Sheet from a Buddhist Palm-Leaf Manuscript showing Three Bodhisattvas
Artist/maker unknown, Bengali
Writing systems and books first came to the Himalayas from India. The letters used to write both Newari (a language used in Nepal) and Tibetan were adapted from North Indian scripts. The physical form used for Himalayan books-long, thin rectangles with stacks of loose pages-mimics early Indic manuscripts made of palm leaves. People in the Himalayan regions avidly collected and treasured religious books from the great Hindu and Buddhist centers to the south and west. Consequently, many of the earliest known Indic manuscripts have been preserved in the mountains. The illustrations in such books had enormous impact on local artistic traditions. The Indian palm-leaf page shown here has Buddhist paintings done in a style typical of eastern India and Bangladesh (the Bengal region) during the ninth through twelfth centuries. This type of painting transformed artistic styles in the Himalayas and beyond.