On Air 2: A Tiny Christmas Gift

Five more digitised Sanskrit manuscripts have been recently added to the Cambridge Digital Library.

Add.1605 is a paper manuscript of a Nepalese commentary on the Anaṅgaraṅga, a 15th- or 16th-century erotic treatise composed for the Muslim aristocrat Lāḍakhāna, son of Ahmad of the Lodī dynasty.

Add.1649 is a palm-leaf manuscript of the Siddhisāra, an unpublished work on astrology and divination attributed to the Nepalese king Jayajyotirmalla (1408–1428 CE). This manuscript is probably the only extant witness for this work and has been written during Jayajyotirmalla’s reign.

Add.1703 is a palm-leaf manuscript of an important Tantric work on rituals, the Vajrāvalī, compiled by the famous abbot of Vikramaśila monastery, Abhayākaragupta (late 11th–early 12th century CE). According to the colophon, this manuscript was written in the famous Golden Monastery (hiraṇyavarṇavihāra) in the city of Pātan in the Kathmandu valley, during the reign of Jayajyotirmalla’s successor, Jayayakṣamalla (1428-1482 CE).

Add.2251.2 is one palm-leaf folio of the Jayamaṅgalā of Yaśodhara (fl. 13th century), a commentary on the Kāmasūtra of Vātsyāyana Mallanāga. This folio was inserted by mistake in place of the original folio 80 of manuscript Add. 2151.1, a complete palm-leaf manuscript of the same work.

Add.2251.3 is one palm-leaf folio of Kālidāsa’s Kumārasambhava. Although being in the same bundle as Add.2251.1 and Add.2251.2, this stray leaf is not related in any way to the other two manuscripts, since both the kind of palm leaf and the script are in fact entirely different.

Perso-Indica at Cambridge

During the past week, Dr Audrey Truschke (Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge) has been assisting with the Sanskrit manuscript project. Audrey was brought in to catalogue a few manuscripts that mix Sanskrit and Persian texts, and she found several treasures. The two major works she examined are:

  • Two Persian and two Sanskrit manuscripts bound together that belonged to E.B. Cowell, the first professor of Sanskrit at Cambridge (appointed in 1867) who was also a connoisseur and translator of Persian poetry. The four texts in this particular manuscript (Or. 274) are all poetry, and three of the four works have marginal notes in Cowell’s hand. Few people know both Sanskrit and Persian today, and this manuscript attests to the immense linguistic skills of nineteenth-century Orientalists and their wide-ranging appreciation of Indian literary cultures.
  • A notebook of Samuel Lee, a noted Orientalist of the first half of the nineteenth century who served as professor of Arabic and later Hebrew at Cambridge. The present manuscript contains works in Persian, Arabic, and Hindustani. In addition, the backsides of a number of folios contain an unfinished Sanskrit vocabulary list (accompanied by English translations) that Lee may have been keeping as he tried to learn the language. However, the list is rather sparse and contains some odd translations, which suggests that Samuel Lee, like so many, found Sanskrit an incredibly difficult tongue.

Although such bilingual manuscripts are few in number in the Cambridge University Library manuscript collections, we hope that they will prove to be interesting for scholars working in the field of Indo-Persian studies (more about this area of research here and here).

On Privileges: the Kollam Plates at the Cambridge University Library

On 1-2 October Dr. Vincenzo Vergiani attended a seminar on the Kollam Plates at the British Museum, organised by Dr Elizabeth Lambourn (Principal Investigator, Reader in South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies, De Montfort University) and Dr Roberta Tomber (Co-Investigator, British Museum) of the AHRC Research Network ‘Routes, Networks and Communities in the Medieval Indian Ocean’.

These copper plates draw their name from Kollam, an ancient port town on the coast of Kerala, and are also known as the Sthanu Ravi Plates, after the local ruler under whom they were issued (ca. 849 CE). They award trade privileges to two merchant associations, the Manigramam, an indigenous south Indian group, and the Anjuvanam, probably representing West Asian interests, who were associated to an eastern Christian church at Kollam. The documents are mainly written in Tamil in the Vaṭṭeḷuttu script, but they also bear 11 names in Arabic, in the Kufic script, 10 names in Middle Persian-Pahlavi, and a four names in Judaeo-Persian, of individuals who probably witnessed the grant on behalf of the larger groups. The names are not autograph signatures per se but rather group testimonials.

