Ancient Gandhāri manuscripts exhibited in Malaysia

Sangha members and dignitaries viewing and worshiping the relic.

Sangha members and dignitaries viewing and worshiping the relic.

On Monday 2 May, Malaysian Buddhists had a rare glimpse of the Norwegian Schøyen collection of Gandhāri texts from Bamiyan.  The world-famous collection was on a special exhibition tour of ASEAN countries, facilitated by the international affairs department of the Sangha Council of Thailand.  The Malaysian leg was hosted at the Samadhi Vihara in Shah Alam.

The Martin Schøyen Buddhist collection consists of manuscripts written on birch bark, palm leaves and copper.  They are thought to have been found in the Bamiyan region of Afghanistan, and dated from the 2nd to the 8th century CE.  In addition to texts in Gandhāri, the Schøyen collection also contains important early sutras in Sanskrit.

Fragments of the Schøyen collection of Bamiyan Gandhāri manuscripts.

Fragments of the Schøyen collection of Bamiyan Gandhāri manuscripts written on birch bark, thought to be 1,700 years old; and one of the oldest ever found.

The Buddhist texts on display in Shah Alam included fragments of canonical Suttas, Abhidharma and Vinaya, thought to belong to the Dharmaguptaka School.  Those Gandhāri language manuscripts were mostly written in Kharosthī script.

Ven. Sri Saranankara viewing the manuscripts.

Ven. Sri Saranankara viewing the manuscripts.

Nalanda founder Bro. Tan, Education Committee Chairman Achariya Vijaya and 16 other officers and members attended a ceremony to welcome the arrival of those precious Buddhist cultural relics at Samadhi Vihara.  The guest-of-honour at the function was Honorable Ong Kah Chuan, Malaysian Minister of International Trade.  Also in attendance were Sangha members, Buddhist community leaders and a few hundred devotees.

The Nalanda delegation paying homage to the cultural relic.

The Nalanda delegation paying homage to the cultural relic. The manuscripts are considered very precious Buddhist cultural relics, and thus treated with utmost reverence.

The Bamiyan Gandhāri texts were exhibited for just two days in Malaysia (on 2 and 3 May) before being taken to Jakarta for the last leg of its ASEAN tour.  We thank Ven. Mahinda Thera and the Buddhist Missionary Society of Malaysia (BMSM) for organizing the exhibition here for the benefit and joy of Malaysian Buddhists.  Sadhu anumodana.

Bro. Tan explaining to Nalanda officers about the origin and significance of the Bamiyan texts.

Bro. Tan explaining to Nalanda officers about the origin and significance of the Bamiyan texts.

Nalanda President Sis. Evelyn (left) paying her respects.

Nalanda President Sis. Evelyn (left) paying her respects.