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

Image: Mahāvīra's final liberation

Title: Mahāvīra's final liberation

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


On this page, the illustration is not full size and does not occupy the right-hand side of the page as in other cases in this manuscript. Instead, it is a small vignette in the middle margin.

A male figure in an elaborate headdress sits in the lotus posture of meditation. Below him is a large white crescent moon. A double-ended lotus stalk droops from his headdress. Mountain peaks are shown beneath him.

These mountains represent a natural landscape while the lotus flower symbolises spiritual purity. The figure is the 24th Jina Mahāvīra, who has died and reached emancipation. This state is represented by the crescent, which symbolises the siddha-śilā. This is the area at the top of the Jain universe where a liberated soul goes directly after leaving the body. There it enjoys perfect bliss and omniscience.

This is the standard way of illustrating the final emancipation. The peculiar headdress and the serene facial expression are characteristic of such scenes. The perfect happiness and power characterising a liberated soul – siddha – are considered close to that of royalty so Mahāvīra is shown adorned.

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.

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 margins of verso pages.

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 in smaller script, namely:

  • in line 3, the small number 55 added above the line is the translation into numbers of the Prakrit word paṇapannaṃ – ‘55’
  • at the end of line 4, the small number 36 above the line is the translation into numbers of the Prakrit word chattīsaṃ – ‘36’
  • in the margin of line 6, the number 51 stands for 151 and is the paragraph number.

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. On this page they are not very numerous.


This passage of the Kalpa-sūtra provides information of various kinds.

First, it refers to the town of Pāvā as the place where Mahāvīra died. Pāvāpurī is one of the most important sacred places for Jains because of this association.

Secondly, Mahāvīra’s pure state of mind at the time of death is underlined by his vow to keep a fast and by the fact that he was meditating and studying at that point.

Finally, two of the scriptures that are part of the Śvetāmbara canon are mentioned. These are the:

A Jina is always shown in meditation, either standing or sitting, like here. Among the Śvetāmbaras, the Jina is thought of as a spiritual king and is often depicted with ornaments and pictured seated on a throne.

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.


When in the descending era the greater part of the Duḥṣama-suṣamā period had elapsed and only three years and 8½ months were left, in the town of Pāpā, and in King Hastipāla’s office of the writers, [Mahāvīra] single and alone, [was] observing a vow of taking food devoid of water once every third day, when the moon was in conjunction with the constellation Svāti, at the time of early morning, seated in lotus posture, [and then after] having explained the 55 lectures on the outcome of good acts and the 55 lectures on the outcome of bad acts [= reference to the Vipāka-sūtra], and the 36 unasked questions [= reference to the Uttarādhyayana-sūtra], as he was concentrating on the chapter Pradhāna, [he] passed away, went beyond the bounds of karma, was uplifted after having left the world, cut asunder the tie of birth–old age–death, and became perfected, enlightened and liberated, the maker of the end, and the terminator of all misery.

Translation by Jacobi 1895: 269 and Lalwani 1979: 76–77, with changes


1. sūsamāe samāe bahu-viikkaṃtāe / tihi vāsehiṃ addhanavamehi ya māsehiṃ Pāvāe majjhimā-
2. e Hatthipālagassa ranno rajjū-sabhāe / ege abīe chaṭṭheṇaṃ bhatteṇaṃ apāṇaeṇaṃ Sāiṇā nakkhatte-
3. ṇaṃ jogam uvāgaeṇaṃ / paccūsa-kāla-samayaṃsi saṃpaliyaṃkaṃ nisanne paṇapannaṃ ajjhayaṇā-
4. iṃ kallāṇa-phala-vivāgāiṃ / paṇapannaṃ ajjhayaṇāiṃ pāva-phala-vivāgāiṃ / chattīsaṃ ca apuṭṭha-vā-
5. garaṇāīṃ / vāgarettā / pahāṇaṃ nāma ajjhayaṇāiṃ vibhāvemāṇe (2) kāla-gae viikkaṃte samujjā-
6. e chinna-jāi-jarā-maraṇa-baṃdhaṇe siddhe buddhe mutte aṃtakaḍe parinivvuḍe / savva-dukkha-ppahīṇe // 51.


Sanskrit for 'meditation', one of the six internal austerities or tapas that help purify the soul of karma. Meditation is deep thought about religious doctrine or mental focus on spiritual matters over a period of time. An important part of many religions, meditation is especially important in Jain belief because it forms key elements of religious practice and spiritual development.
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.
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.
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.
The 'liberation' of the soul from its body and thus from the cycle of rebirth because it has no karma and becomes omniscient. The ultimate aim of Jainism is to achieve mokṣa and become a liberated soul in siddha-śilā.
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.
An omniscient soul that has achieved mokṣa. All liberated souls live in the siddha-śilā, at the top of the universe, in perpetual bliss.
The realm of liberated souls, at the apex of the universe. All the liberated souls – siddha – dwell there in eternal bliss.
'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.
An ancient Jain text outlining the rules of monastic conduct, said to be Mahāvīra's final sermon. These 36 lectures provide rules for ascetics but also discuss various topics, such as karma and the substances in the universe, and recount the tale of Nemi's renunciation.
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. 
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.
Giving up or limiting food or specified foods for a period of time, usually as part of a religious practice. Fasting is a key part of Jainism, chiefly because it is believed to:
  • help destroy karmas that bind to the soul
  • gain merit – puṇya.
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.
Set of sacred texts that believers accept as authoritative within a religion. Synonymous with canon.
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.
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.
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.
A plant noted for its beautiful flowers, which has symbolic significance in many cultures. In Indian culture, the lotus is a water lily signifying spiritual purity and detachment from the material world. Lotuses frequently feature in artwork of Jinas, deities, Buddha and other holy figures.
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.
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. 
Known as a folio, a single sheet of paper or other material has a front and a back side. The recto page is the top side of a sheet of paper and the verso is the underside.
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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