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Browsing: Saṃgrahaṇī-ratna or Trailokyadīpikā (IS 35-1971)

Image: Animal symbols of the 12 heavens

Title: Animal symbols of the 12 heavens

Victoria and Albert Museum
IS. 35-1971
Date of creation:
18th century
Folio number:
18 recto
Total number of folios:
Place of creation:
Rajasthan; copied in Srāparanagara
Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī Prākrit and Gujarati
watercolour on paper
25 x 11.5 cms
V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information


The painting shows the 12 animals that symbolise each of the 12 heavenskalpas – of the Upper World.

They are depicted in three rows of four in the standard sequence. Looking from top to bottom, left to right, they are as follows:

  • black antelope, buffalo, kind of boar, tiger
  • goat, frog, horse, elephant
  • snake, unicorn animal, bull, kind of ram.

There are several differences between the animals in the painting and the names in the text, namely:

  • number 2 – the buffalo is much thinner than a more naturalistic version would be
  • number 3 is supposed to be a boar, with a tusk shown in the painting, but the body is not as massive as is expected
  • number 4 is referred to as sīha – 'lion' – in the text but it looks more like a tiger in the painting. Indian artistic representations of lions often show them as tigers because while the tiger was common on Indian territory the lion was never so.
  • number 6 is named as a kind of frog in the text but the painting is not a naturalistic depiction. Paintings of frogs in Indian art often resemble the strange form seen here.
  • number 10 is referred to as khaggī, which normally means 'rhinoceros'. The rhino is found in Assam in eastern India so the painter would probably have known what it looks like but the body is rather thin here, and the animal in this painting is a cross between a unicorn and a rhino.
  • number 12 is a white antelope in the text but the painting looks very like a ram.
12 animals and heavens


Animal in painting

Name of animal in the text and meaning



black antelope

miya – antelope




mahisa – buffalo




varāha – boar




sīha – lion




chagala – goat




sālūra – frog




haya – horse




gaya – elephant




bhuyaṃga – snake




khaggī – rhinoceros




vasaha – bull



white antelope

viḍima – a 'kind of antelope' in printed editions, but huḍūma here


Other visual elements

The bottom of the right margin contains the number 18, which is the folio number.

The illustration takes up most of the page while the text is on the right. The text contains two languages. The larger script is the Prakrit text used for the sūtra or verse while the smaller script above and below it is almost a literal translation in Gujarati.


These animals represent the 12 heavens of the Upper World, which is one of the three worlds in Jain cosmology. The Vaimānika gods live in the Upper World. Their name comes from the Sanskrit word for 'palace' – vimāna. Although they are found in the heavenly Upper World, Jain deities can live in any of the three worlds.

Animals often feature in dreams as meaningful symbols. Dreams were taken very seriously by Jains and feature in many key tales.

This manuscript of the Saṃgrahaṇī-ratna contains the Prakrit verses followed by a commentary in Gujarati. Such writings have generated many commentaries in Sanskrit or the vernacular languages. A rich pictorial tradition has also grown up round the Saṃgrahaṇī works, as visualisation is part of the transmission of knowledge on the Jain universe and is helpful as a means of understanding.This manuscript is a carefully executed artefact with a large panel of paintings and charts.

Jain cosmology is complex. Human beings live in the Middle World, which is the smallest of the three worlds that make up world space – loka-ākāśa. In world space all the souls live in the different body-forms they take according to their rebirths, in the various worlds. Outside world space is the non‑world space – aloka-ākāśa – which is endless. However, the Middle World is the most important area from the spiritual point of view because it is the only part where human beings can live.

Jains cannot advance spiritually without understanding and meditating upon cosmological theories so understanding them is crucial. Certain key religious concepts run through these theories. These include the notion of a physical soul shedding karma by moving through the cycle of rebirth to eventual omniscience and liberation, along with the cyclical nature of time, the interconnectedness of the universe, and the importance of symmetry, repetition and balance.


