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Manuscripts

Ashta-sahasrika Prajnaparmita

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Ashta-sahasrika Prajnaparmita
12th century A.D.

Language: Sanskrit Script: Newari (Ranjana)
Materials: Palm-leaf
Dimensions: L: 33.2 W: 9 cm.
Acc. No. 51.212

The three illustrated palm-leaves, each divided into nine cubes, three for portraying the images and six for text part - a standard format pursued in Prajnaparmita illustrative folios at least since AD 999, are the part of some fragmented 12th century copy of the Prajnaparmita, the book of supreme wisdom, highly revered in the Buddhist line, in Mahayana Buddhism in special. In the reported bulk this format of dividing the folio space into nine parts seems to have been initiated during the early Pala period. Initially, Prajnaparmita had about two thousand five hundred parts but gradually the number rose to eight thousand. Hence, Prajnaparmita is now widely known as &lsquoAshta-sahasrika Prajnaparmita', that is, Prajnaparmita consisting of eight thousand parts or units. Each of these eight thousand units consists of 32 syllables.

The message reveals in the form of discourse in which two of the Buddha's his disciples, Shariputra and Subhuti, put before the great Master through questioning various issues related to wisdom and the Buddha, through his answers, elaborates their solutions. One of the earliest texts of Mahayana Buddhism, Prajnaparmita seems to have had its origin in 2nd century AD though it reached north during the period of the Pala king Mahipala I around AD 983 who commissioned its copy now scattered into various collections. The present copy belongs to the 12th century AD. It consists of well composed richly decorated illustrations rendered in mural painting style portraying images of Avalokiteshvara, Green Tara and other minor deities.

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