The caption in the upper left corner says: snāna – ‘bath’.

In the centre a large jewel-bedecked figure is seated in the lotus posture holding an infant on his lap. On each side stand two attendants holding jugs of precious substances. Above each of them is a bull. The mountain peaks below show that the scene takes place in a palace on a mountain.

During the night Mahāvīra is born, the Jain deities descend and ascend constantly from the heavens, causing a great light. The servants of Kubera, the god of riches and treasures, pour wealth into King Siddhārtha’s palace. Then the town is fully decorated to celebrate the event.

The various groups of gods take part in the celebrations ‘in order to celebrate the lustral bath at the birth of the Jina’. This is the event depicted here, expanded on in the literary tradition.

The largest figure is the god Śakra, who intervenes at key points in the lives of the Jinas. During the night, he has placed a false baby at the side of the sleeping Queen Triśalā so he can take the newborn Mahāvīra. He brings the infant to the cosmic axis of Mount Meru, where the ritual of anointment takes place. The two bulls could represent the crystal bulls, which, the tradition says, Śakra created to stand in the four directions.

This anointing ceremony is the archetype of Jain festivals and finds an echo in the modern celebration of Mahavir Jayanti.

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 37. 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.

There are also numerals in the text, which are paragraph numbers, namely the:

  • number 98 in the middle of line 4
  • number 99 in the middle of line 8.

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.