The University Library in Cambridge holds a set of brass plates reproducing the text of the original Kollam Plates in reverse, to be used for printing (ms Oo.1.14). These were commissioned in 1805 in Cochin on the initiative of the Scottish missionary Claudius Buchanan and were later used to produce a set of prints, also held in the University Library. Apart from their obvious historical interest, the importance of the Cambridge plates lies in the fact that they preserve a more complete text of the ancient document, without the gaps occurring in the originals, which must have suffered damage in the course of the 19th century. As the Cambridge plates are a unique item in the University Library collections, they will be included in the online catalogue of the Sanskrit Manuscript collections even though, strictly speaking, they are inscriptions rather than manuscripts.

Works in Progress

The Sanskrit Manuscripts Team has started the work on the critical edition of a number of important texts preserved in the South Asian manuscripts holdings of the Cambridge University Library:

  • Add. 1409, a palm-leaf autograph of the Rāmāṅkanāṭikā, a drama written in Nepal by the Buddhist author Dharmagupta and dated Nepāla Saṃvat 480 (1360 CE). The identity of author and scribe is clearly stated in the colophon on folio 140v:
    śrīdharmaguptaḥ kṛtī | pitrā putrakṛpāpareṇa nipuṇaṃ śāstrānvayaṃ śikṣita etām bhāvarasojjvalāṃ sa kṛtavān rāmāṅkitān nāṭikāṃ | śreyo’ stu | samvat 480 śuklaikadaśamyāṃ ravi vāso | tenaiva dharmaguptena śrimatā rāmadāsinā | bālavāgīśvareṇeyaṃ likhitā rāmāṅkanāṭikā || śubham astu sarvadā ||
    Two more manuscripts of this work have been catalogued by the NGMCP (reel no. C 6-9/inventory no.57047 and reel no. A 351-13/inventory no. 57048). One of them (C 6-9) is dated Nepāla Saṃvat 496 (1376 CE), i.e. only 16 years after the Cambridge manuscript. The short time-span between the two witnesses is a fortunate opportunity that will allow the editors to study the earliest phases of transmission of the text and, hopefully, enable them to find traces of author’s variants.
  • Add.1649, probably a codex unicus (of an extremely early date, 1412 CE) of the Siddhisāra, a work on astrology and divination. According to the colophon, the author is the Nepalese king Jayajyotirmalla (1408–1428 CE).
  • Or. 727, a palm-leaf manuscript of the Tantrākhyāna, dated Nepāla Saṃvat 604 (1484 CE). Most probably, this is the codex unicus of the complete Sanskrit version of the Nepalese recension of the Pañcatantra. Despite an early article by C. Bendall with an analysis of the content of the manuscript and a sample edition and translation of some tales, this Nepalese recension has been always studied on the basis of manuscripts of the Newari version, in which only the subhāṣitas at the beginning of each tale are in Sanskrit.

Wish us luck!

Cambridge Festival of Ideas

Within the framework of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas 2012, the Sanskrit Manuscripts Project team has prepared a poster exhibition on the South Asian holdings of the Cambridge University Library:

Words and Images from Ancient India

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Common Room, Wednesday 24 – Saturday 27 October, Monday 29 October – Friday 2 November, 10am – 5pm.

The Director of the Project, Dr. Vincenzo Vergiani, will give a talk illustrating the

importance of the UL South Asian manuscripts collections for the understanding of pre-modern Indian civilisation:

A Scholar’s Dream

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, room 8-9, Saturday 27 October 11am-12am.

