[INDOLOGY] Re: deva+nagari

Eltschinger, Vincent Vincent.Eltschinger at oeaw.ac.at
Tue Mar 30 13:06:20 UTC 2021

For what it’s worth, again, I remember my first teacher Jacques May warning us against the use of devanāgarī, which, according to him, was “a modern, sixteenth-century invention”. I do not know what his sources for this were, but knowing his (well founded) veneration towards his Parisian teachers, especially Louis Renou, Jean Filliozat and Paul Mus, it may well have been Filliozat’s remark in the second volume of L’Inde classique, p. 678: “…le terme de nāgarī qu’on remplace communément par celui de devanāgarī, “citadine des dieux”(?), bien que cette désignation ne se rencontre pas dans les textes et paraisse n’avoir été répandue que par des pandits et surtout des Européens depuis le XVIIe siècle.”
With kind regards,

Vincent Eltschinger, korrespondierendes Mitglied der OeAW
Directeur d'études
École Pratique des Hautes Études, Section des sciences religieuses
Patios Saint-Jacques, 4-14 rue Ferrus - 75014 Paris
vincent.eltschinger at ephe.sorbonne.fr
0033 1 56 61 17 34 / 0033 7 85 86 84 05
Von: Matthew Kapstein <mkapstei at uchicago.edu>
Gesendet: Dienstag, 30. März 2021 14:48:40
An: Andrew Ollett; patrick mccartney
Cc: Indology List
Betreff: [INDOLOGY] Re: deva+nagari

For what it's worth, the Tibetan regent Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho, in his Cha tshad dpe ris of about 1687 (reproduced in "Handbook of Tibetan Iconometry" Brill 2012), lists five of the Indic scripts he gives there (nos. 9, 10, 11, 12 on plates  257-8 and 14 on 264) as NAgari, but with no "deva."  In his Tibetan gloss on the term, he simply calls it "town writing" (grong khyer gyi yi ge). Hodgson, in his 1828 "Notices of the Languages, Literature, and Religion of the Bauddhas...." reproduces a Tibetan manuscript, the model for which I estimate to date to ca. 1700, that similarly uses just NAgari, though Hodgson in his English descriptions gives Deva-n... , no doubt reflecting what was by that time accepted usage among European Indologists. (Our colleague Dragomir Dimitrov also examines these and related materials in his recent, excellent monograph The Buddhist Indus Scripts and Scriptures [Harrassowitz 2020], although I do not believe the question of deva+ is among those that occupy him there.)


Matthew Kapstein
Directeur d'études, émérite
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris

Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies,
The University of Chicago
From: Andrew Ollett <andrew.ollett at gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, March 30, 2021 7:08 AM
To: patrick mccartney <psdmccartney at gmail.com>
Cc: Indology List <indology at list.indology.info>
Subject: [INDOLOGY] Re: deva+nagari

Dear Patrick,

I too was wondering about this a while back, and received the following two references from Professor Oskar von Hinüber, which I pass on to the list because they may be of more general interest:

J. F. Blumhardt: Catalogue of the Gujarati and Rajasthani Manuscripts in the India Office Library. London1954, S.6 on the name devanagari. (https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001173373)

Walter H. Maurer: On the name devanāgarī , JAOS 96.1976, S. 101-104 (https://www.jstor.org/stable/599893)

>From these it appears that the earliest attestation of the name is in 1731, when La Croze<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maturin_Veyssi%C3%A8re_La_Croze> mentioned "Devanagari" as an alternative to "Nagari" in a letter to Theophilus Bayer, where he describes it as "the character used by Bramans," in contrast to Balabande (Balabodha), "the character used by the Marathas." (This is presumably printed in La Croze's correspondence, Thesaurus Epistolicus Lacrozianus, but I haven't tracked it down there. Blumhardt has a very brief reference on p. 6.) This is older than the reference Maurer gives, viz. to Halhed's Code of Gentoo Laws in 1776. La Croze must have based his information on books or manuscripts in Berlin.

I have not so far seen any explanation of the name, or any sources (Indian or European) prior to 1731 where it is used.


On Tue, Mar 30, 2021 at 12:45 AM patrick mccartney <psdmccartney at gmail.com<mailto:psdmccartney at gmail.com>> wrote:
Dear Friends,

Might anyone be able to pinpoint the general/specific period/text when the nāgarī lipi is divinised and qualified as devanāgarī?

The dates of 1st to 4th c. CE for its development and standard usage by the 7th c., with the modern lipi emerging in the 10th c. are reasonably clear. Though, I find it difficult to pinpoint more accurately when the lipi becomes a deva.

Are there any discussions of this in primary texts? Some sort of orthographic argument? If you catch my sense.

Thank you.

All the best,

パトリック マッカートニー
Patrick McCartney, PhD
Research Affiliate - Organization for Identity and Cultural Development (OICD), Kyoto
Research Associate - Nanzan University Anthropological Institute, Nagoya, Japan
Visiting Fellow - South and South-east Asian Studies Department, Australian National University
Member - South Asia Research Institute (SARI), Australian National University

Skype / Zoom - psdmccartney
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bodhapūrvam calema ;-)



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