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Miniature Paintings in Jain Manuscripts

Mahaveer Sanglikar is a famous numerologist, graphologist, face reader, motivator and author from Pune, India.

Miniature Painting of Bhagwan Mahaveer

Miniature Painting of Bhagwan Mahaveer

DDR (German Democratic Republic) issued a postal stamp on 5th August 1979 to honor Indian miniature paintings. The beautiful stamp portrays miniature painting of Mahavira, the last Jina.

DDR (German Democratic Republic) issued a postal stamp on 5th August 1979 to honor Indian miniature paintings. The beautiful stamp portrays miniature painting of Mahavira, the last Jina.

In medieval India, Jain ascetics and scholars wrote thousands of manuscripts related to their sacred text. Most of such manuscripts have colorful miniature paintings.

The Jain miniature paintings are scattered in thousand of Jain manuscripts, which are preserved traditionally in Jain temples, Jain libraries, museums and Jain Mutts. Further, there is a big collection of Jain manuscripts in British Library of London, which is managed with the help of Institute of Jainology. A catalogue of such manuscripts has been published.

Here is a brief introduction to the miniature paintings in Jain manuscripts.

History and Significance of Jain Miniature Paintings

Jain art is one of the important branches of medieval art in India. Jain monks and scholars of medieval India wrote thousands of manuscripts related to their religious philosophy and teaching. These manuscripts contain some beautiful miniature paintings. In fact, Jains are the pioneers of miniature paintings in India.

Although Jain literature goes back to 5th Century before Common Era, the earliest known miniature paintings are from 11th Century. However, it is assumed this art might have started as early as 9th Century. These paintings are from Kalpasutra text. This art of miniature paintings flourished in next few centuries, especially in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Deccan. This art started to decline after 16th century.

The significant feature of Jain miniature paintings is the stylish figures of the women in the paintings. The artists used strong colors and liked to show enlarged eyes of the persons in the paintings. The artist also liked to decorate the persons with ornaments.

Jain miniature paintings are found mainly in old Rajasthani, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi and Kannada manuscripts. In early era, they were painted on palm leaves, later Jains started to paint on paper. The colors were made especially from vegetables, minerals and even from gold and silver.

Other branches of Indian art were greatly inspired by Jain miniature paintings and they adopted the style of Jains. Other branches include Rajasthani, Mughal, Odissa and some other schools.

Miniature Painting from Kalakacharya Katha

A painting from Jain manuscript Kalakacharya Katha, dated between 1399 -1502.

Size: 10.8 x 26 cm / 4.3 x 12.2 in.

This painting is preserved at Brooklyn museum at New York city. It was gifted to the museum by Martha M. Green.


Miniature Painting from Chandana Malayaqiri Varta

This is a miniature painting from Chandana Malaygiri Varta by the artists Karam and Mahata Chandji. The painting is made from watercolor and gold.

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Size: 11.3/8 x 7.7/8 in. / 28.9 x 20.0 cm

Period: 18th Century (1745)

It is preserved at Brooklyn museum, was gifted by Mr. and Mrs. Paul E. Manheim


Lesya, i.e. Mental Attitude Painting

Lesya is a Jain concept of mental attitude, where different persons think and behave differently for getting same thing. In this beautiful multicolored miniature painting from a Jain manuscript, we see that the 6 persons want to get fruits. First one wants to get it by cutting the tree, second one by cutting the branch, another one pulling the fruit by using a hook. The last one on the ground (right) is happy with the fallen fruits.

The painting is from early 17th Century


Miniature Painting from Kalpasutra

Miniature Painting from Kalpasutra

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Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on March 31, 2015:

This is a great example of 'Small is beautiful.' saying. Artists who painted miniatures were true masters of their art.

Mahaveer Sanglikar (author) from Pune, India on March 02, 2012:


Yes, the paintings are really lovely. Thank you for your comments.

alipuckett on February 18, 2012:

These are really lovely. Beauty in such a small space!

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