Videos: Stories about Jain ObjectsMembers of the London Jain community talk about objects that have personal significance. To watch, click on one of the links below.
Sculpture of Parsvanatha (Atul Shah)
Hi. My name is Dr Atul Shah. I live in Colchester in England and I have been in this country for 25 years. I was born as a Jain in Mombasa in Kenya and I was fortunate to be around and very close to one of the first Jain temples outside India in Mombasa and my father was very active in the community and that' s where my love for Jainism began and grew. I was the founding editor of the only global international Jain magazine called Jain Spirit and today I am truly honoured to be at the Victoria and Albert Museum to talk about one of my favourite pieces - about Parshvanatha.
Lord Parshvanatha was the 23rd Tirthankara of Jainism, the 23rd prophet and this particular piece is very beautifully executed. As you can see, it looks like a perfect finish and what is to me the most attractive part of this piece is the posture of Lord Parshvanatha. I was fortunate to have learned yoga from the great living yoga master Sri B. K. S. Iyengar who has made a lot of emphasis on the standing posture. Now most of us stand and think that there is nothing in it, in the way we stand. But standing itself and standing in the right way with perfect balance, with the sense of equipoise, is actually an art. It needs to be crafted, it needs to be understood. And he would spend half an hour teaching us just the standing posture. And one of the quotes he made which still ring to me is that every cell in the body needs to be balanced. And when I look at this sculpture I feel that the person who carved this sculpture had that balance in mind. Understood the body, understood the anatomy of the human body and knew how important it was to have balance and equipoise.
This posture is known as the causal (Kausagga) posture in the Jain scriptures and it is very important in many rituals. It is said that when the Tirthankaras meditated they sometimes stood in this position, not for a day, not for a week, but for months on end. It' s very, very difficult for us to imagine or believe how that could be possible. But when I look at something like this is seems that if you have balance, if you have a sense of perfect balance, you can stand. Because you are in harmony with the force of gravity, you' re in harmony with your inner self, you are at peace with your inner self and then you can stand. And those are the kinds of values about Jainism which I feel are so important in the 21st century, the value of inner balance, the value of alertness, because thissculpture also reminds me about alertness. It is a meditative posture, yet it is highly alert. So we need to be alert in society, we need to be conscious and peaceful at the same time. And those are the qualities we need to aspire to.
What is fascinating about this piece, looking at it from a 21st century eye, is that we have a snake, a cobra, protecting our Lord Parshvanatha. Now today we have very little direct experience of snakes and what we know about cobras is that they are poisonous. They don' t seem to have any positive quality, but they are poisonous and why is it that a snake that is so poisonous is protecting our most austere and spiritual Lord Parshvanatha? It (I ) think there is a message there and this is a message of the triumph of love over evil. I do believe that there is no one person who is 100% evil.
A cobra is not 100% evil. It will only bite us when it is afraid or when it is scared. Otherwise it will leave us alone. And here it is protecting and giving shelter to a meditating Lord Parshvanatha.
There is also something else which I find intriguing about this sculpture and if you look closely, the snake is actually around the body of Lord Parshvanatha and then the hood is protecting. Now in reality, if we are meditating in a standing position, for months at a time, we need the forces of nature to keep us standing and here it seems that the cobra is actually providing another very useful function which is to actually keep Lord Parshvanatha standing. And we see this iconography in other arenas like Lord Bahubali, the famous sculpture in Southern India. A 56-foot majestic sculpture where he is standing in meditation again for months at a time and creepers are growing on top of him. I see that nature is actually protecting the pure and spiritual intentions of Lord Parshvanatha.
I myself have experienced, whenever I have committed my heart and soul to something, nature rises to protect me. It also gives me the strength, it is (remove) gives me the courage to go forward and I feel that this is also reminding us of the beauty of nature. Provided we do things in harmony with nature.
The hood is the head of the cobra of Dharanendra Padmavati and the hood is rising on top of the head to protect the meditative Lord Parshvanatha. All the Tirthankara' s had always meditated outdoors in nature and it is a bit like an umbrella to protect against the hot sun or the rain and this is where there is a protection of nature for a righteous purpose.
