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Browsing: Jasahara-cariu (Beta 1471)

Image: Armed men seize Jain novices

Title: Armed men seize Jain novices

Source:
Wellcome Trust Library
Shelfmark:
Beta 1471
Author:
Raïdhū
Date of creation:
perhaps 15th century
Folio number:
13 verso
Total number of folios:
36
Place of creation:
probably Madhya Pradesh
Language:
Apabhraṃśa Prākrit
Medium:
watercolour on paper
Size:
27 x 12 cms
Copyright:
Wellcome Library, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Description

Two white-clad figures walk between two men wearing small caps and bearing long swords. The dark complexions of the latter indicate they are low-caste people. They each hold the wrist of one of the figures in white, who both carry a white pot. The curving white and blue bands, and flowers of the background signal that the scene is set outside.

Obeying King Māridatta's command, his men have been searching for a pair of human beings to sacrifice to the goddess Caṇḍamārī. Two of the king's armed men are seen here, their low social status shown by their dark complexion. They are 'outcastes'.

They have captured two young Jain mendicants – a boy, Abhayaruci, and a girl, Abhayamati. The Digambara novices – kṣullakas – wear white robes and have their heads covered. Advanced monks are naked. The novices carry their water pots, which are the main equipment of Digambara mendicants. While seeking alms they have become separated from the group of Jain monks to which they belong. They look almost identical, which is deliberate because they are twins. Because of their tenderness and youth, they are perfect sacrificial offerings for the goddess

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

Other visual elements

This is a good example of an average manuscript. A red background is used for the painting but there is no use of gold, intricate design elements or elaborate script.

The bottom of the right margin contains the number 13, which is the folio number.

In the upper and lower margins there are syllables missing from the main text, or corrections. The number before them is the line number where they should be inserted.

Script

The script used for the main text is the Jaina Devanāgarī script. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here Apabhraṃśa Prakrit.

Background

The 15th-century Digambara poet Raidhū composed a version of one of the most important Jain tales – the Story of Yaśodhara. Called the Jasahara-cariu, which means 'the story of Yaśodhara' in Apabhraṃśa Prakrit, Raidhū’s version has the subtitle of 'having the characteristic of compassion' – daya-lakkhaṇa. This underlines the main teaching of the story, which is a manifesto against violence of all types and a defence of non-violence.

A story with several episodes, the tale of Yaśodhara is a good representative of religious teaching in narrative form – dharma-kathā. Its importance comes from the fact that it shows very clearly the working of karma and rebirth and refers to key concepts, such as:

  • violence – hiṃsā – both factual and intentional
  • desire or greediness.

Ultimately, all the protagonists become pious Jains and will be emancipated.

The text is divided into four sections called sandhi, which go into detail about all the rebirths that are recounted in the story within a story:

Sections of the Jasahara-cariu

Section

Events

1

  • King Māridatta and the search for proper sacrificial victims
  • Birth of Yaśodhara

2

  • Yaśodhara's youth and death
  • His son Yaśomati ascends to the throne

3

  • Parallel rebirths of Yaśodhara and Candramati

4

  • Last rebirth as Abhayaruci and Abhayamati
  • Final conversions

This version of the story has not yet been published. It is known from very few manuscripts, which are all illustrated and in India. However, not a single manuscript is complete. So this one, held in the Wellcome Trust in London, is a precious document, even though it is only the first half of the story. It is probable that the second half of the document is a manuscript originally kept in Delhi, dated 1454 CE. It is also very likely that a single folio in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is part of the same manuscript (see Balbir, forthcoming).

Like other versions of the tale of Yaśodhara, Raidhū's narrative poem is a major inspiration for illustrations in Digambara manuscripts.

Glossary

Common Era
The period of time starting with the year when Jesus Christ was traditionally believed to have been born. Using CE is a more secular way of dating events in a multinational, multi-religious world.
Digambara
'Sky-clad' in Sanskrit, used for one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which monks are naked. 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.
Hiṃsā
Violence, the fact of harming in any way.
Jain
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
Kathā
Story, narrative literature.
Kṣullaka
Title given among Digambaras to a lay person who has taken the vows and observes the same strict rules as a monk but does not practise nudity.
Saṃsāra
Cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth caused by karma binding to the soul as a result of activities. Only by destroying all karma can this perpetual cycle finish in mokṣa – liberation. The karma gained in life affects the next life, and even future lives, for example:
  • in which of the three worlds the life is lived out
  • which of four conditions – gati – the body takes, namely human, divine, hellish or as a plant or animal.
Deity
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
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.
Nudity
The Digambara mendicants are 'sky-clad' because they believe that all the Jinas and their male ascetic followers went nude as part of their vow of renunciation. This vow entails renouncing all possessions, including clothing. Female Digambara ascetics wear white saris and are thus technically spiritually advanced celibate laywomen. Śvetāmbara mendicants of both sexes, however, wear white clothing. The difference of opinion over whether the vow of non-possession includes clothing was one reason for the Jain community's split into these two major sects early in the Common Era.
Apabhraṃśa
Apabhraṃśa is an umbrella term for the dialects that were the forerunners of modern Indian languages. Taken from the Sanskrit term apabhraṃśa, which literally means 'corrupt' or 'non-grammatical language', Apabhraṃśa was used to write a large number of Jain texts. Though Apabhraṃśa developed over the 6th to 13th centuries, literary works date back to the 8th century.
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.
Caste
Hindu society is traditionally divided into numerous jātis or classes, which are usually grouped into the four varṇas – often called 'castes' – of:
  • Brāhmaṇa – priest
  • Kṣatriya – warrior
  • Vaśya – merchant or farmer
  • Śūdra – labourer.
Relating to ritual purity, castes are hereditary and probably based on occupation. Members of different castes performed particular socio-economic roles and did not mix or eat the same food. People outside the caste system were usually looked down upon.

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