Prāṃṇateṃ geṃḍā nu cihna 10

  1. ga 9 khaggī

Āraṇa vṛṣabha nū cihna 11

  1. 10 vasahā 11

Acyūta iṃdra mīḍhā nu cihna 12

  1. huḍū [?] 12 māiṃ

e cina jāṃṇavā 11

  1. ciṃhnāiṃ 11

Saudharma iṃdra Iśāneṃ ineṃ neṃ 84 hajā 80 hajāra

  1. cūlasii a

Sanatakumāreṃ iṃneṃ 72 hajāra

  1. sii bāvanna

There are five numbers in the text. The numbers 9, 10, 11, 12 in lines 1 to 3 refer to the number of the animals in the sequence.

In line 4 the 11 is the stanza number, which, as usual, is given at the end. Note that the 11 stands for 111 because it is usual to miss out the digit specifying hundreds or thousands.


Sanskrit for 'meditation', one of the six internal austerities or tapas that help purify the soul of karma. Meditation is deep thought about religious doctrine or mental focus on spiritual matters over a period of time. An important part of many religions, meditation is especially important in Jain belief because it forms key elements of religious practice and spiritual development.
Sanskrit for 'self', 'soul' or 'that which is sentient'. It makes up the universe along with ajīva, or non-sentient material substance. It is a material substance that changes in size according to the body it inhabits in each life. It is born in different bodies in various places in the Jain universe based on karma from earlier lives. The soul is liberated from the cycle of birth when it has achieved spiritual purity and omniscience. Also called ātma or ātman.
'Knowledge', of which there are five main types:
  • mind-based and sensory knowledge – mati-jñāna
  • scriptural knowledge – śruta-jñāna
  • extra-sensory knowledge or clairvoyance – avadhi-jñāna
  • knowledge of others’ minds or telepathy – manaḥparyaya-jñāna
  • omniscience or absolute knowledge – kevala-jñāna.
With spiritual progress, one can gain the different types of knowledge.Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.
Action or act, thought of as physical in Jainism. Created by mental or physical action, karma enters the soul, which then needs religious restraints and practices to make it flow out. Karma can be both:
  • negative – deriving from harmful acts
  • positive – arising from beneficial actions.
Both types of karma trap a soul in continual rebirth. A pan-Indian concept, karma has extremely complex, detailed and technical divisions and subdivisions in Jainism.
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.
There are three worlds in traditional Jain cosmology. The middle world is where human beings and animals live, and sits between the upper and the lower worlds.
Cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth caused by karma binding to the soul as a result of activities. Only by destroying all karma can this perpetual cycle finish in mokṣa – liberation. The karma gained in life affects the next life, and even future lives, for example:
  • in which of the three worlds the life is lived out
  • which of four conditions – gati – the body takes, namely human, divine, hellish or as a plant or animal.
In common use it refers to any sacred text. However, strictly speaking, it means an extremely concise style of writing, as illustrated in the Tattvārtha-sūtra, or a verse.
The highest of the three worlds in Jain cosmology , the home of the various types of gods .
To Jains the universe is composed of two types of space. A Sanskrit term meaning 'world space', loka-ākāśa is a vast but limited area, where all humans, deities and all other forms of life live. Here the souls live and travel through the cycle of rebirths. Outside it is 'non-world space' – aloka-ākāśa.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Three worlds
In Jain cosmology three worlds make up world space, where life exists:
  • ūrdhva-loka – upper world
  • madhya-loka– middle world
  • adho-loka – lower world.
These are frequently represented in art as the Cosmic Man, a human figure whose legs stand for the lower world, whose waist symbolises the middle world and whose torso represents the upper world.
Deities in the upper world of the Jain universe, who each have celestial vehicles or mounts. There are 26 in the Śvetāmbara tradition and 39 according to the Digambara sect. There are two types:
  • the kalpopapanna-devas in the lower heavens
  • the kalpātīta-devas in the higher heavens.
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.
An essay explaining a text. Commentaries on the scriptures are common in the Jain tradition and there are various types, including the:
  • bālāvabodha
  • bhāṣya
  • cūrṇi
  • niryukti
  • ṭīkā.
The fifth 'pillar' or duty of Islam, the hajj is a pilgrimage to Mecca, in modern Saudi Arabia. The hajj consists of a number of rituals performed over certain days in the last month of the Islamic calendar.
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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