ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Procession as Didactic: An Analysis of the Buṅga Dyaḥ Scroll from the Philadelphia Museum of Art


Prajapati Suyog - University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, History of Art, Ann Arbor, United States


10 – Stasis and Motion in the Processional Culture of Kathmandu Valley: The Buṅgadyaḥ Yātrā Revisited


An outstanding eighteenth century narrative scroll preserved at the Philadelphia Museum of Art depicts multiple events and rituals related to Buṅga Dyah, the popular Buddhist deity worshipped in Nepal’s Kathmandu valley. This form of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara has been documented since at least the eleventh century. Recognizable among an array of supplicant figures, the image of Buṅga Dyaḥ features most prominently in the narrative that culminates into the festive chariot procession which takes place annually in the city of Patan. In this paper I explore the movement of the Buddhist deity in its different forms across multiple temporalities that have been visually rendered on the scroll’s three registers. I contend that the individual narrative scenes in the Buṅga Dyaḥ scroll function as didactic elements drawing from Buddhist texts, oral traditions, contemporary practices, and recorded historic events. Rather that reading them as synecdoche for the entirety of the procession, I argue that these scenes were visual exegetical tools selectively employed in their original monastic setting. The paper discusses the Buṅga Dyaḥ scroll in three parts. The first includes a descriptive analysis of the entire scroll. The second discusses the scroll’s didactic function. And the third proposes a hierarchical narrativity based on a three-tiered system of Buddhist practice that has shaped Patan’s monastic space as well as urban fabric.