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Browsing: Saṃgrahaṇī-ratna with Gujarati commentary (Or. 2116 ms. C)

Image: Universal Monarch's 14 jewels

Title: Universal Monarch's 14 jewels

The British Library Board
Or. 2116 ms. C
Date of creation:
perhaps 16th century
Folio number:
36 recto
Total number of folios:
Place of creation:
western India
Prākrit and Gujarati
25.7 x 11 cms
CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
Image copyright: Creative Commons Public Domain


There are 15 panels in two rows, each panel with a caption. The captions and symbols in the panels reveal that this is a Cakravartin and his 14 jewels.

A Cakravartin or 'universal monarch' has 14 magical ‘jewels’ - ratna - he can use as he wishes, which he needs to become a universal monarch. There is a standard order for the 14 jewels, used here. The first seven are either persons representing official functions that are useful for a king or animals valuable in conquest or battle. The remaining ones are objects.

Top level

This shows the universal monarch on the left, facing the first five of his jewels, who are all human beings. In the first panel is the universal monarch himself and an attendant with a fly-whisk, with the caption cakravartti.

Moving right, the following panels show the jewel along with its name and number in the sequence:

  1. purohita - chaplain, priest-jewel
  2. senāpati – general-jewel who leads the army
  3. gāthāpati - treasurer-, steward- or manager-jewel, who manages the finances and who can provide enough food for an army
  4. vārddhika - carpenter or architect jewel, who can build a city in a day
  5. strī-ratna - woman-jewel or chief queen

Bottom level

This depicts the rest of the 14 jewels. The iconography of the inanimate objects is hard to work out without knowledge of the jewels. Moving from the left, the jewels are:

  1. gaja-ratna - elephant-jewel, which is a powerful animal in the army
  2. aśva-ratna - horse-jewel, which is invaluable in battle and immensely strong
  3. cakra-ratna - discus-jewel, which is an important weapon and form of transportation
  4. chatra-ratna - royal umbrella-jewel, which is an insignia of kingship and protects from the rain
  5. daṇḍa - staff-jewel or sceptre, which can protect a whole army from the weather
  6. carma-ratna - skin-jewel, which can provide enough wheat for an army in a day
  7. ṣaḍaga - sword-jewel
  8. nala or bhakiṇī - cowrie-jewel, which makes the night as light as day and protects against poison. The standard form of the word is kāgiṇī or kākiṇī
  9. maṇi-ratna - gem-jewel, which shines so brightly it illuminates darkness and protects against illness, attacks and so on.


There is a standard order for the 14 jewels. The first seven ones are either persons representing official functions that are useful for a king or animals valuable in conquest or battle. The others are magical objects.

A passage from Hemacandra's 12th-century epic in Sanskrit, the Triṣaṣṭiśalākāpuruṣa-caritra, shows how each of the jewels works and serves the conqueror.

Here Sagara, the second of the 12 universal monarchs, uses some of his jewels:

At an auspicious moment, after an auspicious ceremony had been performed by the family-priest, the King mounted the elephant-jewel, carrying the sword-jewel, for the expedition of universal conquest. Mounting the horse-jewel, carrying the staff-jewel, the general-jewel set out in front of the King. The priest-jewel, resembling the sun for removing the frost of all calamities, set out with the King. The steward-jewel, able to provide meals for the army at every camp […] set out with them. The carpenter, resembling Viśvakarman turned into a jewel, possessing power competent to make cities, etc., at once, went along. The umbrella- and skin-jewels, which expand from a touch of the hand, like clouds from the touch of a favourable wind, went along. The gem-  and cowrie-jewels, able to destroy darkness, resembling the suns of Jambū-dvīpa diminished in size, accompanied him. The women of his household, like the shadow of the Cakrin’s body, went along, like a retinue of many slaves that had come from the Amazonian kingdom. The cakra [= discus, used as a weapon], like the King’s prestige, went ahead toward the east, its conquest of the heavens not repelled, lighting the sky from afar


Helen M. Johnson

vol. 2, page 139

Bold added.

Details of the jewels

The usefulness of some of these jewels is straightforward but explanations are needed for some.

Firstly, the umbrella-jewel spreads over 12 yojanas as soon as the king touches it. When he and his army come to the Vaitāḍhya mountain they are challenged by enemy kings, who cast spells to make heavy rains pour down. The unfurled umbrella can protect the whole army from the weather.

Next, the skin-jewel spreads itself below the umbrella as soon as the king touches it. It is said that grain sown on it in the morning will be ripe and ready for harvesting by the evening. Covering an area of 12 yojanas, it can therefore feed many people. In images of the 14 jewels, like the one here, the skin is normally shown in the shape of a kind of animal that is difficult to identify precisely.

