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Image: Jambū-svāmin debates with his wives

Title: Jambū-svāmin debates with his wives

Source:
Wellcome Trust Library
Shelfmark:
Gamma 453
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
1512
Folio number:
106 recto
Total number of folios:
139
Place of creation:
western India
Language:
Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit
Medium:
watercolour on paper
Copyright:
Wellcome Library, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Description

The partly damaged caption in the upper-left corner says: [Jambu]svāmi aṣṭakanyā – 'Jambū-svāmin [and his eight wives]'.

Nine well-dressed people sit on rich chairs across three levels. The figure at the top left is a man while all the others are women. He holds up his left hand while the women all hold up a fruit.

This is a standard depiction of the life of the Elder Jambu. He is identified as a disciple of Sudharma-svāmin in line 6 of the text alongside the illustrated panel. The women are his eight wives.

As a newly married young man, Jambū decides to give up worldly life. He tells a story supporting his point of view. His first wife relates a tale to back her view that he should not do this. Jambū and each of his wives exchange stories to uphold their different viewpoints. The women finally recognise that he is not going to change his mind and that he is right. They then decide to become ascetics too.

Other visual elements

The original paper is slightly damaged but has been repaired down the right-hand side and at the top. As with many Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts, there is a clear intention to make the manuscript a valuable and remarkable object in itself. This aim is signalled by the:

  • coloured background for the text
  • gold ink instead of the standard black ink
  • decorated border with blue floral motifs
  • diamond filled with gold ink, with ornamental blue border.

The diamond in the centre is a symbolic reminder of the way in which manuscripts were bound when they were on palm leaf. Strings through holes in the paper were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The diamond is in one of the places where the holes would once have been.

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. It starts with Mahāvīra's 11 direct disciples and ends with Devarddhi-gaṇi. He was the teacher who organised the Valabhī council, where the scriptures were put into writing in the fifth century CE. The third part – Sāmācārī – deals with particular monastic rules to be followed during the rainy season.

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.
Gaṇin
A religious title for a monk in charge of a small group of mendicants, who live and travel together. A gaṇinī is a nun who leads a group of female mendicants. 
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.
Sudharma
A disciple of Mahāvīra and a member of his gaṇadhara, he came from a brahmin family.
Disciple
An active follower of a religion, especially one who passes on teachings to others.
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.
Scripture
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.
Elder
A term used for a man who is one of those listed in early sources as the direct successors of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina.
Valabhī
The wealthy city of Valabhī – now Vallabhi – in Gujarat was a major centre of Jain intellectual life in the early medieval period. The final version of the Śvetāmbara canon was written down there under the supervision of the religious teacher Devarddhi-gaṇi Kṣamāśramaṇa in the fifth century CE.

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