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Mahavira Plucks Out His Hair
Page from a manuscript of the Kalpasutra (Story of the Jina Mahavira)

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Made in Gujarat, India, Asia

c. 1450

Opaque watercolor and gold on paper

Sheet: 4 7/8 × 11 1/2 inches (12.4 × 29.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Howard A. Wolf, 1976

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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.