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Three Monks Fording a River: Folio from a Kalpasutra-Kalakacharyakatha Manuscript

Master of the Devasano Pado Kalpasutra

Not on view

This folio is illuminated on both sides, a rare occurrence in Jain manuscripts. It appears to illustrate a scene from the Kalakacaryakatha (Life of Kalacha), which often accompanies editions of the Kalpasutra as an appendix. This uniquely lavish manuscript is known as the Devasano Pado manuscript after the Jain temple library (bhandar) in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, where the other sections reside. The interlaced floral decor on the border panels clearly reflects the artist’s awareness of and responsiveness to fifteenth-century Islamic book illumination. The artists working for the wealthy Jain clients of this manuscript, identified in the colophon as bankers from the region of Broach, undoubtedly also enjoyed support from Muslim patrons.

About the Artist

Master of the Devasano Pado Kalpasutra
Active in the late 15th century, in Gujarat, probably at Patan

This manuscript, executed on paper in the palm-leaf (potli) format, is a masterpiece of the late Jain tradition of western India. It embodies a number of pictorial innovations that foretell imminent changes in Indian painting. The bulk of the original 201 folios are preserved in the temple library (bhandar) of the Devasano Pado temple in Ahmedabad. Its’ now incomplete colophon names family members of one Minister Deva, presumably a respected Jain serving in the Muslim Sultanate administration, and refers to the port city of Gandhar, on the Gulf of Cambay.

The Kalpasutra’s Prakrit text is written in gold paint on a red ground in an elegant Jain nagari script, reminiscent of the royal editions produced under the pious Solanki king of Patan, Kumarapala (r. 1148–74), and deposited in the twenty-one royal endowed temple jaina-bhandaras he founded. Colophon evidence from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries indicates that Patan remained the principal center for Jain manuscript production. Professional scribes often added their names to a text before passing the manuscript to the studio of painters. Artists’ names are rarely recorded, an established pattern seen in earlier Buddhist palm-leaf manuscript colophons. The first appearance of an artist’s name in a Jain context is in a Kalakacaryakatha manuscript produced at Patan in 1416, which names both the scribe, Somasinha, and the painter, Daiyaka. More common are donor names, which are invariably written in a different hand from that of the scribe, indicating that they were added later, when the finished manuscript was purchased. Clearly then, these are the activities of commercial workshops supplying lay Jain clientele rather than temple or court ateliers.

The paintings are in the conventional Jain tradition, with faces in three-quarter profile and a projecting eye. In the later fifteenth century, the highly confident linear style of earlier palm-leaf and paper editions, typically black ink silhouette and color wash against a red ground, gave way to two technical innovations learned from Iran that had a transforming effect on the aesthetic impact of these paintings. One is the introduction of lapis lazuli to produce a deep ultramarine blue ground; the other the use of painted gold, typically applied over the black silhouette figures to negative effect, obscuring the subtlety and expressiveness of line. A further innovation in this manuscript, also borrowed from the Iranian painting tradition, is the introduction of symmetrical and interlocking floral designs, which appear in the borders of Jain manuscripts for the first time. Gujarat came under Sultanate rule in the fourteenth century and became an independent Muslim state after 1407, the center shifting from Patan to the new capital of Ahmedabad in 1411. Undoubtedly, the artists working for Jain clients increasingly served Muslim patrons as well, and so were exposed to Iranian and Sultanate models. As a result, Jain manuscript painting assumed unprecedented levels of lavishness.

Three Monks Fording a River: Folio from a Kalpasutra-Kalakacharyakatha Manuscript, Master of the Devasano Pado Kalpasutra (active late 15th century), Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper, India (Gujarat, possibly Patan)

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