AGE: – 18th – 19th Century
DESCRIPTION: – Burmese Gold-Silver Kammavaca Pali Prayer Manuscript – Age related wear. The paper with Burmese script stuck onto the covers of the front and back is easily removed if wished, we didn’t want to remove it as we feel it is an historical document and the script is relative to it.
WEIGHT: – 2.8 kg.
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A complete sixteen page Burmese Gold-Silver Kammavaca Pali Prayer Manuscript, written in the Pali Language with Burmese script (six lines) on each side. The first and last internal leaves are both gilded, one side is decorated with Burmese mythological symbolic images and the reverse with two gilded side panels, with a silver centre and rounded black Burmese script written on top. The two wooden end covers are beveled around the outside edges and painted with a red lacquer on the inside.
Kammavaca’s are difficult to date accurately, there is usually nothing written in the script to indicate the age. This Kammavaca has been well used judging by the wear of the silver coating under the black lacquered rounded script which exposes the red cinnabar colour that all Kammavaca are coated with before decorating. The addition of the paper stuck onto the covers and inside covers with Burmese script, would indicate that this Kammavaca more than likely belonged to a high ranking monk and that this Kammavaca had some significance.
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The hand woven Sasigyo used to bind the manuscript is 223cm long with Burmese script and decorative patterns woven along the length of it. Eight centimeters of the ribbon has been damaged in two areas, maybe eaten by moths. The cloth that the kammavaca is wrapped in is that of an old monks robe with a yellow border.
This in-depth paper written about the Sasigyo by Kathleen F. Johnson and Tsai Yushan describe these binding ribbons as no longer being made, that they were time consuming to make and that they required a highly skilled weaver.
DEFINITION OF “KAMMAVACA”
The definitions of the word “Kammavaca” in the Pali language is the description given to a compilation of rituals in the sacred canon of Theravada Buddhism, referred to as the Tipitaka. The Tipitaka lays down the rules and regulations regarding admission into the Buddhist Sangha and used in the ordination service of a monk and bestowing of robes. They were frequently presented to monasteries on the ordination of a son or family member as a means to gain merit.
The first record of a kammavaca manuscripts was discovered among relics found in the Pyu city of Sri Ksetra in the form of 20 gold folios dating to the fifth or sixth century. Each leaf incised in Pyu script, relating to the texts found in the Tipitaka. Each folio similarly to the later Kammavaca’s with a hole on each end for the threading of a bamboo stick, these also have a hole on each end in which a gilded wire was threaded through to keep them together.
Epigraphic sources dating to the Pagan era reveal a literary culture showing that Buddhist manuscripts were highly valued. Although there has been no record of a dated Pagan era manuscript been found, although there has been a number of fragments of Pali palm-leaf manuscripts written in square style characters in ink excavated from the inside of some Pagan temples.
Numerous inscriptions from this era indicate sponsorship of the production of manuscripts as well as the donation of manuscripts to monasteries as a way of gaining merit.
It is assumed, considering the elaborate decoration seen on temple friezes , carvings and wood, that manuscripts from the Pagan era would have been similarly decorative, but it is not until much later in1683 when a decorated manuscript was discovered written in ink and lacquer on a gilded palm-leaf with the title folio decorated in the style of a more modern Kammavaca with marginal designs that are similar to ornamental motifs in painted murals of the Tilokaguru cave temple at Sagaing.