These panels illustrate a moral lesson. In the top-left one a goat-like animal – a ram, according to the text – is having its throat cut while a calf and a cow live happily in the panel below. In the right-hand panels are two richly dressed figures.

The left-hand panel shows how a ram has been nicely fed, getting fat, only to be killed violently in order to feed guests. Thus the calf should not envy it and complain to its mother. Rather than desiring ‘the food of death’, it should be content to eat grass, shown on the left.

The lesson is that ‘a wise man weighs in his mind the state of the sinner and that of the virtuous man and realises that of a virtuous [man is far better]’.

Other visual elements

This is a good example of a good-quality Uttarādhyayana-sūtra manuscript, with interesting miniature paintings.

The page is divided into three parts. This format is known as tri-pāṭha. In the middle, in larger script, is the original Prakrit text. Above and below, in smaller script, is a commentary of the text, here in Sanskrit. The commentary explains but also expands the text. The story of the cow and the calf, for instance, is part of the commentary. The artists do not make any difference between these two levels.

The three circles 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 circles are in the places where the holes would once have been.


There are a few interesting characteristics of the script used here:

  • the elaborate script used for the main text is the Jaina Devanāgarī script, used for writing numerous Indian languages, but here for Prakrit and Sanskrit
  • this is an old type in the way the sounds e and o are notated when used with a consonant – this is known as pṛṣṭhamātrā script
  • the red vertical lines within the text divide the long sentences into smaller parts, but are not necessarily punctuation marks.