With bodies are of different colours, six men are shown performing various actions in or around a tree.

This picture has to be read in a certain order to be understood properly. Starting from the bottom left, the viewer’s gaze should move clockwise.

At the bottom left, a black-bodied man holds an axe to cut the tree at the base of its trunk.

Above him a grey-bodied man carries an axe, ready to cut the boughs of the tree.

Above him is a dark blue-bodied man with an axe, preparing to cut off the branches.

Opposite him is a brown-bodied man holding an implement, as if to catch the bunches of fruit at the top of the tree.

Below him, a yellow-bodied man does not carry any tool. He reaches out to pick the fruit.

Below him, at the bottom right, a white-bodied man does not carry any tool. He gestures at the ground and raises his other hand towards the man opposite him, as in a gesture of reproach.

The tree is depicted with care for detail, with the leaves shown precisely. It is home to lots of birds, shown through two peacocks and eight smaller white birds of different species, some with crests.

Illustrating a parable

This is a standard depiction of the parable of the tree, meant to illustrate the six colours of the soulleśyā. Souls take on a different colour depending on one’s behaviour. This is a complex Jain concept narrowly connected to the doctrine of karma. This parable and illustration are the most common way of visualising the concept. The different attitudes one can have when facing an identical situation demonstrate the soul’s colour. In this parable, the six men are said to be in a jungle, thirsty and hungry, when they come across the fruit-laden jambū tree. They do different things to get the tree’s fruit.

The gradation in colour, from the darkest to the lightest, corresponds to the degree of violence or impurity in behaviour.

Key to the parable of the tree


Colour of leśyā

Cutting the tree down at the root


Cutting down the boughs

blue or green, like here – nīla corresponds to both

Cutting off the branches

grey – though here it is blue

Cutting off bunches of fruit

fiery – red or yellow, though here brown

Plucking the fruit from the tree

lotus colour – here interpreted as light pink

Picking up the fruit that has fallen on the ground


The leśyās are divided into two groups of three. The first group contains the extremely negative ones, the second group the less negative ones. There are variations in the way the painter renders the adjectives naming the colour. But all negative colours are on the same side as black, the others are on the same side as white. This is an organising principle of the painting.

The paintings do not always make it clear which parts of the tree that men numbers two to four intend to cut. It is often difficult to know whether the boughs, the branches or the bunches of fruit are meant.

Here, the six leśyās are depicted by the six men in the parable of the tree.

The text copied on this manuscript discusses the colours of the souls of the four classes of gods, implying several technical details. It is found in verse 517 and the following verse, found on the recto side of this folio. The names of the colours occur in this verse and provide a starting point for a standard representation of this striking concept as a whole. This is the case with all manuscripts of the Saṃgrahaṇī-ratna.

Like this one, paintings representing the leśyā generally use bright colours. They often occupy a full page in a vertical orientation. The painters want to show the height of the tree and the format of the manuscript is rectangular. So the tree is not facing the reader, who opens the manuscript and sees the picture on its side, as it is here.