Articles | Burmese Buddhist Manuscripts
The kammavaca and palm Leaf prayer manuscripts of Burma represent the formal monastic ceremonies or acts as depicted in the Vinaya, the rules and regulations used in the ordination or service of monks.
The Burmese script in the older gilded Kammavaca was usually written in a square bold script using the extract from the tamarind seed, whilst the later Kamavaca’s show a bold rounded script.
Traditionally the Kammavaca is considered to be complete if it has sixteen leaves (pages), however, this is not necessarily the rule, they can come in fourteen, sixteen or eighteen leaves but always in even numbers.
Burmese gilded Kammavaca Buddhist Manuscript
The leaves of the traditional Burmese Kammavaca are held together with wooden outer covers, each individual gilded page is incised with pictures and floral designs from Burmese mythology and have a hole near each end for a bamboo stick to hold the pages together.
The gilded outer covers are incised and decorated with mythological creatures or Buddhist symbols, occasionally, the inside cover is also decorated. As a rule the inside cover is a plain red colour. There are a few kammavaca that are highly decorated with thayo lacquer on the outside covers with glass mosaics and gilded and some rare kammavaca made from elephant ivory.
The leaves or pages of the Burmese kammavaca also vary, some are made from palm leaf and stiffened cloth, usually from the robe of a monk, it is then bount together with a long finely hand woven ribbon (sasijyo) with Intricate patterns or Burmese Buddhist script running down the length of the sasijyo, they may also have the name of the donor and the year in which it was presented to the monastery woven into it.
Burmese Palm Leaf Manuscripts – Paysar
Palm leaf manuscripts in Burma are referred to as Paysar, they are sometimes referred to as Parabaik in the West. The Paysar manuscript is found in almost every monastery in Myanmar. Unlike the Kammavaca, the palm leaf prayer manuscript is rather plain and vary in the number of leaves. Some contain more than 200 pages or leaves and are held together with a string or wooden spike passed through holes at both ends of each individual palm leaf.
The wooden ends of the palm leaf manuscripts are usually plain and coloured red, but there are some that are decorated with thayo lacquer, glass mosaics and gilded. Burmese script in the Pali language is inscribed across the length of the palm leaf on both sides with a stenciling tool. The script usually refers to the Pali Canon and monastic rules set down in the Theravadan Buddhist tradition for the monks to follow.
Articles | Burmese Buddhist Manuscripts
This is a large PDF file for those who are really interested in this subject, it can take a few minutes to download depending on the speed of your internet connection.
Edited By: Stephen C. Berkwitz – Buddhist Manuscript Cultures explores how religious and cultural practices in pre-modern Asia were shaped by literary and artistic traditions as well as by Buddhist Material culture.
A List of Inscriptions – A book written in 1921 by Chas. Duroiselle, superintendent, Archaeological survey, Burma
Metal Documents of Antiquity from around the world By H. Curtis Wright
At a time when there is increasing interest in Australia’s developing ties with Burma (Myanmar), the death on 31 March, 2015 of Pamela Gutman brings to an end the life of the first Australian scholar to complete a doctorate in Asian art and to do so in relation to Burma.
The Woven word
A Burmese woven ribbon used to bind Buddhist scriptures. In Burmese the word literally means “cord for tying manuscript leaves into bundles.” These pieces have not been woven in Burma for many years, with very few written records about their history; most of what we know of them must be inferred from the objects themselves.
The Pali Literature of Burma By Mabel Haynes Bode Ph.D. 1909
Takes a little time to load but for those interested in this subject worth waiting for.
The Pali literature of Burma owes its existence to the Pali literature of India. It is many years since the latter was first explored by the great scholars and pioneers- Fausboll, Lassen, Rhys Davids, Trenckner, Childers, Oldenberg – whose reward has been a gain to Oriental learning vast enough to content even them…..
The making of a collection: Burmese Manuscripts in the British Library
The Burma manuscripts collection in the British Library by virtue of its size, range of material, and state of preservation constitutes the most significant collection of manuscripts to be found outside Burma. It numbers over 1,000 manuscripts, of which approximately 800 are in Oriental Collections and 350 in the India Office Library………