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Asian art

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The Levels of Hell

early 19th century


Unknown Artist


The Jain religion, together with Hinduism and Buddhism one of the main religions of India, inspired a rich pantheon of imagery relating to its beliefs.Though depictions of the various torments to be endured in the Jain hells were frequently depicted in manuscripts, these leaves are unusually large and colourful. They appear to have once belonged to a Khetrasamaasa, a Jain cosmological text. In Jain cosmology, seven hells are located one on top of another at the very bottom of the universe, and are progressively awful in order of descent in the punishments meted out there. The hells are inhabited by the Paramadharmika, the 'extremely unjust' gods, who vie with each other in devising cruel punishments for those unlucky enough to be reborn there. Among those featured here are the fate of being sawn in two while being pecked by crows, being swallowed by a giant snake, and being shot by arrows and rifles simultaneously. The robust drawings are appealing in their energy and conviction.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, June 2008.


Place where the work was made

Rajasthan India


early 19th century

Media categories

Book , Painting

Materials used

gouache on paper; 62 leaves comprising 58 full page illustrations plus 4 fly leaves, Prakrit in black Devanagari script; bound in beige canvas cover with scalloped flap and tie


16.0 x 30.5 cm :

a - pencilled script, leaf a; leaf a verso

b - script, leaf b blank: leaf b verso script

c - painting, leaf c script; leaf c verso painting

d - script, leaf d; leaf d verso

e - painting, leaf e; leaf e verso

f - script, leaf f; leaf f verso

g - painting, leaf g; leaf g verso

h - script, leaf h; leaf h verso

i - painting, leaf i; leaf i verso

j - script, leaf j; leaf j verso

k - painting, leaf k; leaf k verso

l - script, leaf l; leaf l verso

m - painting, leaf m; leaf m verso

n - script, leaf n; leaf n verso

o - painting, leaf o; leaf o verso

p - script, leaf p; leaf p verso

q - painting, leaf q; leaf q verso

r - script, leaf r; leaf r verso

s - painting, leaf s; leaf s verso

t - script, leaf t; leaf t verso

u - painting, leaf u; leaf u verso

v - script, leaf v; leaf v verso

w - painting, leaf w; leaf w verso

x - script, leaf x; leaf x verso

y - painting, leaf y; leaf y verso

z - Part z, leaf z; leaf z verso

aa - painting, leaf aa; leaf aa verso

bb - script, leaf bb; leaf bb verso

cc - painting, leaf cc; leaf cc verso

dd - painting, leaf dd; leaf dd verso

ee - painting, leaf ee; leaf ee verso

ff - script, leaf ff; leaf ff verso

gg - painting, leaf gg; leaf gg verso

hh - script, leaf hh; leaf hh verso

ii - painting, leaf ii; leaf ii verso

jj - script, leaf jj; leaf jj verso

kk - painting, leaf kk; leaf kk verso

ll - script, leaf ll; leaf ll verso

mm - painting, leaf mm; leaf mm verso

nn - script, leaf nn; leaf nn verso

oo - painting, leaf oo; leaf oo verso

pp - script, leaf pp; leaf pp verso

qq - painting, leaf qq; leaf qq verso

rr - script, leaf rr; leaf rr verso

ss - painting, leaf ss; leaf ss verso

tt - script, leaf tt; leaf tt verso

uu - painting, leaf uu; leaf uu verso

vv - script, leaf vv; leaf vv verso

ww - painting, leaf ww; leaf ww verso

xx - script, leaf xx; leaf xx verso

yy - painting, leaf yy; leaf yy verso

zz - script, leaf zz; leaf zz verso

aaa - painting, leaf aaa; leaf aaa verso

bbb - script, leaf bbb; leaf bb verso

ccc - painting, leaf ccc; leaf ccc verso

ddd - script, leaf ddd; leaf ddd verso

eee - painting, leaf eee; leaf eee verso

fff - script, leaf fff; leaf fff verso

ggg - painting, leaf ggg; leaf ggg verso

hhh - script, leaf hhh; leaf hhh verso

iii - painting, leaf iii; leaf iii verso

jjj - script, leaf jjj; leaf jjj verso

kkk - script, leaf kkk; leaf kkk verso blank


Purchased 2008


Not on display

Accession number


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales Annual Report 2007-08, Sydney, 2008, 68 (colour illus.).