Against a dark blue background a four-armed woman sits cross-legged on a swan. A parasol with two fly-whisks 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. Here it is the first page of the manuscript. She is riding her traditional vehicle, a white swanhaṃsa. The swan’s head has a tuft of feather, as a peacock would normally have. This is noteworthy as the peacock or swan is Sarasvatī’s traditional vehicle.

In one hand the goddess carries a manuscript, representing learning and traditional knowledge. The letters shown on this miniature manuscript are sa ra in the beginning and at the end. It is likely they stand for Sarasvatī and function as a kind of caption to the image. In another hand the goddess holds the lute – vīṇā – representing the arts. Note the realistic depiction of the instrument, with the tassels, which serve as stands. In yet another hand, she holds a rosary and in the fourth one a flower. The luxurious vegetation shown on her right side, with colourful flowers, is probably ornamental and adds to the atmosphere of the picture.

Other visual elements

Format of the text

This is what is technically called a tri-pāṭha manuscript, namely a manuscript where the page is organised into three different parts. Separated by blank lines, these are:

  • the central part with the main text, which here comprises the first three lines of the Abhidhāna-cintāmaṇi written by Hemacandra in the 12th century.
  • the upper and lower parts, where the lines are closer together and the script smaller, contain the commentary, which is the Nāma-sāroddhāra written by Śrīvallabha-gaṇi in the 17th century.

The part of the page where the text and the image are found is bounded by margins either side.

In addition, syllables of the commentary have been arranged to produce decorative lozenge shapes.

The folio number appears twice as 1:

  • in the lower corner of the right-hand margin, which is the usual place
  • in the top corner of the left margin.

The title of the work appears in the left margin, here given as ‘Nāmasāroddhāra’. This is the title of the commentary, which is thus given prominence here.

Beginning of the text

Typically of many Jain manuscripts, the start of the manuscript is characterised by:

  • an auspicious symbol
  • the word arhaṃ, which is an auspicious word similar to a mantra, and refers to the Arhats or Jinas.
  • the first stanza of the text proper being a homage to the Jinas
  • the first stanza’s statement of the author’s purpose and the name of his work, Nāma-mālāGarland of Words.

Then comes the text proper, made up of the first two complete stanzas and the beginning of the third one.


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