The picture on this folio depicts the episode leading to the renunciation of the 22nd Jina, Ariṣṭaneminātha, or Lord Ariṣṭanemi, often called Nemi. There are two scenes, one above the other, which have to be read in order.
On the left is a semi-circle representing a pen holding numerous animals of different species. Many of them are deer or antelopes. Standing below on the right is a man, who is likely to be the person in charge of these animals. On the right, a chariot drawn by a galloping horse is approaching. The small figure is the charioteer while the larger figure is Prince Nemi. The dais, canopy and the flag on the chariot are signs of Nemi’s royal status.
With some difficulty, his family and friends have persuaded Prince Nemi to get married to Princess Rājīmatī. Riding in his chariot, he goes towards the palace of his future in-laws for the wedding feast.
But when Nemi sees all the animals penned up ready to be killed to feed the guests, he is deeply troubled and repulsed. He decides to pull out of the marriage and renounce worldly life.
The chariot has now turned back, its vigorous movement making the viewer feel the strength of Nemi’s reaction.
The richly dressed lady on the left is Rājīmatī. Rejected, she will also decide to become a mendicant.
This famous episode is dear to the Jains’ hearts in part because it underscores the repulsion towards taking animal life and the importance of vegetarianism. Nemi’s renunciation is a key step in his journey towards becoming a Jina.
The long protruding eye is a typical feature of western Indian painting. Its origin is unclear.
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.
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 emancipation.
After having lived as a prince for [three] hundred years as a householder, [Ariṣṭanemi] was then addressed by the Laukāntika gods, following the established custom. All this should be told up to after he offered presents to indigent [= poor] persons. In the first month of the rainy season, in the second fortnight, the light [fortnight] of the month of Śrāvaṇa, on the sixth day of the fortnight, in the middle of the night, on the palanquin called Uttarakurā, followed on his way by a train of gods, men and Asuras, he went right through the city of Dvāravatī.
The illustrated episode is nowhere narrated in the Kalpa-sūtra text. But it belongs to the oldest Śvetāmbara Jain tradition. Chapter 22 of the Uttarādhyayana-sūtra, one of the most famous books of the Śvetāmbara Jain canonical scriptures, tells the story in a few stanzas:
With such pomp and splendour the hero of the Vṛṣṇis [= Prince Nemi] started from his own palace. On his way he saw animals kept in cages and enclosures, overcome by fear and looking miserable. Seeing them on the point of being killed for the sake of their flesh, and to be eaten afterwards, the great sage spoke to his charioteer thus: 'Why are all these animals, which desire to be happy, kept in cages and enclosures?' Then the charioteer answered: 'Lucky are these animals because at thy wedding they will furnish food for many people.' Having heard these words, which announced the slaughter of many animals, the great sage, full of compassion and kindness to living beings, meditated thus: 'If for my sake many living beings are killed, I shall not obtain happiness in the next world.' Then the famous man presented the charioteer with his pair of earrings, his neck-chain and all his ornaments.
Translation by Hermann Jacobi
1. vāsa-sayāiṃ kumāre agāra-vāsa-majjhe vasittā
2. ṇaṃ puṇar avi log’-aṃtiehiṃ jīya-kappiehiṃ deve
3. hiṃ taṃ ceva savvaṃ bhāṇiyavvaṃ jāva dāṇaṃ dāiyāṇaṃ
4. paribhāittā, je se vāsāṇaṃ paḍhame māse docce pa
5. kkhe // sāvaṇa-suddhe tassa ṇaṃ sāvaṇa-suddhassa chaṭṭhī-
6. pakkheṇaṃ / puvv’-aṇha-kāla-samayaṃsi uttarakurāe sīyā
7. e sa-deva-maṇuyāsurāe parisāe / aṇugammamā
8. ṇa-magge / jāva Bāravaīe nagarīe majjhaṃ majjheṇaṃ niya
British Library. Or. 13455. Unknown author. 14th to 15th centuries
British Library. Or. 13341. Unknown author
Victoria and Albert Museum. IM 6-1931. Unknown author. Circa 1490
Victoria and Albert Museum. IM 8-1931. Unknown author. Second half of the 15th century
Wellcome Trust Library. Gamma 3. Unknown author. 1503
Victoria and Albert Museum. IS 46-1959. Unknown author. Late 15th to 16th centuries
British Library. Or. 5149. Unknown author. 1464
British Library. Or. 12744. 1522. Unknown author.