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

Image: Siddhacakra

Title: Siddhacakra

Source:
The British Library Board
Shelfmark:
Or. 13622
Author:
Vinayavijaya and Yaśovijaya
Date of creation:
17th to 18th centuries
Folio number:
72 verso
Total number of folios:
88
Place of creation:
western India
Language:
Gujarati
Medium:
watercolour on paper
Size:
24 x 11 cms
Copyright:
CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
Image copyright: Creative Commons Public Domain

Description

This is a painting of a siddhacakra, an auspicious diagram – maṇḍala – in the shape of an eight-petalled lotus. It is also known as navapada or ‘nine entities’ because it depicts the main figures and principles of Jain teaching.

The text on this page and the pages either side give instructions on creating and worshipping a siddhacakra. The shape and the colours in the picture match the directions in the text.

Parts of the siddhacakra

Location

Teacher

Colour

centre

Arhat

white

top

siddha

red

right

ācārya

yellow

left

upādhyāya

dark blue

bottom

sādhu

black

Firstly, the five types of venerated figures are in the centre of the flower and on alternate petals. They are stylised and either in the lotus posture or in the seated position for teaching. In their hands they are probably holding their mouth-cloths.

Secondly, the ‘four fundamentals' or 'four gems' are found on the intermediate petals of the flower. According to the text, the colour of these four entities should be ‘fire-bright’ so the painter has chosen orange. Here they are each represented by a formula – mantra – to be uttered by the devotee when making offerings to each of them in turn. Although the language of the story is Gujarati, the mantras of the four fundamentals are given in Sanskrit.

Clockwise from top left, the mantras are:

Mantras on the siddhacakra

Mantra

Translation

oṃ hrīṃ samyagjñānāya namaḥ 5(1)

oṃ hrīṃ – homage to right knowledge 5(1)!

oṃ hrīṃ samyagdarśanāyā svāhā 67

oṃ hrīṃ – offering to right faith 67!

oṃ hrīṃ, samyagcaritrāya svāhā 17”

oṃ hrīṃ – offering to right conduct 17!

oṃ hrīṃ samyagtapāya svāhā 50

oṃ hrīṃ – offering to right penance 50!

Mantras often have sacred syllables at the start. Here, oṃ hrīṃ is used, which is among the most common. The numbers found at the end of each formula are also mentioned in the main text. They refer to the number of possible subdivisions into which the main concept can be classified. These are not detailed in this particular text but can be found in technical works.

The colours and type of offering that should be made to the nine entities are set out, which include:

  • rice grains dyed different colours
  • pieces of coconut
  • pieces of ghee
  • sandalwood paste
  • sweets
  • various precious stones.

The number of offerings is symbolic and echoes traditional numbers of the qualities of the types of teachers. Such offerings form the material side of worship while the mental counterpart is quiet meditation.

Other visual elements

The heading at the top left says: Śrīpālarāsa 72. This is the title of the manuscript and the folio number.

There are several notable things about this page:

  • the larger script is the main text while the smaller writing is the explanatory or expanding commentary, also in Gujarati
  • the verse numbers of this poetic version of the story are written in red between two vertical lines at the end of each stanza, here numbers 3 and 4.

In Gujarati narrative poetry, the stanzas are arranged in groups. Each group has a refrain line at the end of each stanza. Generally, the refrain is written in full the first time and then in an abbreviated form. Here the refrain is signalled by the syllable ta in red.

At the foot of the right-hand margin is the number 72, which is the folio number.

The two ornate flowers in the margins are symbolic reminders of the way in which manuscripts were bound when they were on palm leaf. Strings through one or more holes were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The flowers are in the places where the holes would once have been. The dagger-like lines around them are purely decorative.

Background

One of the sacred symbols of Jainism, the siddhacakra or ‘wheel of the liberated’ is among the most popular symbols. It is also known as navapada or ‘nine entities’ because it depicts the key figures and principles of Jain teaching. The five kinds of holy beings are paid homage to in the pañca-namaskāra-mantra while the 'four gems' are cornerstones of spiritual progress.

