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Browsing: Kalpa-sūtra (IS 83-1963)

Title: Text

Source:
Victoria and Albert Museum
Shelfmark:
IS 83-1963
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
15th century
Folio number:
86 recto
Total number of folios:
single folio
Place of creation:
Gujarat
Language:
Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit
Medium:
opaque watercolour on paper
Size:
26.5 x 11 cms
Copyright:
V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Description

This text is the final portion of the section devoted to the life of Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva, the 23rd Jina. However, the verso of this page has an image relating to the life of the first Jina, Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha, which is narrated later in the text.

Lines 1 to 3 note the length of Pārśva’s life as being:

  • a little less than 70 years as an omniscient being
  • 70 full years as a monk
  • a total of 100 years.

The preceding folio of the manuscript, which is not available, tells how Pārśva spent the first 30 years of his life as a householder.

Lines 3 to 7 contain precise calendrical information about Pārśva’s emancipation, which took place:

  • in the first month of the rainy season, second fortnight, which means the bright fortnight of Śrāvaṇa
  • on the eighth day
  • in the early part of the day, when the moon was in conjunction with the constellation of Viśākhā.

Other visual elements

The red circle in the centre is a common and simple decorative element. There is usually one on rectos, like here, while there are three on versos.

Script

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.

In this particular folio there are occasional rings above the main line of writing. These notate the nasalised vowels and are used instead of simple dots. There are examples above the first line.

Background

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.

Glossary

Jain
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
Jina
A 'victor' in Sanskrit, a Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma and teaches the way to achieve liberation . A synonym for Tīrthaṃkara, which means 'ford-maker' or one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience through asceticism. The most famous 24 – Ṛṣabha to Mahāvīra – were born in the Bharata-kṣetra of the middle world , but more are found in other continents. There have been Jinas in the past and there will be some in the future.
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.
Sāgāra
Sanskrit term meaning 'with a home’ – that is, a ‘householder’ or lay Jain. A synonym for a lay person, emphasising that he or she is a member of a household, with responsibilities to the family, community and society that a Jain mendicant does not have.
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.
Pārśva
The 23rd Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is green and his emblem the snake. Historical evidence points to his living around 950 to 850 BC.
Ṛṣabha
First Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is gold and his emblem the ox or bull. There is little historical evidence of his existence. Jains believe that he established many social institutions, such as marriage and the caste system, and introduce crafts and agriculture to the people.
Idol
An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.
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.
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.
Bright fortnight
The half of the lunar month in the traditional Indian calendar in which the moon is at its fullest.
Jaina Devanāgarī
The distinctive version of the Devanāgarī script found in Jain manuscripts.
Nasalisation
A term in phonetics that describes how a consonant or vowel is pronounced while releasing a little air through the nose but not the mouth. Similar to the Spanish tilde, examples in English are M, N and the NI sound in ‘onion’.
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.
Recto
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.
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.

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