A dark-skinned figure in a strange pink costume and matching hat sits on a lion-footed throne under a royal canopy. His dark complexion indicates he is considered of low birth or equal to an ‘outcaste’. He holds a stick and raises his other hand. Below him a richly dressed man gestures to smaller figures kneeling on the ground. The curving white and blue bands and the white flowers of the background signal that the scene is set outside.

The Śaiva ascetic Bhairava tells King Māridatta that he is a devotee of the Goddess Caṇḍamāri, whose worshippers sacrifice living creatures to her. When Bhairava says he can grant Māridatta the ability to fly, the king asks what he must do to gain this power. The reply is: ‘Bring pairs of various living beings – pairs of animals and birds and one pair of human beings with all favourable characteristics’, such as beauty and youth.

The picture shows Bhairava with the trappings of high status. His hand gesture indicates that he is giving orders to King Māridatta, who is kneeling on the ground. The king has agreed to obey the ascetic Bhairava in return for being granted magical powers. He gestures in turn towards two men, probably his officials. They are kneeling down in respect with folded hands, ready to obey. Their smaller size also indicates their subordinate position. One of them is probably Caṇḍakarma, who is named later in the story.

The long protruding eye is a typical feature of western Indian painting. Its origin is unclear.

Other visual elements

This is a good example of an average manuscript. A red background is used for the painting but there is no use of gold, intricate design elements or elaborate script.


The script used for the main text is the Jaina Devanāgarī script. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here Apabhraṃśa Prakrit.