The Divine Traditions (Divyavadana) from Borobudur

a large collection of high-definition creative commons photographs from Borobudur, Java, illustrating the Traditions about the Disciples, together with a text by A. Foucher explaining the stories.

1: The Traditions about Sudhana

Text by A. Foucher, Buddhist Art in Java

1: The Traditions about Sudhana 2: The Traditions about Mandhata 3: The Traditions about Rudrayana 4: The Birth Story of Bhallatiya 5: The Traditions about Maitrakanyaka

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001: The King of the South in his Court

“Once upon a time, says the text, there were in the country of Pancala two kings, the king of the north and the king of the south...” The former was virtuous, and his kingdom prosperous; with the second it was quite otherwise. Leemans describes the bas-relief in these terms : “A prince and his wife, seated in a pendopo not far from their palace, are receiving the homage of a great number of persons of rank.” Is it the monarch of the north who is presented to us in all his glory in the midst of his court? Is it the sovereign of the south whom we perceive in the act of deliberating with his ministers concerning the means of restoring prosperity to his kingdom? This it is not in the power of our image-makers to specify.

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002: The King of the South on Tour

What lends more probability to the first supposition is the fact that in the following picture we must in any case recognize as the king of southern Pancala the prince who, sheltered by his parasol and followed by a numerous cortege, is riding on horseback through a conventional rocky landscape. Under a pretext of hunting, as the text tells us, he is making a tour of inspection through his kingdom, which he finds completely ruined and deserted. Perhaps he is even now plotting to rob his flourishing neighbour of the young naga Janmacitraka, who resides in a pond near the capital of northern Pancala, and who by a dispensing at an opportune moment the exact amount of rain which is necessary assures abundance to the country. But we can hardly rely upon the resemblance between the Brahman ascetic who goes before him, bearing in his right hand a kind of bent pruning-bill, and the snake-charmer whose witchcraft we are soon to witness.

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003: The Charming of the the Naga Janmacitraka

The above panel represents no less than three episodes. On the right the young naga recognizable, as on the sculptures of India, by his coiffure of serpents’ heads asks upon his knees, and obtains, the protection of the hunter Halaka. In the middle the same Janmacitraka, grieving and under compulsion, is driven from the midst of the waters and lotuses of his pond by the influence of incantations pronounced (at his right side) by a Brahmanic ascetic before a sacrificial altar; fortunately the hunter, standing (on the other side) with his weapons in his hands, is watching over him. According to the text, he is about to put the charmer to death, not without first having made him annul the effect of his chaim. In the third group (on the left) we must therefore, it seems, recognize the same Brahman, not reporting to the king, whose agent he is, a mischance which he has not survived, but at the moment when he receives from this king his secret mission. It follows, therefore, that, by an exceptional, but not impossible, arrangement, the episode on the left, like that on the right, must have preceded in time the one which they both enclose.

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004: The hunter Halaka is Honoured by the Naga’s Parents

Next, in the text, comes a brilliant reception at the house of the father and mother of the young naga in honour of the saviour of their son. This is indeed what the bas-relief represents; but then we are forced to admit that for this occasion the hunter has donned a princely costume, much superior to his caste. It is also necessary to supply the fact that in the meantime he has received from his hosts a lasso which never misses.

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005: The hunter captures Manohara while others flee

The above picture transports us to the Himalaya mountains. On the right we perceive the lean ascetic figure of the old anchorite whose thoughtless chatter has guided the arm of the hunter Halaka. The latter, who is in a squatting posture, holds the Kinnari Manohara imprisoned at the end of his infallible lasso, while the companions of the latter, likewise represented in human form, rush towards the left in their aerial flight over a pond of lotuses.

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006: The hunter presents Manohara to Prince Sudhana

At this moment, we are told, Sudhana, the Royal Prince of northern Pancala, is passing with a hunting party: Halaka perceives him, and, in order that his captive may not be forcibly taken away, presents her to him. We believe we must twice recognize the hunter in the two persons respectfully stooping down between the prince and the fairy, who are standing: in the first row he is offering his captive; in the second he receives the reward for it. Leemans was wrong in speaking of “a few women of rank” : Manohara is the only person of her sex. It goes without saying that, as in our stories love springs up immediately between the young people.

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007: The Chaplain advises Sudhana’s Father to send him to War

A king, seated in his palace, in the midst of his court, is in conversation with a Brahman. Without the text we should never be able to guess that this king is the father of Sudhana, and that the interlocutor is his purohita, or chaplain, the traitor of the melodrama. The latter is in the act of perfidiously counselling his master to confide forthwith to the royal prince the perilous task of subduing a rebellious vassal, against whom seven expeditions have already failed.

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008: Sudhana takes leave of his Mother

The unhappy prince, in despair at having to leave his beloved Manohara, obtains permission to say farewell to his mother before beginning the campaign, and begs her to watch over his young wife. That the bas-relief does, in fact, represent an interview between a mother and a son is clearly proved by the higher seat of the queen and the respectful attitude of the prince.