Thirdly, the gem-jewel is made of beryl, a precious stone. It is either triangular or hexagonal in shape. However, the standard iconographic image is a many-faceted diamond shape enclosing a square, as is the case here. This gem provides bright light when the king enters the very dark cave of Tamisrā or other caves, through which he has to pass on his conquests. This gem also has protective powers to ward off disease, attacks and so on.

Lastly, the cowrie-jewel also supplies light. It is normally represented as it is here, in the form of a vertical slab. Made of gold, it is protective and can destroy poison. The rays of this cowrie-jewel shine over 12 yojanas. It can make night seem as day because it fully illuminates the caves where the conquering monarch and his army have to march.

Universal monarchs

A Cakravartin or universal monarch has 14 jewels – ratna – he can use as he wishes. He needs them to conquer the whole world instead of being just a local king with a limited empire. The universal monarchs are one of the categories of Great Men of Jain Universal History, like the Jinas, the Bala-devas, the Vāsu-devas, and the Prativāsu-devas. A future universal monarch is born in the world of humans after having been a god in the life before.


The Saṃgrahaṇī-ratna belongs to the tradition of Śvetāmbara writings on the Jain universe. The monk Śrīcandra wrote Prakrit verses in the 12th century consolidating previous writings on cosmology. It is called Jewel of Summarised Verses, a phrase which underlines the condensed nature of the work.

Though Saṃgrahaṇī works describe the universe, they are mainly concerned with the beings who live in different parts of the Jain world. They go into detail about their life-duration, karma and spiritual progress much more than the geography.

Cosmological writings have generated numerous commentaries in Sanskrit or the vernacular languages. This manuscript contains an anonymous Gujarati commentary in addition to the Prakrit verses.

Teaching and learning cosmology remain an important part of monastic education. 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. Unfortunately, it is not dated and has no information about those involved in producing it.

Jain cosmology is complex. Human beings live in the Middle World, which is the smallest of the three worlds that make up world spaceloka-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.


Sanskrit for 'universal monarch'. There are 12 in the continent of Bharata in each progressive and regressive half-cyle of time. They have 9 treasures and 14 jewels they can use to conquer their enemies and become 'universal monarchs'. The cakravartin form one of the five groups of '63 illustrious men' in Jain mythology.
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.
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.
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
The innermost island-continent in the Middle World, in Jain cosmology. It is divided into seven continents separated by six mountain ranges. It takes its name - 'Rose-Apple Continent' - from a rock formation that resembles a rose-apple tree, which is found on Mount Meru in the centre of the island.
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.
The universe in Jain cosmology, composed of the upper, middle and lower worlds. Human beings can live only in part of the Middle World.
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.
Sanskrit term meaning 'with a home’ – that is, a ‘householder’ or lay Jain. A synonym for a lay person, emphasising that he or she is a member of a household, with responsibilities to the family, community and society that a Jain mendicant does not have.
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.
The highest of the three worlds in Jain cosmology , the home of the various types of gods .
A measure of distance equal to about 14 kilometres.
Formally recognised leaders within a religion. The clergy often perform rituals, lead worship and instruct believers in religious principles. Lay men and women usually complete formal study before being initiated into the clergy. Clerics are active among lay believers, often living in society. They may have specific roles or ranks and may progress through a hierarchy to become top leaders of the religious organisation.
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.
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.
A sequence of actions that must be followed to perform a religious ceremony. The set of actions is largely symbolic, for example offering food to statues symbolises sacrificing to a deity. The ritual actions are often accompanied by set phrases.
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.
To Jains the universe is composed of two types of space. Outside world space – loka-ākāśa – a vast but limited area, where the souls move through the cycle of birth is aloka-ākāśa. This is Non-World Space, which is endless and totally uninhabited.
'Great man' – also known as a mahā-puruṣa – whose story is told in Jain Universal History . Born in each progressive and regressive half- cycle of time , there are five types of 'great men':
  • 24 Jinas
  • 12 Cakravartins
  • 9 Baladevas
  • 9 Vāsudevas
  • 9 Prati-vāsudevas.
Universal History
A Western academic term used for the largely medieval texts that hold the Jain legendary history of the world. Recounting the life stories of the '63 Great or Illustrious Men', the writings are intended to provide role-models for later Jains. The main texts of Jain Universal History are the:
  • Śvetāmbara monk Hemacandra 's Triṣaṣti-śalākā-puruṣa-caritraLife Stories of 63 Great Men
  • Mahā-purāṇaGreat Ancient Tale – of the Digambara writers Jinasena and Guṇabhadra .
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.
A belief system about the universe that covers its origin, structure and parts, and natural laws and characteristics such as space, time, causality and freedom.
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.
Favourable or lucky. Auspicious objects bring good fortune and may predict good events or a bright future. 
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.
Conventions or rules governing how images, symbols and the placement of elements and figures are used in art to represent ideas and convey meaning. Also the term for the academic study of such artistic conventions.
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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