A Dharani for Each Day - The Saptavāra Tradition of the Newar Buddhists

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A Dharani for Each Day - The Saptavāra Tradition of the Newar Buddhists - Gudrun Bühnemann

Text of A Dharani for Each Day - The Saptavāra Tradition of the Newar Buddhists

  • A dhran for each day of the week:The saptavra tradition of the Newar Buddhists*Gudrun BhnemannUniversity of Wisconsin-Madisongbuhnema@wisc.edu

    AbstractThe paper discusses a group of dhrans associated with the sevendays (saptavra) of the week, with each dhran being recited on aspecific day. The visual forms of the dhrans were represented inminiature paintings in manuscripts of the saptavra texts and in wood-carvings on the struts of two Newar Buddhist monasteries inKathmandu. The paper shows that even though two members of thesaptavra group were originally male, eventually all members cameto be conceived of as feminine in Nepal. It further provides evidencethat the group is likely to have become known in Nepal by at least thelate sixteenth century.Keywords: Dhran, Saptavra, Newar Buddhism, Ganapatihrdaya,Vajravidrin, Vajravidrana

    The recitation of dhrans continues to be part of the religious practice of NewarBuddhists and to form part of the daily worship ritual in temples.1 One group ofdhrans is associated with the seven days (saptavra) of the week,2 witheach dhran being recited on a specific day. The actual texts, occasionallytermed dhran-stotras or hrdayas, are mostly3 linked as follows:

    * Several sections of this paper draw on an earlier article (Bhnemann 2006) but thematerial has been thoroughly revised and updated. I would like to thank GerdMevissen for suggestions and Manik Bajracharya for providing a photograph. I wouldalso like to thank Gerald Kozicz for helpful information.

    1 For the text and an English translation of some dhrans recited during the daily pj inshrines in the Kathmandu Valley, see Sharkey 2001: 82, 30102.

    2 Saptavra manuscripts are very widespread and must have been extant in every NewarBuddhist household at one time. They are found in many manuscript collections andare too numerous to be listed here. The recently published catalogue of the DanishRoyal Library, Copenhagen, contains descriptions of five such manuscriptsaccompanied by colour reproductions of select miniature paintings (Buescher 2011,nos 1820, 25, 26).

    3 The peculiarity of manuscript 258 in the N.C. Mehta Gallery of the Gujarat MuseumSociety on the campus of the L.D. Institute of Indology in Ahmedabad is that Mrcand Parnaavar exchange positions. One would have to examine a large number ofsaptavra manuscripts to determine whether this sequence is merely erroneous orrepresents a minor tradition.

    Bulletin of SOAS, 77, 1 (2014), 119136. SOAS, University of London, 2014.doi:10.1017/S0041977X13000955

  • Text Day of the weekVasudhrdhranstotra dityavra (Sunday)(also known as Vasudhrnmstottaraatam,Vasudhrs 108 names)4

    Vajravidran-nma-dhran5 Somavra (Monday)Ganapatihrdaya6 Mangalavra (Tuesday)Usnsavijaydhran7 Budhavra (Wednesday)Parnaavardhran8 orPrajpramitdhran9 Brhaspativra (Thursday)

    Mrcdhran10 ukravra (Friday)Grahamtrkdhran11 anivra (Saturday)

    4 The text is published in Dhh 3, 1987: 34 and 6, 1988: 12 from an unpublished collec-tion of hymns (stotra) preserved in the ntaraksita Library. It is also printed inBauddhastotrasamgraha, pp. 22021 [titled Vasudhr-nma-dhranstotra], inMahendraratna kya (1994: 367) and Dharmarj Bajrcrya (1997/1998: 15). Shortextracts are printed in Bendall (1883: 66), and references to manuscripts aregathered in Tsukamoto et al. (1989: 1178). This text differs from the longVasudhrdhranstotra, a version of which is published in Dhh 44, 2007: 12947.

    5 The text of this dhran is printed in Iwamoto 1937: 7, 2 ff. In the colophon it is calledrvajravidran-nma-dhran-hrdayopahrdayam mlastram. Another version is pub-lished in Dhh 40, 2005: 15964, from a collection titled Dhranydisamgraha (folios144a145a, 220b222b of manuscript 1335 in the National Archives of Nepal,Kathmandu, compared with the Tibetan translation). Another printed version of thetext appears in Dharmarj Bajrcrya 1997/1998: 611. Willson and Brauen (2000:296) translate part of the Tibetan translation of the dhran into English. Referencesto manuscripts can be found in Tsukamoto et al. 1989: 1489.

    6 The text was published in Iwamoto (1937: 10, 211) under the title Ganapatihrdaya. Foran English translation of the Sanskrit text, see Duquenne 1988: 344. Wilkinson (1991:242) attempted an English rendering of the Tibetan translation of a text titledryaganapatihrdaya, which is a shorter version of Iwamotos text. The dhran isalso printed in Dharmarj Bajrcrya (1997/1998: 1219). References to manuscriptsof this text can be found in Tsukamoto et al. (1989: 119).

