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Image: King Yaśogha renounces worldly life

Title: King Yaśogha renounces worldly life

Source:
Wellcome Trust Library
Shelfmark:
Beta 1471
Author:
Raïdhū
Date of creation:
perhaps 15th century
Folio number:
20 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

These two paintings show successive episodes in the story. There are two captions in the left-hand margin: Jasogha vairāgu – 'Yaśogha's disgust for worldly life' – and Jasodhara paṭṭavandhu – 'Royal turban bound to Yaśodhara'.

The second caption is repeated in the right-hand margin. The captions are numbered, though in the wrong order, so that '2' appears in the left margin while '1' is in the right margin.

Left panel

A richly dressed, bearded man holds up a mirror and his other hand. Facing him is a bejewelled woman bearing a tray.

As described in the text on the preceding page, King Yaśogha finds a white hair. He is reminded that youth is not eternal, that birth as a human being, which is so difficult to get, should not be wasted. He has had a pleasant life with his wife, Queen Candramatī, but he decides to become a monk and entrust the kingdom to his son, Yaśodhara.

The lady in front of him in the picture may be Queen Candramatī or a servant. There is no mention of any lady in the text. But the white hair, which is a literary motif marking a turning point in a story and the change of king, is often discovered by the queen or a servant while combing the king's hair.

Right panel

A beardless male figure sits on a high platform, a parasol above his head. Either side of him a man raises high a decorated pot.

The coronation of Prince Yaśodhara is shown. The parasol and raised seat on a platform, symbols of royalty, indicate his new status.

On each side is an attendant who carries a jug of sacred water used in the coronation ceremony. The ceremony is technically called 'anointment' – abhiṣeka – which implies the pouring of water.

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 20, which is the folio number.

In the upper margin there is one syllable missing from the main text. The number before it is the line number where it 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

Abhiṣeka
Anointing ceremony for a king, a Jina, a Jina image or any other holy image, with water or milk. Part of daily or special worship.
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.
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.
Rite
A sequence of actions that must be followed to perform a religious ceremony. The set of actions is largely symbolic, for example offering food to statues symbolises sacrificing to a deity. The ritual actions are often accompanied by set phrases.
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.
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