A puzzling palm leaf

Jaob Schmidt-Madsen jacob at FABULARASA.DK
Wed Mar 30 16:13:53 UTC 2011

Dear all

One of the palm leaves in the Sinhalese Sanskrit manuscript I am currently
working on continues to be a bit of a mystery to me. I was wondering if
any of you have encountered similar leaves, or might have an idea of what
it might be, anyway.

The leaf is broken off at both ends, and the writing is very faint, making
me suspect that it was styled but not charcoaled. Furthermore, the leaf is
not fitted with holes for binding.

Recto it reads:

Line 1-8: "[...] (b)R-bRR-bL-bLL-be-bai-bo-bau-bAm-baH-bha-bhA-bhi-bh(I)

This appears to be a list of akSaras used for pagination, here running
from 359 (bR) to 372 (bhI). Curiously, the listing does not continue down
the leaf, but instead repeats the same line eight times over.

Verso the leaf reads:

Line 1-7: "[...]

This appears to be an alphabetically (or syllabarically) ordered list of
consonantal characters with some text added (most notably the word
"akSara"). Again, the line is repeated down across the entire leaf.

You can see images of both leaves here (please note that recto and verso
have been arbitrarily assigned by the people who scanned the images for

Recto: http://florencefragments.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/leaf-6-recto.jpg
Verso: http://florencefragments.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/leaf-6-verso.jpg

So far, suggestions of what the leaf might represent have included a
scribal exercise, a reference sheet, and a kind of orthographic ritual. If
you have any more to add to the list, or any knowledge that might elevate
one of the suggestions above the others, I would be most interested to
hear from you.

Puzzled greetings,


Jacob Schmidt-Madsen
Department of Indology
University of Copenhagen

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