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Browsing: Śrīpāla-rāsa and Gujarati commentary (Or. 13622)

Image: Double homage and preaching

Title: Double homage and preaching

The British Library Board
Or. 13622
Vinayavijaya and Yaśovijaya
Date of creation:
17th to 18th centuries
Folio number:
1 verso
Total number of folios:
Place of creation:
western India
watercolour on paper
24 x 11 cms
CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
Image copyright: Creative Commons Public Domain


The caption on the top left says: Śrīpālarāsa-patra 1 – 'The poetic composition on Śrīpāla, folio 1'.

There are two illustrated panels on the page, both underlining the religious and artistic importance of this text.

Left-hand panel

The left-hand image is a visualisation of the double homage paid by the author at the opening of his work to the Jina Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva and to Sarasvatī, the goddess of letters, poetic creation and, more generally, the arts.

A temple enshrines an image of a Jina. The temple evokes the style of the Western Indian temples in its structure and the banner. The idol is fanned by two worshippers who hold cāmaras in their hands. The Jina is seated in the traditional lotus posture of meditation. The snake-hoods that are commonly seen in images of Pārśva are not very clear here so the Jina image appears rather uncharacterised.

At the bottom Sarasvatī is shown holding the vīṇā in her hand and mounted on her vehicle, the white swan. Folding hands in front of her is a Śvetāmbara Jain monk, identified by his white robe and the staff. He is Vinayavijaya, the author of the work.

Right-hand panel

The right-hand image is a teaching scene. Seated under the shade of a tree is Indrabhūti Gautama, the leading disciple of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. He is a Jain monk, identified by his white robe and the broom under one of his arms. In one of his hands he holds what could be a scroll or book. His second hand demonstrates the typical teaching gesture.

Sitting in front of him are the larger figure of King Śreṇika with his retinue of men, one of them holding a fly-whisk. The women are respectfully seated at the side of the monk, not in front of him.

Where the teacher is becomes a sacred place, similar to an ashram, where vehicles and forms of transport are out of place. This is why they are at the border of the picture.

Other visual elements

There are several notable things about this page, namely:

  • the red sign inside red vertical lines at the beginning is an auspicious symbol known as bhale, often used at the start of a manuscript
  • it is common to emphasise the beginning of a text by writing in red ink instead of the usual black, like here
  • at the bottom right is the number 1, which is the folio number.

At the bottom of the left-hand margin is the phrase potā nai mukhai śrīmukha – 'from his own mouth, from his glorious mouth'. This is an expansion of the words svayaṃ mukha – 'from his own mouth' – on line 10. The sign resembling = above the word svayaṃ draws attention to the gloss in the margin.

At the top of the right-hand margin is the phrase vidyārupa veli kavi svara nī – 'the creeper in the form of knowledge for the voice of poets'. This is an explanation of the words kalapaveli kaviyaṇa taṇī found on lines 3 to 4. At the end of line 3 the sign resembling = above the word yadraws attention to the gloss in the margin.

Note that verse numbers are at the end of each stanza and are often written between two vertical lines, like here. On this page are the following numbers:

  • 1 at the beginning of line 6
  • 2 at the beginning of line 9
  • 3 at the end of line 11.


The script is the Jaina Devanāgarī script. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here for Gujarati.

Note the red vertical lines within the text. Though they are used to divide the long sentences into smaller parts, they are not necessarily punctuation marks.


This manuscript recounts the story of Śrīpāla, one of the favourite heroes of Jain story literature. Many authors have told the story of his life since at least the 14th century. Vinaya-vijaya’s version in Gujarati dates back to the 17th century and stands among the most popular ones.

Śrīpāla was a prince, but at the beginning of the story he appears as a leper. He becomes the husband of Princess Madanasundarī or Maynasundarī, after she has told her father, King Prajāpāla, that one’s fate depends on one’s own karma alone. After the marriage and devout prayer, Śrīpāla is cured of leprosy. The couple go through many adventures. Among the various people they meet is a Jain monk who teaches them the benefits of the navapada or siddhacakra.

Parts of the tale

There are eight main stages of the story.

