The caption in the top-right corner says: jñānaomniscience. It has been written twice.

The biggest figure is the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra, sitting in the lotus position in the centre of a gold-painted circle. Around the perimeter of the circle are animals and birds. At the bottom is an ornamental border decorated with birds.

This picture shows that Mahāvīra has reached omniscience – kevala-jñāna – following 12 years of suffering extreme physical trials – upasargas.

The abstract concept of achieving omniscience is usually represented by illustrations of the event of the samavasaraṇa. This word, which means ‘universal gathering’, refers both to an architectural structure and to the meeting itself. The structure has three walls, with four entrances in each of the four cardinal directions. The circular shape, seen here, is the most common one. A less frequent variant is the square shape.

The universal gathering is the quintessence of the universe, in which the various beings of humans, gods and animals each has a particular place. The Jina sits at the centre, where his speech can be heard in all directions by all beings who carefully and respectfully listen to him. He can deliver his teachings only after reaching omniscience. This is why this notion is represented by the samavasaraṇa.

In depictions of the universal gathering, people enter the doorways to pay homage to the Jina. It is common to show animals that are normally enemies peacefully listening in pairs to the Jina’s teaching. Here, in the top-left corner the snake is shown facing its enemy, the peacock. In the top-right corner the pair comprises a heron and a fish. Two other pairs are shown in the lower left and right corners.

Other visual elements

The bottom of the right margin contains the number 47. 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
  • decorative borders with blue arabesques
  • 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.


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.

In this particular folio there are occasional rings above the main line of writing. These notate the nasalised vowels and are used instead of simple dots. There are examples above the first line.

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.