Painting of Padmavati Devi (Dinesh Shah)
We have been living in the London Borough of Harrow for over thirty years now. This painting we have got of Padmavati Devi is now with us for over 25 years. The primary Jain pantheon has 24 Tirthankaras starting with Lord Rishabh Dev and ending with Lord Mahavira.
Each Tirthankara has a divine male and female attendant called Yaksh and Yakshini. The 23rd Tirthankara, Lord Parshvanath,has a Yaksh called Dharanendra and a Yakshini called Padmavati Devi. Padmavati Devi is considered a live deity. It is said that a worshipper who has problems and approaches Padmavati Mata, his prayers are invariably answered. This is one reason why in India the highest number of temples dedicated to Lord Parshvanath and Padmavati Devi are represented.
I must now give a little background of how this painting of Padmavati Devi came into our family's possession. My brother, during the early 70s, was in Mumbai, India and this is where he met late Satavdhani Pandit Shree Dhirajlal Tokershi Shah. In 1981 Panditji's 75th birthday was celebrated in Mumbai by the Jain community. In the summer of 1981 Satavdhani Pandit Dhirajlal Tokershi Shah with his wife Champaben came to London as the guests of our family. A function was held in his honour at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Kensington. During this time, Panditji brought the original painting of Padmavati Devi together with that of Lord Parshvanath and this is a reproduction from that painting.
During his life Panditji wrote many books on Jainism and in the last century became one of the most charismatic exponents of Padmavati Devi. Through his aradhna, that is intense and dedicated prayers, Pantiji had the drashan of Padma Rathi Devi. He therefore commissioned an artist to paint under his supervision the portrait of Padmavati Devi. In the painting you can see Padmavati Devi seated in padmasana posture on a lotus flower in the middle of a lake. From her back rises a serpent with five hooded canopy above a crown. On top of the crown is an effigy of Lord Parsvanath. In the middle of her eyebrows is a third eye for extra sensory powers. If you look at the two right hands of Padmavati Devi, the top right hand she is holding a noose called pasa and at the bottom hand she is conferring aboon gesture, it is called a varadamudra. On the top left hand she is holding a weapon calledankusa and the bottom of the left hand she is holding a fruit. She is wearing earrings on both the ears, there are rings on both the top hands, she has got two necklaces and an ornamental waist band. Each of the four corners of the painting is a bij mantra called hreem. This mantra is very much connected with Lord Parsvanath. This painting is called Raktapadmavati, rakta meaning red and this is one of the popular images used for religious ceremonies. There are about twenty different variations of Padmavati Devi.
In my opinion, through my own personal worship of Mahadevi Padmavati Mata, this painting holds power, that is shakti, and tranquility, that is shanti, in equal measure.
Representation of Samavasarana (Nila Shah)
I am going to talk about this sculpture at the Jain temple at Potters Bar which represents the Samavasarana. Details about the Samavasarana have been dealt with in the Jain scriptures, namely the Agamas.
What is a Samavasarana? Basically it is a religious assembly for a Tirthankara. Thousands of years ago, divine pavilions were created and constructed for each Tirthankara to deliver his first discourse relating to Jain dharma, Jain religion and paths to liberation.
Innumerable heavenly gods, human beings and animals, all with different attitudes, used to gather in the assembly to listen to the first sermon of the Tirthankara. Beholding of Tirthankara in his Samavasarana sitting in his proximity, listening to his discourse, seeing his beauty and coming under his aura is very spiritually inspiring. The Tirthankara speaks in Ardhamagadhi language which is the language spoken in Bihar in medieval times, it gets converted to a language which gets understood by all beings present in the Samavasarana.
I must mention here about Indra Bhuti Gotem and the effect the 24th Tirthankara Sri Mahavir, his discourse had on him, on his ego and on his pride. He thought he was the cleverest of all and when he attended the 24th Tirthankara's discourse, saw the beauty of the Tirthankara and listended to his voice, to his discourse, his pride was totally shattered and he became the first disciple of Sri Mahavir, namely Gotem Swami.
