Mahavira Plucks Out His Hair
Page from a manuscript of the Kalpasutra (Story of the Jina Mahavira)
Artist/maker unknown, Indian
Mahavira, who lived in the sixth century B.C., was the last of the twenty-four Jain savior saints, or jinas. Mahavira renounced his princely heritage to become a monk and a great teacher of Jainism. This illustration depicts the critical moment when Mahavira, on the left, chooses to adopt a monastic life. He strips himself of his worldly luxuries, lives in a wild forest, and wears only simple clothing. His ears, once stretched by heavy jewelry, are now bare. Mahavira's arm is raised to pluck out his hair, a sign that he rejects vanity. The god Indra witnesses Mahavira's noble sacrifice, and praises him for adopting the ideal of ascetic life. In this way, Mahavira reveals a path for other spiritual seekers.