Marina Vaptzarova is a designer of sustainable luxury creating vibrant and inventive collections entirely handmade in Nepal.
Have you ever entered a place, which is not just beautiful to the eye but an enchanting experience that words cannot describe? This is exactly what I feel when entering the gate to the Kwa Baha – The Golden Temple in Patan (Nepal) – home to an interesting Daphne paper book preserving ancient Buddhist scripture.
This Newar Buddhist temple is more than a display of stunning artefacts and serene atmosphere; it is also home to a very interesting and enormous prayer book made with the fascinating Daphne paper.
I was not surprised to learn that this temple was founded in the 11th century. It holds centuries of rituals that bring this special atmosphere, along with the temple’s beautiful carvings and architectural features dating back to the early 15th century. Since then, it has retained its magnificence.
You can enter the Kwa Baha by its main entrance from the east, a narrow walkway that leads to the temple courtyard; its railings are lined with oil lamps and prayer wheels. Daily vivacious life begins with devotional services as early as three in the morning! Very few other ‘bahas’ (temples) in the Valley have rituals conducted as conscientiously as they are here at Kwa Baha.
Kwa Baha always captivated me, long before I discovered the sacred book Nil Patra, it treasures inside! This ancient 300-page book holds very large Daphne paper pages – 45cm by 15cm – it’s colossal! The name Nil Patra meaning ‘blue page’ was aptly given since each multi-layered Daphne page was effectively dyed using an old technique, in a very dark blue (nearly black) colour. It was handwritten in Newari script using gold ink along with intricate colourful illustrations.
Nil Patra holds the Prajnaparamita, a central text of Mahayana Buddhism. It combines the Sanksrit words ‘prajna’ meaning ‘wisdom’ with ‘paramita’ meaning ‘perfection’. It was written by hand in Sanskrit language using Newari script by a monk (Bikshu Ananda in Nepal, around 1115 A.D. under King Avaya Malla). This incredible book is embellished with a silver cover.
Can you notice the holes in the pages? They are made for binding purpose using a cord, tying the ancient yet strong pages together.
Devotees give offerings and pay their respects by touching the Nil Patra and receive in return blessings from the scriptures. The Nil Patra is not just a book, it is an object of devotion, opened only on special occasions and ceremonies.
About Daphne Paper
The support for this Buddhist scripture is the traditional paper from Nepal made from the bark of the daphne bush, found naturally and exclusively in the Himalayas. It has been used for centuries, playing a vital role in recording scriptures. A Senior Tibetan Lama describes this to me in a previous article, The Paper Pilgrimage.
Daphne paper has so many fascinating uses and forms in Nepalese tradition. From ritual cards used in Buddhist ceremonies to Astrology charts (an ancient and still an active practice today), national archives and paintings to headache cures! Its appearance and texture is fantastic, and it can last for so long! This is why I was inspired to create hundreds of designs since 1993 using this exceptional fiber as paper and transformed to create the innovative vegetal leather I named “Daphley”.
It’s thanks to its pages made of Daphne paper — which has natural anti-insect properties — that the Nil Patra could live through so many centuries, and more still. Often, wood pulp based paper would be eaten up by insects known as Silver Fish, but not with Daphne paper!
Imagine, in this modern age, to be able to preserve your prose and memories on such paper for centuries!
Our journals are designed to transport its user to a far away realm and get in touch with nature’s best resources.
Combining this modern and ancient theme is also our ethos of keeping tradition and ancestor knowledge alive through our products for modern and contemporary users. View a small collection here at Positive Luxury.
And if you think it is difficult to write on Daphne paper, see what mediums you can use on the various types of handmade Daphne paper in this article.