Devananda's Fourteen Auspicious Dreams Foretelling the Birth of Mahavira: Folio from a Kalpasutra Manuscript

Artist: Master of the Jaunpur Kalpasutra (Indian)

Date: ca. 1465

Culture: India, (Gujarat, Jaunpur)

Medium: Opaque watercolor on paper

Dimensions: Overall: 4 5/8 x 11 1/2 in. (11.8 x 29.2 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, Cynthia Hazen Polsky Gift, 1992

Accession Number: 1992.359


This folio is from an illustrated Kalpasutra (Book of Rituals), which contains the biographies of the Jain tirthankaras (ford crossers). It depicts the fourteen auspicious dreams of the Brahmani Devananda, who would become the mother of Mahavira. All of the dreams are alluded to by the emblems above the bedchamber scene. The use of gold and an intense ultramarine derived from lapis lazuli demonstrates an awareness of Iranian painting, which had become accessible during the Delhi Sultanate period of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. While retaining the broad conventions of the archaic style of western India, the work displays a bold approach to color and ornamentation that connects it to the emerging North Indian schools, which gained their fullest expression in Delhi and the surrounding regions. The horizontal format preserves a memory of the earliest illustrated books in India, printed on trimmed and treated palm-leaf pages.