The caption in the upper-left corner says: nirvāṇa – ’emancipation’. Another caption had been written earlier and has been crossed out.

A male figure in an elaborate headdress is seated in the lotus posture of meditation. Below him is a large white crescent moon. A double-ended lotus stalk droops from his headdress and lotus flowers climb up the trees. He sits on a canopied throne with trees bending inwards on both sides and mountain peaks below.

These trees and mountains represent a natural landscape while the lotus symbolises spiritual purity. The figure is the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra, who is identified by his symbol of a lion, painted in the centre of the throne pedestal. He has died and reached emancipation. This state is represented by the crescent, which symbolises the siddha-śilā. This is the area at the top of the Jain universe where a liberated soul or siddha goes directly after leaving the body. There it enjoys perfect bliss and omniscience.

This is the standard way of illustrating the final emancipation. The peculiar headdress and the serene facial expression are characteristic of such scenes. The perfect happiness and power characterising a siddha are considered close to that of royalty so Mahāvīra sits on a throne under an ornate canopy. He is fully ornamented, but the meaning of several details is not clear.

Other visual elements

The bottom of the right margin contains the number 49. This is the folio number.

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:

  • use of gold in the paintings, margins and ornamental motifs
  • decorated border with blue floral motifs
  • three diamonds filled with gold ink and surrounded by blue ornamental motifs.

The three diamonds along the central horizontal plane are symbolic reminders of the way in which manuscripts were bound at one time. Strings through three holes in the paper were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The diamonds are in the places where the holes would once have been.

Three diamonds mean a verso side.


The elaborate script used is the Jaina Devanāgarī script, which is here like calligraphy. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here for Ardhamāgadhī 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 that mark out verse divisions, with a single line dividing a verse in two while double lines are found at the end of the verse.

There are also numerals in the text, which are paragraph numbers. The number 28 towards the end of line 7 should be understood as meaning 128 since the digit specifying hundreds or thousands is frequently missed out.

The lines in smaller script above and below the main text and in the margins are explanations in Sanskrit of phrases found in the central part. The two small parallel lines like slanted = after the words are meant to separate the explanations.