The outermost tier is used for parking vehicles, the middle tier is for animals and birds all with five senses and the innermost tier is for the Tirthankara's disciples, the aesthetes, the human beings, the heavenly gods and all other disciples.
Under the ashok tree sits the Tirthankara delivering his sermon, everybody attending his discourse and the voice of the Tirthankara makes the atmosphere very harmonious and peaceful. Everybody attending the discourse feels very happy when they are there. And getting the message of Jain dharma delivered by Tirthankara.
The importance of Samavasarana to me personally is I have been born into a human being from one soul into another, have been going on from cycles of birth to death and over again. In this human being form, I try and think for myself, 'have I ever attended a Samavasarana, have I ever listened to a Tirthankara's discourse?' And I try and imagine that I have, maybe that is the reason I am a human being at present. I had been listening to the Tirthankara's discourse, to his preachings, to what he taught me about Jain dharma and getting liberated.
Painting of Siddhachakra Yantra (Heeral Shah)
My name is Heeral Shah and I'm presenting the Siddha Chakra Mahayantra which is the most auspicious and most versatile yantra in the Jain religion.
At the heart of the Siddha Chakra is the Aryandrapad. There are the principal nine elements of the Siddha Chakra yantra including the Aryandrapad. The Aryan means the one which is enlightened, the enlightened soul, who shows the world the path of religion and he proclaims to each world. Siddha - Siddha means the liberated soul.
Jain religion believes that anyone can become a God, it doesn't believe in a creator, even you and me can be liberated by detaching ourselves from all the karmic bound edges. Acharya is the preceptor, he is the one who holds the control over four folds of Jain community. Upadhya, or the learned person, he is the teacher. He teaches Jain religion to others and gives the charity of knowledge. Sadhu is the community of Jain nuns and Jain monks. The Jain nuns and Jain monks have taken four vows and they put the religion in practices. They form opinions throughout their lifetime.
Darshan means purest faith in God, religion and the teacher. Without faith everything is useless, therefore the purest form of faith is very necessary for becoming liberated. Dhan means purest form of knowledge, knowledge leads to the path of salvation. Charitra - the purest form of conduct, is called charitra. In order to practice kinya and have faith, one has to put it into practice so charitra is the purest form of conduct. Thapa means the purest form of peerless. Peerless detaches the soul and leads it to the path of salvation.
The outer circle is the divine mantric words which the one worship is during the worship of the Siddha Chakra yantra. This circle is 48 qualities of soul. When one worships the Siddha Chakra Mahayantra we understand somehow it is detaching itself from all the worldly pains and inflow of good thoughts. One soul gets 48 qualities of soul and becomes enlightened. This circle is the footprint of this principal nine elements and we worship the footprints of the nine elements. This circle is the 16 deities of knowledge, female and male. This circle is the guardian deities of Tirthankaras - these are the four guardian deities of the Siddha Chakra yantra. These are the eyes of Siddha Chakra. When one worships the Siddha Chakra yantra the eyes of the soul get opened, the soul becomes enlightened.
The Siddha Chakra Mahapuja or the Siddha Chakra ritual which is the most versetile and most well known ritual in the Jain religion, was first performed by King Shripal and Queen Mayana to celebrate the completion of Ayambil Oli. Ayambil Oli is a kind of penance, eating tasteless food and pure boiled water for four and a half years and it relieves the soul of the coming bondages.
The Siddhachakra Yantra depicts our whole religion, the principal nine elements and the whole dharma, the whole religion is presented in this Siddha Chakra. The Siddha Chakra means - 'siddha' means liberated and 'chakra' means release of karmic bondages. When we worship the Siddha Chakra one soul becomes liberated of karmic bondages.
