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Mahavira Plucks Out His Hair: Folio from a Kalpasutra Manuscript

Date:
15th century
Culture:
India (Gujarat)
Medium:
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Dimensions:
Overall: 4 3/8 x 10 5/8 in. (11.1 x 27 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1955
Accession Number:
55.121.38.17
  • Description

    Upon arriving in the forest, Mahavira descends from the palanquin and sits beneath an asoka tree on high ground marked by the rock formations below and, attended by a kneeling Shakra, discards his princely attire and jewels (according to the text, they are gathered up by Kuvera, god of wealth) and plucks out his hair in three clumps (collected in an diamond urn by Shakra) as an expression of renunciation. Preserving his discarded jewels and hair would seem to be an allusion to the memory of the practice of relic worship, which is not otherwise acknowledged in Jainism, though it was central to early Buddhist worship.

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