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Browsing: Kālakācārya-kathā (Beta 365)

Image: Kālaka changes bricks to gold

Title: Kālaka changes bricks to gold

Source:
Wellcome Trust Library
Shelfmark:
Beta 365
Author:
Bhāvadeva-sūri
Date of creation:
probably 15th to 16th centuries
Folio number:
5 verso
Total number of folios:
12
Place of creation:
western India
Language:
Māhārāstri Jaina Prākrit
Medium:
watercolour on paper
Size:
28 x 11 cm
Copyright:
Wellcome Library, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Description

The slightly damaged description in the top-left corner says: īṭavāha – 'carrying bricks'.

The illustration contains two scenes at different levels.

On the upper level at the left is a potter’s kiln full of a heap of bricks. Facing the kiln is a Jain monk wearing the typical Śvetāmbara monastic robe. This is Kālaka. He holds the cotton broom under one of his arms. The thumb and index of his other hand are folded to show that he is throwing magic powder on the bricks. Sprinkled with this magic powder, the bricks become gold ingots. The man on the right leaves the scene carrying a load of gold on his head.

On the bottom level the figure on the left carries a load of gold, followed by a man on horseback. The mounted man wears a kind of turban and holds a sword. He is a sāhi. This is what the Śakas call their chiefs.

The monk Kālaka is noticeably different from the other men in this picture. They are Śakas, who live beyond the Indus river, which traditionally marks the boundary of the Indian subcontinent. The foreignness of the Śakas is emphasised by their depiction in art, namely:

  • they have full flat faces
  • they have slanting eyes, not the protruding eye typical of Indians in paintings 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.

This painting illustrates an episode in the life of the prominent ascetic Kālaka. In the course of his wanderings, Kālaka travels to a place known as Śakakūla, beyond the Indus. There live the Śakas, whose chiefs have the title sāhi and whose king is referred to as sāhāṇusāhī. Thanks to his magic powers, Kālaka wins the favour of one sāhi. Kālaka has convinced the Śakas to go to Malwa, the capital town of which is Ujjain. He and his allies are on their way to rescue Kālaka’s sister, the nun Sarasvatī. She has been kidnapped by the wicked ruler of Ujjain, King Gardabhilla.

Kālaka and the Śakas reach the region of Saurāṣṭra but are forced to stay there because the rainy season makes travelling impossible. The rescuers’ supplies run out so Kālaka sprinkles magic powder on bricks. As shown in the top scene, the bricks are transformed into gold. The gold is distributed among them so they can buy provisions and continue on to Malwa. This is what the text says.

Other visual elements

There are several notable things about this page, namely that:

  • the original paper is slightly torn and has water stains
  • the bottom of the right margin contains the number 5, which is the folio number.

This version of the Kālaka story is in verse, with numbers at the end of each stanza, often between two vertical lines, like here. On this page they are:

  • 39 in the middle of line 2
  • 40 at the end line 4
  • 41 at the beginning of line 7.

The three red circles along the central horizontal plane are symbolic reminders of the way in which manuscripts were bound when they were on palm-leaf. Here the central one is in a square blank shape. Strings through three holes were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The circles are in the places where the holes would once have been.

Script

The elaborate script is the Jaina Devanāgarī script, in a form which recalls calligraphy. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here Prakrit.

There are a few notable features of this script, namely that:

  • it is an old type in the way the sounds e and o are notated when used with a consonant, known as pṛṣṭhamātrā script
  • the red vertical lines within the text divide the long sentences into smaller parts, but are not necessarily punctuation marks.

Background

The Kālakācārya-kathā'story 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 story is frequently found as an appendix to the Kalpa-sūtra because the last part of the story explains how Kālaka changed the date of Paryuṣaṇ. This annual festival was moved from the fifth day of the bright half of the month Bhādrapada – roughly equivalent to August to September – to the fourth. The Kalpa-sūtra has a central role in Paryuṣaṇ.

The version of the story here is that of Bhāvadeva-sūri, a Jain Śvetāmbara author of the 13th century CE. It is written in Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit and represents a short recension, where the story is told in simple language without poetical embellishments.

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.
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.
Paryuṣaṇ
An eight-day festival in August / September, which is the most important event of the religious calendar for Śvetāmbara lay Jains. They fast, read, spend time with monks and meditate. The last day is the occasion for public repentance. Reading the Kalpa-sūtra and sponsoring new manuscripts or editions of this canonical book are associated with this festival.
Śvetāmbara
'White-clad’ in Sanskrit, the title of one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which both male and female mendicants wear white robes. 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.
Ascetic
Someone who withdraws from ordinary life to meditate and practise physical hardships in order to advance spiritually. Jain ascetics or mendicants beg for food from devout lay followers and wander the land. Also used as an adjective to describe the practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition.
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.
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.
Rainy season
The annual four-month rainy period in India, lasting roughly from June / July to October / November. Heavy rain, strong storms and gale-force winds are very common during this period. Mendicants cannot travel around and must stay in one place to avoid breaking their vow of non-violence and because the monsoon makes travelling on foot difficult and dangerous. It is known as cāturmāsa in Sanskrit, comāsa in Hindi and comāsu in Gujarati.
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.
Bright fortnight
The half of the lunar month in the traditional Indian calendar in which the moon is at its fullest.
Jaina Devanāgarī
The distinctive version of the Devanāgarī script found in Jain manuscripts.
Māhārāṣṭrī Prākrit
A dialect of the Prākrit language used in some Jain writings.
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.
Subcontinent
The Indian or South Asian subcontinent is a term for the geographical area roughly covering modern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Kālakācārya-kathā
The very popular Story of the Ācārya Kālakā recounts the adventures of the Śvetāmbara monk Kālakā. Emphasising the connection between religious practice and magical abilities, the story is frequently found as an appendix to the Kalpa-sūtra because it explains how Kālaka changed the date of Paryuṣaṇ . This annual festival gives a central role to the Kalpa-sūtra scripture.

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