Bedecked in jewellery, a very large figure wearing a kind of tilaka on his forehead sits in the lotus position under an arch. Either side of him are smaller figures raising their hands. Along the borders of the picture are numerous smaller figures.

This is the standard representation of a Jina in the heaven where he is reborn before his final incarnation on earth. In that final life on earth, he reaches omniscience and becomes a Jina.

The Jina is shown sitting in meditation posture on a throne inside a pavilion. He is flanked by attendants with hands upraised in a gesture of respect.

The smallest figures are musicians and dancers. The long protruding eye is a typical feature of Western Indian painting. Its origin is unclear.

Note the wealth of ornamentation in the background.

Here the Jina cannot be identified without an emblem. However, if the small figure at the bottom left is a lion, that points to the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra. Even without it, it is likely that the Jina shown here is indeed Mahāvīra, because he is considered the ultimate source of teaching.

On this page, the representation of a Jina has no specific relationship with a story or the text beside it. Even when a manuscript is otherwise not illustrated, as with this one, the image of a Jina, Mahāvīra, is frequently found at the beginning. Picturing a Jina gives an auspicious start to a manuscript.

Other visual elements

There are several notable things about this page, namely:

  • the original paper is slightly torn at the edges and has water stains in the upper-left corner
  • the bottom of the right margin contains the number 1, which is the folio number
  • at the top of the left-hand margin is Jambūdvīpa° sūtra 1, which is the abbreviated title of the work Jambū-dvīpa-prajñapti, along with the folio number, which therefore occurs twice on the page
  • at the very beginning of line 1, between vertical lines, is an auspicious symbol known as bhale, often used at the start of a manuscript
  • following the auspicious symbol is the phrase namo arahaṃtāṇaṃ – ‘Homage to the Arhats‘ – which is the first part of the Pañca-namaskāra-mantra, the foremost Jain holy formula, which is written or recited before any text or ceremony
  • above line 1, in the left-hand margin by line 12 and below the central red circle are words the scribe originally missed out that have been added by a later reader
  • yellow pigment is used as an eraser.

The three circles along the central horizontal plane are symbolic reminders of the way in which manuscripts were bound when they were on palm leaf. Strings through holes in the paper were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The circles are in the places where the holes would once have been.


The elaborate script is the Jaina Devanāgarī script, in a form which recalls calligraphy. It is used for writing many Indian languages, here for Prakrit.

There are a few notable features of this script, namely:

  • it is an old type in the way the sounds e and o are notated when used with a consonant, known as pṛṣṭhamātrā script
  • the red vertical lines within the text, which, though they are used to divide the long sentences into smaller parts, are not necessarily punctuation marks.

Summary of the text

The text next to the image provides the general framework for the main narrative, and can be summarised as follows:

  • There was a city named Mithilā – Mahilā – line 1
  • To the north-east of this city there was a sacred enclosure, named Maṇibhadda – lines 3 to 4
  • The king was called Jitaśatru and the queen Dhāriṇī – line 4
  • At this time, Lord Mahāvīra held a general assembly and preached. The king and his entourage attended this sermon then went back to the palace – lines 4 to 5
  • On this occasion, Mahāvīra’s head disciple, Indrabhūti Gautama, paid his respects to his teacher and asked him: ‘Where is Jambū-dvīpa? How large is it? Of what parts is it composed?’ – lines 9 to 11
  • Then Mahāvīra started to discuss Jambū-dvīpa