Nine parts of the siddhacakra

'Five figures worthy of worship'

'Four gems'

  • Arhat – enlightened one
  • siddha – liberated soul
  • ācārya – teacher
  • upādhyāya – preceptor or tutor
  • sādhu – monk
  • right faith – samyag-darśana
  • right knowledge – samyag-jñāna
  • right conduct – samyag-cāritra or samyak-cāritra
  • right penance – samyak-tapas

As a summary of the essence of Jain doctrine, the siddhacakra is worshipped in festivals and has been created in many artistic forms, from popular paintings in manuscripts through independent large-scale paintings to bronze images.

Story of Śrīpāla

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.

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.

Glossary

Dhyāna
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.
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.
Mantra
A sacred sound, syllable, word or phrase that is believed to produce spiritual change if recited correctly. A mantra can be recited aloud or silently, and is often repeated. Mantras are closely associated with religions that originated in India, such as Hinduism and Buddhism as well as Jainism. The chief Jain mantra is the Namaskāra-mantra, which is recited daily, while another mantra very popular in Indian culture generally is Auṃ.
Muhpattī
Modern Indo-aryan language term from the Sanskrit ‘mukhavastrikā'. The small rectangular piece of cloth permanently fixed over the mouth by some mendicant orders. This is to avoid being violent accidentally, either by inhaling tiny creatures or killing them by breathing over them unexpectedly.This is not the same as the mouth-cover used on some occasions by other mendicants and by laypeople when they perform certain rites.
Namaskāra-mantra
Sanskrit for 'homage formula', the Namaskāra-mantra is the fundamental religious formula of the Jains. A daily prayer always recited in the original Prākrit, it pays homage to the supreme beings or five types of holy being:
  1. arhat - enlightened teacher
  2. siddha - liberated soul
  3. ācārya - mendicant leader
  4. upādhyāya - preceptor or teacher
  5. sādhu - mendicant
Note that chanting the mantra is not praying for something, material or otherwise. Also known as the Pañca-namaskāra-mantra or 'Fivefold Homage mantra', it is also called the Navakāra-mantra or Navkār-mantra in modern Indian languages.
Auṃ
Sacred syllable commonly written as 'Oṃ' or 'Om', which is also used in Hinduism and Buddhism. Jains use it, for instance, in the Namaskāra-mantra. The letters in the word are significant:
  • 'A' refers to Arhats, siddhas and ācāryas
  • 'U' refers to preceptors or teachers
  • 'M' refers to mendicant.
Pūjā
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.
Devotee
An enthusiastic follower of a religion. Can also describe a keen enthusiast of an individual, concept or activity.
Doctrine
A principle or system of teachings, especially religious philosophy.
Idol
An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.
Prayer
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.
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.
Hrīṃ
A sacred symbol or mantra that controls the false world that people experience.
Lotus
A plant noted for its beautiful flowers, which has symbolic significance in many cultures. In Indian culture, the lotus is a water lily signifying spiritual purity and detachment from the material world. Lotuses frequently feature in artwork of Jinas, deities, Buddha and other holy figures.
Padmāsana
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.
Festival
A public commemoration of a religious ritual. Often a celebration that involves holding a religious ceremony to mark an important event in a religion's history. 
Sandalwood
A fragrant wood from trees in the Santalum genus, which is often made into oil, paste, powder or incense. Widely used in religious ceremonies across Asia, sandalwood paste and powder are used to mark or decorate religious equipment, statues or images, priests and worshippers. Also used for carvings, sandalwood produces a highly prized oil used in cosmetics and perfumes.
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.
Auspicious
Favourable or lucky. Auspicious objects bring good fortune and may predict good events or a bright future. 
Commentary
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.
Maṇḍala
From the Sanskrit for 'circle', a maṇḍala is a geometric design that symbolises the spiritual universe. It is used in religious rituals and to help meditation.
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'.

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