A 19th-century Burmese folding book manuscript.
What does it show?
This manuscript contains images of eight festivals in Burma (Myanmar). The image displayed depicts a procession during the Buddhist Thadingyut festival, during which royal attendants can be seen carrying elaborate sculptures of animals, boats and temples. Thadingyut, also known as the festival of lights, marks the end of Buddhist lent (Vassa). The festival celebrates the Buddha’s descent from heaven, where he had spent three months teaching the sacred Abhidhamma to his mother and other heavenly gods. Three stairways made of gold, silver and rubies were made for the Buddha to descend back to the earthly realm. In order to guide him, and also to celebrate his return, his path was illuminated with lights. The tradition of displaying lights continues to this day.
Festival of Lights
Thailand has a similar festival of lights, called Loy Krathong, where lights are floated along the river in small boats, traditionally made of banana leaves. It is a celebration commemorating Buddha, but also has origins in the Hindu Diwali festival, reflecting Thailand’s Hindu past before Buddhism was introduced. Loy Krathong is celebrated as a festival of lights across mainland Southeast Asia and South China.
This item is on loan to the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds from 10 October 2019 – 12 January 2020. The loan has been made in connection with the British Library’s contribution to Light Night and is generously supported by the Helen Hamlyn Trust.
View images of the entire manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts website.
- Article by:
- T H Barrett
- Buddhism, Living Texts
Professor Tim Barrett explores the translation and transmission of Buddhist texts, looking at the spread of Buddhism from its origins in India, into China and Southeast Asia.
- Article by:
- Ajahn Sister Sundara
- Buddhism, Women, texts and faith
Writing from the perspective of the Theravāda tradition, Ajahn Sister Sundara explores the role of women in Buddhism, in particular the role of Buddhist nuns.