This left-hand palm, probably of a woman, is a beautiful large painting of golden colour on a dark blue background. Designs of leaves and flowers beside the palm form a sophisticated decoration.

The design of the hand is very precise, with the joints of each of the five fingers clearly marked and the main lines of the palm indicating three distinct areas. The groups of three small vertical lines on the fingers are signs that are recorded and interpreted in specialised treatises, depending on their location and number. For instance, small vertical lines on the middle part of the forefinger may denote many children while on the bottom part they may mean a happy disposition (Dale 1895: numbers 36 and 37).

The concentric circles on the fingertips are formed by the pores of the skins. They also have a meaning. For example, they are one of the most important signs indicating financial success (Dale 1895: number 48).

Symbols on the hand

The objects or animals depicted on the hand with golden and grey ink ‘are principally formed by the smaller lines running with the pores of the skin. Great care must therefore be taken in determining these forms, because very much depends on their position’ (Dale 1895: 28). They are recognised by specialists of palmistry and all have an impact on the man’s or woman’s happiness, prosperity and fame. For example, a fish at the root of the hand signifies great success in the world and many children (Dale 1895: 31). Symbols on the mounts, at the base of the four fingers, have their own meaning as well.

On the thumb the second element from the top looks like a bed beneath a canopy. This could symbolise the mother of a future Jina when she sees the auspicious dreams, as other elements depicted on the hand coincide with some of them, such as the elephant, bull and ship. Some of the other symbols belong to the category of the aṣṭa-maṅgala – eight auspicious symbols – such as the svastika, mirror and pair of fish. The presence of a small sanctuary housing an image of a Jina at the bottom of the fourth finger is noteworthy.

The three bracelets also have purpose and meaning in this context because they refer to health, wealth and happiness.

In short, illustrations such as this one are a meaningful visual text. In other words, reading the palm is discovering the life and character of its possessor.

Many of the animals or objects in the hand are auspicious or royal symbols in Indian culture.