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This is my favourite piece of Vijnapati Patra which is the top bit of a letter of request to a Jain Muni or Jain monk. This fragment of the Vijnapati Patra shows the goddess Durga with probably Krishna on the top which may indicate that this could be from the Rajuput Hindu Maharaja inviting a Jain Muni to come to their town during the holy week of Paryushana and also to spend chaturmasa which is four months during the raining season when the monks are not supposed to travel and stay in their town.
And I think at the bottom again I think they just show different parts of the town. Usually in this sort of letter there is a text at the end which is missing here which would describe the town itself, different markets and the type of welcome they would give to the Munis.
This particular piece I think is probably made in 19th century, but there are earlier pieces which are in India. And according to the research, during the Mughal period the Mughal Emperor Akbar and Jahangir used to invite Jain Munis to come to Agra and spend four months during the Paryushana period and they would also give order of firman to their people that there won't be any killing of any animals during that holy period. So this was very significant really, here, where Muslim rulers invited Jain Munis to their towns, which showed a lot of respect for other religions really. And unfortunately, this sort of thing is probably not done any more really, with the modern communication of emails and mobile telephones, all that really, but still I think monks do travel abroad invited by the local Jain communities but usually by way of a letter or something like that but nothing as formal as this.
In the top register we have three vasta symbols which is present in all the Tirthankaras on their chest which signifies total knowledge and it is very important and I think this is very typical of Jain sculptures really compared to Buddhist. These other symbols are - there is a mirror, there is a swastika, there is a royal seat, two fishes, gardens - those are the auspicious symbols and then the fourteen dreams show elephant, a bull, a lion, goddess Lakshmi, two gardens, moon, sun, a flag, a pond with fishes and towards the end there is fire without smoke. These are the dreams which Queen Trishala had when Mahavira was born.
And in the next register you see the Maharajah offering the scroll to the Jain Muni to come to their town during the Paryushana and spend chaturmasa which is the four months of the period, rainy season, to spend in their town. And at the bottom you see elephants and horses and the type of welcome they would give to the Jain Muni when they come to visit the town.
The Vijnapati Patra is usually from eight to fifty feet long and roughly about eight to twelve inches wide, now this is only a fragment which is just about seven feet. And at the bottom there would be a text of the actual invitation written in Sanskrit or a local language so I think in the original Vijnapati Patra which Akbar had sent to a Jain Muni that was almost like fifty foot long. And usually they have same sort of colours, really, very bright red, green, blue and yellow with a floral border.
I like this particular piece because it shows so much of the Mughal styles and Rajasthani style of painting together with a text really which is also very important. And also the significance of the actual invitation and offering to the Muni to come to their town really. So here you see symbolic representation of art with devotion.
The whole Vijnapati Patra painted on paper with gouache paints, with very bright colours - red, green, blue and ochre - these are the typical mineral colours used in this Vijnapati Patra and as a Chinese brush painter myself I was very interested in this piece really which shows so much detail. Detail shown on this painting is so good I think if you see this elephant or the bull, with all the details of the clothing they are wearing, very much in detail and also goddess Lakshmi with four arms, shown very much in detail, sitting on a lotus pond.