LONDON (TIP): One of the most important documents of the Jain community has been declared a global treasure by Unesco. Shantinatha Charitra – a text written in Sanskrit, that describes the life and times of Shantinatha, the 16th Jain Tirthankara has been included in the most prestigious list of the world’s greatest documents. Unesco’s world heritage body on Wednesday included the Indian entry in the Memory of the World Register 2013 and said “the story is of lasting value to humankind”.
The manuscript talks about peace, nonviolence and brotherhood and was composed and written in the late 14th century. It contains 10 images of scenes from the life of Shantinatha in the style of Jain paintings from Gujarat. Unesco said the document is an universal message of friendship, global peace and unity with integrity. “It also describes historical facts and professes high moral and cultural values. The Illustrations found in this manuscript are oldest specimens of miniature painting.
These illustrations are beautifully drawn in multi-colour and are examples of a highly evolved style of painting. As these illustrations are rarest of rare, their preservation and protection is necessary for humanity. These are the best and oldest examples of miniature paintings while the story itself is of lasting value to humankind,” Unesco added. India in its application to Unesco said the rare document 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 manuscripts are owned by Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Institute of Indology. It was donated by late Muni Punyavijayji who had inherited it through family. The application said, “Such hereditary manuscripts are genuine especially if they belong to Jain monks…Muni Shri Punyavijayji was a Jain monk highly revered in his community and thus the authenticity of the manuscript is beyond doubt.
The paper and ink of the document are a proof of its authenticity”. “This is the oldest (1397 CE) example of Jain miniature painting available in a text,” the application added. The Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Institute of Indology has a rich collection of nearly 75,000 rare manuscripts including a substantial number received as gifts for preservation and custody. Many of these manuscripts are written on palm leaf, birch-bark (bhojpatra) and handmade paper. Some of the manuscripts are written in gold and silver inks and are full of multicolour miniatures while some others are in black and white.