a question on manuscript traditions

Dominic Goodall dominic.goodall at GMAIL.COM
Sun Apr 18 04:30:21 UTC 2010

>> Was it a practice in ancient India
>> to put some sort of a "divine symbol" on every page of a manuscript?

I find one 12th-century example of this sort of practice. So if the  
C12th qualifies as "ancient", then the answer is "Yes, but the  
practice appears not to have been very common."

Here are some notes from what I have to hand.

Quite a few nineteenth- and twentieth-century Nepalese MSS on paper,  
both religious and non-religious, also have raama or raama.h written  
on the bottom right-hand margin of each verso, e.g.
NGMPP B 304/8, NGMPP A 136/10 and NGMPP A366/4, all 3 Devanaagarii MS  
of the Kaavyaala"nkaarasuutrav.rtti; NGMPP A 182/2; a Devanaagarii MS  
of a "Saiva prati.s.thaatantra called the Mohacuu.dottara; NGMPP A  
375/7, a Devanaagarii MS of the Vyaakhyaasudhaa (a commentary on the  

A few Maithilii- and Newari-script MSS have "srii (sometimes with  
other ornaments) in the side margins of each verso: e.g. NGMPP A  
375/3, a Newari-script MS of the Vyaakhyaasudhaa; NGMPP A 21/25, a  
palm-leaf Maithili-script MS of the Kaavyaala"nkaarasuutrav.rtti;  
NGMPP M 172/4, a paper Maithili-script MS of a commentary on the  
Raghuva.m"sa, which has also has "sriikaalikaayai nama.h at the top  
left of each verso.

I don't think I have seen this sort of practice being followed in  
Grantha-script MSS from the South and I find no instance at the  
moment.  (There, I am used to seeing only the odd folio having hari.h  
om written in a left-hand margin, on the side on which a new text  
happens to start.)

It seems to be relatively uncommon in "Saaradaa MS too, but the codex  
unicus of the Tattvatrayanir.naviv.rti of Raamaka.n.tha has "srii in  
the bottom left of each verso (Lucknow, Akhila Bharatiya Sanskrit  
Parishad, Accession No. 2390), and quite a number of folios of a MS of  
the same author's Mata"ngav.rtti have o.m (or o.m nama.h) written in  
the centre at the top of the recto (BORI, Pune, 232, 235, 236 of  

Even in times and places where this sort of practice was common, I  
have the impression that there are rather more MSS that do not have  
auspicious words or symbols in at least one margin of every folio than  
MSS that do.

The oldest dated MS that I know of which follows such a practice is a  
proto-Newari-script MS transmitting the Praaya"scittasamuccaya (a  
"Saiva compendium of chapters from tantric works on expiation by a  
certain H.rdaya"siva).   That MS (Cambridge Add 2833) has "srii in the  
left hand margin on the reverse of every folio, just above the  
foliation.  It is dated Samvat 278 (= 1157/8 AD).

I am not aware of other MSS of comparably early date which have  
auspicious words or symbols on every folio.

Dominic Goodall

On 18 Apr 2010, at 05:45, Ashok Aklujkar wrote:

> I have come across Devanaagarii mss in which "raama" was written on  
> every
> folio. I do not have the time at present to locate their copies  
> again. My
> recollection is that they were about 300 years old.
> ashok aklujkar
> On 10-04-15 10:44 PM, "rajam" <rajam at EARTHLINK.NET> wrote:
>> Was it a practice in ancient India
>> to put some sort of a "divine symbol" on every page of a manuscript?

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