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Browsing: Śālibhadra-caupaī (Or. 13524)

Image: Dhanya and Śālibhadra receive alms

Title: Dhanya and Śālibhadra receive alms

The British Library Board
Or. 13524
Date of creation:
Folio number:
35 recto
Total number of folios:
Place of creation:
Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
Gujarāti in Devanāgarī script
opaque watercolour on paper
28 x 11.5 cms
CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
Image copyright: Creative Commons Public Domain


There is a caption in red in the right-hand margin: māhīyārī gorasa vahiravai 44 – 'A milk-woman offers curdled milk 44'.

Each illustration in this manuscript is numbered in sequence so '44' means this is the 44th painting in this manuscript.

On the right are Dhanya and Śālibhadra as Śvetāmbara Jain monks. They are identified as monks from their robes and the staffdaṇḍa – they each carry.

A woman stands under a tree. A pot is cooking on the fire in front of her. One of the two monks hands her his bowl, into which she pours the food.

The woman is selling milk and was Śālibhadra’s mother in his previous birth as Sangama.

Other visual elements

There are a few items to be noted about this page, namely that:

  • in the text, red is used for verse numbers and for punctuation marks
  • in the first line red is used also for the syllables be be, which are the first words of the refrain verse in this section of the text
  • verse numbers are at the end of each stanza, a reversal of the Western practice
  • the Arabic numbers written in pencil are not original, having been added by the British Library staff for convenience.

The diamond-shaped blank space in the centre is for decoration. It is also a symbolic reminder of the way in which manuscripts were bound when made of palm leaf. Strings through one or three holes in the paper were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The blank space is in the place where the hole would once have been.


The elaborate script used is the Jaina Devanāgarī script.


The ultimate purpose of Śālibhadra’s story – Śālibhadra-caupaī – is to illustrate the virtues of giving alms to Jain monks. But, like most Jain stories, it is eventful and full of lively characters. The Śālibhadra-caupaī is very popular in the Jain tradition. It is known from the many interpretations that have been written in Prakrit, Sanskrit and the vernacular languages.

This manuscript features the famous telling by Matisāra, written in Old Gujarati. Matisāra’s version of the story has often been illustrated in different styles.

The text is a narrative poem in verse, known as rāsa or caupa. This type of composition is popular in Gujarāti literature. The poem is divided into 29 sections called ḍhāla. Each section starts with a refrain verse and is associated with a specific musical mode – rāga. Such poems are meant to be read, but also performed, with recitation and musicians.


"The words of Lord Vīra cannot be false, but we cannot get into the house. How, indeed, had this puzzle truly come about? Am I a son to a barren woman?"
Sādhus with their begging bowls do not enter a household where they are not wanted. Sadly, they turned away, as is the custom of munis. It was the time to break a month’s fast, but not for a moment did their minds wander. Without success they had to endure still more austerities to gain support for their bodies. On their way back they met a milkwoman carrying a pot of curdled milk on her head. When she saw the form of Prince Śāli, she stopped and could not move a step out of the way. Her eyes opened wide; her body quivered.

The Sālibhadra-Dhanna-Carita
translation by Ernst Bender
American Oriental Society, New Haven, Connecticut
pages 342 to 343, 1992

Here and in the sentences that follow on the next page, the extreme joy that a potential donor of alms feels and should feel is expressed. Giving alms to a Jain mendicant is considered a kind of fulfilment for lay people.


1. (middle) vacana alīka na thāyau Vīra
2. nau re / paisaṇa piṇa na lahāṃ ghara-māṃjhi re / e syuṃ aoṣāṇao sāco tha-
3. yo re /  ika māharī mā naiṃ vali vāṃjha re //7// tiṇi kuli sādhu
4. na paisai pāṃtaryau re / jiṇi kuli jātāṃ huvai aprīta re / ema
5. vimāsī nai pāchā valyā re eha jasu vihita muni nī rī-
6. ta re //8// huṃto māsa-ṣamaṇa nau pāraṇo re/ paṇi (sic)
7. maṇi ḍolāvyo  na ligāra re / adhakero tapa aṇalā-
8. dhai huvai re/ lādhai dehī no ādhāra re //9// valatāṃ māra-
9. gi māhi āvī milī re / māthai upari gorasa-māṭa re / thaṃbhāṇī paga-
10. bhari na  sakai ṣisī re / deṣī Sālikumara nau ghāṭa re //10// locana vi-
11. kasyā tanu mana ulasyo re / romaṃcita thaī sārī deha re/ …


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.
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
Sage. A common term for a Jain monk.
A common term for Jain male mendicants.
Austerity or asceticism in general. A tapas is an act of austerity or self-discipline that produces bodily heat – tapas – that burns up karma . Austerities may be internal – mental – or external – physical. Both lay and mendicant Jains practise austerities. Fasting is the most common external austerity for lay people these days.
Someone who withdraws from ordinary life to meditate and practise physical hardships in order to advance spiritually. Jain ascetics or mendicants beg for food from devout lay followers and wander the land. Also used as an adjective to describe the practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition.
Giving up or limiting food or specified foods for a period of time, usually as part of a religious practice. Fasting is a key part of Jainism, chiefly because it is believed to:
  • help destroy karmas that bind to the soul
  • gain merit – puṇya.
Believers in a religion who are ordinary worshippers, not clergy or members of religious orders. In Jainism, lay people are often called 'householders', indicating that they live in houses and have domestic responsibilities, unlike ascetics.
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.
Literally 'colour' or 'hue' in Sanskrit, rāga has come to mean 'beauty', 'harmony' and 'melody'. Consisting of five or more musical notes from which a melody is created, the rāga is one of the melodic modes of Indian classical music. Traditionally, rāgas express the moods of different times of day or seasons to help create an emotional response in the listeners.
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.
A term for any of the dead vernacular languages of ancient and medieval India. It may be contrasted with classical Sanskrit, the language used by priests and the aristocracy. The Jains used a large variety of Prakrits, with the Jain canon written chiefly in Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit.
A donor gives freely. He or she may give alms to a mendicant or money to an institution. This donation may be for specific items or purposes, such as the creation of art. A donor, sponsor or patron may be named or pictured in the artwork.
Jaina Devanāgarī
The distinctive version of the Devanāgarī script found in Jain manuscripts.
Food, money, medicine, clothing or anything else given to another person as a religious or charitable act. Asking for and giving alms is a significant part of Jainism, as it forms a daily point of contact between lay people and mendicants. Seeking, donating and receiving alms are highly ritualised ceremonies in the Jain tradition, and spiritual purity is essential for both giver and recipient. Giving alms is a way for lay Jains to gain merit – puṇya.
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.
The everyday or common language spoken by people in a particular country or region, often contrasting with the literary form or the national or official language. Similarly, vernacular architecture reflects local conditions and conventions more than other considerations, such as national or international design trends, and may be built by non-professional architects. - All text is © JAINpedia / Institute of Jainology 2021 under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 licence The Jain universe online at

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