A bearded man sits on a throne under a highly decorated canopy, opposite a lady seated on a pedestal. These bejewelled and richly dressed figures are King Siddhārtha and Queen Triśalā in conversation.

Queen Triśalā consults her husband after she has had vivid dreams during the night Mahāvīra’s embryo is transferred to her womb. He decides to summon dream interpreters to confirm his belief that these dreams are highly auspicious.

The protruding eye is a typical feature of Western Indian painting. Its origin is unclear.

Other visual elements

In many Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts, there is a clear intention to make the manuscript a valuable and remarkable object in itself. Here this is achieved in a rather modest manner. This aim is signalled by the:

  • ornamental motif in the central margin
  • calligraphic script.

The three red discs along the central horizontal plane are symbolic reminders of the way in which manuscripts were bound at one time. Strings through one or more holes in the paper were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The discs are in the places where the holes would once have been.

This manuscript belongs to a rather early phase of Kalpa-sūtra paper manuscripts, the beginning of the 15th century. This is evidenced by the:

  • format of the paper, which is rather narrow
  • old system of folio numbering, using ‘letter-numerals’, which is visible in the left-hand margin inside the red disc (see Kapadia 1937).

In the system of ‘letter-numerals’, each number or digit from 1 to 10 is represented by a different letter. The number 20 is represented by a particular letter, which is different from those used for 30, 40 and so on. The number 100 has its own letter, while 200 has another letter, 300 its particular letter and so on up to 400. Numbers with more than one digit, such as 34 or 258, are represented by two or three of these letters placed one above the other. On this page the sign for 20 is placed above the sign for 5, meaning 25.

The red disc in the middle of the right-hand margin contains the number 25. This is the folio number. It is again written in smaller script in the bottom-right corner of the page.


The elaborate script is the Jaina Devanāgarī script, in a form which recalls calligraphy. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here for Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit and Sanskrit.

The lines in smaller script above and below the main text and in the margins are explanations in Sanskrit of phrases found in the central part. The two small parallel lines like slanted = after the words are meant to separate the explanations in the margins. The parallel lines around words in the text indicate which words are glossed.

In the middle margin is x hiyaya-gamaṇijjāhiṃ hiyaya-palhāyaṇijjāhiṃ 1. This means that these Prakrit words – ‘heart-going, heart-easing’ – should be added within the text at the end of line 1 from the bottom. A sign in the text also indicates this.