Article: Story of Śālibhadra

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Story in performance

Thus, the text, the musical modes and the paintings ‘are worked together into a dynamic multi-dimensional presentation [...] inspiriting the progress of the narrative to its destined conclusion’ (Bender 1992: 18).

There is evidence in modern Gujarat that such stories, if not precisely the one in this manuscript, were and are performed in public, accompanied by music. The colophon of the British Library manuscript on JAINpedia suggests that the paintings were meant to be seen. They were probably displayed in temples or meeting-halls when the story was retold orally.

Today, the story of Śālibhadra is often staged in Gujarati or Hindi at community events, normally starring teenage amateur actors. Performing traditional tales is a way of transmitting the fundamental values of the faith among the diaspora. Such a play was one of the highlights of a celebration in 2009 of the Mahāvīr Jayantī festival in London.

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