The 19th-century Burmese illustrated manuscript is on the early life of the Buddha, from his resolve to depart from his royal position, and endurance of various austerities before his enlightenment. This paper folding book is painted in strong colours and an accomplished style.

What is shown here?

This illustration (folios 9–10) shows scenes from Prince Siddhattha’s journey after leaving the palace. On reaching the River Anoma, he instructs his charioteer to return to the palace with his horse, and to relay news of him to his family. The prince then cuts off his long topknot of hair with his sword, which symbolically severs his ties with the secular world, and casts it into the air. The hair is caught by Sakka, king of the gods, who places it in a golden casket. Siddhattha’s hair is then enshrined in Culamani Ceti in Tavatimsa, the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods. Meanwhile the gods present the prince with the eight requisites of a monk: three yellow robes (lower, upper and outer garments), an alms bowl, a razor, a needle, a water filter and a cloth girdle.

View images of the entire manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts website.