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Lotus Sutra Manuscripts

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Gilgit Lotus Sutra Manuscripts from the National Archives of India, Facsimile Edition (2012)

Published by the National Archives of India, the Soka Gakkai and the Institute of Oriental Philosophy
Date of publication: March 24, 2012
ISBN: 978-4-88417-031-8
Edited by Noriyoshi Mizufune
Copy date: 6th-7th centuries CE
Number of folios: xxxii + 235 + 10 (total 277 folios)
Type of publication: color facsimile
Language: Sanskrit, English, and Japanese


Many Buddhist scriptures were found at a site where monks had lived in Naupur near Gilgit (presently controlled by Pakistan) in Kashmir, in 1931. They included manuscripts of the Sanskrit Lotus Sutra. Most of them were written on birch bark that had not decayed or decomposed. The near-freezing temperature there was also helpful in preserving them over the centuries. Some of them were written on paper, which are seemingly very early paper products, and imoirtant material for the history of paper.
    The manuscripts of the Lotus Sutra belong to the oldest ones we know of, which can be classified into three groups: A, B, and C. Fortunately, colophons to Group A and Group C are preserved. The colophons are very precious because they mention the donors’ names and their positions, and suggest how the faith in the Lotus Sutra during that period was really like.
    Most of the Lotus Sutra manuscripts are preserved at the National Arechives of India, though some remain outside India. In 1974, Raghu Vira, Founder of the International Academy of Indian Culture, and his son, Lokesh Chandra, Director of the International Academy of Indian Culture, first published a facsimile edition of the voluminous Gilgit manuscripts of the Lotus Sutra from the National Archives. In 1982, Oskar von Hinüber published fragments of 30 folios, which are preserved today in Kashmir, as A New Fragmentary Gilgit Manuscript of the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra.

This color facsimile edition of the Lotus Sutra manuscripts preserved at the National Archives of India was published in cooperation with the Archives, Dr. L. Chandra, and Dr. von Hinüber.
    The article dedicated to the publication, “The Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra at Gilgit: Manuscripts, Worshippers, and Artists” by von Hinüber reads, “All those observations around the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra manuscripts demonstrate that this text was firmly ebedded in the Buddhist culture of Gilgit during the reign of the Palola Ṣāhis from the late sixth to the early eighth centuries. The literary tradition of the text was cultivated by copying manuscripts of the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra. As far it is possible to draw conclusions from the colophons, these manuscripts were used in worship… Consequently, the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra manuscripts recovered from the Gilgit Library not only preserve for the first time, without being complete however, large parts of the text. For the presence of the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra is, moreover, felt in many areas of Buddhist religion and Buddhist culture in ancient Gilgit. This is by far more than any other find of manuscripts from ancient Indian can tell about the immediate impact of the Lotus Sūtra.”

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