An illustrated palm-leaf manuscript of the Devī Māhātmya, a devotional text in praise of Durgā. Made in Bhaktapur, Nepal.

What is the Devī Māhātmya?

The 700 verse text in Sanskrit, dated between the 6th and 8th century CE, is also known as Durgā Saptaśatī and Caṇḍī Pāṭha and is part of the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa.
It tells of the battle between the Goddess (Durgā or Devī) and the demons, who embody the evil forces threatening the universal order. One of the Devī Māhātmya’s main features is the fact that the Supreme Being is seen as feminine. Along with the deeds and praises of the Goddess, the text also deals with issues relating to social life, mythology and theology.

The Devī Māhātmya is recited in temples in India during the Dūrga Puja festival.

The manuscript

Written in black ink on decorated palm leaves held between two painted wooden boards, this manuscript was made for an unidentified patron who is depicted with his family in one of the miniature paintings. The illustrations of scenes from the text are very carefully executed with the use of an elaborate floral back-drop.