A four-armed woman sitting on a swan holds a miniature manuscript in one hand and a lute in another. A royal canopy shelters her.
The four arms indicate that the figure is a goddess. She is Sarasvatī, the Hindu goddess of learning and the arts, who is worshipped by Jains as well. She is often pictured at the beginning or end of manuscripts. She is riding her traditional vehicle, the swan – haṃsa – and in one of her hands she carries a miniature manuscript. On it is the phrase: śrīSvarasvatī śrīgurubhyo nmaḥ – 'Homage to Sarasvatī, homage to the teacher'. In another hand she holds the lute – vīṇā – representing the arts.
Written in black ink on the left side of the page is the end of the text copied here, a mathematical treatise in Sanskrit. It is the Līlāvatī, which was composed by the famous mathematician Bhāskara II in the 12th century. In red ink is a detailed colophon which gives the date of copying, the name of the copyist and of the recipient of the manuscript, all eminent Śvetāmbara Jain monks.
The elaborate script used for the main text is the Jaina Devanāgarī script. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here for Sanskrit.
There are a few notable features of this script, namely:
Sarasvatī, the Hindu goddess of learning and the arts, is worshipped by Jains as well. She is often represented at the beginning or end of manuscripts. Here she rides her traditional vehicle, the swan – haṃsa. The manuscript she holds reads: śrīSvarasvatī śrīgurubhyo nmaḥ – 'Homage to Sarasvatī, homage to the teacher'.
The loose pages of a manuscript are sometimes kept together in a cover like this one. Like this example, manuscript covers are usually finely decorated.
Jain ascetics were instructed in religious scriptures, but also widely read in subjects such as mathematics, medicine and grammar. Those mentioned in the colophon of this manuscript belong to the Śvetāmbara monastic order known as Vidhipakṣa or, more commonly, Ancala-gaccha.
1. In the year 1697 of the Vikrama era, in the running year 1563 of the Śāka era,
2. in the month of Caitra which offers many good things, in the fortnight, on the auspicious eighth day [of the fortnight],
3. a Wednesday, in the evening, when in the Vipakṣa-gaccha the head pontiff was the venerable leader Kalyāṇa-sāgara,
4. in the town of Gajanagara, [this manuscript] was copied by the learned monk Bhāvaśekharagaṇi, a disciple of the teacher Vivekaśekhara – Glory! –
5. for his disciple the monk Bhuvanaśekhara to read. Thanks to the favour of [the eighth Jina] Candraprabhu. Long [may it last]!
This is the traditional and complete way of giving the date, both in the Vikrama and in the Śāka eras. It is equivalent to 1640 CE. The month of Caitra is said to 'offer many good things'. This is a conventional description of a month that corresponds to spring. As elsewhere, this season of blossoming announces joy and pleasure.
Vidhipakṣa is another name of the Śvetāmbara monastic order known as Añcala-gaccha, closely associated with the region of Kutch in Gujarat. This is a monastic order with a central organisation headed by a pontiff with the title of sūri or bhaṭṭāraka. Kalyāṇa-sāgara, named here, was born in 1576 CE (1633 VS) and died in 1661 (1718 VS). He became the head of the order in 1613 CE (1670 VS).
Gajanagara, the place name, cannot be identified clearly. The concluding remark 'thanks to the favour of Candraprabha' is a standard way to say that the monk copied the manuscript in a local temple dedicated to the eighth Jina.
Jain monks have their official titles added to their names. These titles are also accompanied by terms of respect, such as 'venerable' – pūjya – or the respectful prefix śrī. These respectful terms are sometimes written more than once or are implied as being repeated. The term śrī5 found twice in this colophon should be understood as adding the prefix śrī five times to the name, which denotes a very high level of honour.
The activity of Bhāvaśekhara, who copied this manuscript, is known from other sources too. As well as authoring a narrative composition in Gujarati called Rūpasena-ṛṣi-rāsa in 1626 (1683 VS), he copied at least another manuscript for the same disciple. Bhāvaśekhara gives his spiritual genealogy at the end of his composition, confirming what we read here. Thus this is a good instance of how a colophon offers a glimpse of the monastic Jain community at a micro-level.
Jain ascetics were instructed in religious scriptures, but also widely read in subjects such as mathematics, medicine and grammar. So it is not surprising to see that they could be involved in copying and reading a manuscript of a famous mathematical treatise such as this one.
Text of the colophon in red ink:
1. saṁvat 1697 varṣe Śāke 1563 pra-
2. varttamāne māhā-māngalya-prada-Caitra-māse asitapakṣe aṣṭamī śubha-tithau budha-vā-
3. sare ǁ sandhyāyāṁ ǁ śrīVidhipakṣa-gacche ǁ pūjya-bhaṭṭārakaśrī5śrīKalyāṇasāga-
4. ra-sūriśvara-vijaya-rājye śrīmadGajanagare vācanacārya-śrī5Viveka-
5. śeṣara-gaṇinā[ṃ] śiṣya paṁ°‹ śrīśrīśrīBhāvaśeṣara-gaṇinā[ṃ] likhitam ǀ śrīḥ ǁ
6. tat-śiṣya mu° Bhuvanaśeṣara paṭhina kṛte ǁśrīCandraprabhu-pāda-praśādāt ǁ ciraṁ ǁ