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Browsing: Kalpa-sūtra (IS 46-1959)

Image: Sthūlabhadra and his two sisters

Title: Sthūlabhadra and his two sisters

Source:
Victoria and Albert Museum
Shelfmark:
IS 46-1959
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
late 15th to 16th centuries
Folio number:
73 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 top-right corner reads: sīha guphā Thūlabhadda – 'the lion’s cavern, Sthūlabhadra'.

The illustration has two scenes on different levels, each illustrating a different episode in the life of Sthūlabhadra, an early Jain teacher.

Top level

A jumping lion is shown, facing two Śvetāmbara nuns. They are easily recognised through their characteristic monastic robes and their monastic equipment. Both carry the monastic staff – daṇḍa. They hold monastic brooms – rajoharaṇas – under their arms, though the second one is very faded. Both hold their mouth-cloths in their hands, which signals that they are in conversation.

Bottom level

A Śvetāmbara monk sits on a slightly raised seat. He wears the typical monastic robe, carries the monastic broom under his arm and holds the mouth-cloth in front of him, which shows that he is talking. Facing him are two Jain nuns, who are identical to those depicted in the first scene.

Nuns are distinguished from monks in art by the feminine features of their faces and by the fact that their monastic robe goes up to their necks. They are not allowed to have an uncovered shoulder as the seated monk has here.

This illustration shows episodes featuring two famous elders or early Jain teachers, Bhadrabāhu and Sthūlabhadra, as well as the latter’s sisters.

The top scene shows Sthūlabhadra and his sisters. After Sthūlabhadra has become a monk, his seven sisters also decide to renounce the world. They decide to pay their respects to their brother. When they reach the area, Sthūlabhadra thinks he will show them a miracle and changes himself into a lion. The seven sisters are generally represented by only two figures in Jain art.

The lower scene shows what happens next. Turning away in fear, the sisters go to the teacher Bhadrabāhu, who had told them where Sthūlabhadra was to be found. They say that a lion has probably eaten their brother. Bhadrabāhu explains the truth to the nuns.

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 73. 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.

The lines in smaller script above the main text are explanations in Sanskrit of phrases found in the central part, in line 6.

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. It starts with Mahāvīra’s 11 direct disciples and ends with Devarddhi-gaṇi. He was the teacher who organised the final Valabhī council, during which the Śvetāmbara scriptures were put into writing in the fifth century CE. Sthūlabhadra is one of those famous early Jain teachers. His name occurs in the facing text, at the end of line 3.

The third part of the Kalpa-sūtra – Sāmācārī – deals with particular monastic rules to be followed during the rainy season.

Glossary

Common Era
The period of time starting with the year when Jesus Christ was traditionally believed to have been born. Using CE is a more secular way of dating events in a multinational, multi-religious world.
Daṇḍa
The long wooden staff used by Śvetāmbara Mūrtipūjak monks as a religious insignia and for walking. At the top Mount Meru is represented. Below it are carvings symbolising the Three Worlds of Jain cosmology or the Three Jewels. Below these are carved the auspicious symbol of a full water pot and then five horizontal lines representing either the Five Greater Vows or the Five Supreme Beings who are worthy of worship.
Gaṇin
A religious title for a monk in charge of a small group of mendicants, who live and travel together. A gaṇinī is a nun who leads a group of female mendicants. 
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.
Muhpattī
Modern Indo-aryan language term from the Sanskrit ‘mukhavastrikā'. The small rectangular piece of cloth permanently fixed over the mouth by some mendicant orders. This is to avoid being violent accidentally, either by inhaling tiny creatures or killing them by breathing over them unexpectedly.This is not the same as the mouth-cover used on some occasions by other mendicants and by laypeople when they perform certain rites.
Rajoharaṇa
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.
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.
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.
Disciple
An active follower of a religion, especially one who passes on teachings to others.
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.
Nun
A woman who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, nuns perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.
Renunciation
Giving up something. A lay person who becomes an ascetic renounces the life of a householder within society, instead choosing the physical hardships of being a monk or nun. The formal renunciation ceremony in Jainism is dīkṣā.
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.
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.
Elder
A term used for a man who is one of those listed in early sources as the direct successors of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina.
Miracle
An extraordinary event that cannot be explained by natural causes or human effort and therefore is believed to be caused by divine or supernatural powers.
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.
Valabhī
The wealthy city of Valabhī – now Vallabhi – in Gujarat was a major centre of Jain intellectual life in the early medieval period. The final version of the Śvetāmbara canon was written down there under the supervision of the religious teacher Devarddhi-gaṇi Kṣamāśramaṇa in the fifth century CE.

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