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Browsing: Manuscript cover (IS 20-1978)

Image: Manuscript cover of the 14 dreams

Title: Manuscript cover of the 14 dreams

Source:
Victoria and Albert Museum
Shelfmark:
IS. 20-1978
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
late 19th century
Folio number:
not applicable
Total number of folios:
not applicable
Place of creation:
Gujarat
Language:
not applicable
Medium:
red satin embroidered with gold thread and sequins
Size:
circa 27 x 13 cms
Copyright:
V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Description

This rectangular red satin cover may date back to the late 19th century. An ornate border on all four sides functions as a frame. There are 14 finely embroidered pictures in individual compartments.

Moving from left to right, the images are as follows:

  • top row – elephant, bull, lion, garland, moon
  • middle row – sun, banner, Śrī, full pot, lotus pond
  • bottom row – ocean, celestial cart, heap of jewels, blazing fire.

These are the 14 dreams which the mother of a future Jina sees. They announce his great destiny.

As is often the case, the goddess Śrī is larger than the symbols of the other dreams and is therefore more prominent visually. Here her picture occupies a central position across the second and third rows.

In artefacts of a relatively late period, the ocean is often symbolised by a vessel or ship, as with this manuscript cover. This often shows the influence of European art. Similarly, the artists also often exercise creativity when depicting the 'palace' – here, next to the ship – and its architectural features.

Together with the eight auspicious symbols, the 14 dreams have proven one of the favourite themes on manuscript covers – called pāṭhuṃ in Gujarati – since the 18th century.

They indicate the importance of the concept of dreams in the Jain tradition, especially in the context of the lives of the Jinas.

Background

A book is bound, which means it has a spine into which the pages are glued or stitched so a reader can easily turn over the pages. A traditional manuscript is made up of loose sheets of paper. Earlier manuscripts were created from palm leaves or similar material. The sheets were tied together using strings passed through holes in each sheet or folio so the reader could turn them over easily.

A manuscript is unbound but sometimes has a manuscript cover to protect it. This has two parts, one at the beginning, the other at the end. Manuscript covers are made of paper, cloth, cardboard or wood. They can be decorated and painted.

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.
Deity
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
Gujarati
The language that developed in Gujarat, in western India. It is also spoken in neighbouring states. Also a term for someone or something associated with or coming from Gujarat.
Lotus
A plant noted for its beautiful flowers, which has symbolic significance in many cultures. In Indian culture, the lotus is a water lily signifying spiritual purity and detachment from the material world. Lotuses frequently feature in artwork of Jinas, deities, Buddha and other holy figures.
Śrī
Hindu goddess of wealth, Śrī is the personification of spiritual energy and is closely associated with the lotus. Also a name for Lakṣmī, Hindu goddess of beauty, wisdom, fertility and wealth.
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.

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