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

Image: Mahāvīra's renunciation

Title: Mahāvīra's renunciation

Source:
Royal Asiatic Society
Shelfmark:
Tod MS 34
Author:
unknown author / Bhavadeva-sūri
Date of creation:
1404
Folio number:
48 verso
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

Mahāvīra’s renunciation is shown in two successive scenes. In chronological order, the lower scene has to be read first and the top one second.

Upper level

On the left side a male figure wearing a single garment is seated. He catches his long hair in his hand. On the right a man with four hands sits under a canopy. In between them is a tree.

The figure on the left is Prince Mahāvīra, who has now given up all the possessions of a prince. He is preparing to pluck out his long hair in five handfuls. This is the symbolic gesture of giving up worldly life and entering religious life known as keśa-loca. Monks and nuns still perform this act of dīkṣā today. The tree before him is the aśoka tree under which this event is said to have happened. The figure watching him is the god Śakra, who is present at the key points of Mahāvīra’s life. Deities are often depicted with four or more hands in Jain art. Here Śakra is shown with a pair of his hands ready to receive the hair of the future Jina.

Mahāvīra performs his initiation ceremony in public in a park outside the city of Kuṇḍapura.

Lower level

A large figure sits in a palanquin carried by four men, who are lined up along the bottom.

The painting shows Prince Mahāvīra on his way to the park outside the city of Kuṇḍapura, where he will renounce the worldly life. The god Śakra has prepared the elaborate palanquin, which resembles an architectural structure, and has the name Candraprabhā – ‘as bright as the moon’ in Sanskrit. This name appears in the first line of the facing text: Candapābhāe siyāe – ‘on the palanquin C.’

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 three red discs along the central horizontal plane are symbolic reminders 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 discs are in 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', which is visible in the left-hand margin inside the red disc (see Kapadia 1937).

In the system of 'letter-numerals', each number or digit from 1 to 10 is represented by a different letter. The number 20 is represented by a particular letter, which is different from those used for 30, 40 and so on. The number 100 has its own letter, while 200 has another letter, 300 its particular letter and so on up to 400. Numbers with more than one digit, such as 34 or 258, are represented by two or three of these letters placed one above the other. On this page the sign for 40 is placed above the sign for 8, meaning 48.

The red disc in the middle of the right-hand margin contains the number 48. This is the folio number. It is written again in smaller script in the bottom-right corner of the page.

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 corrections in smaller script. For example, on line 3 the scribe had written the word maṃgaliya – ‘auspicious’ – instead of laṃgaliya – ‘proclaimers’. The confusion came from the fact that maṃgaliya occurs slightly later in the same sentence.

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. On this page the glosses are especially numerous.

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.

Glossary

Dīkṣā
Religious initiation through which a man or woman leaves the householder or lay status to become a mendicant. Parts of this ritual renunciation are public ceremonies, depending on the sect.
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.
Keśa-loca
Pulling out one’s hair in handfuls in a symbolic gesture as a part of the religious initiation known as dīkṣā. Only mendicants do this, and they do it regularly in their monastic life.
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.
Pañca-muṣṭi
The Sanskrit term for 'five handfuls' refers to the traditional gesture of the initiation ritual – dīkṣā – in which the future mendicant pulls out his or her own hair in 'five handfuls'. Nowadays, new monks and nuns symbolically pull out a single hair while the rest of their hair is shaved off. The shaven heads of Jain ascetics indicate their status.
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.
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.
Deity
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
Initiation
Formal or ceremonial admission into an organisation or group.
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.
Renunciation
Giving up something. A lay person who becomes an ascetic renounces the life of a householder within society, instead choosing the physical hardships of being a monk or nun. The formal renunciation ceremony in Jainism is dīkṣā.
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.
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.
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. 
Palanquin
A bed or seat attached to poles, which are carried by bearers on their shoulders. The palanquin is usually a closed box or has curtains sheltering the person within.
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.
Auspicious
Favourable or lucky. Auspicious objects bring good fortune and may predict good events or a bright future. 
Scribe
Someone who copies manuscripts for a living. Scribes are common in societies where literacy is rare. In the past, however, scribes could not always read and write fluently.
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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