Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Shantinatha Charitra

Documentary heritage submitted by India and recommended for inclusion in the Memory of the World Register in 2013.

A text in Sanskrit written in Devanagari script. It describes the life and times of Shantinatha, the sixteenth Jain Tirthankara. This work was composed and written in the late fourteenth century 1396 C.E. (1453 Vikram Samvat). This unique manuscript contains as many as 10 images of scenes from the life of Shantinatha in the style of Jain paintings from Gujrat. It is an example of the finest expression in the art of miniature paintings in manuscripts. The ink used in the manuscript is gum lampblack and white paint made from mineral silver.

The ‘Shantinatha Charitra’ is a Sanskrit text which describes the life and times of Shantinatha, the 16th Jain Tirthankara., The text was submitted for inclusion in the Memory of the World Register of UNESCO in 2012 by India. It was approved by UNESCO in 2013. The text contains ten examples of Jain manuscript miniatures, which are one of the finest pieces of art. The text of Shantinatha Charitra was written by Ajita Prabhasuri in the Sanskrit language in the Devanagari script. It is held that this manuscript was inherited by Muni Punyavijayji through his family. The latter donated the manuscripts to the L.D (Lalbhai Dalpatbhai) Institute of Indology in the year 1961.

The tradition of making Jain manuscripts began around the 11th century and became quite prevalent in the Gujarat region from the 13th century onwards. This was due to the generous patronage of the Jain devotees, which included the royalty and the wealthy merchants and traders of this region. The earliest Jain illustrated manuscripts were made on palm leaves and were bound with cords that passed through holes in the folios. After the introduction of paper in western India around the 12th century, the texts were increasingly larger in composition and a variety of decorative devices were used, although the format of the palm leaf manuscripts was generally retained. These manuscripts were brilliantly adorned with gold, silver, and crimson. The main centres of Jain manuscript production were Ahmedabad and Patan in Gujarat. A large number of these manuscripts were preserved in bhaṇḍaras or libraries maintained by the Jaina communities.

Shantinatha Charitra contains ten images which are scenes related to Shantinatha’s life.  These images are beautifully drawn in various colours. Gum lampblack and white paint made from mineral silver were used as an ink for writing the manuscript. The drawings are characterized by simple, bright colours. The figures are highly conventionalized, wiry, and angular and are shown for the most part from a frontal view. The face is prominent with a pointed nose, and the projecting ‘further eye,’ which extends beyond the outline of the face in profile.

Shantinatha was the 16th Jain Tirthankar. A Tirthankara is a Jain teacher who is revered as a liberated soul by the Jain community. He was born in a royal family of the Ikshvaku dynasty in Hastinapur (near Delhi). He ascended to the throne when he was 25 years old but renounced it and became a Jain monk at the age of 50 years. After sixteen years of asceticism he achieved Kevala Jnana (omniscience) under a Nandi tree. After this, he spent many years preaching to the people and finally attained Nirvana (salvation) at Sammed Shikharji, in the state of Jharkhand. 
Shantinatha is one of the Tirthankaras who are specially worshipped by the Jains. It is believed that the mere recitation of his name negates all bad omens, and brings peace. Thus the UNESCO inscription of this book is of extreme importance, not only among the Jains but also for the world due to its message of universal peace. This is, of course, in parallel with the book’s eminent place in the world of miniature paintings.