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Browsing: Kalpa-sūtra (IS 46-1959)

Image: Omniscience of Indrabhūti Gautama

Title: Omniscience of Indrabhūti Gautama

Victoria and Albert Museum
IS 46-1959
Date of creation:
late 15th to 16th centuries
Folio number:
50 recto
Total number of folios:
91 folios, numbered 1-92, with folio 3 missing
Place of creation:
Prākrit with Sanskrit commentary
watercolour on paper
26 x 10.5 cm
V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information


The caption in the top left corner says: Gautama-jnāna – 'Gautama’s perfect knowledge'.

A male figure sits in the lotus posture of meditation in a garden pavilion. Sitting on a lotus flower, he wears the white robe and carries the white cotton broomrajoharaṇa – both associated with Śvetāmbara monks. His right hand, which holds the rosary, makes the ritual gesture of exposition, used when explaining to listeners.

This is the standard representation of Indrabhūti Gautama, who is the first disciple and first gaṇadhara of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. He is traditionally shown sitting on a lotus seat.

Indrabhūti Gautama gained omniscience on the same night Mahāvīra died, a detail given in the text alongside the picture.

Other visual elements

This is a good example of an average Kalpa-sūtra manuscript. Gold is used for the painting, but other elements signalling an aesthetic object of special value are absent here.


The elaborate script used is the Jaina Devanāgarī script, which is here like calligraphy. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here for Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit.

There are a few notable features of this script, which:

  • is an old type in the way the sounds e and o are notated when used with a consonant, known as pṛṣṭhamātrā script
  • contains red vertical lines that mark out verse divisions, with a single line dividing a verse in two while double lines are found at the end of the verse.

Towards the end of line 8, the number 28 between two red vertical lines refers to the paragraph numbering. It should be understood as meaning 128 because it is common to miss out the digit specifying hundreds or thousands.

The lines in smaller script above and below the main text are explanations in Sanskrit of phrases found in the central part. The two small parallel lines like slanted = after the words are meant to separate the explanations.


The Kalpa-sūtra is the most frequently illustrated 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 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.


That night a lot of confusion, a lot of noise was originated by many descending and ascending gods and goddesses. In that night in which the Venerable Ascetic Mahāvīra [died], etc up to was freed from all pains, his oldest disciple, the monk Indrabhūti Gautama, cut the tie of affection he had for the Jñātaka [= Mahāvīra] and obtained the highest Omniscience and intuition, without obstacle, without impediment ‖ 28 ‖ In that night in which [...]

Translation by Hermann Jacobi


1. hīṇe / sā rayaṇī bahūhiṃ / devehi devīhi ya / uvaya
2. māṇehi ya / uppayamāṇehi ya / uppiṃjalaga-bhūā / ka
3. hakhaga-bhūā yāvi hutthā // jaṃ rayaṇiṃ ca ṇaṃ samaṇe
4. bhagavaṃ Mahāvīre / jāva savva-dukkha-ppahīṇe
5. taṃ rayaṇiṃ ca ṇaṃ jeṭṭhassa Goamassa / Iṃdabhūa
6. ssa aṇagārassa / aṃtevāsissa / Nāyae pijja-baṃdhaṇe /
7. vocchinne aṇaṃte / aṇuttare nivvāgghāe / nirāvaraṇe / jā
8. va kevala-vara-nāṇa-daṃsaṇe samuppanne ‖ 28 ‖ jaṃ rayaṇiṃ ca


Sanskrit for 'meditation', one of the six internal austerities or tapas that help purify the soul of karma. Meditation is deep thought about religious doctrine or mental focus on spiritual matters over a period of time. An important part of many religions, meditation is especially important in Jain belief because it forms key elements of religious practice and spiritual development.
Etc up to
A translation of a phrase in the original texts that is a convention to save space. It invites the reader to supply mentally a formulaic list of words at this point. These formulas are given in earlier, similar passages.
'Supporters of the order'. This term is used for the first mendicant disciples of a Jina. They are able to understand his teachings properly and can pass them on. A gaṇadhara leads his own group of ascetics until he becomes enlightened.
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.
The cotton-thread broom used by some groups of Śvetāmbara ascetics to sweep the ground before sitting, for example, so no insects or small creatures are harmed by mistake. It is also used by lay Jains when performing certain rites.
'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.
Indrabhūti Gautama
Chief disciple of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. From a brahmin family, he was the first of Mahāvīra's 11 chief disciples. He became enlightened on the day Mahāvīra was liberated. He achieved liberation himself 12 years later.
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.
An active follower of a religion, especially one who passes on teachings to others.
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.
A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.
Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit
A dialect of the Prākrit language used for many Śvetāmbara Jain scriptures.
Jaina Devanāgarī
The distinctive version of the Devanāgarī script found in Jain manuscripts.
A plant noted for its beautiful flowers, which has symbolic significance in many cultures. In Indian culture, the lotus is a water lily signifying spiritual purity and detachment from the material world. Lotuses frequently feature in artwork of Jinas, deities, Buddha and other holy figures.
Said to resemble the petals of a lotus, the lotus position involves sitting cross-legged with each foot on the opposite thigh. The soles face upwards while the knees rest on the ground. This posture is associated with meditation. Jinas and other enlightened figures are often depicted in this pose.
String of beads used by devotees to help them count the number of prayers or chants they are repeating.

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