In the left margin a caption in Gujarati says: cha e leśyā no bhāvārtha chai – ‘this is the substance of the six colours of the soul’.

Six men, whose bodies are of different colours, 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 right, the viewer’s gaze should move anti-clockwise.

At the bottom right, a blue-bodied man resting an axe on his shoulder holds the trunk of the tree.

Above him is a green-bodied man who has climbed the tree. He holds one branch with one hand, probably to avoid falling, and carries an axe in the other. The axe is directed towards the boughs of the tree.

Above him a blue-bodied man holds an axe, ready to cut the small branches of the tree.

Facing him is a brown-bodied man, holding firmly to the branches. He carries no tool.

Below him a yellow-bodied man has no tool, but seems ready to pluck the fruit.

At the bottom left, a white-bodied man does not carry any tool. He gestures towards the ground, indicating fruit that are windfalls or are falling down.

The tree is depicted with care for detail, with the branches, bunches of fruit and leaves shown precisely. The falling fruit are seen clearly as well. The men wear turbans and ornaments and have moustaches or beards. The way they are depicted may suggest that they are tribal people.

Illustrating a parable

This is a standard depiction of the parable of the tree, meant to illustrate the six colours of the soul – leśyā. 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 Soulsoul’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 217 and the following verse, found on folio 50 recto. 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.