Article: Story of Śālibhadra

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

British Library manuscript

The story of Śālibhadra is represented on this website by the British Library manuscript Or. 13524, which has been fully digitised and is one of the highlights of JAINpedia. This manuscript is particularly interesting because of its 44 colourful paintings and the final colophons, which provide a lot of information. It was produced in the Jaisalmer fortress, in Rajasthan, in 1726 CE (1783 of the Vikrama era).

The colophon shows some rare characteristics, in that it is unusually detailed and stresses the visual aspect of the manuscript.

At a minimum, colophons provide the names of the monk who instigated the copying of the text and of the scribe and the recipient, but here the names of all those involved in the production of the manuscript are mentioned.

As is often the case in Gujarati works, the poem ends with verses giving information on the time of composition and on the author. The author gives the date, following the usual system of the Indian calendar, as the sixth day of the dark half of the month Āśo in the year 1678 of the Vikrama era, equivalent to mid-September to mid-October 1621 CE. The date this particular manuscript was copied is supplied in the manuscript colophon.

The name of the author is most frequently written as Matisāra, as it is in this manuscript held in the British Library. There is also a less common variant form, Matisāgara, found in some manuscripts of the work. Matisāra was a disciple of Jinasiṃha-sūri, and composed this work in accordance with the instructions of Jinarāja-sūri. This is Jinarāja II, who was head of the Kharatara-gaccha sect and flourished from 1618 to 1642.

In addition, the colophon puts particular emphasis on the visual aspect of the manuscript. First, it explicitly states that it is meant to be not only read, but also seen. Secondly, the painter’s name is given, which is unusual. Finally, this painter, Kanakakīrti, is clearly a monk, indicated by the term muni attached to his name.

Artistic tradition

This lively illustration from an 18th-century manuscript shows life in the city of Rājagr̥ha. The ladies in a pavilion, the musician and the man on an elephant hint at the exuberance, while the crowds and buildings indicate the city's size and wealth.

Life in Rājagr̥ha
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

The story of Śālibhadra is one of the most important sources for Jain illustrated manuscripts created by the Śvetāmbaras. Practically all versions of the tale can give birth to visuals, but it seems that Matisāra's version is among the most commonly illustrated. There are plenty of examples of manuscripts of the Story of Śālibhadra, most of which date back to the 17th century onwards and were produced in Gujarat or in Rajasthan.

The illustration styles in the manuscripts are extremely varied but are generally notable for their liveliness and freshness. Unlike much Jain art, paintings in the Story of Śālibhadra are not tied to standard scenes and artistic conventions.

It is popular among all Śvetāmbara Jains, but the Sthānaka-vāsins seem to greatly favour it, perhaps because the lack of temples and worship of images in the text supports their views on these matters. Indeed, some of the surviving manuscripts feature illustrations of Sthānaka-vāsin mendicants.

The paintings in the JAINpedia manuscript, however, point to the Mūrti-pūjaka Śvetāmbaras. This British Library manuscript has so many illustrations that they form an almost continuous pictorial version of the story, serving as much more than simple accompaniment to the writing.

Illustrated manuscripts

It is virtually impossible to list all the painted manuscripts of versions of the Śālibhadra story, as they are available in such large numbers. In some remarkable cases, the painter’s name is given. This table gives a selection, as noted in secondary literature.

Selected illustrated manuscripts of the Śālibhadra story

Version of the story by author

Date

Details

Collection or location

Publication reference

Matisāra

1624 (1681 VS)

  • 30 illustrations
  • painter is named as Sālivāhana
  • one of several commissioned by Bhāramalla, a well-known figure at Jahangir’s court
  • Narendrasing Singhi Collection
  • Kolkata, West Bengal, India
  • Nahar 1976
  • Bender 1983: 278, figure 2
  • Bender 1992: 26

Matisāra

around 1700–1750 CE

total number not indicated

  • number 418
  • Kantivijaya Collection
  • Atmaram Jaina Jnanamandira
  • Baroda, Gujarat, India

Dharmadāsa, Upadeśamālā with Gujarati commentary

1708 (1765 VS)

single manuscript illustration on folio 47 verso, of the milk-woman offering alms to the monks Dhanya and Śālibhadra

  • Devasano Pado Bhandara
  • Ahmedabad, Gujarat

Matisāra

1726 (1783 VS)

  • 47 illustrations
  • painter is named as Kanakakīrti-muni
  • shelfmark Or. 13524
  • British Library
  • London, UK

JAINpedia

Matisāra

1776 (1833 VS)

67 illustrations

  • Heeramaneck Galleries
  • New York, USA

Bender 1992: 23

Matisāra

1793 (1850 VS)

  • 21.1673
  • Boston Museum
  • Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  • Coomaraswamy 1924 / 2003: 43–46 and black and white plates XXIII to XXX
  • Bender 1992: 21

Matisāra

1751 (1808 VS)

58 illustrations

  • Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery
  • Baroda, Gujarat, India

Bender 1992: 21

Matisāra

1761 (1818 VS)

46 illustrations

  • Rajasthan Paratattva Mandir
  • Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Bender 1992: 25

Matisāra

1769 (1826 VS)

51 illustrations

  • B. S. Nahar Collection
  • Kolkata, West Bengal, India
  • Art Gallery of South Australia
  • Adelaide, Australia
  • Bender 1992: 28
  • Bennett 2013 in press

Matisāra

1776 (1833 VS)

  • incomplete, with only 5 folios extant
  • from Rajasthan in the Sirohi style
  • S. De Vries
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands

Van Alphen 2000: 104–111, colour illustrations and description

Matisāra

1782 CE (1839 VS)

46 illustrations

  • shelfmark NM51.231
  • National Museum
  • New Delhi, India
  • Bender 1992: 28
  • Bennett 2013 in press

Matisāra

1828 (1885 VS)

47 illustrations

  • Rajendrasingh Singhi Collection
  • Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Bender 1992: 30

Matisāra

no date

48 illustrations

  • B. S. Nahar Collection
  • Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Bender 1992: 23

Matisāra

no date

  • 39 illustrations
  • incomplete
  • Puṇyavijaya Collection
  • Patan, Gujarat, India

Bender 1992: 23–24

Matisāra

no date

68 illustrations

  • Puṇyavijaya Collection
  • Patan, Gujarat, India

Bender 1992: 24

Matisāra

no date

  • 33 illustrations
  • some folios missing
  • Puṇyavijaya Collection
  • Patan, Gujarat, India

Bender 1992: 24

Matisāra

no date

  • 27 illustrations
  • incomplete
  • shelfmark 38.2
  • Prince of Wales Museum
  • Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Bender 1992: 25

Matisāra

no date

49 illustrations

  • Muni Shri Vijayendrasūri Collection
  • L. D. Institute of Indology
  • Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Bender 1992: 27, plate one and plate two

Matisāra

no date

single illustration

  • Hukum Muni Bhandar
  • Surat, Gujarat, India

Bender 1992: 27

Matisāra

no date

  • 52 illustrations
  • incomplete
  • shelfmark NM61.248
  • National Museum
  • New Delhi, India

Bender 1992: 28

Matisāra

no date

59 illustrations

  • Muni Puṇyavijaya Collection
  • L. D. Institute of Indology
  • Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Bender 1992: 29

Matisāra

no date

  • 50 illustrations
  • Sthānaka-vāsin sect
  • shelfmark 51.23
  • Prince of Wales Museum
  • Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
  • Bender 1992: 29
  • Bender 1983: page 278; figure 1
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