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Browsing: Fragments of Jain manuscripts (Or. 13950)

Image: Kālaka and the Sāhi

Title: Kālaka and the Sāhi

Source:
The British Library Board
Shelfmark:
Or. 13950
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
unknown
Folio number:
190 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

This page consists of stanzas 25 to 26 of this Sanskrit version of the popular story of Kālaka.

A large figure in the centre is seated in his palace on a large lion-throne surmounted by parasols, the emblem of kingship. He is shown in full regalia, his sword in one hand and a flower in the other. On the right, facing the king, sits a Jain monk in characteristic Śvetāmbara monastic robe. His hands are folded in a gesture of respect and prayer towards the king. He is holding the cotton broomrajoharaṇa – under one of his arms. The monk is Kālaka.

The big figure is the king of the Śaka people, known as the Sāhi.

Nobody can persuade King Gardabhilla to free the nun Sarasvatī, whom he has kidnapped. Sarasvatī’s brother, Kālaka starts wandering and reaches the country of the Śakas. They live beyond the Indus river, which traditionally marks the boundary of the Indian subcontinent. There Kālaka meets the Sāhi, who appreciates his qualities and offers to help him in any way he needs.

The foreignness of the Śakas is emphasised by their depiction in Indian art, for example:

  • they have full flat faces
  • they have slanting eyes, not the protruding eye typical of Indians in painting from western India
  • their beards have a distinctive shape, similar to those found in Central Asian or Chinese populations
  • their clothes are very different from those of Indians.

The small figure standing below on the right is probably an attendant of the Śaka king. He has the same characteristics of face and clothing.

Other visual elements

There are several notable things about this page, which is not in perfect condition as the edges are rather 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 2cm margin containing a golden diamond
  • blue ornamental motifs around the golden diamond in the centre

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:

  • 25 at the beginning of line 1
  • 26 on line 4.

This means that verse 25 ends on this page, which also has all of verse 26 and a large part of verse 27.

The bottom of the right margin contains the folio number. Only the first two digits are visible as ‘1 9’ because the edge is torn. Since there is no gap in the text between this and the preceding folio, it is to be understood as ‘190’. 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.
Rajoharaṇa
The cotton-thread broom used by some groups of Śvetāmbara ascetics to sweep the ground before sitting, for example, so no insects or small creatures are harmed by mistake. It is also used by lay Jains when performing certain rites.
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.
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.
Subcontinent
The Indian or South Asian subcontinent is a term for the geographical area roughly covering modern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

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