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Manuscript of the Jambudvipa-prajnapti-sutra (Description of Jambudvipa)

Manuscript of the Jambudvipa-prajnapti-sutra (Description of Jambudvipa)


Gum tempera and gold on paper

Overall: 12.3 x 30.6 cm (4 13/16 x 12 1/16 in.)

On Loan from the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection 25.2014



This text discusses the geography, astronomy, and mathematics of Jambudvipa, one of the terrestrial worlds where human beings live, according to pan-Indian cosmology. The text is written in a north Indian script called Devanagari, and the language of the text is Prakrit, a regional vernacular.

Though there are only two paintings in the whole manuscript, they are made with costly pigments. Gold leaf was liberally applied, and lapis lazuli ground to a fine powder and mixed with gum arabic and water was used for the blue background. The red is cinnabar, a mercury-based mineral.

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