The end of the Kalpa-sūtra is generally accompanied by images illustrating the concepts of knowledge or teaching, not through specific episodes in a story. These two paintings are of favourite subjects on these themes.
The figure sitting in the lotus position in the centre of a gold circle made of three circles of walls is a Jina. There are doorways through each of the three walls, in all four cardinal directions. In the corners of the illustrated panel are pairs of animals. This is a depiction of the samavasaraṇa. This word, which means 'universal gathering', refers both to an architectural structure and to the assembly itself. The Jina sits at the centre, where his speech can be heard in all directions by all beings who carefully and respectfully listen to him.
A Jina can deliver his teaching only after reaching omniscience. This is why the abstract concept of achieving omniscience is usually represented by the samavasaraṇa.
In depictions of the universal gathering, it is common to show animals that are normally enemies peacefully listening in pairs to the Jina’s teaching. Here, the snake and the peacock in the top-right corner demonstrate this atmosphere of peace.
The largest figure is Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina, whose hand gesture shows he is preaching. In front of him, a monk is listening. Both wear typically Śvetāmbara monastic robes. Between them stands the sthāpanācārya, which symbolises both teaching and religious hierarchy.
Above the monk and along the lowest level kneeling figures face the same direction. All have their hands raised and folded in respect. There are representatives of lay women – śrāvikā – and lay men – śrāvaka – along with monks and nuns. The mendicants are easily recognised from their spotted white robes, which point to their being Śvetāmbaras.
This is a standard image at the end of Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts. It shows members of Mahāvīra’s fourfold community – caturvidha saṅgha – listening to his teaching with hands folded in respect.
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.
British Library. Or. 13950. Unknown authors.
Victoria and Albert Museum. IS 84-1963. Unknown author. Early 16th century
Victoria and Albert Museum. IM 9-1931. Unknown author. Circa 1490
British Library. Or. 11921. Unknown author. 1488