Surrounded by trees and flowers, Mahāvīra is catching his long hair in his hand, preparing to pluck it out in five handfuls. This is the symbolic gesture of renunciation and initiation into monkhood. Jain monks and nuns still perform this act of dīkṣā today.

On the right is the god Śakra, depicted with four hands and seated under a canopy. Śakra is present at the key points of the lives of all Jinas. Here he is shown ready to receive the hair of the future Jina.

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

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 red background of the text
  • the use of gold ink instead of the standard black ink for the text
  • the decorated borders with floral arabesques and geometrical designs in blue
  • the division of the text into two parts by a central margin holding a red disk surrounded by blue designs.


The elaborate script is Jaina Devanāgarī, which is here like calligraphy. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit.

It is an old type in the way the sounds e and o are notated when used with a consonant, and is known as pṛṣṭhamātrā script.