The tale opens with King Prajāpāla of Ujjayinī, who has two daughters, Surasundarī and Mayanāsundarī, whose modern name is Mainasundarī. One day he questions them on what they think is the source of their happiness. Surasundarī answers that she owes everything to her father. Mayanasundarī thinks everything, good or bad, is the result of karma. Happy with the first daughter, the king asks her to choose her husband. Angry with the other one, he marries her to the prince of lepers. Mayanasundarī happily accepts her fate. It turns out that the prince of lepers is none other than Śrīpāla, a prince. After his marriage, he is cured of leprosy. Moreover, the couple have been told by a Jain ascetic about the navapada. Mayanasundarī's father repents.

In the next stage Śrīpāla is dejected after hearing that he is only thought of as King Prajāpāla's son-in-law. In order to demonstrate his own value, he leaves his happy life and the town of Ujjayinī.

His first significant encounter is with a sādhaka. Śrīpāla gives him help by using a vidyā his religious teacher had given him and receives in exchange two magical herbs. One enables him to cross water while the other will protect him against weapons.

The sādhaka leads him to some alchemists, whom Śrīpāla helps to produce gold. In exchange, they give him some, although he is reluctant to accept it.

Śrīpāla arrives at Broach, where the merchant Dhavala is looking for a young foreign man to sacrifice to the goddess, so that his ships can set sail. His men try to catch Śrīpāla but in vain. Śrīpāla meditates on the navapada and makes the ship move, then sails away with Dhavala.

Śrīpāla and Dhavala arrive in Babbarakula. King Mahākāla asks for a toll, which they refuse to pay. Mahākāla is defeated in the following fight, recognises Śrīpāla's superiority and offers his daughter, Madanasenā, in marriage.

They all go to Ratnadvīpa, where they meet Jinadāsa, son of the śrāvaka Jinadeva. He asks Śrīpāla to open the door of the sanctum of the Ṛṣabhanātha temple in Ratnasancaya. In spite of all the townspeople’s efforts, the door remains closed. Jinadāsa also asks him to marry Madanamanjūṣā, the king's daughter. The prince goes there, meditates upon the navapada, opens the door and gets Madanamanjūṣā as a third wife.

The prince now decides to go back home but has to face the jealousy of Dhavala, who decides to kill him. During the voyage he manages to throw Śrīpāla into the sea. Śrīpāla meditates upon the Nine Entities – depicted in the navapada or siddhacakra – and lands on an alligator's back. In the meantime, Dhavala thinks of other stratagems to get the two princesses for himself, but fails.

The distinction between a good man, Śrīpāla, and a wicked one, Dhavala, is clearly drawn.

The story of Śrīpāla is closely connected with the navapada or siddhacakra. This is a fundamental religious symbol associated with the doctrine of karma. This teaches that all human beings hold their destiny in their own hands.


//§O// Homage to Lord Pārśva!
Now the poetical composition about Śrīpāla is being written.

Sarasvatī, you who are the creeper granting all the poets’ desires, give me a good boon. Fulfil the desires of this humble me, as I am going to celebrate the qualities of the siddhacakra.
False things, obstacles – when uttering the names of the 24 Jinas, they all come to an end. When bowing to one’s own teacher the fame in this world increases.
Following the command of Lord [Mahāvīra], Gautama arrived in Rājagṛha. From his own mouth he gave as follows the teaching to Śreṇika and other people.


1. //§O// śrīPārśvanāthāya namaḥ //
2. atha Śrīpāla nī copaī likhyate
3. //dūhā// kalapa-veli-kaviyaṇa
4. taṇī / Sarasati kari supasāya / siddha-
5. cakra-guṇa-gāvatāṃ / pūri manoratha mā-
6. ya //1// aliya-vighana savi upasa-
7. meṃ / japatāṃ jina cauvīsa / namatāṃ ni-
8. ja guru-paya-kamala / jaga māṃ vadheṃ ja-
9. gīsa //2// guru Gautama Rājagṛhī ā-
10. vyā prabhu-ādesa / śvayaṃ mukha Śreṇika
11. pramukha neṃ / iṇi pari dyai upadesa //3// [u-
12. pagārī arihanta prabhu / siddhi-bhajo


