b. 12th century
Medium and Support:
Opaque watercolor and ink on palm leaves and wood boards
Edwin Binney 3rd Collection
2 3/16 in. x 23 5/8 in. (5.56 cm x 60.01 cm)
Currently on view
The Pancharaksha is composed of five hymns addressed to five Buddhist protective goddesses. They are among the most ancient of Buddhist scriptures. Fragments of the text have been found in Central Asian manuscripts of the first century A.D. The Pancharaksha goddesses are emanations of the five directional Buddhas, or Jina Buddhas, who can be invoked against specific illnesses and for specific purposes. To this day, the Pancharaksha text and goddesses are particularly popular in Nepal, where virtually every Buddhist household owns a copy of the text. The colophon records that this manuscript was written by the scribe Sri Ananda Buddhi at the monastery of Sri Krishna Gupta Mahavihara at the city of Katmandu in the reign of King Indradeva in 1138. The manuscript is complete, even including the wood covers. On the insides they are painted at both ends with figures of monks and donors. The goddess of Wisdom Prajnaparamita and the six Paramitas are on one and the five Tathagata Buddhas and two Bodhisattvas (future Buddhas, or saints) are on the other. From the top: white figure Mahamantranusarini protects against illnesses black figure Mahasahasrapramardani protects against demons green figure Mahasitavati protects against animals and dangerous insects yellow figure Mahamayuri protects aginst serpents white figure Mahapratisara protects against sins and illnesses The Muslim conquerors invading from the west virtually destroyed the Buddhist community in what had been the Pala territory and is now Bihar. By the thirteenth century, the Buddhists were scattered, with many fleeing to the north, to Nepal and Tibet, carrying with them Pala traditions of painting and sculpture.
Devotional Arts of Nepal
This manuscript of over one hundred pages is of the most popularly copied and illustrated Buddhist text in Nepal. It records five different protective formulas that protect against dangers or cure ailments, such as snakebites or smallpox. The powerful goddesses painted on the pages personify each of the five formulas. It is extraordinary that this complete manuscript is dated and survives intact.
One of the two wooden bookcovers is painted with Buddhas of the five directions, flanked by bodhisattvas; the other has seven goddesses of wisdom. On the ends of both covers are monks and lay donors who pay homage to the Buddhas and goddesses. Distinctively Nepalese are the rich colors, delicate outlines, gentle expressions, and types of thrones.
Last Updated: 9/5/2017
This object was included in the following exhibitions:
Temple, Palace, Mosque: Temple Arts for Sacred Spaces of Southern Asia
San Diego Museum of Art
, 6/23/2012 - 1/6/2013
Pearls from the Ocean of Contentment
, 8/14/2021 - 2/13/2022
This object has the following bibliographic references:
A Book of Buddhist Goddesses: Illustrated Maunscripts of the "Pancaraksa Sutra" and Their Ritual Uses
Artibus Asiae Publishers.
Page Number: 259-329,
Figure Number: 1-5