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Browsing: Kalpa-sūtra (IS 84-1963)

Image: Section on Mahāvīra

Title: Section on Mahāvīra

Source:
Victoria and Albert Museum
Shelfmark:
IS 84-1963
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
early 16th century
Folio number:
15 recto
Total number of folios:
unknown
Place of creation:
western India
Language:
Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit
Medium:
opaque watercolour and gold on paper
Copyright:
V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Description

Lines 1 to 5 of the text contain the end of Śakra’s monologue. The king of the gods reflects that it has never happened, never happens and never will happen that a Jina is born into a brahmin family. Mahāvīra’s embryo has taken form in the womb of the brahmin Devānandā. Śakra decides to ensure that the baby is swapped with the embryo of the kṣatriya lady Triśalā. Triśalā is the wife of King Siddhārtha of the Kāśyapa clan.

In lines 5 to 7, he calls his commander-in-chief Hariṇaigameṣin and starts explaining to him what he will have to do.

Other visual elements

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

Above the main text, the smaller script explains in Sanskrit some of the phrases in the main text.

On the last line of the page the number 21 is the paragraph number.

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.

 

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

Brāhmaṇa
A member of the highest caste in Hinduism, the priests or brahmins. 'Brahminical' means 'of or like brahmins'.
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.
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.
Kṣatriya
The Indian caste of warriors and kings, with the role of 'protectors'. Jinas are born into this caste.
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.
Devānandā
The original mother of Mahāvīra, who was from the brahmin caste. The king of the gods, Śakra, caused the embryo to be transferred into the womb of a kṣatriya woman because Jinas-to-be can only be born to the kṣatriya caste.
Hariṇaigameṣin
Antelope-faced commander-in-chief of the god Śakra, who transfers the embryo of Mahāvīra from the womb of the brahmin Devānandā to that of the kṣatriya Queen Triśalā.
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.
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.
Jaina Devanāgarī
The distinctive version of the Devanāgarī script found in Jain manuscripts.
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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