The caption in the upper-left corner says: mahā-satīupaharaṇa ­– ‘the abduction of a great nun’.

The illustration contains two scenes at different levels.

On the top level the two men on horseback are King Gardabhilla and one of his soldiers. The king is probably the one seated on the blue horse. The blue colour of the horse is not realistic though its form, trappings and expression are.

On the bottom level the mounted figure on the right is King Gardabhilla. The man on the left is one of the king’s soldiers. He is carrying the nun Sarasvatī on his shoulders. The scene is full of movement.

The nun is wearing a typical Śvetāmbara monastic habit. The robes of nuns are slightly different from monks’ robes in that they continue behind the neck up the back of the head. This is a distinctive characteristic of their sex in pictures. Here Sarasvatī’s face looks feminine, but this is not always the case and it may not be that easy to differentiate monks from nuns using only their faces.

This painting illustrates an episode in the life of Kālaka. During his wanderings, the monk Kālaka preaches to a crowd outside the city of Ujjayinī. The nuns join the crowd and among them is Sarasvatī, who is Kālaka’s sister.

Captivated by Sarasvatī’s beauty, King Gardabhilla of Ujjayinī grabs her and has her carried away to his harem. Sarasvatī calls out to Kālaka for help. The facing text describes how Kālaka vainly tries to convince the king to leave her alone, reminding him of a monarch’s duty.

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

Other visual elements

The number 114 at the bottom of the right-hand margin is the folio number. It is a high number because this manuscript is the continuation of the Kalpa-sūtra manuscript Or. 13959.

The three red circles along the central horizontal plane are symbolic reminders of the way in which manuscripts were bound when they were on palm leaf. Here the central one is in a square blank shape. Strings through one or more holes were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The circles are in the places where the holes would once have been.

These red circles are ornamented with diamonds and floral motifs. The margins are also decorated with blue patterns. This is common in manuscripts of the Kalpa-sūtra and the Kālaka story, which are objects used in ritual during the Paryuṣaṇ festival.


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

There are a few notable features of this script:

  • it is an old type in the way the sounds e and o are notated when used with a consonant, known as pṛṣṭhamātrā script
  • the red vertical lines within the text are used to divide the two parts of a verse.

Here, each pair of red lines surrounds the stanza number, which is at the end of each stanza. In red ink, the stanza numbers on this page are:

  • 13 at the end of line 3
  • 14 at the beginning of line 7.