Jain manuscript paintings (Vinod Kapashi)
Hello. My name is Vinod Kapashi. I live in London. I take a keen interest in Jainism. I have done a PhD in Jain studies. Here are some of my favourite objects, so to speak. These are actually folios from manuscripts. Here we have got a piece from a manuscript which is my favourite one. This is called the Kalpa Sutra, now one of the sacred texts from the Jain canon. This manuscript was written in the state of Gujarat in India in the 15th century. It's on paper, but one can see the beautiful painting on this manuscript, especially on the left hand side you can see the Lord Mahavira, the 24th and the last Tirthankara, enlightened soul who lived on this earth, is seen here. The Lord Mahavira is sitting in an assembly hall. The assembly hall has got three circular walls and there are four gates which lead into that assembly hall. Mahavira is seated on a raised platform in the centre. Animals, people and even semi-gods, they all go to hear his discourse. So this is very important as far as Jain is concerned, the writing is in the language which is called Prakrit Ardhamagadhi language which prevailed during the time of Lord Mahavira. Again, the writing is done in a golden ink.
Here is another miniature painting. Lord Mahavira is seated here and the monks, the group of monks are sitting and listening to his discourse. The manuscript, obviously it is not in a perfect and very good condition, but you can even see, here they used to make a hole where the thread will go through and they used to bind the manuscript. Rich merchants in India used to commission such works and once the manuscript was ready, they used to present this manuscript to monks and monks used to read this manuscript during the holy festival of Paryushana and then they would deposit in a Jain library so that was preserved in a Jain library in the late 19th century and has been brought here after that period.
Here we have another beautiful example of the manuscript of Kalpa Sutra. This manuscript was again written in the late 15th century in the state of Gujarat. Here one can see the mother of Lord Mahavira, Queen Trishala, lying on a couch and you can even see the child Mahavira lying beside her. A chauri bearer, her maid, is in attendance. And this manuscript, this picture, is drawn with a specially made golden ink. The real gold was used to make such inks, even the writing with the blue background, the writing is in a golden ink and again the same language has been used, the language is Ardhamagadhi Prakrit language. One can see the pointed nose, pointed eyes and pointed chin which is a speciality of all Jain manuscripts. So it's again, a beautiful example and beautifully preserved in this collection here.
This particular folio is from the manuscript of Uttaradhyayana Sutra. The Uttaradhyayana Sutra is the last sermon of Lord Mahavira. This particular text has got 36 chapters in it and the book itself describes the code of conduct for the monks. Each and every manuscript that has been preserved has got some sort of beautiful painting. This particular manuscript was written down in the state of Gujarat in the mid 15th century. Here one can see three different pictures. The one at the bottom is a very important one. When Lord Mahavira became a monk, he went to the jungle, he gave up everything. He removed his possessions, his jewellery and all that he had got and he plucked his hair out. That was symbolical for a Jain to become a monk. So that depicts that he became a monk. The manuscript has got the writing in black ink and the writing is again in the language which was prevalent during the time of Lord Mahavira. It's called Prakrit Ardhamagadhi language.
Here is a picture of a woman teaching her child and the father of the child is in the background. It is believed that this is Queen Trishala, King Siddhartha and the child Mahavira have been depicted in this picture. These two fishes are important. Most Jains believe in the transmigration cycle, samsara and the samsara is compared with the sea. So we are swimming in this sea until we get to nirvana or moksha. So this is a sea and one is swimming in the sea of samsara. That is why it is important.
Pilgrimage painting of Palitana (Preya Shah)
Jainism is an ancient independent religion that dates back tens and thousands of years. The religion teaches spiritual purity and enlightenment through a disciplined mode of conduct based upon the tradition of ahimsa or non-violence to all creatures.
Jains believe in the concept of karma and reincarnation. That one's actions have a direct impact on the karmic balance. All living beings from the smallest creatures to humans have a soul whose ultimate destiny is to obtain enlightenment and liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth. It is believed by Jains that innumerable souls have become liberated. However, 24 of these have escalated positions and are revered as teachers of the religion. They are known as Tirthankaras or Jinas and it is these Jinas that create the religion. Those who aspire to be like the Jinas are called Jains.
