Thor bu - Curiosia Indo-Tibetica

Textual and visual odds and ends from India, Tibet, and around.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

In the window of a sweet shop

The rather pompous National Mission for Manuscripts is like a sweet shop which will never open, but will distribute leaflets about how great their candies and pastries are. Furthermore, they will have a small sample in the window you can drool at. Then the only thing you can do is walk away in frustration after seeing the perennial 'opening soon' sign. The owner will never pick up the phone and if he does he will be full of promises. In fact, he will pretend that the store is open, and you're some kind of idiot for failing to notice this fact.

I don't know if anyone had noticed this before (if so, I sincerely apologize), but this particular piece here is a sample of that huge and rather delicious cake which is the Mañjuśriyamūlakalpa. A gut feeling tells me that this is none other but the Trivandrum manuscript, or at least the right half of three of its folios (the first corresponds to a portion in chapter 36). I sincerely hope that the thing is still joined with its left half which was perhaps left out here for effect. The sad truth is, however, that in Cochin I saw astrological manuscripts sawn in half (or third) so that tourist sahab looking for nice coffee table item could carry it out easier, and for the antique dealer to make double/triple profit.

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Blogger md said...

Thank you so much for sharing this discovery with us. As you can imagine, I am quite excited about this news.

3:03 am  
Blogger PDSz said...

With the greatest pleasure, Martin. Have you read the rest? Is the supposition correct that this is half (as opposed to one third) of the folios?

12:03 pm  
Blogger md said...

Up to now, I examined the image only hastily. Nevertheless, I should like to give some details as an answer to your question:
Folio 2 and 3 also contain text from chapter 36. Obviously, one side of three consecutive folios has been reproduced in this image. However, they are arranged in reverse order. So the right order is 3-2-1. The parts of the lines shown on the picture seem regularly to contain slightly less of the half of the full line. I think you are quite right in stating that one half (and not one third) of the folios are shown. But the half which is not represented here must be slightly longer than the other.
The text seen in the photographs corresponds to parts of the text in 310,29-313,28 in Vaidya's edition.
As to the script, the initial i and a couple of other features look Nepalese to me. However, some other features rather seem to point in a different direction. Well, I am not exactly famous for recognizing the provenance of a manuscript at first sight ...
There are so many interesting questions remaining.

5:27 pm  
Blogger PDSz said...

thanks for the valuable details. at least now we know how the ms. looked like. if, that is, this is the Trivandrum ms.

5:35 pm  
Blogger md said...

I guess, I already have to add a minor correction to my previous post. Obviously, in the photographs the middle part between the binding-holes, which amounts to slightly less than 50% of the whole folio, is represented.
So the left and right margins of the folios are missing.
Some other images I found are quite clear evidence for that. For,
if one searches the website of the National Mission for Manuscripts long enough, one finds more "fragments" of Ganapati's Manuscript (regarding this assumption of yours I am quite sure now, cp., item no. 37 in the list). Especially nice is the photograph in their "Third Annual Report", p. 5 (download link at And: No, they have not cut it asunder!
You have really found a small gold-mine, Peter ... I must, however, agree with you that it is not really fun yet to explore that website. It is rather very time-consuming and often even frustrating (for example, if one tries to use the database).

3:55 am  
Blogger I. S. said...

If this is the MS used by Shastri, he described it pretty poorly: "Devanagari characters" and "300 or 400 years old" ('Preface', p.[1]). It looks a lot older than that. Like others here, I can't pinpoint the script with much certainty at present, but there is nothing that seems specifically Nepalese to me. Apparently this MS is still in the collection of the Oriental Research Institute and Manuscript Library, Thiruvananthapuram, being referred to as such as recently as this year ( -- where there is also mention of the LTWA having an MS of a Bhadrakalpika, though it does not say whether in Sanskrit or Tibetan).

12:02 am  
Blogger md said...

Thanks for your valuable remarks. Regarding the provenience of the manuscript, however, the opinions seem to differ widely: Someone who certainly is also an expert on these materials stated that he is very sure about the Nepalese origin of this ms. in an e-mail message sent to me after I had posted my comment here. Regarding the whereabouts of the Trivandrum-Ms. we can be pretty sure indeed. In the Vijnananidhi catalogue (available here:, p. 112ff. we even find an accession no. for the Manuscript.

9:06 pm  
Anonymous HI said...

> Someone who certainly is also an
> expert on these materials stated that > he is very sure about the Nepalese
> origin of this ms. in an e-mail
> message sent to me after I had posted > my comment here.

I really wouldn't claim any expertise at all in palaeography; but I do have some experience with Nepalese MSS as well as with MSS from various regions of Northern India, and I would say that, without having made a careful examination/study of the MS, I have the strong impression that it is Nepalese. I would have said that it is probably from the 11th century. But certainly one should ask the opinion of those who really are expert (DA?). And of course one has to take the very intriguing colophon into consideration (let's hope that we'll soon be able to check GS's reading of that too). Was the MS perhaps written in Nepal by someone who was a visitor or an emigre?

I've always suspected that Ganapati Sastri, distinguished scholar though he was, might have misjudged the MS, having, as he did, great experience with Southern MSS but much less experience with MSS from the North, and especially older ones.

9:41 pm  
Blogger Tyler said...

The Mission is indeed a tragedy-- despite a small nucleus of dedicated people working there, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts never gave them adequate funding, and then stopped the project a year early, right before they were to make public and accessible four years of cataloging and other research. Now the work will probably never come to light. Truly a waste.

11:42 pm  
Blogger PDSz said...

Thanks for the insight, Tyler. Indeed, I was a bit harsh by taking everyone at the Mission under the same umbrella. I have also met such cases recently: there are dedicated people, but after the press brouhaha is gone and all those fashionable catchwords have been uttered, they are forgotten and it's all back to lethargy again.

1:50 am  

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