[INDOLOGY] Chronograms in Sanskrit Texts

Eric Gurevitch ericmgurevitch at gmail.com
Mon Aug 16 15:01:57 UTC 2021

Dear Jonathan,

You might find Sreeramula Rajeswara Sarma's 2012 article in *Revue
d'histoire des mathématiques*, "The Kaṭapayādi system of numerical notation
and its spread outside Kerala" helpful in historicizing this question.

Take care,

On Mon, Aug 9, 2021 at 12:02 PM Jonathan Peterson via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> Dear list members,
> I've wanted to consult the list for some time about the use of chronograms
> in Sanskrit texts. My exposure to chronograms was first as a student of
> Persian literature and court-historical writing (tārīkh), where the Abjad
> system of gematrics is regularly exploited to give a date of an event or
> composition as a secondary meaning of a phrase or word. A well-known
> example from the Mughal context being:
> ای وای پادشاه من از بام اوفتاد
>  "*ay, wāy, pādishāh-i man az bām ūftād*”
> "Oh! Woe! My emperor fell from the roof!"
> After letting “ay” "fall from the roof,” i.e., subtracting it from the
> gematric value of the rest of the phrase, we get the Hijri date of
> Humayun’s fall from his library and subsequent death.
> For a couple years now I’ve been nurturing a side-project on the poetic
> writings of a student of Bhaṭṭoji Dīkṣita named Nīlakaṇṭha Śukla.
> Nīlakaṇṭha lived in Bananas in the seventeenth century. He uses chronograms
> in the closing verses of a handful of his literary writings. I know that
> chronograms had been used in inscriptional contexts for some time before
> Nīlakaṇṭha, but I would like to know more about their use both in
> inscriptional contexts and in Sanskrit or vernacular literary/poetic
> contexts. Were chronograms commonly practiced before the age of bilingual
> Arabic/Persian-Sanskrit inscriptions of the Sultanate period? Are there
> geographical patterns to their use? What are the range/frequency of uses in
> literary contexts?
> Before the changes in the Indology website, I searched for this in the
> archives and recall seeing a short discussion from the 90’s or early 2000’s
> on chronograms in inscriptional contexts, but I can no longer find it. Any
> information or insights would be greatly appreciated.
> Best wishes,
> Jonathan Peterson
> Department for the Study of Religion
> Centre for South Asian Studies
> University of Toronto
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Eric Gurevitch

PhD Candidate, South Asian Languages and Civilizations and

Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science

University of Chicago

gurevitch at uchicago.edu
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