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Browsing: Kalpa-sūtra and Kālakācārya-kathā (Tod MS 34)

Image: Śakra ritually baths baby Mahāvīra

Title: Śakra ritually baths baby Mahāvīra

Source:
Royal Asiatic Society
Shelfmark:
Tod MS 34
Author:
unknown author / Bhavadeva-sūri
Date of creation:
1404
Folio number:
42 recto
Total number of folios:
97 folios, numbered 16 to 112, with 1–15 missing
Place of creation:
western India
Language:
Prakrit and Sanskrit
Medium:
ink and watercolour on paper
Size:
32.5 x 9.4 cm
Copyright:
Royal Asiatic Society Images/RAS, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Description

In the centre a large jewel-bedecked figure is seated in the lotus posture, holding an infant on his lap. On each side stand two attendants holding jugs of precious substances. Above each of them is a bull. The mountain peaks below show that the scene takes place in a palace on a mountain.

During the night Mahāvīra is born, the Jain deities descend and ascend constantly from the heavens, causing a great light. The servants of Kubera, the god of riches and treasures, pour wealth into King Siddhārtha’s palace. Then the town is fully decorated to celebrate the event.

The various groups of gods take part in the celebrations 'in order to celebrate the lustral bath at the birth of the Jina'. This is the event depicted here, expanded on in the literary tradition.

The largest figure is the god Śakra, who intervenes at key points in the lives of the Jinas. During the night, he has placed a false baby at the side of the sleeping Queen Triśalā so he can take the newborn Mahāvīra. He brings the infant to the cosmic axis of Mount Meru, where the ritual of anointment takes place. The two bulls could represent the crystal bulls, which, the tradition says, Śakra created to stand in the four directions.

This anointing ceremony is the archetype of Jain festivals and finds an echo in the modern celebration of Mahāvīr Jayantī.

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

Other visual elements

In many Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts, there is a clear intention to make the manuscript a valuable and remarkable object in itself. Here this is achieved in a rather modest manner. This aim is signalled by the:

  • ornamental motif in the central margin
  • calligraphic script.

The red disc in the centre is a symbolic reminder of the way in which manuscripts were bound at one time. Strings through one or more holes in the paper were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The disc is in one of the places where the holes would once have been.

This manuscript belongs to a rather early phase of Kalpa-sūtra paper manuscripts, the beginning of the 15th century. This is evidenced by the:

  • format of the paper, which is rather narrow
  • old system of folio numbering, using 'letter-numerals', in the left-hand margins of the verso sides.
Script

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

This manuscript was read after it was copied and this page shows additions or corrections in smaller script, namely:

  • in line 3, the small number 97 added above the end of the line is the paragraph number
  • above lines 2 and 3 are Sanskrit explanations of Prakrit words in the text.

In many manuscripts the paragraph numbers are part of the text, but here they have been added afterwards.

The lines in smaller script above and below the main text and in the margins are explanations in Sanskrit of phrases found in the central part. The two small parallel lines like slanted = after the words are meant to separate the explanations in the margins. The parallel lines around words in the text indicate which words are glossed.

In the left-hand margin the words x dev’ujjoe / egāloe loe devā sannivāyā / 3 appear in larger script. This means that the phrase should be added within the text at the beginning of line 3. A sign in the text also indicates this.

Background

The Kalpa-sūtra is the most frequently illustrated Jain text of the Śvetāmbara sect. It is read and recited by monks in the Śvetāmbara festival of Paryuṣaṇ, which takes place in August to September each year.

The first part of the Kalpa-sūtra deals with the lives of the Jinas, especially Mahāvīra, Pārśva, Nemi and Ṛṣabha. It features almost identical stories of their births, lives as princes, renunciation, enlightenment and final emancipation.The second part – Sthavirāvali – is a praise of the early teachers of Jainism. The third part – Sāmācārī – deals with particular monastic rules to be followed during the rainy season.

The author, or authors, of the Kalpa-sūtra is unknown, although it is attributed to Bhadrabāhu. Manuscripts of the Kalpa-sūtra frequently contain a related text at the end, called the Kālakācārya-kathā. The Story of the Monk Kalaka provides an explanation of the date of the festival of Paryuṣaṇ, in which the Kalpa-sūtra features. The version in this manuscript is by Bhavadeva-sūri.

