member of the clergy. It may be a formal task of a religious office or open to all believers in a religious faith. Often covering social and moral subjects, preaching may be intended to:
  • remind hearers of religious principles and rules
  • encourage piety
  • persuade non-believers of the correctness of the preacher's religious beliefs.
Vihāra
A Sanskrit term that describes the wandering lifestyle of Jain mendicants. Jain monks and nuns are expected to travel around, not stay in one place as householders do. They wander constantly on foot, never staying more than a few days in one place. They may walk around 30 kilometres a day in small groups. However, every year, during the monsoon, monks and nuns stay in one location to avoid travelling.
Sanskrit
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.
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.
Jaina Devanāgarī
The distinctive version of the Devanāgarī script found in Jain manuscripts.
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.
Verso
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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