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Image: Hariṇaigameṣin removes Mahāvīra's embryo

Title: Hariṇaigameṣin removes Mahāvīra's embryo

Source:
Victoria and Albert Museum
Shelfmark:
IM 7-1931
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
circa 1490
Folio number:
7 verso
Total number of folios:
single folio
Place of creation:
western India
Language:
Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit
Medium:
watercolour on paper
Size:
25 x 10.5 cms
Copyright:
V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Description

On the left, a lady is on her couch in her bedroom. It is the brahmin Devānandā, in whom Mahāvīra’s embryo first took shape. On the right side is Hariṇaigameṣīn, the commander-in-chief of the god Śakra. As is usual, he is shown with the face of an antelope, after which he is named.

Obeying Śakra’s command, Hariṇaigameṣin has transformed himself into the form the gods adopt on entering the world of humans. He has crossed numerous continents and finally reached Devānandā’s house to remove Mahāvīra’s embryo from her womb. This is because future great men such as Jinas cannot be born of a brahmin mother.

He has made Devānandā and her attendants fall into a deep sleep. Saying, “May the Venerable One permit me,” Hariṇaigameṣin takes the Venerable Ascetic Mahāvīra in the folded palms of his hands without hurting him. Now Hariṇaigameṣin is leaving the house with the embryo in his hands.

The long protruding eye is a typical feature of western Indian painting. Its origin is not clearly known.

Note the painter’s care for details of the figures as well as of the furniture and decorative elements.

Other visual elements

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:

  • shape and style of the script, which is close to calligraphy
  • red background for the text
  • gold ink instead of the standard black ink for the writing
  • gold in the paintings instead of ordinary colours
  • decorated borders with floral arabesques in blue, black and red.
  • division of the text into two parts by a central border of intricate blue arabesques.

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.

Script

The elaborate script used is the Jaina Devanāgarī script, which is here like calligraphy. There are a few notable features of this script, namely:

  • it is an old type in the way the sounds e and o are notated when used with a consonant, known as pṣṭhamātrā script
  • the use of the number 2 to avoid repeating a word or a phrase already mentioned, for example line 4: '2 Bhārahe vāse' means 'jeṇ’eva Bhārahe vāse'.

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.

Translation

[Hariṇegameṣin] passed with that hasty, trembling, impetuous, victorious, exalted and divine motion of the gods right through numberless continents and oceans, and in Jambū-dvīpa, in the land of Bharata, in the Brahmanical town of Kundagrāma, in the house of the Brahmin Ṛṣabhadatta, he came near the Brahmin lady Devānandā and at the sight of the Venerable Ascetic Mahāvīra he bowed down. After having bowed down [he made the brahmin lady Devānandā and her retinue fall into a deep sleep]

Translation by Hermann Jacobi

Transcription

1. turiyāe / cavalāe / caṃḍāe / jayaṇāe / uddhu-
2. yāe / divvāe / deva-gaīe / vīīvayamāṇe / vīī 2
3. tiriyam asaṃkhijjāṇaṃ dīva-samuddāṇaṃ majjhaṃ majjheṇaṃ
4. jeṇ’eva Jambuddīve 2. Bhārahe vāse, jeṇ’eva mā-
5. haṇa-Kuṃḍaggāme nayare / Usabhadattassa māhaṇassa
6. gihe jeṇ’eva Devāṇaṃdā māhaṇī, teṇ’eva u-
7. vāgacchai / 2ttā āloe samaṇassa bhagavao Ma
8. hāvīrassa paṇāmaṁ karei / paṇāmaṁ 2ttā Devāṇaṁ///

Glossary

Brāhmaṇa
A member of the highest caste in Hinduism, the priests or brahmins. 'Brahminical' means 'of or like brahmins'.
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.
Devānandā
The original mother of Mahāvīra, who was from the brahmin caste. The king of the gods, Śakra, caused the embryo to be transferred into the womb of a kṣatriya woman because Jinas-to-be can only be born to the kṣatriya caste.
Hariṇaigameṣin
Antelope-faced commander-in-chief of the god Śakra, who transfers the embryo of Mahāvīra from the womb of the brahmin Devānandā to that of the kṣatriya Queen Triśalā.
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.
Ascetic
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.
Deity
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
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.
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.
Śalākā-puruṣa
'Great man' – also known as a mahā-puruṣa – whose story is told in Jain Universal History . Born in each progressive and regressive half- cycle of time , there are five types of 'great men':
  • 24 Jinas
  • 12 Cakravartins
  • 9 Baladevas
  • 9 Vāsudevas
  • 9 Prati-vāsudevas.
Bharata
One of the Lands of Action or Karma-bhūmi in the first continent, Jambū-dvīpa, in the Middle World where humans live. Bharata is also the name of the eldest son of the first Jina, Ṛṣabha, who succeeded his father as king.
Jaina Devanāgarī
The distinctive version of the Devanāgarī script found in Jain manuscripts.
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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