A four-armed woman sitting on a swan holds a miniature manuscript in one hand and a lute in another. A royal canopy shelters her.

The four arms indicate that the figure is a goddess. She is Sarasvatī, the Hindu goddess of learning and the arts, who is worshipped by Jains as well. She is often pictured at the beginning or end of manuscripts. She is riding her traditional vehicle, the swan – haṃsa – and in one of her hands she carries a miniature manuscript. On it is the phrase: śrīSvarasvatī śrīgurubhyo nmaḥ – ‘Homage to Sarasvatī, homage to the teacher’. In another hand she holds the lute – vīṇā – representing the arts.

Other visual elements

Written in black ink on the left side of the page is the end of the text copied here, a mathematical treatise in Sanskrit. It is the Līlāvatī, which was composed by the famous mathematician Bhāskara II in the 12th century. In red ink is a detailed colophon which gives the date of copying, the name of the copyist and of the recipient of the manuscript, all eminent Śvetāmbara Jain monks.


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

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 pṛṣṭhamātrā script
  • the red vertical lines within the text divide the long sentences into smaller parts, but are not necessarily punctuation marks.