On the left, a lady is on her couch in her bedroom. It is the brahmin Devānandā, in whom Mahāvīra’s embryo first took shape. On the right side is Hariṇaigameṣīn, the commander-in-chief of the god Śakra. As is usual, he is shown with the face of an antelope, after which he is named.

Obeying Śakra’s command, Hariṇaigameṣin has transformed himself into the form the gods adopt on entering the world of humans. He has crossed numerous continents and finally reached Devānandā’s house to remove Mahāvīra’s embryo from her womb. This is because future great men such as Jinas cannot be born of a brahmin mother.

He has made Devānandā and her attendants fall into a deep sleep. Saying, “May the Venerable One permit me,” Hariṇaigameṣin takes the Venerable Ascetic Mahāvīra in the folded palms of his hands without hurting him. Now Hariṇaigameṣin is leaving the house with the embryo in his hands.

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

Note the painter’s care for details of the figures as well as of the furniture and decorative elements.

Other visual elements

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:

  • shape and style of the script, which is close to calligraphy
  • red background for the text
  • gold ink instead of the standard black ink for the writing
  • gold in the paintings instead of ordinary colours
  • decorated borders with floral arabesques in blue, black and red.
  • division of the text into two parts by a central border of intricate blue arabesques.

The three red discs along the central horizontal plane are symbolic reminders of the way in which manuscripts were bound at one time. Strings through one or more holes in the paper were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The discs are in the places where the holes would once have been.


The elaborate script used is the Jaina Devanāgarī script, which is here like calligraphy. There are a few notable features of this script, namely:

  • it is an old type in the way the sounds e and o are notated when used with a consonant, known as pṣṭhamātrā script
  • the use of the number 2 to avoid repeating a word or a phrase already mentioned, for example line 4: ‘2 Bhārahe vāse‘ means ‘jeṇ’eva Bhārahe vāse‘.