Throughout India temples were built by wealthy Jains dedicated to acknowledging the life of these Jinas and also to allow other Jains to celebrate and contemplate on their own actions. Most of great pilgrimages are sited away from masses and almost always on top of a mountain amidst natural beauty that is suitable for devotion and meditation. The hardship of the journey disciplines the body. The company of fellow pilgrims strengthens the faith. It is considered an honour, in fact a blessing, to pray at a site that is made holy by the tradition of worship of the Jinas and to stand at a place where the great religious leaders once stood. Souls receive spiritual merit and the mind is at peace.
Today I would like to talk to you about Palitana, based on the Shatrunjaya Hills in Gujarat, Western India. Shatrunjaya means conqueror of the enemies and this refers to the inner enemies - anger, ego, greed and deceit - which all Jains try to refrain from as much as possible through their thoughts, words and actions. Palitana is known as the city of temples, referring to its 900 temples and almost 15,000 idols of these 24 Jinas. Indeed, 23 out of the 24 Jinas actually visited this holy place, blessing it with their touch. In addition, more souls are believed to have obtained liberation here. These are the two reasons combined which explain why Palitana is considered the most auspicious place in Jainism.
It is not just the actual temples that are considered sanctified. The mountain itself, from the foothills to the peak, are treated as a holy place. Out of respect, pilgrims refrain from wearing any leather products of shoes, of goods, speaking inappropriately or even eating during their journey. Along one side of the mountain range is the Shatrunjaya River. This is almost as sacred as the pilgrimage itself. Many people bathe in this river before climbing the 4,000-odd steps to the summit. During the journey many pilgrims recite the names of the 24 Jinas repeatedly in prayer. This helps to keep the mind focussed. On route to the summit smaller temples are dotted along the path which are visited by pilgrims who bow their head down to the Jinas and then continue forward to the summit.
Mount Shatrunjaya's summit has nine main clusters of temples known as tuks. After about 3,000 steps and two hours of climbing, the path diverges into two, the path to the left leads towards the main tuk of Lord Adinath, whilst the path to the right leads to the remaining eight tuks. At the main tuk there are three round passages symbolically representing the three laws of Jainism - right knowledge, right faith and right conduct. It is believed that by following the path established by the Jinas and basing it on three laws one can obtain liberation. Of particular interest at the end of the first passage is the rion tree, said to be the very tree that Lord Adinath, the first Jina, practised long penance innumerable years ago. Today this fact is commemorated by large footprints representing his feet as he stood under the tree. Walking through the third passage one sees the shrine of Astapad. Astapad is the historic temple in the Himalayas which is now lost. This shrine attracts much attention as the faithful remember the sacred temple which has now become unreachable.
However, the central attraction of this tuk and the pilgrimage of Palitana itself is the main temple of Lord Adinath. The white marble image of the Jina within the temple reaches 2.6 metres high and is decorated with gold and silver donated by wealthy Jains to express their devotion to this Tirthankara. The atmosphere within the temple is one of energy and devotion. Seeing such artistic beauty and the devotion on the faces of the pilgrims, the nuns and the monks is an experience which lasts with you for eternity. The artistry and sculpture of these temples aptly illustrates the glorious, unique culture of art within the Jain tradition. One cannot help but wonder how such large marble pieces were carried to the tops of these mountains tens and thousands of years ago. One marvels at the artistic creativity that occurred in creating these masterpieces.
Palitana is a remarkable place, with true beauty that surpasses all expectations. I have only been able to cover a small fraction of its sheer magnitude, and I do hope that it is enough to tempt you to go to India and to visit it yourself. As per the Jain tradition, if I said anything wrong or which has offended you in any way, I ask for your forgiveness.
Vijnaptipatra (letter of invitation to a monk) (Raju Shah)
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.
Video: The Tradition of Manuscripts in Jainism
Hello. My name is Mehool Sanghrajka. I am here to talk to you a little bit about the tradition of manuscripts in Jainism. I am the Director of Education of the Institute of Jainology and work to promote the Jain religion in schools and universities. Today I what I would like to do is to tell you a little bit about the importance that manuscripts play in this faith.
