Harinegameshin Transfers Mahavira's Embryo
Page from a dispersed manuscript of the Kalpasutra (Story of the Jina Mahavira)
Artist/maker unknown, India
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Many of the earliest illustrated palm leaf books were commissioned by devotees of Jainism, one of India's most ancient spiritual traditions. Like this page of a Jain Kalpasutra, the text on both Jain palm leaf and later Jain paper manuscripts runs continuously from the far left of each page, interrupted periodically by standardized illustrations of important scenes. Each page has a central bordered area with a demarcated hole in the middle. Through this hole would have run a string that tied the pages together and wrapped around the long wooden covers. To read the book, the string would be loosened and each page flipped horizontally in turn. Thus the backs of the pages are written upside down.