Yantra Drawings on Palm Leaf – Sri Lanka
L.S.D. Pieris

About the Author(s)

The Author L.S.D. Pieris had an interest in the contents of palm-leaf manuscripts at a young age. In later years this led to a collection of manuscripts relating to community life and culture. The author has researched and preserved this vanishing heritage of enigmatic artifacts which are not easily accessible to the general public. He delivered the first National Trust Lecture on 31st January 2006 on “Ritual Drawings on Palm-leaf Manuscripts”. He was a banker for 40 years and has served as the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Banks’ Association. Until 2010, he was for 22 years the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Sapumal Foundation, an institution engaged in the promotion of art in Sri Lanka.

About the Book

The Yantra manuscripts featured in this publication refer to a unique tradition of Sri Lankan drawings that have been incised on palm leaf (ola). There are over 500 yantra drawings, some in exquisite detail. These include those of Buddhist and Hindu deities, spirit beings, shrines, symbols and decorative motifs, as well as linear and geometrical forms, which collectively form a pictorial language. Yantra drawings were the preserve of ritual practitioners and were closely held in the families of practitioners and artists involved in their production. These drawings mirror many strands in our cultural history: pre-Buddhist spirit cults, ideas relating to yaksha and naga mythology, Vadda beliefs and traditions that have been associated with Theravada, Mahayana and Tantrayana belief systems.

The drawings in this book are a selection from the author’s private collection, illustrating a wide range of themes which will be of special interest to students of social sciences, art history and other disciplines attempting to uncover cultural memory. They open a fascinating window into Sinhala Buddhist cultural experience, which has absorbed other religious and cultural strands.