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Kalpasutra

  • Object:

    Manuscript page

  • Place of origin:

    Gujarat (made)

  • Date:

    late 15th century to early 16th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted and written in ink, paint and gold on paper

  • Museum number:

    IS.46:30-1959

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The Kalpasutra (Book of Rituals) is the most important canonical text in Jain literature for the Svetambaras (white-clad), one of the two sects of Jainism. Jainism is one of the oldest religions to have survived until the present time and its basic teaching is one of non-violence. The Kalpasutra is divided into three sections. The first section deals with the lives of the twenty-four Jinas or Tirthankaras, who were the Jain spiritual teachers or 'ford-makers'. The second part deals with the life of Mahavira, the twenty-fourth Tirthankara. The third part deals with rules for the ascetics and laws during the four months (chaturmas) of the rainy season, when ascetics temporarily abandon their wandering life and settle down amidst the laity. This is the time when the festival of Paryushan is celebrated and the Kalpasutra is traditionally recited.
The folio is labelled 'Raja-Rani'. In it the illustration shows Queen Trishala, who was to become the mother of Mahavira, describing her fourteen dreams to her husband King Siddhartha. She dreamed the fourteen auspicious dreams before the birth of Mahavira. On the reverse there is an illustration in two registers labelled 'the interpreters of dreams'. In the upper register are two brahmins and below is one brahmin with another figure, possibly King Siddhartha.

Physical description

Page recto of a manuscript of the Kalpasutra, ink, paint and gold on paper, consisting of 91 folios, numbered 1-92, with folio 3 missing and containing 38 illustrations. The text is written in black ink in Prakrit, seven lines to the page between red and gold marginal rules and blue border decoration. The text of a Sanskrit commentary is inserted in small Nagari characters in the margins. Central and marginal string-holes are decorated but not pierced and on the obverse of each folio the central hole only is marked. Folio numbers are written in the lower right-hand corner of the reverse of each folio but are defective from folio 85 onwards due to insect damage. The colophon is written in red on f.92 verso (see Marks).
In this folio recto in the illustration Trishala describes her fourteen dreams to King Siddhartha. The illustration is on the right of the page, the remainder of which is occupied by text.

Place of Origin

Gujarat (made)

Date

late 15th century to early 16th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Painted and written in ink, paint and gold on paper

Dimensions

Length: 10.25 in, Height: 4.25 in

Object history note

Purchased in 1959 from Mr. A. Shah c/o. Mrs. G.Charlston, London S.W.16. for £48.

Descriptive line

Jain manuscript page, Kalpasutra, King Siddhartha and Rani Trishula recounting her dreams, ink, paint and gold on paper, Gujarat, late 15th and early 16th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Masterpieces of the Kalpasutra Paintings, Sarbhai M. Nawab. 1956.
Catalogue of the Jain Manuscripts of the British Library, Vol.2, page 87, Cat. no. 107.

Labels and date

PAGES FROM A KALPASUTRA MANUSCRIPT
Opaque watercolour, ink and gold on paper. Western India, probably Gujarat, c. 1500

ABOVE: QUEEN TRISHALA
RECOUNTING HER DREAMS TO HER
HUSBAND KING SIDDARTHA
IS.46:30-1959
The Kalpasutra (Book of Ritual) is the most
frequently illustrated Jain text. It is recited by
Shvetambara Jains in the Paryushan festival
during the rainy season. The first part deals with
the lives of the 24 Jinas (spiritual ‘victors’) revered
by the Jains, especially that of the 24th Jina,
Mahavira. Before his birth, his mother Queen
Trishala dreamed 14 auspicious dreams. Here
Siddhartha explains that they foretell the birth of
a great king or religious saviour.

CENTRE: TRISHALA’S JOY WHEN
MAHAVIRA’S EMBRYO MOVES AGAIN
IS.46:35-1959
In the womb, Mahavira kept absolutely still out of
compassion for his mother. Fearing the baby had
died, however, she was plunged into sorrow.
Understanding this Mahavira quivered slightly,
which filled her with joy. He then resolved not to
become a homeless ascetic during his parents’
lifetime.
After their death, Mahavira gave up his
comfortable life to become a wandering mendicant.
He achieved enlightenment and eventually
moksha, final liberation from the world of birth,
death and rebirth.

BELOW: THE BIRTH OF MAHAVIRA
IS.46:36-1959
Here Queen Trishala is seen reclining on a couch
with the baby, attended by a maid holding a
flywhisk. Above, ladies with peacocks watch over
the baby in a cradle.
The three medallions, one on a gap between the
lines of text, recall the earlier practice of writing
on palm leaves, which had holes for cords to bind
them together. Gold and ultramarine blue were
used lavishly in many Jain manuscripts from
around 1450. [27/9/2013]

Production Note

Western India

Materials

Paint; Ink; Gold; Paper

Techniques

Painted; Written

Subjects depicted

Deity; Jainism; Dreams

Categories

Paintings; Jain; Manuscripts; Bonita Trust Indian Paintings Cataloguing Project

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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