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Transfer of the Embryo of Mahavira, from a Kalpa-sutra

Transfer of the Embryo of Mahavira, from a Kalpa-sutra

c. 1475–1500

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Gum tempera, ink, and gold on paper

Overall: 12.5 x 25.7 cm (4 15/16 x 10 1/8 in.)

Edward L. Whittemore Fund 1932.119.5

Location

Description

The tiny captions written in Sanskrit to the right of the painting identify the subject of this scene: “abduction of the embryo” and “transfer of the embryo.” The embryo is the unborn founder of the Jain religion.

In this miraculous episode, a goat-headed divinity who presides over miscarriage and childbirth
gently takes the embryo in his cupped hands away from the reclining Brahmin lady in the scene above. Below, he carries it to a queen, who will be his birth mother.

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