The caption in the upper-right corner says: paśūvāḍa deṣī ratha vāliu – ‘having seen the pen with animals, he turned his chariot back’.

At the top is a pen holding numerous animals of different species, which all appear restless. Below them sits a prince in his chariot, pulled by a vigorous horse directed by a charioteer.

His family and friends have persuaded Prince Nemi to get married. Riding in his chariot, he goes towards the palace of his potential in-laws, where Princess Rājīmatī awaits.

But when he sees all the animals penned up ready to be killed to feed the wedding guests, Nemi is deeply troubled and repulsed. He decides to pull out of the marriage and renounce worldly life.

This famous episode is dear to the Jains’ hearts in part because it underscores the importance of vegetarianism and is depicted here in a very lively way. Nemi’s renunciation is a key step in his journey towards becoming a Jina.

The upward sweep of Nemi’s chariot in the painting makes the viewer feel the strength of his reaction. The animals are also agitated, prancing around, adding to the feeling of disturbance.

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:

  • coloured background for the text
  • gold ink instead of the standard black ink
  • decorated border with blue floral motifs
  • diamond filled with gold ink, with ornamental blue border.

The diamond in the centre is a symbolic reminder 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 diamond is in the place where one of the holes would once have been.