Krasnodemskaya N., Soboleva E. The Vessantara Jātaka Ceylon Temple Textiles from the MAE Ras Collection No. 6379 (To the Interpretation of Their Ethnocultural Meaning)

Nina Krasnodembskaya
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation
ORCID: 0000-0003-0193-3905

Elena Soboleva
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation
ORCID: 0000-0001-6137-0476


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ABSTRACT. Ceylon art specimens were demonstrated in the USSR cities at the informative exhibition of national crafts and arts and were purchased by the USSR Ministry of Culture (in 1959). The ethnocultural significance of some of the hand-painted temple veils of Buddhist content (the MAE collection No. 6379) is of particular interest. The Vessantara Jātaka is one of the most famous ones and is favored by the Sri Lankan Buddhists. It is dedicated to the penultimate birth of Buddha Gautama, the Buddha of Our Era, on Earth. The Vessantara Jātaka scenes depicted at the temple textiles MAE No. 6379-1, MAE No. 6379-2, MAE No. 6379-3 illustrate important points in the worldview of the Sinhalese, the main population of Sri Lanka, who profess Buddhism of the southern branch (Hinayana, or Theravada), also as well as testify to some of their etiquette and aesthetic predilections, and expose certain traditional features of Sri Lankan material culture (namely, the Kandy art school) that have survived to this day. Some textiles are signed by the artist Piyadasa Godamanna, and his paintings have also been identified in other Russian museums. The context of the MAE collection No. 6379 reflects the nature of social and political changes in the South Asian region during the period of gaining state independence. Rare and valuable exhibits allow to continuing the studies of aspects of the Sinhalese spiritual and material culture, to reveal the subtle features of their artistic craft and art.


KEYWORDS: Buddhism, Sri Lanka, MAE, Vessantara Jātaka, temple veils, painting, Piyadasa Godamanna 


DOI 10.31250/2618-8619-2022-4(18)-104-115



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