Burmese scenes from the Life of the Buddha

Three richly illustrated Burmese manuscripts in the British Library on ‘The life of the Buddha’.

Prince Siddhartha is depicted on the throne in his palace

In the Palace: in the centre, Prince Siddhartha is depicted on the throne in his palace, being entertained by court musicians, with his wife Yasodharā on the smaller throne to the left. On the right, Prince Siddhartha, who is riding in his gilded carriage, points to the figure of a saffron-robed monk – the last of the four signs encountered by the Prince.

The Great Departure: Prince Siddhartha rides out of the palace.

The Great Departure: shown above is the famous renunciation of Prince Siddhartha. On the left, he takes a last look at his sleeping wife and newborn son. Then he rides out of the palace, while the gods muffle the horse’s hooves with their hands so that the palace and city will not be awakened.

Prince Siddhartha reaches the River Anomā and cuts off his long topknot of hair
At the River Anomā: Prince Siddhartha reaches the River Anomā and cuts off his long topknot of hair and casts it into the air, where it is caught by Sakka, king of the gods, who enshrines it in Tavatimsa heaven.

Prince Siddhartha instructs his charioteer to return to the palace with his horse Kanthaka.

Prince Siddhartha becomes a monk: Prince Siddhartha instructs his charioteer to return to the palace with his horse Kanthaka, and give news of him to his family. But Kanthaka refuses to go back without his master, and dies of grief. The prince is presented by the gods with the requisites of a monk and, robed as a monk and carrying his alms bowl, begins his life as wandering ascetic. After the king of Magada heard of him wandering and accepting offerings of food from his people, he revered the Bodhisatta and offered him his Kingdom of Rajagaha.  Bodhisatta refused, saying that he had severed all ties because he sought deliverance and wanted to seek Enlightenment.

After six years of hardship, working to find the right spiritual path and practising on his own to seek enlightenment, Prince Siddhartha reached his goal of enlightenment when he was thirty five.

The Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching Dhamma (the path of righteousness).  His teaching was quite practical, as he never taught what he himself had not seen and known.  In his eightieth year when he was in Kusinara, he had a severe attack of dysentery. Buddha consoled Ananda who was weeping, and then called his disciples together and addressed them to work on their salvation with diligence.

San San May, Curator for Burmese — See more at: the at British Library

Further reading:

Patricia M. Herbert. The life of Buddha. British Library, 1993. (The illustrations in this book are from two other Burmese manuscripts in the British Library,  Or.14297 and Or.14298, which have not yet been digitised.)

British Library #endangeredarchives project. @bl_eap



Categories: Art, Biography, Books, Buddhism, Encyclopedia, History

Tags: , , ,

3 replies

  1. I like this

  2. The story is so well-known, but a delight to immerse oneself in the illustrations and text again. And yet again.

  3. It is so much easier for me to remember histories through pictures, rather than reading about them. Thanks!

Comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: