The caption in the top-left corner says: svapna 14 Triśalā – ‘the 14 dreams [of] Triśalā’.

The dreams Triśalā has after finding out she is pregnant announce the greatness of the future baby, who will become Mahāvīra.

The order of the 14 auspicious dreams is always the same in the text of the Kalpa-sūtra, but the manuscript painters can choose how to use the space at their disposal. Here, one of the dreams is visually dominant – the one where the expectant mother sees the ‘anointment‘ – Prakrit abhiseya, Sanskrit abhiṣeka. This abstract notion is represented by the goddess Śrī, indicating prosperity. She is depicted as a woman with four arms.

Starting from the top left and moving left to right, the sequence of the dreams is:

  1. elephant
  2. bull
  3. lion
  4. moon
  5. sun
  6. garland
  7. Śrī
  8. banner
  9. vase full of water
  10. lotus lake
  11. ocean of milk
  12. celestial palace
  13. heap of jewels
  14. fire.

Note that, although the dreams represented in the bottom row are much smaller than the others, all 14 dreams are equally important. Some dreams are shown smaller because the painter is using the space practically.

If the viewer is familiar with the fixed sequence of dreams, each one can be identified. This is frequently easier than recognising the symbols themselves.

Other visual elements

The original paper is slightly damaged. But, 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:

  • coloured background for the text
  • gold ink instead of the standard black ink
  • decorated border with blue floral motifs
  • one diamond filled with gold ink, with arrow-like blue lines and surrounding blue border as ornamental motifs.

The diamond in the centre is a symbolic reminder of the way in which manuscripts were bound when they were on palm leaf. Strings through holes in the paper were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The diamond is in the place where one of the holes would once have been.