There is a general caption to this illustrated page in the top left corner. It is in Gujarati and says: leśyā nu yaṃtra 86 – ‘diagram of the colours of the soul, number 86 [in the manuscript]’.

In smaller script, perhaps by a later hand, there are also captions within the painting itself.

The painting is divided into two parts of unequal size.

Bottom panel

Here six men are pictured in a line. From left to right they are:

  1. a black-bodied man carrying an axe with the caption: kṛsna – ‘black’
  2. a green-bodied man carrying an axe with the caption: nīla – ‘blue/green’
  3. a blue-grey bodied man carrying an axe with the caption: kāputa – ‘grey’
  4. a yellow-bodied man carrying an axe with the caption: teju – ‘fiery’
  5. a light-pink-bodied man not carrying any tool with the caption padma: – ‘lotus colour’
  6. a white-bodied man not carrying any tool with the caption: sukala – ‘white’.

Top panel

Six men with bodies of different colours are shown performing various actions in or around a tree. On the trunk a caption says: yaṃba varakṣa – ‘a jambū tree’.

This part of the 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 carries an axe which is clearly directed at the root of the tree, ready to cut it. At the basis of the tree, the caption reads: mūla – ‘root’. The man’s action is further made explicit by the caption: karasana lesā mulaghā naraka gāṃmī – ‘black colour of the soul, root [of the tree], going to hell’.

Above him a green-bodied man is holding an axe firmly, preparing to cut the boughs of the tree. The caption reads: nīla lesā… – ‘blue/green of the soul…’.

High in the tree, a blue-bodied man is holding an implement to cut off the branches of the tree. The caption reads: durgayā [?] kāputa – ‘bad destiny, grey’.

To the right side of the middle, a brown-bodied man carrying an axe has climbed deep into the tree and is about to cut off bunches of fruit. The caption reads: teju – ‘fiery’.

At the bottom, on the extreme right, a man with a light-pink body raises an implement to pluck the fruit that grow high in the tree. The caption reads: padma – ‘lotus colour’.

At the right, by the tree trunk, a white-bodied man does not carry any tool. Instead he holds in his hand a bunch of fruit. The caption reads: sukala – ‘white’.

The tree is depicted with care for detail, with the leaves shown precisely. The men wear turbans, are clean shaven and wear garments on their torsos. The white-bodied one is elaborately dressed. Thus they suggest ordinary people. The two other paintings depicting the same topic on JAINpedia show half-naked men with moustaches and beards, who have a more aggressive appearance.

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 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 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 twice, by the men in:

  • a row at the foot of the painting
  • 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 173 and the following verse, found on the next page, folio 26 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.

Other details

The folio number is written as 25 in the lower right corner, within a yellow frame, in between the first two men at the left of the bottom panel.