Kalpa Sutra and Kalakacaryakatha

Historical period(s)
15th century
Jain School
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
H x W (overall): 23.5 x 33.4 cm (9 1/4 x 13 1/8 in)
Western India
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 01: Body Image: Arts of the Indian Subcontinent


Adinatha, India, Indra, Jainism, Jina, Kalpasutra, Mahavira, Parshvanatha, Trishala
Provenance information is currently unavailable

These folios, from the sacred text Kalpasutra (The scriptures of right conduct), describe the lives of the twenty-four Jinas. The life of each Jina follows the same cosmic pattern, from the fourteen auspicious dreams that signal a Jina's birth through stages of austerity, knowledge, and enlightenment.
The long, narrow format imitates the shape of palm leaves, which were used for sacred manuscripts until the fourteenth century. The paintings typify the calligraphic western Indian style in which a finely drawn, almost kinetic line defines angular bodies, and large eyes project beyond the contours of profile faces. A profusion of gold and saturated mineral colors reflects the importance of the Jinas and increases the merit of the manuscript's donor, who was probably a wealthy merchant.

Published References
  • W. Norman Brown. A Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of Miniature Paintings of the Jaina Kalpasutra: As Executed in the Early Western Indian Style. Oriental Studies Series, no. 2 Washington and Baltimore, 1934. plates 1-45.
  • W. Norman Brown. The Story of Kalaka: Texts, History, Legends, and Miniature Paintings of the Svetambara Jain Hagiographical Work The Kalakacaryakatha. Oriental Studies Series, no. 1 Washington and Baltimore, 1933. pp. 136-141, pl. 11-13.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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