Lustration of the Infant Jina Mahavira: Folio from a Kalpasutra Manuscript

Date: late 14th century

Culture: India (Gujarat)

Medium: Opaque watercolor on paper

Dimensions: 3 1/2 x 10 15/16 in. (8.9 x 27.8 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky Fund, 2005

Accession Number: 2005.35


This painting typifies the finest achievement of the late fourteenth-century western Indian style. It is a masterful rendering of a popular subject, the bathing of Mahavira at birth. The jina's identity is indicated by the pair of kneeling buffalo, his cognitive symbol. The infant is seated on the lap of the presiding god Shakra (Indra), and two attendant gods (further manifestations of Shakra) hold lustration vessels aloft in anticipation of his first bath (a legend shared with early Buddhism). An innovation of this period is the introduction of fantastic rocks to indicate the celestial Mount Meru—the setting for this divine abhisheka—a mannerism absorbed from Iranian paintings of the period.