Cambridge Festival of Ideas

Within the framework of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas 2012, the Sanskrit Manuscripts Project team has prepared a poster exhibition on the South Asian holdings of the Cambridge University Library:

Words and Images from Ancient India

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Common Room, Wednesday 24 – Saturday 27 October, Monday 29 October – Friday 2 November, 10am – 5pm.


The Director of the Project, Dr. Vincenzo Vergiani, will give a talk illustrating the

importance of the UL South Asian manuscripts collections for the understanding of pre-modern Indian civilisation:

A Scholar’s Dream

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, room 8-9, Saturday 27 October 11am-12am.

Lecture by Dr Elisa Freschi

Dr Elisa Freschi (Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia, Centre for Studies in Asian Cultures and Social Anthropology, Austrian Academy of Sciences) will give a talk on “Rule-extension strategies in Mīmāṃsā, Śrautasūtra (and Vyākaraṇa): tantra and prasaṅga”, on Thursday 1 November 2012, 11.30 am, room 313, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

Digvijaya, or A Tour of Presentation of Sanskrit Manuscripts in Northern and Central Europe

In the frame of the Fourth International Indology Graduate Research Symposium held at the University of Edinburgh, on September 5th Dr. Cuneo and Dr. Formigatti delivered a paper with the title From the Shelves to the Web: Cataloguing Sanskrit Manuscripts in the Digital Era.

On the occasion of the international seminar The State and Society at Peace and War in Indian Literature and Art held at the University of Warsaw from 13 to 15 September 2012, besides delivering two individual papers, Dr. Cuneo and Dr. Formigatti presented the Sanskrit Manuscript Project and its latest achievements.

On Air: Sanskrit Manuscripts in the Cambridge Digital Library

The first fifteen entries of the Sanskrit manuscripts catalogue are now available on the Cambridge Digital Library platform of the Cambridge University Library. Different criteria lie behind the choice of the manuscripts described in this first release. The main aim is to provide an overview of the variety and richness of the Sanskrit manuscripts collections.

The representativeness of the manuscripts is the first aspect we have taken into consideration. The core of the collections consists chiefly of Nepalese manuscripts, collected in Nepal by Daniel Wright and Cecil Bendall during the last decades of the 19th century. Accordingly, seven items are manuscripts that were either written or kept in Nepal (Add.875 Suvarṇaprabhāsa, Add.1277 Aparamitāyudhāraṇīsūtra, Add.1396.01 Raghuvaṃśaṭīkā, Add.1578 Devīkavaca, Add.1611 Avadānaśataka, Add.1688 Pañcarakṣā, Or.149 Sekanirdeśapañjikā).

Moreover, manuscripts belonging to different South Asian religious traditions have been selected. An important section of the collections consists of Jaina manuscripts, therefore this release includes two important Jaina works (Add.1765 Kalpasūtra and Or.127 Tattvārthādhigamasūtra), and one manuscript of a general brahmanical affiliation, but written in a Jaina milieu (Add.2329 Bṛhatsaṃhitā). Brahmanism is represented by two manuscripts of Vedic texts, the Ṣaḍviṃśabrāhmaṇa (Add.908) and the Maitrāyaṇīyopaniṣad (Add. 1103). The strong presence of Buddhist manuscripts in the collections is reflected by five items (Add.875, Add.1277, Add.1611, Add.1688, Or.149), representative of both Mahāyāna and Tantric Buddhism.

Manuscripts of texts belonging to different literary genres have been also included. Alongside a manuscript of a hitherto unpublished commentary on Kālidāsa’s Raghuvaṃśa (Add.1396.1), one may also find a manuscript of the Yājñavalkyaśikṣā (Add.1936) and a very old palm-leaf manuscript of Yaśodhara’s Jayamaṅgalā, the most important commentary on Vātsyāyana’s Kāmasūtra (Add.2251.1).

Other criteria for the choice are the writing material and the script employed. Besides palm leaf and paper manuscripts, also one specimen of a birch-bark manuscript and two Nepalese manuscripts on black paper (nīlapattra) have been included. As to the types of handwriting, different Nepalese scripts are represented, as well as Devanāgarī–both in its standard and its Jaina variant.

Last but not least, two specimens of illuminated manuscripts have been chosen, a very old palm-leaf manuscript of the Pañcarakṣā (Add.1688, dated to the middle of the 11th century) and a beautifully illuminated paper manuscript of the Kālpasūtra (Add.1765, dated to the 15th-16th century).

Lecture by Prof. Timothy Lubin

MS Add. 1645, Śivadharma, part of the colophon with the date 259 Nepālasaṃvat (1139 CE) in letter numerals.

Prof. Timothy Lubin (Washington and Lee University) will give a talk on “An Early Sectarian Adaptation of Manu’s Social Model: Chapter 11 of the Śivadharmaśāstra Edited from Cambridge University Manuscripts”, on Thursday 28 June 2012, 5pm, room 7, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

Recipies for an Encoded Salad

The third Coffee Break Conference, “The Study of Asia: between Antiquity and Modernity,” recently held in Cagliari (13th–15th June), hosted a panel on Cybernetic Sources—The Historical Sciences in the Age of Digitization. On this occasion, Dr. Formigatti delivered a speech analyzing the advantages and shortcomings of a digital catalogue vis à vis a traditional catalogue in book form. Particular attention has been devoted to the encoding of information according to the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) standards, and to the drawbacks of its highly hierarchical organization schema. A major issue arising from the application of these standards is that cataloguers are often forced to adapt definitions developed for Western manuscripts—whatever this might mean—to manuscripts belonging to altogether different cultural traditions. However, also the positive aspects of a digital catalogue have been dealt with, such as the digitization of manuscripts, the increased ease of cross referencing information within collections and the open character of digital texts, a feature that allows the constant improvement of catalogue entries.

Lecture by Dr D. Cuneo and Dr C. Formigatti at STIMW – The Sanskrit Tradition in the Modern World

A snapshot of an xml file for a catalogue entry

On Friday 25th May, Dr Daniele Cuneo and Dr Camillo Formigatti presented the project at the STIMW – The Sanskrit Tradition in the Modern World conference held at Manchester University with the paper: “A Sanskrit Treasure Trove in East Anglia.”