Eight concentric circles contain phrases in small writing. The circles are surrounded by a lot of text, filling up most of the space within the square frame enclosing the circular shape. Above the circle are two eyes looking upwards, separated by a symbol. A pair of footprints can be seen on the left, towards the bottom, in the middle of text. Decorative emblems are at the four corners of the square. All the writing and symbols on the cloth are in red ink.
This is a sūri-mantra-paṭa – a type of yantra or mystical diagram – found among Śvetāmbara monastic orders. The magic and sacred syllable hrīṃ is at the top, in the middle, with an auspicious eye each side. The circles are similar to the depiction of continents and oceans in Jain cosmology while the writing in each one consists of lines of mantras written in Sanskrit or Prakrit.
In the circle in the middle is the principal mantra, which is devoted to ‘Gotamasvāmin’, a respectful name for Indrabhūti Gautama, the main disciple of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. The second circle from the outside is dedicated to the 24 Jinas, whose names appear in individual boxes. The other circles contain mantras offering homage to:
Dispersed around the yantra are a few Sanskrit stanzas, which pay homage to deities, such as the one to Śrīdevī in the bottom-left part. In the middle of the right-hand side is a Prakrit stanza honouring Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva, the 23rd Jina.
One phrase appears in several places on the yantra, referring to asmad-gaccha – ‘our gaccha’. The gaccha or sect is not named but the heads of the Kharatara-gaccha monastic order are listed in the top corners, making it clear that the yantra refers to this sect.
Then come his disciples and successors:
The list continues in the top right of the yantra, with the names of:
śrīJinacandrasūri-pādebhyaḥ sadā namo ‘stu //
may there always be homage to the feet of Jinacandrasūri
There are several heads of the Kharatara-gaccha with the name Jinacandra-sūri. But it is likely that the footprints and homage refer to the one listed in the top right, who is one of the Dādā-gurus. These are the major teachers of this monastic order, who largely owe their fame to their miraculous powers (see Babb 1996).
In the middle of the right-hand portion is the phrase:
saṃvat 1506 pratiṣṭito ‘ya[m] ārādhaka
it was consecrated in the year 1506 of the Vikrama era. The worshipper is this
However, the name of the ārādhaka is missing, who is the person who would have worshipped this yantra. The absence of a name indicates that perhaps this mystical diagram was never used.
At the very bottom of the lower-right corner is a label that was not written by the scribe who created the yantra.
//saṃvat 406 ro Sūramaṃtra ṭebā //1//
commentary on the sūrimantra of saṃvat 406
The date is strange but is probably meant to be (1)506, repeating the original date in the Vikrama era. It is likely that the label was written in the 19th century, when many Jain mantras and maṇḍalas changed hands, to identify the object.
A sūri-mantra-paṭa is a mystical diagram on cloth, like here, or on paper, which features formulas of homage and sacred syllables – mantras. It is thus a kind of maṇḍala or yantra, which is frequently used in worship and meditation among both ascetics and lay people.
Monks of the Śvetāmbara monastic orders use sūri-mantra-paṭas when they reach the higher ranks of religious hierarchy. The yantra gets its name from the highest grade of male mendicant, which is sūri, but it can also be used among lower monastic levels. More generally, worshippers are inspired by the example of Indrabhūti Gautama or Gautama-svāmin, the foremost disciple of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. He is often shown at the centre of the diagram, although not here.
The date on this sūri-mantra-paṭa corresponds to 1449 CE, making it among the oldest known examples. All yantras include pictures and text but the muted colour scheme and chiefly textual appearance of this one contrasts sharply with modern sūri-mantra-paṭas, which are often brightly coloured and have little text.