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Himalayan Texts and Charms

October 23, 2004–April 24, 2005

In the Himalayas, the written word is not only a means of communication, but is imbued with magical power considered worthy of veneration. Particular books are worshipped with offerings, processed during festivals to give blessings, and are held by deities as a symbol of knowledge and power. Beautifully illustrated paper and palm-leaf pages carefully wrapped in luxurious silks and/or sandwiched between wooden covers, that may be elegantly carved and painted with pigments made from precious stones and metals, characterize many Hindu and Buddhist Himalayan books traditionally and currently. Paper charms that combine mystic texts with lively images are encased in jeweled amulets and prayer wheels or pasted to the walls of a temple or home to promote the well-being of people and their animals.

This installation showcases diverse examples of books, book covers, illuminated manuscripts, and printed charms, as well as paintings and sculptures of book-holding deities to explore the art and the power of the written word in Nepal and Tibet.

Main Building


Katherine Anne Paul, Assistant Curator, Indian and Himalayan Art

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