A dark-skinned man in a pointed cap and skirted garment points his bow at a pair of peacocks. The larger of the peacocks has an arrow sticking out of its breast. The trees indicate that the scene takes place outside.

The painting depicts the first rebirth of Yaśodhara. In this life he is born as a peacock, son of a peahen. They are shown here in their natural environment, a forest. As written in the text on this folio and the previous one, the young peacock was protected from all dangers by his loving mother. But one day, a Bhilla – that is, a tribal man – who was expert in handling bow and arrows, came and pierced the mother with an arrow. She died and then he took the baby peacock.

As punishment for having sacrificed a cock made of flour to the goddess, King Yaśodhara and his mother Candramatī have to suffer many rebirths where they will meet and remain connected. In the first set of parallel rebirths, Yaśodhara is reborn as a peacock and Candramatī as a dog. The painting on this page and the two that follow – 39 recto and 39 verso – are devoted to these lives.

The tribal men who play a significant role in the story of Yaśodhara are always depicted in the same way in this manuscript. Their costume, which is rather crude, is made of tree-leaves while they wear large earrings and a kind of conical hat. They have a dark complexion. All these features are meant to underline their crudeness, closeness to nature and difference from ‘cultivated’ people.

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 bottom of the right margin contains the number 4, which is the folio number.

In the upper and lower margins there are syllables missing from the main text, or corrections. The number before them is the line number where they should be inserted.


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