Gutiyar painstakingly restores an 898-year-old manuscript inside Patan’s Golden Temple.

The essence of Kathmandu Valley’s heritage is that it remains dynamic and living: while other museums are often lifeless relics for hypothetical purposes, the capital’s temples, monasteries and stupas, despite being hundreds of years old, are still visited and observed, but also practiced, worshipped and kept alive.

One of the iconic temples is Hiranya Varna Mahavihar, located in Patan Durbar Square. Popularly known as the Golden Temple due to its impressive golden façade, Hiranya Varna Mahavihar is believed to have been built by King Bhaskar Varman in the 12th century. The temple is called “Khwa Bhaha” in Newa language.

A Buddhist monk enters the Kinkakuji temple to offer prayers. Sanjog Manandhar/TKP

Legend has it that Mahavihar was built on a spot where a rat once chased a cat (not the other way around). Because of this unusual legend, rats are still fed at this spot just before the temple closes.

As you reach Khwa Baha’s main entrance, you’ll notice two carved stone lions flanking the gate. To the right is the ticket booth, where tourists pay a mere 100 or 50 rupees entrance fee to see one of Patan’s finest examples of medieval architecture.

Built in the classical Newa courtyard style, BajaThe Hiranya Varna Mahavihar grounds are decorated with elaborate sattars and ornate prayer wheels. At its centre is a Buddhist shrine believed to be that of Swayambhu. In another corner, you can purchase butter lamps to offer to the deity.

Buddhists perform ‘Pancha Daan’ at the Golden Temple, which refers to the offering of five summer staples – rice (with and without husk), salt, money and pulses. Sanjog Manandhar/TKP

As I strolled through the courtyard, I heard a group of men engrossed in conversation. Intrigued, I followed their voices and got out my camera. Seated on chairs beneath a gold canopy, I saw them writing methodically. Coming closer, I saw that it was a slow, trance-like process. They were dipping small porcelain bowls into liquid gold and gently smearing it onto rectangular pieces of black paper.

of Guthiyars (members of the temple trust) were in fact involved in the restoration of an 898-year-old manuscript called Prajnaparamita (also known as the Prajnaparamita), which in Buddhism means “perfect wisdom” or “transcendental wisdom.” A “guti” is a traditional Newa community trust and “gutiyars” are members of that trust.

Members of Pragyaparamita Guthi restoring the Pragyaparamita script on the grounds of Hiranya Varna Mahavihar. Sanjog Manandhar/TKP

According to Hem Ratna Bajracharya, Guthiyars The Pragyaparamita, which he helped restore, revolves around understanding emptiness (roughly translated as emptiness) and the interconnectedness of all existence, and realizing the ultimate nature of reality. It is believed to be a record of 8,000 verses that Gautama Buddha preached to his 1,350 disciples some 2,500 years ago, and is considered an important text for Buddhists, who say that by following what is said in the text, Bodhi Or enlightenment.

Bajracharya also revealed that according to legend, the Pragyaparamita was written by the monk Ananda during the reign of King Abhaya Malla, the second Malla king of Nepal.

Due to their age, these manuscripts are very fragile and need to be restored every few years. Guthiyars use bad Duration (or Manmars)A special month, called the “Moon”, which occurs twice every five years in the Hindu lunar calendar, was used for the restoration of the texts, as ritual worship is restricted during this period. arrogance, of Guthiyar Find enough time (and quiet) to rewrite your entire manuscript or rewrite the damaged one.

Gold ink used to write the characters in the Prajnaparamita manuscript. Sanjog Manandhar/TKP

The first page of this 300-page book is made of a large silver plate with carvings of gods. The remaining pages are a deep black color and are locally known as ” Nil Patra. Bajracharya said the colour was achieved by coating Nepalese handmade paper with a copper sulphate solution, which is then oxidised to give it a matte black colour.

Similarly, the gold needed for the restoration is raised through donations received by the temple. “Usually, the donations alone are not enough, so guthi members come together and pool the remaining money,” says Bajracharya. “The amount of gold needed usually depends on the extent of deterioration,” he says. “This year, we only needed 11.7 grams as the damage was not that great.”

He says the black paper provides a perfect backdrop for the gold lettering, and in addition to its aesthetic value, the copper sulfate coating also protects the manuscript from pests.

Silver cover of the Perfection of Wisdom manuscript depicting the Buddha, Perfection of Wisdom and Lokeshwara. Sanjog Manandhar/TKP

Written in the Ranjana script, this text is particularly difficult to master and requires a great deal of patience and concentration, so a complete restoration of this manuscript typically takes a team of around 10 workers, all men and members of the Guthi, around 30 days.

However, this year it took just 25 days as the manuscript had deteriorated less than usual, Bajracharya revealed.

be A report published in the Nepali TimesGuthi opposes digitally scanning the manuscript, as senior members believe that scanning it would lose its tantric power.

Kumari, the living Goddess of Patan, is seen being carried to Rudravarna Mahavihar, Patan. Sanjog Manandhar/TKP

The monks of the Golden Temple recite the Prajnaparamita Sutra every day. Due to this heavy use, the golden letters will fade over time. Guthiyars To preserve and restore the textual and ritual aspects of Hiranya Varna Mahavihar.

In a rapidly changing world, where ancient traditions are often in danger of being forgotten, this is a reminder that traditions are not static, but are kept alive by the dedication of individuals who work to preserve them.

As Bajracharya aptly puts it, “This is an ancient ritual that has been practised by our family for centuries. Hence, by continuing it, the temple remains a living witness to our enduring cultural practices.”

Buddhist devotees wait for Buddhist monks and people of the Bajracharya and Shakya tribes to offer ‘Pancha Daan’ at Nagbahar. Sanjog Manandhar/TKP
Buddhist monks receive alms from devotees as they walk around Nagbahar area of ​​Patan. Sanjog Manandhar/TKP
Shaka Nyorai idol at Kinkakuji Temple. Sanjog Manandhar/TKP

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