Mahavira's Initiation (Recto) / Mahavira Assaulted By the Cowherds (verso)
Folio 45 from a dispersed Kalpasutra (Story of the Jina Mahavira)
Artist/maker unknown, India
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This page comes from a landmark manuscript in the history of early Indian painting that bears both a date (1465) and place of production (Jaunpur). Jaunpur was home to one of the regional Muslim sultanates whose influence expanded in the fifteenth century, yet this sacred text bears no connection to Islam. The Kalpasutra tells about the life of Mahavira, the last of the twenty-four savior-saints of Jainism, an indigenous religion of India. Since Jains consider commissioning lavish copies of the Kalpasutra and donating them to monastic libraries an act of devotion that accrues spiritual merit, many such versions were made and constitute some of the earliest surviving illustrated Indian manuscripts. The bold composition and primary colors, figures with frontal bodies and profile heads, and stylized landscape elements are typical of indigenous painting.