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Jain Manuscript

A monumental famine struck Gujarat in the 5th century. In the 453rd century, a gathering of Jain monks was convened to safeguard the invaluable manuscripts from catastrophic ruin. During this summit, several resolutions were passed to ensure their preservation. A group of affluent individuals within the Jain community assumed leadership in this commendable endeavor. As a result, these priceless Jain manuscripts have been securely stored within monastic confines throughout countless epochs.


Suryaprajnaptisutra, an astronomical work dating to the 3rd or 4th Century BC,
Suryaprajnaptisutra, an astronomical work dating to the 3rd or 4th Century BC,

 I discovered the identities of two prominent monarchs who dedicated their efforts to promoting the preservation process of these manuscripts. It is said that King Jaisingha was a patron of over 300 manuscripts and even went as far as duplicating some of them to rescue them from destruction. He copied numerous manuscripts on the brink of demolition and distributed them among various monasteries within the Jain community. Similarly, another ruler named Kumarpal founded twenty-one libraries across India from 1134 to 1175, which housed countless Jain manuscripts. Furthermore, he employed seven hundred writers to transcribe ancient texts into more readable versions for future generations. It is truly astounding how writing ink made from gold was utilized during his era. However, it remains unclear how this feat was achieved, and it is plausible that gold may have been mixed with other substances to produce ink with such remarkable qualities. The ministers who served under these rulers were also ardent supporters of education. They contributed significantly towards their kings' initiatives by founding three libraries through generous donations made during that period alone! The names of these distinguished ministers were Vastupal and Tejpal. Later, we came across another minister named Pather Shah, who worked alongside King Jai Singh; he established several libraries containing valuable Jain manuscripts throughout Gujarat's seven cities in 1213 AD!


Notably, the libraries not only preserved the manuscripts of the Jain community but also conserved and supported valuable scriptures of other spiritual communities. They organized several discussions between Jain and other spiritual groups to foster knowledge constructively, thereby achieving their aims. It should be noted that these libraries are maintained and recognized by the Svetambara branch of Jainism. At the same time, some manuscript collections were led by Digambara branches located in Delhi, Agra, and Rajasthan.


Before the 20th century, it was impossible for outsiders to inspect or even glimpse at these manuscripts outside of the Jain community. However, later in that century, after much effort on his part, Ananda Coomaraswamy published a catalog entitled "Catalogue of Indian Collections in Museum of Fine Arts," which was released in Boston.


The Consecration of Mahavirji. Gujrat, 1404. Miniature from Jain manuscript, the Kalpasutra.
The Consecration of Mahavirji. Gujrat, 1404. Miniature from Jain manuscript, the Kalpasutra.

The recognition of the catalog stated above has revealed that manuscript painting in the pre-15th-century era was not solely an art form confined to the style and values of sculpture, disregarding the influence of Indian traditional artistry, which placed great emphasis on ornamental aesthetics. On the contrary, illustrations from manuscripts published in the first half of the 20th century exemplify artists' versatile talents. Illustration art originated in the 15th century and began to flourish towards the end of the 14th century.


Shree-Patan, situated at Ahmedabad, is confirmed as a pivotal center for manuscript art as it houses an ancient illustrated manuscript called Gyan Sutra dating back to the 12th century with an illustration depicting Jain Devi named Ambika. This is recognized as India's earliest known Jain manuscript, with its unknown author.


A 15 century Jain manuscript art contained Devi Saraswati, the goddess of art and education, found in Gujarat.
A 15 century Jain manuscript art contained Devi Saraswati, the goddess of art and education, found in Gujarat.

According to historical assumptions, Western India, particularly Gujarat, served as manuscript art's primary and pivotal hub. Mandu, situated in Malware, was also a significant center of this craft. The National Museum of Delhi houses a preserved manuscript called "Kalpasutra" that gave historians new insights into this art form. These manuscripts are known as "Kayla Pustaka," featuring traditional Indian ornamental designs instead of sculpture-like values. Historians have also uncovered several noteworthy ancient manuscripts after the Kalpasutra. Among these is the "Kalk Acharya tale," possibly composed in Shree-Patan adjacent to another manuscript discovered in Mandu. They observed an older version of Kalk Acharya's tale written in 1348 and finally came across a manuscript titled "Supasana," created in Udaipur Rajasthan during 1423 AD.

 

Addendum

1.  The Śvētāmbara  Sanskrit: श्वेतांबर  is one of the two main branches of Jainism, the other being the Digambara. Śvētāmbara "white-clad" is a term describing its ascetics' practice of wearing white clothes, which sets it apart from the Digambara "sky-clad" Jainas, whose ascetic practitioners go naked. Śvētāmbaras, unlike Digambaras, do not believe that ascetics must practice nudity. Śvētāmbaras also believe that women are able to obtain moksha. Śvētāmbaras maintain that the 19th Tirthankara, Māllīnātha, was a woman. Some Śvētāmbara monks and nuns cover their mouths with a white cloth or muhapatti ( a piece of cloth used to cover the mouth) to practice ahimsa (non-violence) even when they talk. By doing so, they minimize the possibility of inhaling tiny organisms.


2.  Digambara is one of the two primary schools of Jainism, the other being Śvētāmbara (white-clad). The word Digambara is a combination of two words: dig (directions) and ambara (sky), referring to those whose garments are of the element that fills four-quarters of space. Digambara monks do not wear any clothes. The monks carry picchi, a broom made up of fallen peacock feathers (for clearing the place before walking or sitting), kamandalu (a water container made of wood), and shastra (scripture). One of the most essential scholar-monks of the Digambara tradition was Kundakunda. He authored Prakrit texts such as the Samayasāra and the Pravacanasāra. Other prominent Acharyas of this tradition were Virasena, Samantabhadra, and Siddhasena Divakara. The Satkhandagama and Kasayapahuda have major significance in the Digambara tradition.

 



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