In Jain cosmology there are numerous heavens in the upper tiers of the universe, above the mortal realms in the middle world and the hells below. The lowest twelve heavens are the paradiseskalpas – in which dwell the Vaimānika gods.

Each heaven has an animal as its emblem.

Animal symbols of the 12 heavens

Animal in painting

Name of animal in caption and meaning


1. black antelope

mṛga – antelope


2. buffalo

mahiṣa – buffalo


3. boar

varāha – boar


4. tiger

sīha – lion


5. goat

chaggala – goat


6. frog

sālūrā – frog


7. horse

haya – horse


8. elephant

gaya – elephant


9. snake

bhuyaṃga – snake


10. unicorn-rhino

khaḍgī – rhinoceros


11. bull

vṛṣabha – bull


12. white antelope

gheṭo – white antelope


There are several differences between the animals in the painting and the names in the text.

  • number 3 is supposed to be a boar, with a tusk shown in the painting, but it looks more like a sheep
  • number 4 is referred to as sīha or ‘lion’ in the text but it looks more like a tiger with an elephant’s trunk in the painting – Indian artistic representations of lions often show them as tigers because while the tiger was common on Indian territory the lion was never so
  • number 6 is named as a kind of frog in the text but the painting is not a naturalistic depiction – paintings of frogs in Indian art often resemble the strange form seen here
  • number 10 is referred to as khaḍgī, which normally means ‘rhinoceros’ – the rhino is found in Assam in eastern India so it is not certain whether a painter from Western India would have known what it looks like, and the animal in this painting looks rather like a unicorn.
  • number 12 is a white antelope in the text but the painting looks like a ram, and the Gujarati word used in the corresponding caption indeed means ‘ram’.

Note that the bull has the hump characteristic of Asian cattle.