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.
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.
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.
Sanskrit for 'worship' or 'homage'. All Jains perform rites of honour to the 24 Jinas. Rites of worship take place daily, with more elaborate ceremonies performed on holy days. Mendicant and lay Jains perform different rituals. Some sects worship images – mūrti-pūjaka – and others do not, and different sects have various practices. Focused on images or not, worship can be:
  • external or material – dravya-pūjā – involving offerings of food, drink and precious substances
  • internal or mental – bhava-pūjā – including singing hymns of praise, reciting mantras and meditating.
'Hearer’ of the teaching. This commonly refers to the Jain lay man, who follows the teachings of the 24 Jinas and is not a member of the clergy or a religious order. The feminine form is śrāvikā.
Knowledge, especially magic knowledge or power.
Indrabhūti Gautama
Chief disciple of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. From a brahmin family, he was the first of Mahāvīra's 11 chief disciples. He became enlightened on the day Mahāvīra was liberated. He achieved liberation himself 12 years later.
The 23rd Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is green and his emblem the snake. Historical evidence points to his living around 950 to 850 BC.
Hindu goddess of learning who presides over the teaching of the Jinas, and is worshipped on the day of the festival devoted to scriptures. As goddess of knowledge, music and the arts, Sarasvatī is one of the most popular deities in India and has followers among all the Indian religions.
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.
A religious community separated from the outside world, from the Sanskrit word āśramah - practising austerity.
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
An active follower of a religion, especially one who passes on teachings to others.
A principle or system of teachings, especially religious philosophy.
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 religious communication offered by a believer to a god or object of worship. It may:
  • be private or public
  • be silent or aloud
  • be undertaken alone or in a group
  • take prescribed ritual form or be improvised
  • need tools and accessories or not
  • be a wish to be granted
  • be a request for guidance
  • be a hymn of praise or thanks
  • be a confession
  • express an emotion or thought.
A building reserved for public worship or prayer, usually dedicated to one religion and run by members of that religion's clergy.
The most sacred area of a temple, church or religious building, often where the image of a deity is housed and worshipped. An outdoor space that is associated with a deity may also be considered a sanctuary.
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.
Jaina Devanāgarī
The distinctive version of the Devanāgarī script found in Jain manuscripts.
Said to resemble the petals of a lotus, the lotus position involves sitting cross-legged with each foot on the opposite thigh. The soles face upwards while the knees rest on the ground. This posture is associated with meditation. Jinas and other enlightened figures are often depicted in this pose.
Sanskrit for a fan originally made of a yak's tail, used for fanning a deity during a ritual. Royalty and priests are often fanned with cāmaras as a sign of their high status, which is often depicted in art.
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.
The vehicle of a Hindu god or goddess. Usually an animal, the vāhana fulfils one or more roles and may:
  • be the deity's emblem
  • symbolise positive attributes associated with the deity
  • represent evil powers over which the god has triumphed
  • help the divinity to perform duties.
The vāhana may also have its own divine powers or be worshipped in its own right.
The Sanskrit term haṃsa is used for a goose or swan. It is associated with the qualities of wisdom, purity, divine knowledge, detachment and the highest spiritual achievements. The haṃsa is the vāhana or mount of the Hindu goddess Sarasvatī, patron of learning, music and the arts.
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.
Favourable or lucky. Auspicious objects bring good fortune and may predict good events or a bright future. 
The red symbol between vertical red lines often found at the start of Jain manuscripts. It is an auspicious symbol known as bhale and is transliterated in JAINpedia as //§O// 
Siddhacakra or Navadevatā
The most common mystical diagram – yantra – in Jainism, which is believed to destroy karma and bring prosperity and good luck. There are nine parts, usually arranged in the shape of a lotus flower. The Five Highest Beings are depicted on five parts of the yantra. On the four other parts, there are sectarian differences. Digambaras call it the navadevatā or navdevata or navpad. The other four elements for them are:
  • a Jina image
  • a temple
  • the dharma-cakra or sacred wheel of law
  • the speech of the Jinas, in the scriptures.
For Śvetāmbaras it is the siddhacakra or navapada or navpad, which has representations of:
  • the 'three jewels' of Jain tradition
  • 'right austerity', often called the 'fourth jewel'.
To explain or translate a word or phrase in a text. A glossary is a collection of such explanations. A gloss may be a short note in the margin or between the lines of a text or it may be an extended commentary.

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