Detail View: The AMICA Library: Four Leaves from an Ashtasahasrika Prajnaparamita Manuscript. Leaf A: Manjushri. Leaf B: Prajnaparamita. Leaf C: Tara. Leaf D: A Dharmapala

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Drawings and Watercolors
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Indian Sub-Continent; Indian
Creator Dates/Places: 
Eastern Indian
Creator Name-CRT: 
Eastern Indian
Four Leaves from an Ashtasahasrika Prajnaparamita Manuscript. Leaf A: Manjushri. Leaf B: Prajnaparamita. Leaf C: Tara. Leaf D: A Dharmapala
Full view
Creation Date: 
c. 1151-1200
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
Ink and opaque watercolor on palm leaf
Creation Place: 
India, Bihar or Bengal
Each 3 x 17 1/4 in. (7.6 x 43.8 cm)
AMICA Contributor: 
Asia Society
Owner Location: 
New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
The four leaves of this eastern Indian manuscript of the Ashtasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra can be dated to about 1151-1200 by the rather static and stylized positions of the deities, the sketchy treatment of their faces, and the decorative background details. The ends of the leaves, as well as areas around the string holes, are decorated with geometric patterns or small images of lotuses, stupas, and animals. The deities illustrated are Manjushri, Prajnaparamita, Tara, and a dharmapala, or guardian of the law. The last named is blue, wears a tiger skin, and has four arms. He holds a ritual implement known as a vajra (thunderbolt) and a lasso in two of his hands. These implements and the tiger skin are attributes generally associated with Mahakala, and it is possible that this is an early image of this important deity.

Protective deities such as Mahakala, as well as female divinities such as Prajnapramita and Tara, play important roles in the branch of Buddhism known as Tantric Buddhism or Vajrayana. This school, which is best known today as the religion practiced in Tibet and other Himalayan regions, flourished in eastern India under the rule of the Pala kings, and it has been suggested that the development of illustrated manuscripts during this period may reflect that of Vajrayana Buddhism, which makes greater use of images in its practices and has a more complicated pantheon that includes female deities. Since the images of deities in manuscripts such as this one have no illustrative relationship to the written text, they may have been intended for use in meditation as well as for protecting the manuscript and his owner. The commissioning of such manuscripts was a meritorious act intended to enhance the spiritual well-being of the donor of the manuscript, the artist and the scribe who created it, and all who saw and used the book.

Related Document Description: 
Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 27.
Related Document Description: 
Pal, Pratapaditya, and Julia Meech-Pekarik. Buddhist Book Illuminations. New York: Ravi Kumar, 1988, pp. 69, 72, 80.
Related Image Identifier Link: