Saturday, 8 September 2018

Jetavanarama Gold Plates, Colombo National Museum

Jetavanarama Gold Plates, Colombo Museum
Jetavanarama Gold Plates (or Jetavanarama golden manuscript) were found from the Jetavanarama Vihara complex in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. The manuscript consists of seven gold plates and contains an epigraph written in the Sanskrit language. The plates are now exhibited in the National Museum of Colombo.

These golden plates were discovered from the Jetavanarama Monastery during an archaeological excavation done under the UNESCO-Sri Lanka Cultural Triangle Project (Wikramagamage, 2004). It is said that the plates were found deposited in a clay pot (Dhammaratana, 2000).

Jetavanaramaya is a Buddhist temple built by King Mahasen (278-303 A.D.). According to historical sources, this temple at its beginning was serving as an institute of Mahayana Buddhism. Several epigraphs belonging to the Mahayana tradition have been found from this site.
Veneration of Dharma books/relics (or Dhammadhatu) is a common ritual in Mahayana tradition and such veneration to the books especially those are belonging to the Prajnaparamita group (ex: Pancavimsati-sahasrika, Astasahasrika) was considered as an act of merit. Therefore, plates or leaves written with these stanzas were enshrined in relic chambers as both a sacred object and relic. 
The gold plates discovered from Jetavanarama premises can be linked with the narration made by the chronicles of the bringing of the Dhammadhatu in the 12th regnal year of King Silakala [(522-535 A.D.) Dias, 2001]. It is recorded that the king placed it in a shrine close to the palace and a festival was held in its honor at the Jetavanarama every year (Dias, 2001).

The epigraph on the plates contains a portion but an exact copy of the Mahayana Buddhist text Pancavimsati-sahasrika – Prajnaparamitasutra, one of the earliest texts written in about the 2nd-century A.D.
Jetavanarama Golden Manuscript

Period       : 9-10th Century A.D.
Language : Sanskrit
Scripts        : Sinhala
Location   : Jetavanaramaya, Anuradhapura
Number of plates : 7 gold plates
Length & Width     : 62.7 cm & 2.9 cm
Reference : National Museum of Colombo
This inscription is the lengthiest Sanskrit inscription (considering the number of scripts) discovered so far in Sri Lanka (Dhammaratana, 2000). It has been written in Sinhalese scripts of the Pallava Grantha type (Dhammaratana, 2000). If the inscription has its complete text, it would have had more than 35 gold plates.
1) Dhammaratana, I., 2000. Sanskrit Inscriptions in Sri Lanka: A thesis submitted to the University of Pune in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Sanskrit. Department of Sanskrit & Prakrit Languages, University of Pune, India. pp.230-299.
2) Dias, M, 2001. The growth of Buddhist monastic institutions in Sri Lanka from Brahmi inscriptions. Epigraphia Zeylanica, Vol. VIII. Department of Archaeology Survey. ISBN: 955-9264-04-4. pp.44-45.
3) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major Natural, Cultural and Historic sites: Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.139.

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