Bedecked in jewellery, a large figure wearing a kind of tilaka on his forehead sits in the lotus position under an arch. Either side of him are two smaller figures with their hands raised in respect. They are worshippers. The one on the left holds a broom under his armpit. He is probably a monk, shown as a representative of the monastic community. The one on the right could represent the lay community. Other smaller figures are musicians and dancers.

This is the standard representation of a Jina in the heaven where he is reborn before his final incarnation on earth. In that final life on earth, he reaches omniscience and becomes a Jina.

A Jina is always shown in meditation, either standing or sitting, like here. Among the Śvetāmbaras, the Jina is thought of as a spiritual king and is often depicted with ornaments and seated on a throne.

Here the Jina is the 24th, Mahāvīra, whose life is first narrated in the Kalpa-sūtra. He is shown sitting in meditation posture on a throne inside a pavilion. He is flanked by attendants with hands upraised in a gesture of respect.

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

Other visual elements

In this manuscript the script is ordinary, not close to calligraphy, as often happens with manuscripts of the Kalpa-sūtra.

Though quite damaged now, the three red circles along the central horizontal plane are symbolic reminders of the way in which palm-leaf manuscripts were bound. Strings through three holes in the palm leaf 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 used for the text is the Jaina Devanāgarī script. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here for Prakrit. There are a few notable features of this script, which:

  • is an old type in the way the sounds e and o are notated when used with a consonant, known as pṛṣṭhamātrā script
  • contains red vertical lines within the text marking out verse divisions. Single red vertical lines indicate where a verse is divided in two, while double red vertical lines are found at the end of the verse.

This is the beginning of the text. This is indicated by the:

  • red sign at the very beginning of the first line, which is an auspicious sign called bhale
  • number 1 in the lower right margin, which is the folio number.

There are marginal annotations written in smaller script, which is Gujarati.

For instance, in the upper margin other works are referred to, such as:

In the left margin are scattered glosses corresponding to places signalled by ‘=’ in the main text. At the end of the last line in the left margin is the number ‘11’. This refers to the line number of the main text to which the gloss refers.