The caption in the top-right corner says: āmalīkrīḍā – ‘Game of āmalī‘.

The name of this ancient game refers to the tree around which it is played, but all of the rules have not survived. The serpent coiling around the tree is a disguised god who wants to test the courage of the young Vardhamāna. While the other boys are frightened, he continues playing undisturbed.

Another part of the game is that the winner rides on the back of the loser. The larger, bearded figure is a god jealous of Vardhamāna‘s strength when the young boy succeeds in riding on his back as well as on the back of all other children.

This is the first of a long series of trials – upasargas – or tests of Mahāvīra’s courage and steadiness. Although thus episode is not narrated in the Prakrit text of the Kalpa-sūtra, is known from other sources and has become part of the conventional account of Mahāvīra‘s youth.

This painting demonstrates the skill of the artist in its delicate rendering of the softness of the tree’s foliage.

Other visual elements

The bottom of the right margin contains the number 56. This is the folio number, in a square with two blue lines as an ornamental motif.

The original paper is slightly damaged. But, as with many Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts, there is a clear intention to make the manuscript a valuable and remarkable object in itself. This aim is signalled by the:

  • coloured background for the text
  • gold ink instead of the standard black ink
  • decorated border with blue floral motifs
  • three diamonds filled with gold ink, with arrow-like blue lines and surrounding blue border as ornamental motifs.

The three diamonds 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 diamonds are in the places where the holes would once have been.