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Burmese Kammavaca Pali Prayer Manuscript

AGE: – Assuming 18th – 19th Century
CONSTRUCTION: – Teak wood covers bevelled around the edges, inner pages stiffened cloth lacquered and gilded with tamarind seed lacquer text
DESCRIPTION: – Burmese Kammavaca Pali Prayer Manuscript – Two pages with corner broken, degradation of gild due to use and age. Not sure if this is a full set, there are sets that consist of only 14 pages but traditionally 16 and sometimes 18 pages.

LENGTH: – 59cm
WIDTH: – 13cm



A Burmese Kammavaca Pali Prayer Manuscript referred to also as kammawa-sa in Myanmar consists of text relating to the formal monastic acts, rules and ceremonies prescribed in the Vinaya, (one of the ‘three baskets’ of the Tipitaka), that establish the codes of conduct for monks living in monasteries. This one consists of fourteen inner pages made from stiffened cloth and a teak wood cover at each end, all thickly coated with red lacquer, then gilded and the text painted on with tamarind seed lacquer. The outside cover and inside cover is illustrated with scrolling foliage and mythical figures from the world of Nats and Devas.

The substrate for the leaves of the manuscript are layers of cloth folded and stiffened with numerous coats of lacquer, but still flexible. It is resistant to water, heat, insects and bacteria. A red colouring agent, cinnabar (mercuric sulphide), ochre or paint, turns it vermilion. Although lacquer was used much earlier, making lacquer objects did not become a full-blown decorative art until the Ava period (AD 1287-1752). The art of lacquer, however, did not reach its zenith until the Kon-baung period (AD 1752-1885).

The kammavaca (kammawa-sa) are also made from different materials such as ivory, thin sheets of copper, cloth, palm-leaf and wood. Most often, as in this case, they are made with a foundation of cloth cut from monks’ robes. The manuscript leaves and covers are pierced to permit the insertion of a binding ribbon referred to as the Sarsekyo which holds it together. The leaves are inscribed in the Pali language using what is called ‘tamarind seed’ (magyi-zi) script. The leaves are protected by teak wood covers and the entire manuscript is usually stored in a special receptacle or kammavaca chest within the monastery and taken out and used on special occasions.

These ornate manuscripts devoted to Kammavaca text is largely a Burmese tradition, although the mon and Tai Khun have also produced Kammavaca texts. It was also customary for a Burmese family to commission a copy of the Kammavaca on the occasion of their son entering the monk hood or being ordained. Many of these kammavasa were neglected and strewn around the monasteries, so one cannot be absolutely certain without being able to read the pali script if they are an absolute full and complete set, for this reason I am selling this set at a reduced price because I am not absolutely sure that it is complete. Many of these leaves are being sold singularly for $100 to $150.

Burmese Kammavaca Pali Prayer Manuscript

Burmese Kammavaca Pali Prayer Manuscript
Consists of 14 pages and two outside covers

Burmese Kammavaca cover of Prayer Manuscript

Inside cover Burmese Kammavaca Pali Prayer Manuscript  19th Century

19th Century Burmese Kammavaca Pali Prayer Manuscript  outside and inside cover Prayer Manuscript

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