AGE: – More than likely 19th Century
CONSTRUCTION: – Covers teak wood, pages – cloth lacquered and gilded. Pali written in tamarind lacquer
DESCRIPTION: – Complete set 14 pages with two outside wooden covers. Gild worn with age but still very nice piece. This set has two matching end pages.
LENGTH: – 57.5cm
HEIGHT: – 5cm inclusive of wooden covers
WIDTH: – 14cm
WEIGHT: – 2.85 kg.
The Burmese have been making manuscripts dedicated to their Buddhist teachings for hundreds of years. This Burmese Kammavaca Buddhist Prayer Manuscript consists of 14 leaves with teak wood end covers. All monasteries in Myanmar have a collection of this type of Kammavaca as well as the Palm leaf manuscripts, often donated by the family of a novice monk when entering into the monastery. The manuscripts play an important part in the religious life of the monks, they are a compilation of rules taken from the Vinaya and the Tipitaka that establish the general rules of conduct for monks and nuns living in monasteries following the Theravada tradition of Buddhism.
These manuscripts have been made in many different types of materials, such as copper, silver and ivory. This kammavaca is the more traditional type which is often constructed of monks’ cloth which has been treated, cut into a rectangular shape, then lacquered to create a solid but flexible sheet or leaf.
The Pali script is written on both sides of each sheet with tamarind seed lacquer, produced from a resin from the tamarind tree which is mixed with cinnabar; this gives a reddish tone to the black tamarind lacquer. The leaves are decorated with gold-leaf in the shwei-zawa technique, a process that requires a great deal of skill by the craftsmen. After drying, holes are punched through the leaves for binding to keep them together and in order.
Teak wood covers protect the leaves, and the entire set is usually kept in a kammavaca manuscript box within the monastery or in cupboards.