In Artibus Asiae Vol. 70, No. 2 (2010), Jinah Kim writes about a Pancharakshya manuscript copied in Kathmandu in the year 1135 CE. In her article, and in a stellar follow-up 2013 book titled “Receptacle of the Sacred” (a must-read for any scholar or amateur interested in the South Asian cult of manuscripts), Ms. Kim writes about the colophon of the manuscript, which contains the phrase “Kasthamandap”. However, a clear picture of the colophon page, as well as a complete transcription/ translation of the colophon, has been unavailable to date.
The manuscript in question is in the collection of the San Diego Museum of Art in the United States. We have been fortunate enough to locate and photograph this manuscript (Edwin Binney 3rd Collection, Catalog number 1990.156). We present here a high resolution image of the colophon page (Folio 102 verso). This is followed by a transcription and translation of the colophon, kindly provided by eminent Newa scholar Mr. Kashinath Tamot.
Folio 102 verso of the Pancharakshya manuscript, 1035 CE
Detail of the folio containing the mention of Kasthamandap
iti tatra buddhānāṃ buddhānubhāvena devatānāṃ ca devatānubhavena mahatī iti vyupaśānteti ||
[[āryamahāmantrānusārinīmahāvidyārājñī samāptā]] ||
? deya dharmoyaṃ pravaramahāyāyinaḥ śrīkāṣṭhamaṇḍape |
paścimarathyāyāṃ śrīkṛ(4)ṣṇaguptamahāvihārādhivāsī |
śākyabhikṣu śrīānandabuddhināmnā yadatra puṇyan
kṛtvā sakalasatvarāser anuttarajñānaphalāptaya iti ||
samvat ā lṛ hṛ pauṣakṛṣṇapratipadi puṣyanakṣetre budhadine |
śrīmad indridevasya vijayarājye likhitam idaṃ pañcarakṣāpustakam iti ||
This Pañcarakṣā is donated by Ānandabuddhi Śākyabhikṣu, the follower of Mahāyāna, residing Kṛṣṇagupta Mahāvihāra at Paścimarathyā in Kāṣṭhamaṇḍapa. It was scribed during the reign of the king Indradeva [text reads “Indrideva”] on Wednesday, first lunar day of waning moon of (the month of) Pauṣa, in puṣya constellation, (in the era) ā (200) lṛ (50) hṛ (5), that is, in NS 255 (1135 CE).
Hitherto, historians have recognized that the iconic tiered structure of Kasthamandap (Maru Sattal) existed as far back at 1143 CE, based on a mention of the name in a Namasangiti manuscript stored in Tibet’s Saskya Monastery (discussed here).
With the evidence of the San Diego manuscript in hand, the documented existence of Kasthamandap can now be pushed back a further eight years, to 1135 CE.
Even more tantalizing is the possibility that Kasthamandap existed as far back as 1090 CE, as reported by Mary Slusser and Gautam Vajracharya in a 1974 journal paper (also discussed here). Unfortunately, this possibility has not been substantiated yet, due to lack of access to the Astasahasrika-Pragyaparamita manuscript reportedly copied in 1090 CE. But until the day we locate the elusive Pragyaparamita manuscript, we can pause and marvel at the fact that the venerable Kasthamandap existed at least 881 years ago in 1135 CE, and maybe more.
The colophon is also valuable in that it identifies a hitherto unknown Buddhist monastery, the “Krishnagupta Mahavihar” which was apparently in the vicinity of Kasthamandap, besides a road named “Pascimarathya” (Western wide road for chariots). Neither the monastery, nor the road has been identified elsewhere in the corpus of Nepali historic material to date. Mr. Tamot does mention that the Western wide road could have been used for Pachali Jatra or Upaku Wanegu (the annual funeral procession around Kathmandu). This is an area ripe for future academic research.
The San Diego manuscript described above is stored with two elegant painted book covers (see below). The story of the book covers, with their curious history, must be saved for another blog post in the future.
We thank Mr. Kashinath Tamot for the transcription and translation of the 1135 CE Pancharakshya manuscript colophon. We thank Ms. Marika Sardar, Associate Curator for Southern Asian and Islamic Art, for generously providing access to the Pancharakshya manuscript.