[INDOLOGY] Fwd: Black soot with oil (maSi) & turmeric powder (mRtsnaa) used in writing on palm leaves

Christophe Vielle christophe.vielle at uclouvain.be
Thu Nov 26 21:15:06 UTC 2015

On behalf of N. Ganesan :

> De: "N. Ganesan" <naa.ganesan at gmail.com>
> Objet: Rép : Black soot with oil (maSi) & turmeric powder (mRtsnaa) used in writing on palm leaves
> Date: 26 novembre 2015 21:10:43 UTC+1
> Dr. Dominic Goodall wrote:
> <<< 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 ?  >>>
> To understand the verse quoted in Khmer inscription, again parallel passages in old Tamil literature helps. In Tamil, ezutu (எழுது-) means "to paint", which later on also came to be employed as "characters" (=ezuttu, எழுத்து). There is a Prabandha genre called "MaDal Urtal" in which the hero rides a palmyrah horse, holding the painting of the heroine who refuses to marry, thus making their love public. The painting on palmyrah leaf-fan is called "paTam ezutu-tal". A famous TirukkuRaL is:
> ezutuGkAl kOlkANAk kaNNEpOl kONkan
> pazikANEn kaNTa iTattu
> எழுதுங்கால் கோல்காணாக் கண்ணேபோல் கொண்கன்
> பழிகாணேன் கண்ட இடத்து
> Here, ezutuGkAl = while painting. & kOl = brush used to apply kohl/collyrium
> Rev. Dr. G.U.Pope Translation:
> The eye sees not the rod that paints it; nor can I
> See any fault, when I behold my husband high.
> ---------------------------------------
> Until now, three palm species are employed for writing/incising in south India (Borassus flabellifer, Corypha umbraculifera, Corypha utan). In Tamil, their names are panai, tALip panai & cItALi. cItALIp panai lives 100+ years, flowers only once and then dies; this sri-tALi palm is represented in Indus valley tablets also. Like kAz "black" becomes kAla "yama" & paza "fruit" > phala in Sanskrit, tAzai becomes tAla 'palms'. These palm leaves are treated with turmeric powder. tAzai is common name for palms and pandanus in Tamil. In Telugu and further north, tAzai is cognate with tADi "toddy" palm.
> There is another closely related species to that of palms, whose flower leaves/petals (called maDal,
> Olai, ODu, tODu) are used to write secret, short messages such as love letters. It is the Pandanus flower petals, and no stylus is used. Only a brush is used to write some secretive symbols. Even the bronze age writing of symbols in Indus valley should have started like this on leaves of pandanus, palms and cotton cloth. W. A. Fairservis' book shows how the famous fish symbol comes from painting. 
> "In contrast to lontar-leaf manuscripts, which make up the vast majority of all
> known palm leaf manuscripts from Lombok to Sumatra, use of the nipah leaf
> as writing support has been the subject of only limited codicological research,
> receiving almost no attention in the literature (Van der Molen 1983:88). The
> only testimony to the use of nipah leaves for writing material is De Clercq (1927,
> as quoted in Van der Molen 1983:89), who states that he heard that formerly, in
> the hinterlands of South Sumatra, and perhaps up to the time of his report,
> nipah were used for writing ephemeral love letters. " Aditia Gunawan, 2015.
> Reading this reminds of what is said about ephemeral writing/painting symbols on pandanus flower petals. The pandanus flower "leaf" is large enough for writing symbols, and 3 Jaina epics record this mode of "writing" (actually painting) on pandan flowers.
> Pandanus flowers - of pale yellow color - used as writing support base,
> and the yellow makaranda powder of these large flowers is referred to
> in the Khmer inscription. Panadanus leaves are called Kaama's sword,
> and the flowers as arrow of Kaamadeva in 100s of poems in Tamil.
> Obviously, the pollen powder (which is like turmeric powder) is mentioned in
> the inscription.
> http://www.allposters.com/-sp/Pandan-Pandanus-Amaryllifolius-Posters_i10044020_.htm
> http://www.flickriver.com/photos/upuliishm/popular-interesting/
> http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/ai387e/ai387e08.htm
> Cilappatikaaram refers to Maadhavi, the courtesan, writing to Koavalan
> on pandanus flower-leaf. The letters/symbols were painted red
> using red cotton flower dye (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombax_ceiba ).
> This red-cotton tree is 'cempaJcu'  or 'ceG-kOGku' in Tamil. All this is in:
> http://www.tamilvu.org/slet/l3100/l3100uri.jsp?slno=1000&subid=1000015
> You can see why panadus leaf is called Manmatha's sword here,
> http://fairfun.net/my2/flora_my/flora_my-m/flora-mn/mp/pdpasp01c.htm
> In Ciivaka CintaamaNi, pandanus is called "arampai" and compared with
> a sword. Using this book verses, G. U. Pope showed a century ago that
> aNaGkan is the source for the word, anaGga (= Kaama) in Sanskrit.
> The only cultivated species of pandaus is called rampai in Tamil (& also in Sinhala, Hindi).
> Rampai (pandan) leaves are fragrant & is used in making biryanis, also baking along 
> with meat. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandanus_amaryllifolius 
> arampu-tal "to torment" seems to be the source for the devaloka gaNikA, rambhaa.
> https://groups.google.com/forum/#!msg/vallamai/MeUVJPnDL2A/gZd_6HmxCgAJ
> Her thighs, compared with banana tree, gives one name for banana tree as arampai.
> In KonguvELir's PeruGkatai (a rendering of Brhatkathaa), the heroine's forehead
> is treated as pandanus "flower-leaf" and used for writing to send secret messages. 
> Cintamani explicitly compares the heroine's forehead with panadanus "flower-leaf"
> The chapter is called "muka ezuttuk kAtai": 
> http://www.tamilvu.org/slet/l3600/l3600son.jsp?subid=3629
> Hope the Khmer inscription mentioning pandanus flower as arrow of Kaama,
> and the poet's play of the pandan makaranda used in writing (implicitly referring
> to the similar colored turmeric used on palm leaves) is clear in:
> yadīyaṃ śaramṛtsnābhir yyaśaḥ kāmena kāntijam
> hṛdyaṃ hṛdi varastrīṇāṃ lagnaṃ likhitam akṣaram
> Hope this beautiful inscription is translated in full.
> Kind regards,
> N. Ganesan
> BTW, the famous GuDimallam lingam, the most ancient in India, has pandanus flower bracts decorating the axe-bearing god's
> head. Being a product of Neytal seascape, the pandanus bracts are apt. So, I presented a paper in 16th WSC, Bangkok
> suggesting GuDimallam linga is really VaruNa, the god of Neytal landscape. In Sangam literature, a tree is the symbol of
> a chieftain's and his capital is named after the VaruNa tree. The word, linga, occurs in Tamil for the first time associated
> with VaruNa tree & provides support for Gudimallam linga as VaruNa. Siva is not mentioned in Tolkaappiyam at all.

Christophe Vielle

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