The partly damaged caption in the upper-right corner says: Astikagrāmi Śūlapāṇiyakṣa – ‘the yakṣa Śūlapāṇi in the village [of] Astikagrāma’.

A man injures the ear of Mahāvīra while he is motionless in a posture of meditation called kāyotsarga. They are inside a temple. In the top-right corner, a figure sits on a bolster.

This episode is not in the Kalpa-sūtra itself but is known from other narrative sources relating to the lives of the Jinas, both oral and literary. The clue is the place-name Astikagrāma – ‘the village of bones’. The name comes from the heaps of bones found there. They were all that was left of villagers killed by the noxious yakṣa Śūlapāṇi. He agreed to stop killing people if a temple dedicated to him were built on the site of the village. This was done.

During the first rainy season after Mahāvīra has reached omniscience, he decides to stay in this temple, despite being advised against it. He stands in meditation posture, without a movement, as the picture shows. The yakṣa, here shown on his right, creates various tortures to shake the ascetic‘s concentration. In particular, he inflicts seven wounds on Mahāvīra, injuring his head, eye, ear, nose, tooth, back and nail.

When he realises that he will never succeed, he admits failure and bows down respectfully to the Jina. This is what could be depicted on the upper level, if the figure is the yakṣa.

The two figures with Mahāvīra probably both represent the yakṣa Śūlapāṇi at different times in the story. The larger Śūlapāṇi is injuring the ascetic while the figure on the top right, sitting on the bolster, may represent Śūlapāṇi’s acknowledging Mahāvīra’s unshakeable spiritual focus.

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:

  • coloured background for the text
  • gold ink instead of the standard black ink
  • decorated border with blue floral motifs
  • diamond filled with gold ink, with ornamental blue border.

The diamond in the centre is a symbolic reminder of the way in which manuscripts were bound when they were on palm leaf. Strings through holes in the paper were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The diamond is in the place where one of the holes would once have been.