Your Trail:

Browsing: Kalpa-sūtra (IM 161-1914)

Title: Text

Victoria and Albert Museum
IM 161-1914
Date of creation:
16th century
Folio number:
30 recto
Total number of folios:
Place of creation:
opaque watercolour and gold on paper
26 x 11 cm
V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information


The text describes Triśalā’s final stage of pregnancy and the atmosphere when the baby who will be known as Mahāvīra is about to be born.

Lines 1 to 4 describe Triśalā’s way of life during her pregnancy in the following words:

In the proper place and time she ate only such food which was good, sufficient, and healthy for the nourishment of her child. She took her walks in places which were empty and agreeable as well as delightful to the mind; her desires were laudable, fulfilled, honoured, not disregarded, but complied with and executed; she most comfortably dozed, reposed, remained, sat, and laid on unobjectionable and soft beds and seats, and thus most comfortably carried her unborn child.

translation by Hermann Jacobi

1895, page 250

Starting with line 5, the peaceful atmosphere before the happy event is described. Since horoscopes are very important in Indian tradition, detailed calendrical information about the time and astral conjunction is given. The birth takes place in the second fortnight of the first month of summer. This means the 14th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Caitra.

Other visual elements

The central diamond filled with golden ink is a decorative ornament. Jain manuscripts usually have one in the centre of recto pages, like here, and there are  three on versos. The borders of the margins are filled with red ink.

On line 4 the red character, usually transcribed as 'cha', indicates the end of a section or paragraph.


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


The Kalpa-sūtra is the most frequently illustrated Jain text of the Śvetāmbara sect. It is read and recited by monks in the 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 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.


Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
Time. One of the five insentient non-material substances that make up the universe along with the sentient substance, called jīvastikaya.
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.
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.
'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.
The kṣatriya birth-mother of Mahāvīra. Queen Triśalā was married to King Siddhartha.
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.
Dark fortnight
The half of the lunar month in the traditional Indian calendar in which the moon is at its smallest. It is so dark it is almost invisible.
A chart of the positions of planets, stars and other celestial events and phenomena at a certain time. It is often used to predict someone's future or analyse his character or present state. It can also be used to choose the best time for an event to take place.
Jaina Devanāgarī
The distinctive version of the Devanāgarī script found in Jain manuscripts.
Transcription of a letter symbol found at the end of chapters or at the end of works in Indian languages. It indicates that the chapter or the work is finished.
Known as a folio, a single sheet of paper or other material has a front and a back side. The recto page is the top side of a sheet of paper and the verso is the underside.
Known as a folio, a single sheet of paper or other material has a front and a back side. The recto page is the top side of a sheet of paper and the verso is the underside.

Related Manuscripts - All text is © JAINpedia / Institute of Jainology 2021 under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 licence The Jain universe online at

Unless images are explicitly stated as either public domain or licensed under a Creative Commons licence, all images are copyrighted. See individual images for details of copyright.