The partly damaged caption in the top-left corner says: dīkṣā śrīMahāvīra – ‘initiation of Lord Mahāvīra’.

On the left side is Mahāvīra, who has now given up all the possessions of a prince. He wears a single garment but is often shown in the pictures as keeping his jewellery. He is sitting under an aśoka tree. On the right is the god Śakra, depicted with four hands and seated under a royal canopy.

Mahāvīra is catching his long hair in his hand, preparing to pluck it out in five handfuls. This is the symbolic gesture of giving up worldly life and entering religious life. Monks and nuns still perform this act of dīkṣā today.

Śakra is present at the key points of Mahāvīra’s life. Here the god is shown with a pair of his hands ready to receive the hair of the future Jina.

Mahāvīra performs his initiation ceremony in public in a park outside the city of Kuṇḍapura. According to some sources, this park is on slightly raised ground. This is symbolised here by the bottom row, which represents mountain peaks.

Other visual elements

The bottom of the right margin contains the number 60. This is the folio number, in a square with two blue lines as an ornamental motif.

The original paper is slightly damaged. But, 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
  • three diamonds filled with gold ink, with arrow-like blue lines and surrounding blue border as ornamental motifs.

The three diamonds along the central horizontal plane are symbolic reminders 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 diamonds are in the places where the holes would once have been.