more on N āgarī

Dominic Goodall dominic.goodall at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 22 23:16:53 EST 2010


A note to add to the interesting exchanges about script-use and script  
names.

There is a passage in the Śivadharmottara that appears to recommend  
the copying of Śaiva literature using Nandināgarī letters. This has  
hitherto been assumed (in an article by R.C. Hazra and, more recently,  
by Paolo Magnone) to be a reference to the South Indian script now  
known as Nandināgarī, which reached its developed form in the  
Vijayanagara period.

mātrānusvārasaṃyogahrasvadīrghādilakṣitaiḥ|
nandināgarakair varṇair lekhayec chivapustakam|| 2.40||

But a Nepalese palm-leaf manuscript transmitting the Śivadharmottara  
has come to light that appears to have been written at the end of the  
C8th or in the C9th.  The passage in question is to be found in the  
bottom line of the bottom folio of exposure 40 of NGMPP A 12/3.  (The  
3rd pāda of the verse there reads nadīnāgarakair varṇṇair, but  
we may perhaps be justified in taking this to be a copying error.)

Nandināgarī, therefore, is not just the name of a Southern script of  
the Vijayanagara period; it is attested much earlier as a label for a  
different style of lettering.  Furthermore, I think that we can assume  
that the script in question was a Northern one from the way the  
lettering is described in the previous verse.

caturasraiḥ samaśīrṣair nātisthūlair na vā kṛśaiḥ|
sampūrṇāvayavaiḥ snigdhair nātivicchinnasaṃhataiḥ|| 2.39||

Most of these qualifications could probably be interpreted to describe  
almost any sort of characters, but it seems to me that the instruction  
that they should be neither too thick nor too thin (nātisthūlair na  
vā kṛśaiḥ) narrows the range of possibilities.  For this, it  
seems to me, is very unlikely to have been a formulation chosen if the  
author had been thinking of a scribal tradition in which letters are  
incised into palm-leaves, such as we find in the Southern, Dravidian- 
speaking areas and along much of the Eastern littoral.

Dominic Goodall



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