The caption in the upper-left corner says: Ā° dāna dīkṣā – ‘gift and initiation of Ādinātha’. The title Ādinātha – ‘first Lord’ – is one of the names for the first Jina, Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha.

The illustration contains two scenes at different levels, both featuring Ṛṣabha. There is no emblem to identify the Jina, but he can be named based on two main points. Firstly, the place of this text and picture within the manuscript and, secondly, the mention of his name as Usabha in the facing text make it clear.

Top level

The largest figure sits on a throne, dressed as a prince and wearing precious ornaments. Jewels and various riches are heaped on a tripod in front of him. A white-bearded old man stands on the right while two other men are at the top of the panel.

The large figure is King Ṛṣabha, shown with all his worldly privileges. The old man represents the poor. The two men at the top may be Laukāntika gods.

The Laukāntika gods have come to awaken Ṛṣabha spiritually and inspire him to give up his possessions. They exclaim:

Victory be to the joy of the world!
Victory be to one with auspicious marks!
Glory be to thee, oh bull among best kṣatriyas
Awake, oh Lord, Master of the Universe!
Establish religion and order
For the well-being of all living beings.

Then Ṛṣabha knows that the time is right for him to renounce the worldly life. He spends the following year giving all his possessions to the poor.

Bottom level

On the left side a male figure wearing a single garment sits under a tree. He catches his long hair in his hand. On the right a man with four hands is seated on a throne.

The figure on the left is Ṛṣabha, who has now given up all the possessions of a prince. Even so, he is often shown in pictures as keeping his jewellery. Sitting under an aśoka tree, he is preparing to pluck out his long hair in five handfuls. This is the symbolic gesture of giving up worldly life and entering religious life. Jain monks and nuns still perform this act of dīkṣā today.

The figure watching him is the god Śakra, who is present at the key points of Ṛṣabha’s life. Deities are often depicted with four or more hands in Jain art. Here Śakra is shown with a pair of his hands ready to receive the hair of the future Jina.

Ṛṣabha performs his initiation ceremony in public in a park. The natural landscape is symbolised here by the bottom row, which represents mountain peaks.

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

Other visual elements

The bottom of the right margin contains the number 66. This is the folio number.

The original paper has been pasted onto a new base. As with many Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts, there is a clear intention to make the manuscript a valuable and remarkable object in itself. This aim is signalled by the:

  • use of gold in the paintings, margins and ornamental motifs
  • decorated border with blue floral motifs
  • three diamonds filled with gold ink and surrounded by blue ornamental motifs.

The three golden diamonds 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 shapes are in the places where the holes would once have been.

Three diamonds mean a verso side.


The elaborate script used is the Jaina Devanāgarī script, which is here like calligraphy. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here for Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit.

There are a few notable features of this script, which:

  • is an old type in the way the sounds e and o are notated when used with a consonant, known as pṛṣṭhamātrā script
  • contains red vertical lines that mark out verse divisions, with a single line dividing a verse in two while double lines are found at the end of the verse.

The lines in smaller script above and below the main text 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.