#GandharaBudhaScroll; #LibraryOfCongress; #Washington
Washington, Nov 4 (Canadian-Media): The ancient Gandhara Buddha scroll, one of the oldest Buddhist manuscripts known to the world, arrived at the Library of Congress encased in a Parker Pen box, radiocarbon dated to between the first century B.C to the first century A.D., Library of Congress reports said.
Preservationists at work on the Gandhara scroll. Credit: Library of Congress
Because of its fragility, the scroll resided in the Library’s climate-controlled “top treasures” vault for years
After digitizing the piece this year, the library and placed it online and became a source to scholars and Buddhist communities worldwide access to a little-known part of Buddhist history.
The origin of the scroll is from Gandhara, an early Buddhist center located in what is now the northern border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In 1990s A group of materials buried high in the arid mountains was unearthed there.
In 2013 The Library acquired this birch-bark scroll from the collection and it is the oldest holding in the Library’s Asian Division.
The pen box that held the scroll during shipping. Credit: Library of Congress
“This is a rare, unique item because it is very old, No. 1, and, No. 2, it does bring us, historically speaking, relatively close to the lifetime of the Buddha,” said Jonathan Loar, the division’s South Asia specialist. “It’s also one of the oldest among the couple hundred other Gandharan manuscripts known to scholars, so even within its own unique collection it stands out.”
The story of buddhas who came before and after Siddhartha Gautama is told by the scroll.
Siddhartha Gautama is the sage who reached enlightenment under a Bodhi tree in eastern India in the sixth or fifth century B.C. and who became known as the Buddha.
The narrative is in the first person and direct teaching of the Buddha regarding his divine lineage is recounted by the scribe.
When the scroll arrived in the Library, it presented servious conservation challenge even to the expert staff because of its fragility.
“It was the most fragile thing I’ve ever worked on,” said Holly Krueger, who recently retired as head of paper conservation. “It was completely unique, unlike anything I’ve ever encountered.”
The Library had to obtain the the assistance of the British Library, which had successfully unrolled some 30 related scrolls, and its chief conservator, Mark Barnard to unroll the scroll.
Special tools, including bamboo implements and glass weights, were crafted by Kruger's team, to keep the scroll down. Then, for three days in advance, it was gently humidified.
Piecing the scroll together. Credit: Library of Congress
The conservation lab in which Krueger and Barnard worked was an area with the fewest air currents because the slightest movement could cause pieces to dislodge.
After four hours of painstaking process it was ultimately successful.
The scroll was then encapsulated between two pieces of glass, and their edges sealed.
Individual fragments were placed between separate pieces of glass, and the scroll was then imaged. Earlier this year, the Conservation Division re-digitized the scroll and its fragments using advanced ultraviolet and infrared imaging.
Although the scroll lacks a title, a beginning and an end, but still retains about 75 to 80 percent of the original text.
Still today it is considered one of the world’s best-preserved examples of a Gandharan scroll.
The availability of Gandharan scrolls for study sheds new light on the earliest Buddhist literature and is beneficial to scholarly and Buddhist communities and augments what we currently know about the religion’s formative history.