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Browsing: Kalpa-sūtra (Gamma 453)

Image: Rājīmatī and Rathanemi

Title: Rājīmatī and Rathanemi

Source:
Wellcome Trust Library
Shelfmark:
Gamma 453
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
1512
Folio number:
86 verso
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: ...gra guphā māhī Rājīmatī – 'Rājīmatī in the cave'.

A large peacock is set above the figures of a man and a woman. On the left is a strangely dressed woman in a mountain cave, while the man is a Jain monk, wearing the typical Śvetāmbara robe, with his hands clasped in front of him.

The woman is Princess Rājīmatī, who had been betrothed to Prince Nemi. Her fiancé had called off the wedding when he realised that his lifelong calling to the ascetic life could be denied no longer.

After Nemi jilts her, Rājīmatī retires to a cave in the mountains, which is represented around her. According to the tradition, she takes off her clothes after getting caught in the storm and is naked. Her somewhat strange clothing is the painter's way of representing nudity, which he probably did not want to show directly.

Nemi's elder brother, Rathanemi has become a Jain monk too. He happens to visit Rājīmatī's cave during the rainy season. He falls in love with Rājīmatī and asks her to marry him.

However, Rājīmatī is a virtuous woman and she preaches the right path to him – he should be true to his vows and remain a monk. Thus he cannot marry.

The atmosphere of the monsoon, with storm and lightning, is aptly rendered in the depiction of the sky. The peacock is a bird associated with this season, and here the painter has skilfully portrayed it emerging from the sky.

This is a well-known episode dear to the Jains, but it is rarely represented in Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts. This painting is therefore noteworthy and rather unusual.

Other visual elements

The bottom of the right margin contains the number 86. This is the folio number, in a square with two blue lines as an ornamental motif.

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
  • three diamonds filled with gold ink, with arrow-like blue lines and surrounding blue border as ornamental motifs.

The three diamonds along the central horizontal plane are symbolic reminders 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 diamonds are in 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. The third part – Sāmācārī – deals with particular monastic rules to be followed during the rainy season.

Glossary

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.
Nemi
The 22nd Jina of the present age, also called Ariṣṭanemi. His symbolic colour is blue or black and his emblem the conch. There is no historical evidence of his existence. The Jains hold that Nemi is the cousin of the Hindu god Kṛṣna. The tale of his renunciation and jilting of his fiancée Princess Rājīmati are famous among the Jains.
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.
Preach
To deliver a speech on a religious topic, usually given by a prophet or member of the clergy. It may be a formal task of a religious office or open to all believers in a religious faith. Often covering social and moral subjects, preaching may be intended to:
  • remind hearers of religious principles and rules
  • encourage piety
  • persuade non-believers of the correctness of the preacher's religious beliefs.
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.
Rathanemi
Brother of the 22nd Jina, Nemi. A Jain monk, he asked the nun Rājimatī, who was his brother's jilted fiancée, to accept him as her lover. He was brought back to the right path by her response.
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.

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