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Browsing: Uttarādhyayana-sūtra (IS 2-1972)

Image: Story of King Sanjaya

Title: Story of King Sanjaya

Source:
Victoria and Albert Museum
Shelfmark:
IS 2-1972
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
circa 1450
Folio number:
18 recto
Total number of folios:
47, folio 25 missing
Place of creation:
copied in Gulf of Cambay, Gujarat
Language:
Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit
Medium:
gouache and ink on paper
Size:
30 x 11.5 cm
Copyright:
V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Description

The picture has two levels, each depicting different scenes.

Top level

This is a hunting scene in which a man rides a galloping horse accompanied by two attendants. The main figure, whose larger size indicates his more important status, holds a bow and shoots arrows. In front of him many different animals, mostly deer and rabbits, are trying to run away. Some of them are looking back at him with scared eyes. Behind the man on the horse are two attendants.

This is a lively scene where the viewer can feel the contrast between the determination of the hunter and the animals’ fear.

While the blue spots on the horse’s coat are rather unrealistic, some of the deer are quite precisely drawn. The black and white ones are faithful images of the Indian blackbuck.

Bottom level

On the left, a Jain monk wearing the robe of a Śvetāmbara ascetic sits on a raised seat with his hand in the gesture of teaching. In front of him is the sthāpanācārya pedestal, which symbolises teaching and the ascetic’s absent teacher. Its large size is remarkable. On its right are two men, one of whom is under an ornate canopy.

The hunter shown on the top level is King Sanjaya. He enters a park while hunting and sees a monk meditating. When he realises that he has killed animals that had fled to the ascetic and could well have killed the man himself, Sanjaya is full of remorse and asks for forgiveness. The monk remains silent so Sanjaya is scared that he will curse him. Instead, the monk teaches him the beliefs of the Jains, emphasising that power and relations are only transitory, that one should not be attached to them, and that cruelty should be given up. Convinced, Sanjaya gives up his royal power and follows a Jain monk.

This lower scene shows King Sanjaya’s conversion to Jain teachings. The man in the centre, under the canopy, is Sanjaya. The monk’s name is Gardabhāli. The second figure is probably one of the king’s attendants.

Other visual elements

The number 18 in the top left-hand margin is the chapter number.

 

The blank space in the centre is a symbolic reminder of the way in which manuscripts were bound at one time. Strings through one or more holes in the paper were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The blank is in the place where a hole would once have been.

Background

The hunter is King Sanjaya, who enters a park while hunting and sees a monk meditating. When he realises that he has killed animals that had fled to the ascetic and could well have killed the man himself, Sanjaya is full of remorse and asks for forgiveness. The monk remains silent so Sanjaya is scared that he will curse him. Instead, the monk teaches him the beliefs of the Jains, emphasising that power and relations are only transitory, that one should not be attached to them, and that cruelty should be given up. Convinced, Sanjaya gives up his royal power and follows a Jain monk.

Later on in the chapter Sanjaya in turn teaches the true law to a member of the warrior caste who asks him why he has become a monk. Sanjaya convinces him that this is the right path. He tells him it has been followed by several illustrious kings of the past, whose lives he narrates briefly.

Glossary

Ākāśa
Space – one of the five non-material substances that is non-sentient in Jain belief. These five substances make up the universe along with the sentient substance, called jīvastikaya.
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.
Kāla
Time. One of the five insentient non-material substances that make up the universe along with the sentient substance, called jīvastikaya.
Sthāpanācārya
A small wooden object like a tripod on which a manuscript or book can be placed. It was originally understood as a substitute for the teacher's presence. It has four sticks on to which five cowrie shells wrapped in cloth are placed. The shells symbolise the Five Supreme Beings. Its appearance in art symbolises teaching or a preceptor.
Ascetic
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.
Idol
An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.
Monk
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.
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.
Caste
Hindu society is traditionally divided into numerous jātis or classes, which are usually grouped into the four varṇas – often called 'castes' – of:
  • Brāhmaṇa – priest
  • Kṣatriya – warrior
  • Vaśya – merchant or farmer
  • Śūdra – labourer.
Relating to ritual purity, castes are hereditary and probably based on occupation. Members of different castes performed particular socio-economic roles and did not mix or eat the same food. People outside the caste system were usually looked down upon.

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