The partly damaged caption in the upper right corner says: Candanab[ālā] – ‘Candanabālā’.

Candanā or Candanabālā lies in bed, attended by her nun-disciple Mṛgāvatī. A black snake slithers at the foot of the bed.

The snake helps identify this picture as an incident involving Candanā, the head nun of Mahāvīra‘s community, and her disciple Mṛgāvatī.

While Candanā sleeps one night, her hand hangs down from the bed. A snake happens to come near so Mṛgāvatī puts Candanā’s hand back on the bed to prevent her being bitten.

Candanā wakes up and rebukes her for having moved her hand.

Mṛgāvatī tells her about the snake and shows it to her leader but Candanā cannot see it in the dark. She gradually comes to understand that her junior has seen the animal because she is no longer an ordinary mendicant but an omniscient being.

Candanā falls at her feet, utters the formula of repentence micchā mi dukkaḍaṃ – ‘I did wrong’ – and also reaches omniscience.

This narrative is not in the Kalpa-sūtra itself but is known from other sources. Only the name of Candanā appears in this scripture, because she is the nun at the head of Mahāvīra’s community of female ascetics.

This episode demonstrates the performance of repentancepratikramaṇa – among mendicants. Hence it is placed appropriately within the text of the Kalpa-sūtra, in which asking for forgiveness and repentance are central concepts. It also represents Mahāvīra‘s monastic community through two of its leading female promoters.

Other visual elements

The bottom of the right margin contains the number 70. This is the folio number, in a square with two blue lines as an ornamental motif.

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
  • three diamonds filled with gold ink, with arrow-like blue lines and surrounding blue border as ornamental motifs.

The three diamonds along the central horizontal plane are symbolic reminders 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 diamonds are in the places where the holes would once have been.