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

Image: Jain teacher instructs a monk

Title: Jain teacher instructs a monk

Royal Asiatic Society
Tod MS 34
unknown author / Bhavadeva-sūri
Date of creation:
Folio number:
101 verso
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


The large figure of a monk sits on a raised seat under a canopy, facing a smaller ascetic. They are in characteristic Śvetāmbara robes. They each hold their mouth-cloths in front of them, which signals that they are talking.

Above the smaller monk is the sthāpanācārya, symbolising teaching and teachers.

This illustration depicts a senior monk teaching another monk. The teacher's higher rank is shown by his larger size and throne-like seat. The listener is a junior member of the monastic community.

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 found here in the left-hand margin showing two letters with a zero between them.

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 100 is placed above a 0 and the sign for 1, meaning 101.

The red disc in the middle of the right-hand margin contains the number 101. This is the folio number. It is again written in smaller script in the bottom corner of the page.


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.

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. This page is fully packed with them.


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 third part of the Kalpa-sūtra – Sāmācārī – deals with particular monastic rules to be followed during the rainy season. The end of the text emphasises the centrality of forgiveness and of showing respect to more senior mendicants. These concepts are shown here in the painting.

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 Bhāvadeva-sūri.


In the course of Paryuṣaṇā during the monsoon sojourn, a monk or a nun has on the head hair even of the length [similar] to the cow’s hair; then, after the Paryuṣaṇā, he or she is not allowed to keep in that state even for a single night; It is necessary for a noble monk to have his head cleaned by a razor or by a tonsure. Daily tending, fortnightly scissoring, monthly razoring, and tonsure in six months or a year – such are the prescriptions of the senior monks. Having practised paryuṣaṇā during the monsoon sojourn, a monk or a nun [should not use] harsh words after the paryucṣaṇā.

Lalwani’s translation 1979: 180–181, with changes


[On line 6 of folio 101 recto: vāsā-vāsaṃ pajjosavie no kappai niggaṃthāṇa vā niggaṃthīṇa vā paraṃ]

1. pajjosavaṇāo go-loma-ppamāṇa-mitte vi kosa [mistake for kesā] taṃ rayaṇiṃ
2. uvāyaṇāvittae / ajjeṇaṃ khura-muṃḍeṇa vā / lukka-
3. siraeṇa vā / hotavvaṃ siyā pakkhiyā ārovaṇā / māsi-
4. e khūra-muṃḍe / addha-māsie kattari-muṃḍe / cham-māsie lo-
5. e / saṃvatsarie vā / thera-kappe vā / vāsā-vāsaṃ pajjo° no
6. kappai niggaṃthāṇaṃ vā 2 paraṃ pajjosavaṇāo ahigaraṇaṃ


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.
Modern Indo-aryan language term from the Sanskrit ‘mukhavastrikā'. The small rectangular piece of cloth permanently fixed over the mouth by some mendicant orders. This is to avoid being violent accidentally, either by inhaling tiny creatures or killing them by breathing over them unexpectedly.This is not the same as the mouth-cover used on some occasions by other mendicants and by laypeople when they perform certain rites.
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.
A small wooden object like a tripod on which a manuscript or book can be placed. It was originally understood as a substitute for the teacher's presence. It has four sticks on to which five cowrie shells wrapped in cloth are placed. The shells symbolise the Five Supreme Beings. Its appearance in art symbolises teaching or a preceptor.
'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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 
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.
Found in Jain manuscripts, an abbreviation in Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit indicating that pajjosavie is implied.
niggaṃthāṇa vā 2
Found in Jain manuscripts, an abbreviation in Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit indicating that niggaṃthīṇa vā is implied.
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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