Lecture by Dr Elisa Freschi

Dr Elisa Freschi (Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia, Centre for Studies in Asian Cultures and Social Anthropology, Austrian Academy of Sciences) will give a talk on “Rule-extension strategies in Mīmāṃsā, Śrautasūtra (and Vyākaraṇa): tantra and prasaṅga”, on Thursday 1 November 2012, 11.30 am, room 313, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

Digvijaya, or A Tour of Presentation of Sanskrit Manuscripts in Northern and Central Europe

In the frame of the Fourth International Indology Graduate Research Symposium held at the University of Edinburgh, on September 5th Dr. Cuneo and Dr. Formigatti delivered a paper with the title From the Shelves to the Web: Cataloguing Sanskrit Manuscripts in the Digital Era.

On the occasion of the international seminar The State and Society at Peace and War in Indian Literature and Art held at the University of Warsaw from 13 to 15 September 2012, besides delivering two individual papers, Dr. Cuneo and Dr. Formigatti presented the Sanskrit Manuscript Project and its latest achievements.

On Air: Sanskrit Manuscripts in the Cambridge Digital Library

The first fifteen entries of the Sanskrit manuscripts catalogue are now available on the Cambridge Digital Library platform of the Cambridge University Library. Different criteria lie behind the choice of the manuscripts described in this first release. The main aim is to provide an overview of the variety and richness of the Sanskrit manuscripts collections.

The representativeness of the manuscripts is the first aspect we have taken into consideration. The core of the collections consists chiefly of Nepalese manuscripts, collected in Nepal by Daniel Wright and Cecil Bendall during the last decades of the 19th century. Accordingly, seven items are manuscripts that were either written or kept in Nepal (Add.875 Suvarṇaprabhāsa, Add.1277 Aparamitāyudhāraṇīsūtra, Add.1396.01 Raghuvaṃśaṭīkā, Add.1578 Devīkavaca, Add.1611 Avadānaśataka, Add.1688 Pañcarakṣā, Or.149 Sekanirdeśapañjikā).

Moreover, manuscripts belonging to different South Asian religious traditions have been selected. An important section of the collections consists of Jaina manuscripts, therefore this release includes two important Jaina works (Add.1765 Kalpasūtra and Or.127 Tattvārthādhigamasūtra), and one manuscript of a general brahmanical affiliation, but written in a Jaina milieu (Add.2329 Bṛhatsaṃhitā). Brahmanism is represented by two manuscripts of Vedic texts, the Ṣaḍviṃśabrāhmaṇa (Add.908) and the Maitrāyaṇīyopaniṣad (Add. 1103). The strong presence of Buddhist manuscripts in the collections is reflected by five items (Add.875, Add.1277, Add.1611, Add.1688, Or.149), representative of both Mahāyāna and Tantric Buddhism.

Manuscripts of texts belonging to different literary genres have been also included. Alongside a manuscript of a hitherto unpublished commentary on Kālidāsa’s Raghuvaṃśa (Add.1396.1), one may also find a manuscript of the Yājñavalkyaśikṣā (Add.1936) and a very old palm-leaf manuscript of Yaśodhara’s Jayamaṅgalā, the most important commentary on Vātsyāyana’s Kāmasūtra (Add.2251.1).

Other criteria for the choice are the writing material and the script employed. Besides palm leaf and paper manuscripts, also one specimen of a birch-bark manuscript and two Nepalese manuscripts on black paper (nīlapattra) have been included. As to the types of handwriting, different Nepalese scripts are represented, as well as Devanāgarī–both in its standard and its Jaina variant.

Last but not least, two specimens of illuminated manuscripts have been chosen, a very old palm-leaf manuscript of the Pañcarakṣā (Add.1688, dated to the middle of the 11th century) and a beautifully illuminated paper manuscript of the Kālpasūtra (Add.1765, dated to the 15th-16th century).

Lecture by Prof. Timothy Lubin

MS Add. 1645, Śivadharma, part of the colophon with the date 259 Nepālasaṃvat (1139 CE) in letter numerals.

Prof. Timothy Lubin (Washington and Lee University) will give a talk on “An Early Sectarian Adaptation of Manu’s Social Model: Chapter 11 of the Śivadharmaśāstra Edited from Cambridge University Manuscripts”, on Thursday 28 June 2012, 5pm, room 7, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.