The slightly damaged heading in the top-right corner says: mahāsatī apaharaṇa – ‘the kidnapping of the great nun’.

The illustration contains two scenes at different levels.

On the top level the two figures on the left are two nuns wearing typical Śvetāmbara monastic robes. The robes of nuns are slightly different from monks’ robes in that they continue behind the neck up the back of the head. This is a distinctive characteristic of their sex in artwork. Here the faces look feminine, but this is not always the case and it may not be that easy to differentiate monks from nuns only from the faces. One of them is Sarasvatī, the sister of Kālaka. The other one is there to show that, according to the rule, a nun never wanders alone. On the right is a man on horseback coming towards the nuns. This is King Gardabhilla of Ujjayinī. The flower below indicates that the scene takes place in a natural landscape.

On the bottom level the figure on the left is King Gardabhilla. His horse looks entirely different, which is the case in all available paintings of this scene. The movement in the king’s costume shows that he is in a hurry. The man on the right is one of the king’s soldiers. He is carrying the nun Sarasvatī on his shoulders.

This painting illustrates an episode in the life of the prominent ascetic Kālaka. During his wanderings, the monk Kālaka preaches to a crowd outside the city of Ujjayinī. The nuns also join the attending crowd. Among them is Sarasvatī, who is Kālaka’s sister.

Captivated by Sarasvatī’s beauty, King Gardabhilla of Ujjayinī grabs her and has her carried away to his harem. Sarasvatī calls out to Kālaka for help. The text describes how Kālaka vainly tries to convince the king to leave her alone, reminding him of a monarch’s duty.

The long protruding eye is a typical feature of western Indian painting. Its origin is unclear.

Other visual elements

There are several notable things about this page, namely:

  • the original paper has been slightly torn around the shape of the bottom horse and has water stains
  • the bottom of the right margin contains the number 3, which is the folio number.

This version of the Kālaka story is in verse, with numbers at the end of each stanza, often between two vertical lines, like here. On this page they are:

  • 20 at the end of line 2
  • 21 in the middle of line 5
  • 22 towards the end of line 7.

The three red circles along the central horizontal plane are symbolic reminders of the way in which manuscripts were bound when they were on palm-leaf. Here the central one is in a square blank shape. Strings through three holes were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The circles are in the places where the holes would once have been.


The elaborate script is the Jaina Devanāgarī script, in a form which recalls calligraphy. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here for Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit.

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

  • 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.