Jain manuscripts have had a very long history. A lot of them were composed from about 500 BC onwards. However, they were largely limited to the monastic community. And it was only in the late 19th century when European scholars started to take an interest in them and translate them that they started to become more widely available and published. In fact, the study of Jain manuscripts is probably no more than 150 years old. It's a very young science. The manuscripts themselves are thought to have been written by the disciples and the heads of Jain monastic communities over that period of time and they tell a long history of the Jain tradition as well as the social and economic developments within India in the time that they were written. It is only now that scholars are beginning to unravel the dating of them and this is beginning to paint a picture of how the Jain tradition developed within the wider Hindu and Buddhist traditions that existed in India at the time.
I personally come from the Sthanakvasi sect of Jainism which is probably the equivalent to the Protestant movement in Christianity and so the focus of the sect is around study and education and therefore the manuscripts have tended to be far more important than idol worship or the building of temples. And it is perhaps for that reason that I have taken a strong interest in the subject and have spent probably the last ten years studying Jain manuscripts, completing a doctorate last year.
The manuscripts in themselves are very interesting in that now they have become translated, they provide access for people like me who although are of Indian origins, don't have the language and the necessary cultural background to actually understand them in their own language and therefore they have started to provide access for people like me but also people in India who otherwise wouldn't have had access to these and would have relied on stories and tales to understand the religion.
The earliest manuscript, Acaranga Sutra, which is perhaps my favourite, is possibly the words of Mahavira himself and is very different from the remainder that have come much further down. The book shows a time when India was perhaps a largely forested country with agricultural economies just beginning and a largely nomadic way of life. And it's in this sort of setting and environment that the Jain religion seems to have developed and begun. So the ideals of nomadic wandering and lonely asceticism and a life of penance and meditation which are very similar to what the Buddha himself did, seem to have evolved. And the book paints a colourful life of how this sort of idealistic society would have lived in that era. Looking at it now in translation and in the way that it's presented in modern society, it seems from a very different time and a very different era. Understanding that within the background of Indian history and the political movements of the time, it shows how Mahavira actually fought against the movements at the time of destroying large scale forestation and building large scale townships and for the green environment and for preserving life and those things again resonate in a lot of the movements today where we seem to have gone full circle and they have started to look at similar things around sustainability and green living.
They also are very colourful, a lot of them are handwritten and illustrated with vivid graphics and in themselves they are sacred objects but they are also objects of art and show a great skill. A lot of that skill was lost in the Middle Ages and it's only recently that through scholarly work that we have begun to discover that many of them are actually wonderful poems that were recited and memorised and passed down through an oral tradition that lasted for almost a thousand years. In fact it is quite incredible that if you think of one thousand years of oral tradition and then another 1500 years of a written tradition that we have a book that could actually contain the words of Mahavira himself. And every time I read that it always fascinates me that these could be the actual things that he might have said rather than people's interpretations of them.
One big difference in religion today from religion at the time of Mahavira is that we have religious institutions today and religion tends to be far more institutionalised and formalised. In those days religion was basically about people and personalities and people followed individual personalities rather than a religious tradition.
So this manuscript here you see is from a book called the Uttaradhyayana Sutra and parts of it are believed to have been the teachings of Mahavira in his last 24 hours before he attained nirvana. And in this he, through stories and discourses, explains a wide range of philosophies and ethics of the Jain tradition and is perhaps the closest thing that Jainism has to the Christian bible.
Next to that here we have the Kalpa Sutra. Now the Kalpa Sutra has become very important for the lay tradition because it depicts the life of Mahavira and is used during the holy festival of Paryushana to read about his life and about his teachings and about the things that he did in his life as an example to how we should perhaps lead ours. And most of the books, the Kalpa Sutra books, are illustrated with his birth, the dreams that his mother had before he was born and various things from his life that show an example of how perhaps we should lead ours.