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009: Sudhana is joined by Pancika and the Yaksas

Sudhana, as it is written, stopped “at the foot of a tree” near to the rebellious town. Fortunately, Vaisravana, one of the four gods who reign in the air, foreseeing his defeat, sends to his aid his general Pancika with a troup of Yaksas, or genii. These are the “five giants, or evil spirits”, mentioned by Leemans. The latter continues :

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010: The Chaplain advises the King to sacrifice Manohara

“A prince, seated in his house with his wife and two servants, is giving audience to six men, perhaps wise Brahmans, with whom he is engaged in a very animated conversation... ” Here, again, it is only from the text that we learn that the locality of the scene is transferred back to Hastinapura, the capital of northern Pancala, and that the father of Sudhana is asking his Brahman astrologers for an explanation of a bad dream. The wicked chaplain takes advantage of this to prescribe, among other remedies forestalling such bad omens, the sacrifice of a Kinnari. The king seems to make a gesture of protest, and his wife shows manifest signs of sorrow.

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011: Manohara makes her Escape

But in the heart of the king the instinct of self-preservation at last gains the victory. Thus, on the following picture we see the fairy Manohara, with the assent, and even the complicity, of the Queen Mother, flee away gracefully through the air.

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012: Sudhana returns victorious to the Capital

Meanwhile Sudhana, by the aid of the genii, has triumphed, without any shedding of blood. His mission fulfilled, he re-enters the capital, and begins by presenting to his father the taxes which he has recovered and the tribute of submission from the rebels. We shall not fail to observe the grace and suitability of the attitudes of the various persons.

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013: Sudhana once more meets his Mother

The prince has no sooner remarked the disappearance of Manohara and learned the “unworthiness and ingratitude” of the king than he again has recourse to his mother : it is interesting to compare this interview, in respect of variety of attitude, with that at which we were present above (Panel 8).

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014: Manohara tells her Father about her adventures on Earth

Once again a royal personage is presented to us, seated in his palace in the midst of his court; but this time he has a halo. By this sign we shall recognize here, as well as in Panels 17 and 18, Druma, king of the Kinnaras. It is, therefore, his daughter, Manohara, who, crouched at his left, is relating to him the story of her romantic adventures on earth. It results, further, from this that the scene is suddenly transported beyond the first chains of the Himalayas to the distant and inaccessible country of the genii and fairies. The sculptor does all that he can to vary in imagination, if in execution he hardly succeeds, the places and persons.

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015: Sudhana asks the Seer for Manohara’s whereabouts

However Sudhana has set himself to search for his beloved. It occurs to him to enquire of the anchorite, whose incautious words formerly led to the capture of the fairy by the hunter. Now it happens that the faithful Manohara, bearing no malice, has left with this same rsi a ring and an itinerary, which he is respectively to deliver and to communicate to the prince.

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016: Sudhana reaches the KInnara city and presents Manohara’s Ring

Without allowing himself to be discouraged by the length and terrible difficulties of the journey, the hero of the story at last succeeds in reaching the city of king Druma. At this very moment a crowd of Kinnaris is engaged in drawing water in great quantities for the bath of the princess because, they say, of that human odour which she has brought back with her from the earth, and which will not disappear. Sudhana takes advantage of this to throw the ring of recognition into one of the pitchers, which he recommends to the servant as the first to be emptied over the head of Manohara. According to the text the trick is played without the knowledge of the Kinnari, but according to the panel, so elegant in its morbidezza, it cannot be that she is deceived concerning the intention of the gesture and the motive for the recommendation of the young man.

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017: Sudhana proves his prowess to Manohara’s Father

Without allowing himself to be discouraged by the length and terrible difficulties of the journey, the hero of the story at last succeeds in reaching the city of king Druma. At this very moment a crowd of Kinnaris is engaged in drawing water in great quantities for the bath of the princess because, they say, of that human odour which she has brought back with her from the earth, and which will not disappear. Sudhana takes advantage of this to throw the ring of recognition into one of the pitchers, which he recommends to the servant as the first to be emptied over the head of Manohara. According to the text the trick is played without the knowledge of the Kinnari, but according to the panel, so elegant in its morbidezza, it cannot be that she is deceived concerning the intention of the gesture and the motive for the recommendation of the young man.

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018: Manohara’s Father gives his daughter to Sudhana

The stratagem succeeds : Druma, warned by his daughter of the arrival of the prince, after threatening to make mincemeat of him, is appeased, and consents to prove him. The bas-relief represents Sudhana standing at the left, his bow bent, ready to pierce seven palms with one single arrow; on the right Druma, seated and with a halo, witnesses his prowess.

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019: Musicians and Dancing Girls in the Kinnaras Court

The newly-wedded couple lead a life of pleasure in the midst of the gynaeceum. According to the customary Indian and Javanese formula these delights are provided by a dancing girl, accompanied by an orchestra of musicians of both sexes. As Leemans has shrewdly remarked, the royal couple do not seem to pay great attention to these amusements : they do not, in fact, suffice to cure the prince of homesickness.

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020: Sudhana and Manohara gives gifts and return to Hastinapura

And this is why, on the following and last picture, we see him and his wife signalizing by a distribution of bounty their return to Hastinapura. Here, we believe, ends, both on the monument and in the text, the story of Sudhanakumara and the Kinnari Manohara, or, as we may translate it, of Prince Fortunate and the fairy Charming.

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1: The Traditions about Sudhana 2: The Traditions about Mandhata 3: The Traditions about Rudrayana 4: The Birth Story of Bhallatiya 5: The Traditions about Maitrakanyaka

 

Photographs and Text by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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