Cambridge University Library

Sanskrit Manuscripts Project

Perfection of wisdom, MS Add. 1464

A scene from the life of the historical Buddha, showing the Buddha seated under a tree in the mango grove at Vaiśalī (northern Bihār) holding a begging bowl full of honey collected by a monkey. From The perfection of wisdom in 8,000 lines (MS Add. 1464, fol. 127v, detail).

'The intellectual and religious traditions of South Asia as seen through the Sanskrit manuscript collections of the University of Cambridge' is a three-year project (from November 2011) led by Sanskrit specialists Dr Vincenzo Vergiani and Dr Eivind Kahrs of the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It will study and catalogue the important collection of Sanskrit manuscripts in Cambridge University Library (around 1,000 items), placing them in their broader historical context. Most of the holdings will also be digitised by the Library and made available through the new Cambridge Digital Library.

The Sanskrit manuscripts are a rich resource for scholars and include MS Add. 1464, illustrated here—The perfection of wisdom in 8,000 lines, the oldest dated and illustrated Sanskrit manuscript known worldwide. The manuscript, produced in the 5th year (ca. 997 CE) of the reign of King Mahīpāla of the East Indian Pāla dynasty, is written on palm leaf in the ornamental script known as Kuṭila, used in North India around that time. It was commissioned by a female lay devotee called Lāḍākā, whose name appears in the colophon, and is illustrated with motifs of Buddhist doctrine and mythology.

For further information on the project, see the press release and the Sanskrit Manuscripts Project, Cambridge website.