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Browsing: Kalpa-sūtra (IM 08-1931)

Title: Text

Source:
Victoria and Albert Museum
Shelfmark:
IM 8-1931
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
second half of the 15th century
Folio number:
33 verso
Total number of folios:
5; other folios in unknown locations
Place of creation:
western India
Language:
Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit
Medium:
watercolour on paper
Size:
26.5 x 11 cms
Copyright:
V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Description

The text describes the atmosphere of joy and wealth when Mahāvīra was born.

Lines 1 to 2 describe showers of ornaments, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, garlands, perfumes, colours, powders and treasures from the sky.

Then, King Siddhārtha, Mahāvīra’s father, ordered the policemen and guards to free all prisoners, to sprinkle, clean and decorate the streets and all the places in the town with flags, banners and so on. He wanted to celebrate the birth of his son, for whom great things had been predicted.

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
  • blue background of the text
  • gold ink instead of the standard black ink for the text
  • gold in the paintings themselves instead of ordinary colours
  • decorated borders with floral arabesques in red
  • division of the text into two parts by a blank space with an ornamented red disk and arrows.

In this central part, below the red disk, 33 refers to the folio number.

Script

The elaborate script used is the Jaina Devanāgarī script, which is here like calligraphy. This script is notable because it is an old type in the way the sounds e and o are notated when used with a consonant. It is known as pṣṭhamātrā script.

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

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.
Siddhārtha
Father of the 24th Jina Mahāvīra and king of present-day Bihar in northern India. His wife was Queen Triśalā.
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.
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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