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Buddha’s teachings shine in golden manuscript

Treasured treatise:A full page of manuscript with Gold inlays.

Treasured treatise:A full page of manuscript with Gold inlays.  

Gyetongba, a compendium in Tibetan script, is being restored at a Darjeeling monastery

The Buddha said his teachings should be evaluated as rigorously as people would gold. Now, they can be read in gold. A trove of more than 600 pages of rare Tibetan manuscripts with his teachings written in gold letters has been restored at a 100-year-old monastery in Alubari in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district.

Restoration of the gold-inlaid manuscripts in two volumes at the Mak Dhog Monastery started earlier this year. Mingyur T.L. Yolmo, general secretary of Yolmawa Buddhist Association of India, the body that runs the monastery, said that the manuscripts contain the ancient Tibetan text called Gyetongba , which contains teachings of Buddhism. The manuscripts are in the Tibetan script Sambhota, named after its inventor.

Monastery shaken

Mr. Yolmo said that while the Association could restore the damage suffered by the monastery in the 2011 Sikkim Earthquake, external help was required to restore the manuscripts, which are centuries older than the monastery itself.

The restoration work is being done by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). “It was while assessing the damage that our experts came across the manuscripts. They were in a very bad condition and required urgent attention,” G.M. Kapoor, convenor, INTACH, West Bengal, said. The trust has provided over Rs. 10 lakh for the project.

Experts who worked on the restoration said that while one volume contained 322 pages, the other had 296 pages. They fumigated using anti-fungal chemicals, stitched and used adhesives on the frayed pages.

Phurba Thinley Yolmo, a priest, said that both the volumes are similar and a few pages are missing from the 296-page volume. Each volume contains 8,000 verses. “Our forefathers brought it to Darjeeling from Helambu in Nepal in the early 18th century. When the monastery was built in 1914 to foster peace, the manuscripts were kept here,” he said.

Vandana Mukherjee, an expert on Tibetan Studies, said that Gyetongba is as important to Tibetans as the Gita is to Hindus.

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