Saturday, September 8, 2018

Jetavanarama Gold Plates, Colombo National Museum

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

Jetavanaramaya is a Buddhist temple built by King Mahasen (278-303 AD). According to the historical sources, the temple at its beginning was serving as an institute of Mahayana Buddhism. Several epigraphs belonging to the Mahayana tradition have been found in this site.

These golden plates were discovered during archaeological excavations done under the UNESCO-Sri Lanka Cultural Triangle Project (Wikramagamage, 2004). It was found deposited in a clay pot (Dhammaratana, 2000). The epigraph on the plates contains a portion but exact copy of the Mahayana Buddhist text Pancavimsati-sahasrika – Prajnaparamitasutra, one of earliest texts written about the 2nd century AC. Venerating the Dharma books is a common ritual in Mahayana tradition. Such veneration to the books especially which 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 a both of sacred object and relic.

Jetavanarama Golden Manuscript 

Period       : 9-10th Century AD
Language : Sanskrit
Scripts        : Sinhalese
Location   : Jetavanarama Vihara Complex, Anuradhapura
Number of plates : 7 gold plates
Length & Width     : 62.7 cm & 2.9 cm
Reference : National Museum of Colombo

It is also supposed that this text may be a copy of the Dharmadhatu (Dhamma relic) introduced by the Mahayanists in the 6th century AD which was held in great veneration by the monks of Jetavana Vihara.

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 it 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) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major Natural, Cultural and Historic sites: Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.139.

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This page was last updated on 28 June 2019


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