Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich

DEVOTION – Image, Recitation, and Celebration of the Vessantara Epic in Northeast Thailand

The Vessantara Jātaka is the story of the historical Buddha’s penultimate life. In that existence, as Prince Vessantara, he was to demonstrate the highest perfection which allows a human to become a Buddha: sacrifice. He had to show the ultimate form of generosity, by parting with everything and everyone he cared about. At the story’s dramatic climax, the prince even gave away his own wife and children.

The Vessantara story is commemorated every year in the Bun Phra Wet festival in Northeast Thailand. Long painted scrolls (‘Vessantara cloths’) provide a visual frame for this event. Our exhibition explores this contemporary multimedia celebration of the ancient Buddhist text.

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