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Browsing: Śālibhadra-caupaī (Or. 13524)

Image: Glory and luxury

Title: Glory and luxury

Source:
The British Library Board
Shelfmark:
Or. 13524
Author:
Matisāra
Date of creation:
1726
Folio number:
11 recto
Total number of folios:
40
Place of creation:
Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
Language:
Gujarāti in Devanāgarī script
Medium:
opaque watercolour on paper
Size:
28 x 11.5 cms
Copyright:
CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
Image copyright: Creative Commons Public Domain

Description

A turbaned man fanned by a servant holding a fly-whisk stands in a room facing a man in red. Other richly dressed men are entering the mansion. Groups of women in separate rooms look on while green parrots perch on the roof. Outside the building, a mahout and his elephant rest under a tree.

King Śreṇika has arrived at his destination after travelling by elephant. The king is welcomed with presents. He and his retinue begin the tour of Śālibhadra’s mansion on the first floor, as detailed in the caption: pahilī bhūma 15.

At the sight of the first storey everyone was delighted [and cried,]. 'This is not the dwelling-place of a mortal being – it is so beautiful!'

As for Śālibhadra’s wives, they stay in their private apartments as custom commands.

Other visual elements

The borders around the illustration, which takes up most of the folio, are plain. The double lines that form the border are in red pigment, which is now quite faded.

Script

The elaborate script is the Jaina Devanāgarī script, in a form which recalls calligraphy. It is used for writing many Indian languages, here for Gujarati.

There are a few notable features of this script, namely:

  • it is an old type in the way the sounds e and o are notated when used with a consonant, known as pṛṣṭhamātrā script
  • the red vertical lines within the text, which, though they are used to divide the long sentences into smaller parts, are not necessarily punctuation marks.

There is a blank space in the text, which is a symbolic reminder of the way in which manuscripts were bound at one time. Strings through one or more holes in the paper were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. In this manuscript the blank space is normally in the place where the central hole would once have been. However, because the illustration takes up most of the page, the text and the blank space it contains are pushed to the left side.

Background

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.

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.
Rāga
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.
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.
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.
Prākrit
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.
Jaina Devanāgarī
The distinctive version of the Devanāgarī script found in Jain manuscripts.
Carũrī
Usually written as 'chowrie' in English, the Hindi carũrī is a fly-whisk or fan. It is probably descended from the Sanskrit term cāmara, which means a 'yak-tail fan'. Like the cāmara, the chowrie is used to fan royalty or priests and thus signifies high status in Indian art.
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.
Vernacular
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.

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