The unclear caption in the top-right corner is in cursive script and says: Pā. dāna [… ] tapa – ”Pārśva’s gift […] asceticism’.

The text does not match the illustration here. The former and the caption recount the renunciation of Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva, while the illustration shows an earlier episode. The picture has two levels, each depicting different scenes.

Top level

A man is seated on the left side in ascetic posture, with hands folded and wearing a single garment. There are four fires, one on each side of him. A sectioned circle is by his head.

A black snake comes out of a rectangle to the right of the man. On the right a man stands with an axe in his hand while another man sits astride an elephant.

The man on the left is the heretic Kamaṭha, with the sun represented by the circle near his head. The four fires and the hot sun beating down from overhead comprise the ‘penance of the five fires’.

The snake is coming out of a log that has been split by the man with the axe. The man on the elephant is Prince Pārśva.

This scene illustrates a famous episode. Pārśva follows crowds on their way to worship the Hindu ascetic Kamaṭha. Pārśva knows that a snake is hiding inside one of the logs being added to one of the fires. He orders a servant to take out this piece of wood and to split it carefully. A large snake slithers out, half-burnt but alive.

Bottom level

The second scene is much larger than the first. The central figure is Pārśva, in the ascetic posture known as kāyotsarga – ‘rejection of the body’. He stands in a natural landscape represented by trees and lotus buds while a smaller figure stands below.

The snakes that form Pārśva’s headdress are his emblem and make him easy to identify among the 24 Jinas. In the kāyotsarga posture the meditator is deep in meditation and does not pay attention to his surroundings.

This scene takes place after Pārśva’s initiation into monkhood, when he has rejected the worldly life. The small figure is probably the human part of Dharaṇendra, the Nāga-king who is Pārśva’s protector.

These two scenes support each other and are meant to underline the special connection between Pārśva and the snakes – nāgas – which is unique to this Jina.

The long protruding eye is a typical feature of western Indian painting. Its origin is not clearly known.

Other visual elements

This is a good example of an average Kalpa-sūtra manuscript. Gold is used for the paintings, but there are no other signs of an aesthetic object of special value.


The elaborate script used is the Jaina Devanāgarī script, which is here like calligraphy. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here for Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit.

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

  • is an old type in the way the sounds e and o are notated when used with a consonant, known as pṛṣṭhamātrā script
  • contains red vertical lines that mark out verse divisions, with a single line dividing a verse in two while double lines are found at the end of the verse.
  • uses the number 2 to avoid repeating a word or a phrase already mentioned. For example in line 1 the phrase 2 ttā means that the earlier word has to be repeated in this grammatical form: ‘he caused [it] to stop, after having caused it to stop’.

There are also numerals in the text, which are paragraph numbers. The number 59 towards the end of line 7 should be understood as meaning 159 since the digit specifying hundreds or thousands is frequently missed out.