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Browsing: Kalpa-sūtra (IS 46-1959)

Image: Śakra ritually bathes Mahāvīra

Title: Śakra ritually bathes Mahāvīra

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

Description

The caption in the upper left corner says: snāna – ‘bath’.

In the centre a large jewel-bedecked figure is seated in the lotus posture holding an infant on his lap. On each side stand two attendants holding jugs of precious substances. Above each of them is a bull. The mountain peaks below show that the scene takes place in a palace on a mountain.

During the night Mahāvīra is born, the Jain deities descend and ascend constantly from the heavens, causing a great light. The servants of Kubera, the god of riches and treasures, pour wealth into King Siddhārtha’s palace. Then the town is fully decorated to celebrate the event.

The various groups of gods take part in the celebrations 'in order to celebrate the lustral bath at the birth of the Jina'. This is the event depicted here, expanded on in the literary tradition.

The largest figure is the god Śakra, who intervenes at key points in the lives of the Jinas. During the night, he has placed a false baby at the side of the sleeping Queen Triśalā so he can take the newborn Mahāvīra. He brings the infant to the cosmic axis of Mount Meru, where the ritual of anointment takes place. The two bulls could represent the crystal bulls, which, the tradition says, Śakra created to stand in the four directions.

This anointing ceremony is the archetype of Jain festivals and finds an echo in the modern celebration of Mahavir Jayanti.

The long protruding eye is a typical feature of western Indian painting. Its origin is unclear.

Other visual elements

The bottom of the right margin contains the number 37. This is the folio number.

The original paper has been pasted onto a new base. 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:

  • use of gold in the paintings, margins and ornamental motifs
  • decorated border with blue floral motifs
  • three diamonds filled with gold ink and surrounded by blue ornamental motifs.

The three golden diamonds along the central horizontal plane are symbolic reminders of the way in which manuscripts were bound at one time. Strings through one or more holes in the paper were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The shapes are in the places where the holes would once have been.

Three diamonds mean a verso side.

Script

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.

There are also numerals in the text, which are paragraph numbers, namely the:

  • number 98 in the middle of line 4
  • number 99 in the middle of line 8.

The lines in smaller script above and below the main text and in the margins 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.

Background

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.

Translation

In the palace of King Siddhārtha there was a rain of silver, a rain of gold, a rain of diamonds, a rain of garments, a rain of leaves, and a rain of flowers and a rain of fruits, and a rain of seeds, and a rain of garlands, and a rain of perfumes, and a rain of powders, and a rain of colours, and a rain of treasures /98/ Then, the
Bhavanapati gods, the Vyantara gods, the
Jyotiṣka gods and the Vaimānika gods having performed the celebration of the anointment for the birth of a Jina, early in the morning King Siddhārtha summoned the city guards and having summoned them he said /99/ “Quickly ….”

Transcription

1. [Siddhattha-rāya-bhavaṇaṃ]si hiraṇṇa-vāsaṃ ca / suvaṇṇa-vāsaṃ ca vaira-vāsaṃ ca / vattha-vāsaṃ
2. putta-vāsaṃ ca / puppha-vāsaṃ ca phala-vāsaṃ ca / bīya-vāsaṃ ca malla-
3. vāsaṃ ca / gaṃdha-vāsaṃ ca / cunna-vāsaṃ ca vanna-vāsaṃ ca / vasuhāra-
4. vāsaṃ ca / 98 / tae ṇaṃ Siddhatthe kha-
5. ttie / Bhavaṇavai-Vāṇaṃaṃtara-Joisavāsī
6. Vimāṇavāsī / devehi titthayarehiṃ / jammaṇābhiseya-
7. mahimāe kayāe samāṇīe paccūsa-kāla-samayaṃsi / nagara-
8. guttie / saddāvei 2ttā / evaṃ vayāsī /99/ khippām(eva)…

Glossary

Abhiṣeka
Anointing ceremony for a king, a Jina, a Jina image or any other holy image, with water or milk. Part of daily or special worship.
Bhavana-vāsin
Sanskrit term meaning the 'Residents of Dwellings'. The class of gods that resides in mansions and lives like princes in the first hell of the Middle World.
Kalpa-sūtra
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.
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.
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.
Ūrdhva-loka
The highest of the three worlds in Jain cosmology , the home of the various types of gods .
Mahāvīra
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.
Siddhārtha
Father of the 24th Jina Mahāvīra and king of present-day Bihar in northern India. His wife was Queen Triśalā.
Triśalā
The kṣatriya birth-mother of Mahāvīra. Queen Triśalā was married to King Siddhartha.
Deity
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
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.
Rite
A sequence of actions that must be followed to perform a religious ceremony. The set of actions is largely symbolic, for example offering food to statues symbolises sacrificing to a deity. The ritual actions are often accompanied by set phrases.
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.
Indra
Sanskrit word for 'king' and the name of the king of the gods in the Saudharma heaven. Called Śakra by Śvetāmbaras and known as Saudharma to Digambaras, this deity is involved in all five auspicious moments – kalyāṇakas – in a Jina's life.
Sanskrit
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.
Padmāsana
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.
Mount Meru
The cosmic axis of the Jain universe. Located in the middle of Jambū-dvīpa, the innermost continent of Jain cosmology, Mount Meru consists of three forested terraces, each smaller than the one below. When a Jina is born, the gods visit the earth, take him away and wash him in the standard birth ritual on the mountain. Jain temples often have a tower symbolising Mount Meru. Mount Meru is also the centre of the universe in traditional Buddhist and Hindu belief.
Vaimānika
Deities in the upper world of the Jain universe, who each have celestial vehicles or mounts. There are 26 in the Śvetāmbara tradition and 39 according to the Digambara sect. There are two types:
  • the kalpopapanna-devas in the lower heavens
  • the kalpātīta-devas in the higher heavens.
Vyantara
A category of deities that lives between the first hell and the earth. There are eight types of Vyantara. They are the second type of gods and are recognisable by their various symbols.
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.
Verso
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.
Jyotiṣka
The third class of gods, who are the astral or luminous bodies, such as the sun, moons, planets and stars. They live in the middle of the three worlds.

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