There is no text on this page. Sometimes Jain manuscripts have purely decorative pages, such as this one, either before the text starts or after it has finished. Such pages are like covers. Here it is the opening cover, before the text starts.
As a rule, such pages do not depict any scene. They demonstrate ornamental motifs created using several geometric shapes. The shape on this page does not show any special item or holy symbol. It cannot be said to have any specific relationship with the text on the following pages. However, it functions as an auspicious symbol. Decorative motifs are often intricate, as if to underline the idea of abundance and wealth. Colours – here red and yellow – are lavishly used in harmonious patterns. Here the main forms evoke the shape of flowers. In this manuscript, a similar page is found at the end, but with different designs.
On the left and right are the margins, which border the inner space where the text is written in the main part of the manuscript.
The Jñāta-dharma-kathā is part of the Śvetāmbara canon. It is the sixth Aṅga, which is the first type of scripture in the canon. Like all the texts belonging to the Śvetāmbara canon, its language is the variety of Prakrit known as Ardhamāgadhī. The Prakrit version of the title of the work is Nāyā-dhamma-kahāo. The title as given in the left margin of the first folio is Jñāta-sūtram. The word sūtra is often used as an equivalent of 'sacred scripture'.
This work is narrative in character and composed of two main sections. The first one has 19 chapters, which contain different stories or parables. The second one has ten chapters, which are all repetitions of an initial story, but multiplied and modified, with changes in the names of persons and places.
The first section has rich narrative material and includes some stories which have become very famous in the Jain tradition. For instance, chapter eight is the first instance in the Śvetāmbara canon of a biography of Princess Mallī, who is destined to become the 19th Jina. Chapter 16 includes an early version of the story of Princess Draupadī, who wed the five Pāṇḍava brothers. It thus provides one of the first instances of a Śvetāmbara Jain version of the Mahābhārata epic. On the other hand, with the parable of the five rice grains entrusted to a man who must increase them, chapter seven has an Indian instance of a parable also known from the Bible.
Manuscripts show that the texts of the Śvetāmbara scriptures were copied without any interruption of the tradition through the centuries. This one is dated 1645 of the Vikrama era, or 1589 CE. Its interesting colophon mentions individuals who were involved in the commissioning and use of the manuscript, making it a noteworthy object.