Stefan Baums, "Inscribed Buddhist Tablets from Merv"

Fig. 3. Merv Tablet 1 (mirrored). Photo: Courtesy of Nona Avanesova and Kazim Abdullaev.


The 1962 excavations at the Buddhist site of Gyaur-kala in Merv, Turkemistan, brought to light seven identical clay tablets, each containing a central scene with a buddha, the bodhisattva Maitreya, and a stūpa, surrounded by a Sanskrit inscription in seven lines. This article discusses the tablets and presents the first complete decipherment and reading of the inscription, which is shown to combine the ye dharmā formula with the list of thirty‐seven bodhipakṣika dharma. The inscription is compared with literary antecedents and epigraphic paralells from other parts of the Buddhist world.