    7 The text of this version of Usnsavijays dhran is printed in Dharmarj Bajrcrya1997/1998: 2024. For the text of the dhran (without the introductory and concludingsections) as reconstructed from one Nepalese saptavra manuscript that was reprinted inLokesh Chandra (1981, nos 3326), see Yuyama 2000: 1714. Yuyama has studieddifferent versions of this dhran. For a somewhat similar version of the text, transliter-ated by Tzu-hsien, see Yuyama 1997: 7334. References to manuscripts can be found inFilliozat 1941: 55 (with a short extract of the text) and in Tsukamoto et al. 1989: 67, 101.

    8 This dhran is printed in Dharmarj Bajrcrya (1997/1998: 2530); an extract from thetext of this dhran appears in Filliozat 1941: 40; for manuscripts, see Tsukamoto et al.(1989: 14041).

    9 Gellner (1992: 359, note 39) and Kooij (1977: 63) have already noted that the twodhrans are interchangeable. Dharmarj Bajrcrya (1997/1998) includes the text ofboth dhrans; the Prajpramitdhran is printed on pp. 2730. Manuscripts ofthis dhran are described in Tsukamoto et al. 1989: 956.

    10 The text of this dhran, edited based on manuscript 3/589 (titled Dhranydisamgraha) inthe National Archives of Nepal, Kathmandu, and compared with the Tibetan translation isprinted in Dhh 42, 2006: 1558. For the text, see also Ashikaga 1960: 1367 andDharmarj Bajrcrya 1997/1998: 314. For Mrcs dhrans, see Filliozat 1941: 55and Tsukamoto et al. 1989: 935.

    11 The text of Grahamtrks dhran, edited from manuscript 3/589 titledDhranydisamgraha in the National Archives of Nepal, Kathmandu, and compared

    120 G U D R U N B H N E M A N N

  • Manuscripts containing these seven texts are often catalogued asGrahamtrkdhran because cataloguers recorded only the title in the colophonof the last of the seven texts.

    The practice of reciting a specific dhran on a certain day of the week wasbriefly mentioned by David Gellner (1992: 127), who observed two decades agothat it was in a state of decline. It appears to be limited to Newar Buddhism andis undocumented in Indian manuscripts (Grnbold 2001: 373). The practicehelps to integrate the recitation of religious texts, especially protective formulas,into the practitioners everyday life. In a somewhat similar way, NewarBuddhists have linked the twelve Lokevaras (and Newar Hindus, the twelveforms of Nryana) with the lunar months (Bhnemann 2012: 6873, 15051;1516; 155).

    The process of assigning the seven dhran texts to the days of the week,which are presided over by specific planets, must have been accompanied bysome speculation regarding possible astral connections, even though GnterGrnbold (2001: 375) rejects this notion. In fact, there is evidence that divinitieswere associated with all of the nine heavenly bodies, as the following list,12

    which is included in a book by Pandit Hemrj kya (1991: 8), shows:

    Heavenly body Deityditya Vasu(n)dharSoma VajravidrinMangala GanapatiBudha UsnsavijayBrhaspati Dhvajgrakeyrukra Mrcani GrahamtrkRhu ParnaavarKetu Pratyangir

    In this list it is Dhvajgrakeyr who is associated with Brhaspati/Jupiter, notParnaavar or Prajpramit as before. It is unclear why the heavenly bodiesare paired with these particular divinities, but the arrangement could implythat the divinities including Ganapati were considered female and assumed afunction comparable to that of female consorts (akti). In a similar manner, adiagram in a pjvidhi text pairs the mother goddesses (mtrk) with eight hea-venly bodies (in a tradition which excludes Ketu) (Pal and Bhattacharyya 1969:32, 3940).

    with two Tibetan translations, is printed in Dhh 39, 2005: 16976. Another printed ver-sion of the text appears in Dharmarj Bajrcrya (1997/1998: 3543). Extracts of the textare printed in Mitra (1882 [1971]: 913: no. 816 B) and Filliozat (1941: 44), and manu-script material is described in Tsukamoto et al. 1989: 11415.

    12 The divinities names and iconographic descriptions of them, in a different order andwithout being paired with the heavenly bodies, are found in Pandit AmrtnandasDharmakoasamgraha, written in 1826 CE (fol. 43b.744b.1). The names areVasundhar, Vajravidrin (written Vajravidrvini), Parnaavar, Mrc (writtenMrici), Dhvajgrakeyr, Ganapatihrday, Usnsavijay, Grahamtrk and Pratyangir.

    A D H R A N F O R E A C H D A Y O F T H E W E E K 121

  • Miniature paintings in manuscripts

    Manuscripts of the saptavra texts often contain miniature paintings illustratingthe visual forms of the dhrans, one painting corresponding to each text. Theiconography varies somewhat, since most texts do not include descriptions,while in addition Usnsavijay and others are known to have multipleforms.13 In these manuscripts the days of the week on which the dhrantexts are recited may be spelled in an abbreviated form in the margins. Anexample is manuscript 4/1483, labelled ditydigrahamtrkdhran, in theNational Archives of Nepal, Kathmandu (NepalGerman ManuscriptPreservation Project, reel no. B 107/18), dated N.S. 763 (1642/43 CE), fromwhich Figures 1 to 7 of this article are taken.

    1) The first text in the manuscript is the Vasudhr-dhran, to be recited onSundays. Misled by the reference to dityavra (Sunday) in the margin, theNepalese artist painted the Sun God (Figure 1) holding a lotus in each handand seated on a green horse. But Vasudhr is clearly seen as the first