Article: Eight auspicious symbols

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Paintings in invitation scrolls

Invitation scrolls or vijñapti-patras are formal letters inviting a leading monk and his followers, from a certain monastic group, to spend the next rainy season in a certain place. A community of lay Jains sends these letters, the local merchants often sending these on behalf of the wider group.

These invitations take the form of long scrolls with text and paintings. The text consists of poetical description and praises of mendicants and the Jinas. Generally, the opening paintings are the eight auspicious symbols and the 14 auspicious dreams.

An example of an invitation scroll is in the Jain collection at the British Library.

These invitation letters are found in Rajasthan and Gujarat from the 17th century onwards. They are a speciality of the Śvetāmbara Kharatara-gaccha and Tapā-gaccha communities.

Embroideries of the symbols

The cloth of this bookstand is embroidered with colourful examples of the auspicious symbol of the svastika.

Monastic bookstand with embroidered svastikas
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

Śvetāmbara monks and nuns wrap the handle of their brooms or small book-standsthāpanācārya – in pieces of cotton or woollen cloth. One or all of the auspicious symbols are often embroidered on them.

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