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Mahabodhi-vamsa

Catalogue record

Creator: Upatissa

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Format : Manuscript, 60 x 510 x 60mm

Donated by Mr RH Longden and the Friends of the State Library of South Australia.

This work tells the story of the arrival in Sri Lanka of a cutting from the Bodhi or Bo-tree, the tree beneath which the Buddha experienced enlightenment in Eastern India. The text is in Pali, the language of Buddhism, and is written in Sinhalese script on pages made from palm leaves. The text is ascribed to Upatissa. The library copy was copied in early 18th or perhaps late 17th century from the Sinhalese original which was written in about the 10th century. There is no clue as to its date or scribe.

To produce the writing on the leaves, a sharp stylus was used to make an impression in the leaf. Soot was then rubbed over the leaf, and rubbed off, leaving visible writing in the incisions. This action also protected the leaf from mould and insects.

Palm leaf books usually have painted wooden boards as covers. This example has heavy ivory covers, carved with traditional single floral leaf scrolls with petal borders.

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