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Documentary heritage submitted by India and recommended for inclusion in the Memory of the World Register in 2017.

Maitreyayvarakarana is a very short text, written on palm leaf in the mixed character of Kutila and Ranjana script, a manuscript of the Pala period (at the time of Gopaladeva, 57th regna; year, approx. 10th century A.D.) is in the possession of the Asiatic Society, Kolkata. It is believed, Maitreya, the future prophet will eventually appear on earth as enlightened Buddha and teach the pure dharma. The text was written in a period when Buddhist literature faced a transition from the Sthaviravada to Mahayana school. Vyakarana in Buddhist sanskrit signifies a particular type of composition about the prophesy or prediction of the future Buddhas, as found in Navanga division of Buddhavacana. As per Mahayanic conception Vyakarana signifies a special type of Avadana-Literature relating to future Buddhahood of a being or deity or a chief disciple in a particular world. As a text is a source of ecclesiastic and iconographic inspiration to people popular throughout the Buddhist world.

Maitreyayvarakarana is a palm leaf manuscript, written in a mixed Kutila and Ranjana script. It was composed during the reign of Gopaladeva (10th century A.D), who belonged to the Pala dynasty. Currently, in the possession of the Asiatic Society, Kolkata, this document of heritage value was submitted by India for inclusion in the Memory of the World Register in 2016 and was inscribed by UNESCO in 2017. The text is a particular type of Buddhist composition known as Vyakarana, prevalent in the Mahayana school, which is related to the prophecy about the future Buddha. This formed part of the Navanga division of Buddhavacana, or texts composed of the historical Buddha’s own words. 

Maitreyayvarakarana predicts the arrival of Maitreya, a bodhisattva who at present resides in the Tushita heaven. He will descend on earth to preach the pure dharma when the teachings of Gautama Buddha have been forgotten by the people. He is the only bodhisattva who is honoured by the Theravada tradition and accepted by all schools of Buddhism. The word Maitreya is derived from the Sanskrit ‘Maitri’, which means ‘friendship’. Maitreya is supposed to be the successor of the present Buddha, known as Shakyamuni Buddha. The iconographical representation of Maitreya beautifully conveys his characteristic air of readiness. He is shown as a Boddhisattva dressed in the clothes of a monk, seated on a throne with both feet on the ground or crossed at the ankles, waiting for his time. He is often bejeweled and has a small stupa on his head that represents the stupa with the relics of Gautama Buddha. This is supposed to help in his identification when his time comes to lay claim to his succession. At times he is shown holding a spoked wheel or dharmachakra, resting on a lotus. A khata or a scarf is always tied around his waist. 

At the time when the text was written, Buddhist literature was going through a transition from the Sthaviravada to Mahayana school. The concept of a bodhisattva differs greatly in the two schools. Although all bodhisattvas are destined to become Buddhas, in Theravada Buddhism, a bodhisattva is one who is striving for full enlightenment, whereas, in Mahayana Buddhism, a bodhisattva is one who has already reached an advanced state of enlightenment but doesn’t attain salvation or nirvana on purpose, so that he may help others. Mahayana Buddhism projects Buddhas presiding over pure lands. Once Maitreya becomes a Buddha, he will rule over an earthly paradise, which has been identified as the city of Varanasi or Benaras in Uttar Pradesh, India. However, Theravada Buddhism believes Buddhas are born as unenlightened humans and do not rule any paradise. 

As a prophecy, the text of Maitreyayvarakarana is a source of divine hope. Since Buddhism is spread and practiced outside India as well, Buddhists all over the world await the arrival of Maitreya. The text has also served as an iconographical inspiration for Buddhist art and has led to the production of innumerable representations of this future Buddha, both in paintings and sculptures.