The Buddha and the Sacred Site

Phra Malai Manuscript

  • 8
  • Thailand
  • Early 19th century
  • Folding book manuscript, Thai-language text in Khom script, with 24 paired illustrations; ink and color on <em>khoi</em> paper
  • H. 5 1/2 x W. 26 1/4 in. (14 x 67 cm) (closed)
  • The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations, Spencer Collection, MS.22

These pages illustrate the Thai monk Phra Malai (on the right) and a stupa in the Realm of the Thirty-three Vedic Deities ruled by the god Indra (on the left). This stupa, known as the Chulamani Cetiya, can be considered the archetype of all Buddhist stupas. According to Buddhist texts, a Brahman named Drona was charged with distributing eight portions of the Buddha's cremated remains. No sooner had he hidden the Buddha's right eyetooth in his turban for safekeeping than the god Indra swooped down from his heaven and snatched it. Indra installed it in the Chulamani stupa to make it an object of worship for gods who have yet to attain enlightenment and are still subject to the laws of cause and effect.

PHOTO CREDIT: New York Public Library

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