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Browsing: Jīta-kalpa-sūtra (Or. 1385)

Image: First page

Title: First page

The British Library Board
Or. 1385
Date of creation:
Folio number:
1 recto
Total number of folios:
77; 2 palm-leaf manuscripts
Place of creation:
western India
Ardhamāgadhī and Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prākrit in Devanāgarī script
ink on palm leaf
30 x 5 cms
CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
Image copyright: Creative Commons Public Domain


The ta-kalpa-sūtra is one of the Śvetāmbara Jain scriptures. It is an old technical treatise for monks dating back to approximately the sixth century. It deals with the punishments a monk must face if he breaks a vow or regulation that governs the mendicant lifestyle.

This particular manuscript has the conventional format of a page in palm-leaf Jain or non-Jain manuscripts – a long, narrow rectangle. With adjustments, this format continued to be used for Jain manuscripts when paper became widespread.

The earliest available Jain manuscripts in western India date back to the 11th to 12th centuries. They were written on palm leaf. Hardly any such manuscripts are found in libraries outside India, so this is a precious specimen.


Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
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.
Vows are extremely important in Jain religious life. Mendicants take the compulsory Five Great Vows – mahā-vratas – as part of their initiation – dīkṣā. Lay people can choose to take 12 vows, which are divided into:
  • aṇu-vratas – 'Five Lesser Vows'
  • guṇa-vratas – three supplementary vows
  • śikṣā-vratas – four vows of spiritual discipline
All of these vows are lifelong and cannot be taken back. The sallekhana-vrata is a supplementary vow to fast to death, open to both ascetics and householders. 
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.

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