Translation

In that night in which the Venerable Ascetic Mahāvīra was born, as many gods and goddesses descended and ascended, there being a great gathering of gods, which gave a divine light to the world, there was noise and confusion. During the night when the Venerable Ascetic Mahāvīra was born, many gods of the animal world and of the Jr̥mbhaka world, the order-bearers of Vaiśravaṇa [caused] in the residence of King Siddhārtha a shower of silver, of gold, diamonds.

Lalwani’s translation, 1979: 53, with changes

Transcription

[At the end of line 6 on folio 41 verso] jaṃ
1. rayaṇiṃ ca ṇaṃ samaṇe bhagavaṃ Mahāvīre jāe / taṃ rayaṇiṃ ca ṇaṃ
2. bahūhiṃ devehiṃ devīhi ya uvayaṃtehiṃ uppayaṃtehi
3. ya [dev’ujjoe / egāloe loe devā sannivāyā] uppiṃjalamāṇa-bhūyā kahakaha-bhū[] yāvi hotthā (97).
4. jaṃ rayaṇiṃ ca ṇaṃ samaṇe bhagavaṃ Mahāvīre jāe / taṃ rayaṇiṃ
5. ca ṇaṃ bahave Vesamaṇa-kuṃḍadhārī tiriya-Jaṃbhagā devā
6. Siddhattha-rāya-bhavaṇaṃsi hiranna-vāsaṃ suvanna-vāsaṃ ca vaira-vā[saṃ].

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.
Jina
A 'victor' in Sanskrit, a Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma and teaches the way to achieve liberation . A synonym for Tīrthaṃkara, which means 'ford-maker' or one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience through asceticism. The most famous 24 – Ṛṣabha to Mahāvīra – were born in the Bharata-kṣetra of the middle world , but more are found in other continents. There have been Jinas in the past and there will be some in the future.
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.
Kevala-jñāna
Omniscience, enlightenment or perfect knowledge – the highest of the five types of knowledge , where one knows everything wherever and whenever it is. It is extremely difficult to attain, equivalent to the 13th stage of spiritual purity in the guṇa-sthāna. Digambaras believe only men can achieve it whereas Śvetāmbaras believe that both men and women can become enlightened.
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.
Ūrdhva-loka
The highest of the three worlds in Jain cosmology , the home of the various types of gods .
Mahāvīra
The 24th Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is yellow and his emblem the lion. Mahāvīra or 'the great hero' is his title. His birth name was Vardhamāna, meaning 'ever increasing'. His existence is historically documented but the two main sects of Digambara and Śvetāmbara Jains have slight differences in their accounts of his life.
Siddhārtha
Father of the 24th Jina Mahāvīra and king of present-day Bihar in northern India. His wife was Queen Triśalā.
Triśalā
The kṣatriya birth-mother of Mahāvīra. Queen Triśalā was married to King Siddhartha.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Indra
Sanskrit word for 'king' and the name of the king of the gods in the Saudharma heaven. Called Śakra by Śvetāmbaras and known as Saudharma to Digambaras, this deity is involved in all five auspicious moments – kalyāṇakas – in a Jina's life.
Sanskrit
A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.
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.
Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit
A dialect of the Prākrit language used for many Śvetāmbara Jain scriptures.
Jaina Devanāgarī
The distinctive version of the Devanāgarī script found in Jain manuscripts.
Padmāsana
Said to resemble the petals of a lotus, the lotus position involves sitting cross-legged with each foot on the opposite thigh. The soles face upwards while the knees rest on the ground. This posture is associated with meditation. Jinas and other enlightened figures are often depicted in this pose.
Mount Meru
The cosmic axis of the Jain universe. Located in the middle of Jambū-dvīpa, the innermost continent of Jain cosmology, Mount Meru consists of three forested terraces, each smaller than the one below. When a Jina is born, the gods visit the earth, take him away and wash him in the standard birth ritual on the mountain. Jain temples often have a tower symbolising Mount Meru. Mount Meru is also the centre of the universe in traditional Buddhist and Hindu belief.
Festival
A public commemoration of a religious ritual. Often a celebration that involves holding a religious ceremony to mark an important event in a religion's history. 
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.
Gloss
To explain or translate a word or phrase in a text. A glossary is a collection of such explanations. A gloss may be a short note in the margin or between the lines of a text or it may be an extended commentary.

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