[INDOLOGY] rubrication in Indian mss.

Dominic Goodall dominic.goodall at gmail.com
Wed Nov 25 04:42:17 UTC 2015

Dear colleagues,

I am grateful for all this (for me) new information about parabaik, nipah, gebang.

Arlo is right that the āśrama-foundation charters mention blank “leaves” (riktapattra). The same ninth-century charters record (verse 98) that 6 leaf-preparers (ṣaṭ pattrakārakāḥ) are to be employed at each āśrama, as well as two scribes (lekhakau) and two librarians (pustakarakṣakau). The word pattra could, of course, be a figurative way of referring to some other writing material, but this seems unlikely.  

The “earth” used in Aditia Gunawan’s passages seems rather likely to be a blackening agent, and so, on the face of it, unlikely to be parallel to the mṛtsnā, for the same sentence in the charters refers also to maṣī, which is presumably black.  As for the possibility that mṛtsnā refers to chalk, that might have been suggested not only by the Chinese allusion to blackened deerskin but also by an awareness of parabaik-use that Christoph has informed us about.  These may have been invented later, but is also, I suppose, not inconceivable that palm-leaves might have been blackened and written upon with chalk or something similar. And yet it seemed to me odd to understand mṛtsnā to be chalk. Does mṛtsnā ever mean chalk in any other context ?  Surely mṛtsnā is almost invariably mud or clay (of differing colours), often used for smearing ? This was what led me to the idea that mṛtsnā might have been used for the kind of “rubrication” effect by smearing with a coloured substance to highlight letters or words or colophon-florets. (By the way, I notice a few instances of such smearing of colophon-florets also on the 9th-century Nepalese manuscript that transmits the Niśvāsatattvasaṃhitā, but they might of course have been added by some later user.)

But I have just now come across another intriguing passage that seems likely to throw light on the question, even if at the moment it perplexes me.  Perhaps colleagues on the list will have suggestions.

The passage in question is verse 134 of the immense 298-verse stela commemorating the foundation of the Śaiva temple known today as Pre Rup in 883 śaka. It is, of course, part of a description of the king.

yadīyaṃ śaramṛtsnābhir yyaśaḥ kāmena kāntijam
hṛdyaṃ hṛdi varastrīṇāṃ lagnaṃ likhitam akṣaram

Cœdès interpretation is this:

The glory that was born of his beauty, and that was pleasing to the heart, was a written character (akṣaram) that Kama had engraved indelibly (akṣaram) in the hearts of noble women with the powder of his arrows (śaramṛtsnābhiḥ).

(La gloire née de sa beauté, et plaisante au cœur, était un caractère d’écriture que l’Amour avait gravé d’une façon indélébile dans le cœur des nobles femmes avec la poudre de ses flèches.)

This is fine as far as it goes.  The verse recalls the convention of heroes marking their arrows with names (usually their own) before shooting them, and there is an elegant play on akṣara. But what can the “powder of his arrows” be ?  Is there some arcanum of dhanuśāstra that could explain this ? Or does the poet invite us to imagine simply that some clay or power was used to mark the name of the king upon the arrows that were then fired off by Kāmadeva ?  

But would not the compound śaramṛtsnābhiḥ fit rather better here if it were a mukhacandra-type comparison-compound ? In that case mṛtsnā could designate a writing instrument such as a stick of chalk or a slate pencil of the kind that Aditia Gunawan supposes might be referred to with the expression tanah (2015:263–264). In that case we might understand:

Kāma fixed as indelible (the letter that was) the heart-enflaming fame of his beauty [by rendering it] engraved in the hearts of lovely women by means of the pencils that were his arrows (śaramṛtsnābhiḥ).

This is attractive to me.  But then what of the ink (maṣī) in the āśrama-charters. Should one suppose that an expression whose primary meaning was slate pencil or chalk stick came to be generalised to refer to any writing instrument, a bit like the word “pen”, which no longer suggests the notion of “feathers” to most people who use it?  In other words, could mṛtsnā have come to mean “stylus” in Cambodian Sanskrit ? In that case, we would have the leaves (riktapattrāṇī), the blackening agent (maṣī) and the writing instrument (mṛtsnā) all referred to in the sentence of the āśrama-charters: riktapattraṃ maṣīṃ mṛtsnāṃ dadyād adhyetṛsādhave.

Suggestions welcome !

Dominic Goodall
École française d'Extrême-Orient, Pondicherry

> On 24-Nov-2015, at 12:59 am, Arlo Griffiths <arlogriffiths at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:
> Dear colleagues,
> However interesting the evidence for non-palmleaf writing materials in early Southeast Asia, it must not be ignored that the epigraphical passage cited by Dominic explicitly mentions palmleaf (riktapattra). I think we have to come to terms with some use of 'earth' in the contexts of writing on palmleaf. Further evidence for such a practice is furnished in some passages cited in this interesting article on manuscript culture of early Java:
> Aditia Gunawan. 2015. “Nipah or Gebang? A Philological and Codicological Study Based on Sources from West Java.” Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde / Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia 171 (2-3): 249–80. doi:10.1163/22134379-17101004.
> I attach the article hereto. The sources are in Old Javanese and in Old Sundanese language; the context is explicitly that of writing on one or the other type of palmleaf (the local term lontar comes from rontal 'leaf of palm', where tal = tāla); the word for 'earth' is tanah, which still means 'earth' in Malay/Indonesian. Aditia Gunawan briefly discusses but does not solve the problem of what purpose 'earth' would serve in writing on palmleaf.
> Best wishes,
> Arlo Griffiths
> École française d'Extrême-Orient, Paris
> Université Jean Moulin – Lyon 3 
> From: christoph.emmrich at utoronto.ca <mailto:christoph.emmrich at utoronto.ca>
> To: mkapstei at uchicago.edu <mailto:mkapstei at uchicago.edu>
> Date: Mon, 23 Nov 2015 13:18:52 +0000
> Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] rubrication in Indian mss.
> CC: indology at list.indology.info <mailto:indology at list.indology.info>
> Dear Matthew,
> Anthony Reid (A History of Southeast Asia: Critical Crossroads, 2015: 133) mentions the import of paper to SEA from China in the 15th cent., and there is the 14th cent. Niitisaararasamuccaya ms. from Kerinci. Also, there is an indication in a Bagan inscription, dated 1223, that features both the terms parabaik (i.e. other than palm leaf) and a donation of steatite in a container typical for usage on black (paper) parabaik more recently. Lammerts (2010, 232, fn. 7 and 10) points out that the terms and materials mentioned there may, but need not necessarily point to the usage of paper.
> Many thanks for raising this intriguing larger question, Matthew.
> Warmly,
> Christoph
> ----
> Sent from my iPhone
> On 23-Nov-2015, at 2:31 PM, Matthew Kapstein <mkapstei at uchicago.edu <mailto:mkapstei at uchicago.edu>> wrote:
> Dear Christoph,
> Your comment is very interesting, and there does seem to be a prima facie similarity between
> what is described in Dominic's passage and parabaik techniques. But when does paper-making
> (or parabaik-making) technology begin in SE Asia? What do we know of its early history in the
> region?
> all best,
> Matthew
> Matthew Kapstein
> Directeur d'études, 
> Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes
> Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies,
> The University of Chicago
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