The partly damaged caption in the upper-right corner says: dīkṣā Neminātha – ‘Neminātha’s initiation‘.

On the left side is Neminātha or Lord Nemi, 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.

Nemi 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 Nemi’s life. Here he is shown ready to receive the hair of the future Jina.

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

Other visual elements

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
  • 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.