First Lecture by Florinda De Simini

MS CUL Add.1645.1, particular of the inner side of the end cover, polychrome scene with Viṣṇu, Lakṣmī and Garuḍa.

Religious environments and the use of manuscripts:
a case study from Indian religious traditions

Since its inception, modern Sanskrit scholarship has looked at manuscripts as a major repository of classical Indian textual knowledge and used them for the production of critical editions. However, little attention has been paid to other traditional usages of manuscripts in ancient and modern times. On the basis of the textual evidence provided by Sanskrit juridical and religious works, Florinda De Simini (Università di Napoli “l’Orientale” / Università degli Studi di Torino) will discuss an important aspect of Indian manuscript culture, namely the production, correction and recitation of manuscripts for ritualistic purposes, trying to situate this topic in the broader context of textuality and traditional hermeneutics. The lecture will be held on Tuesday 22nd May, 5pm, rooms 8-9, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

Lecture by Prof. Francesco Sferra

MS Add. 1364, Kālacakratantra, illuminated wood cover and folio 1r

Prof. Francesco Sferra (Istituto Universitario Orientale, Napoli) will visit Cambridge on 12-14 March 2012 to examine some of the manuscripts in the UL Sanskrit collections and discuss the interest of these sources for future research with the project team.
On this occasion, he will also deliver a lecture, “Apropos of Some Late Indian Buddhist Manuscripts kept in the Cambridge University Library”, focusing in particular on some manuscripts of the Kālacakra tradition. The lecture will be held on Tuesday 13 March, 5pm, room 7, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

Lecture by Dr. Andrea Acri

Dr. Andrea Acri (National University of Singapore & Australian National University) will visit Cambridge on 5 March 2012 to examine some of the Javanese and Balinese manuscripts in the UL collection. On this occasion, he will also deliver a lecture, “Rare Old Javanese Manuscripts in the UK,” focusing on some early (ca. 16th century) manuscripts of Javanese provenance kept in the Asian manuscript collections of the Cambridge UL, the Oxford Bodleian Library, and the British Library.

An Ogre Howling in a Meditation Cell

śūnyagṛhe piśācas tu garjate na ca dṛśyate,
evaṃ yakārā vaktavyā dhi-y-agnir jma nidarśanam

MS Add. 1709, Lomaśīśikṣā

Giovanni Ciotti, PhD candidate at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge, has helped the project team to catalogue eleven manuscripts containing śikṣā texts. These little-studied works on phonetics and phonology deal with the pronunciation and recitation of both Vedic and Classical Sanskrit, exploring thorny theoretical topics such as the accent-bearing unit (is it the syllable, the vowel or the combination vowel-consonant?) or enumerating Vedic words that one should memorise on account of the ambiguity of their articulatory features.

Lecture by Prof. Harunaga Isaacson

Title page of C. Bendall’s Catalogue

Friday 27 January, 3 pm, room 7, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Cambridge

Bendall and beyond: Cataloguing the (Buddhist) Sanskrit Manuscripts in Cambridge University Library.

Prof. Isaacson will give a lecture about the Buddhist manuscripts in Cambridge, the achievements of Bendall’s catalogue and someof the work that remains to be done.

Stormy Weather

MS Add. 1577 is a polychrome charm (yantra) against lightning made of seven intertwined letters (kūṭākṣara, monogram script): ya, ra, va, la, ma, kṣa and ha.

MS Add. 1577, paper (recto): Saptākṣarī Vajrapātādyahārī, no date (probably 19th c.)

The verso bears the following four-line stanza in the sragdharā metre (with caesurae marked by a small dot), listing each letter and explaining its symbolism:

MS Add. 1577 (verso)

yaṃ kāraṃ mārutākhyaṃ ∙ ram iti hutabhujaṃ vaṃ jalaṃ maṇḍalaṃ tat
laṃ kāraṃ bhūmisaṃjñaṃ ∙ tadupari mam idaṃ merusaṃjñaṃ tadurdhvaṃ ||
prajñopāyātmakaṃ kṣaṃ ∙ ham iti gaganataḥ śūnyanairaṃjanīyaṃ
kūṭaṃ saptākṣarīyaṃ ∙ praṇamata satataṃ ∙ vajrapātādyahārīṃ || 1 ||

“The letter ya is what we call the air, ra is fire, va is water: the circle we call earth is the letter la, on it ma is what is called Mount Meru, above the latter is kṣa, which has the nature of the means to wisdom; from ha, the sky, is the spotless purity that is emptiness. This seven-letter diagram is [such a] group: bow incessantly to this excellent one that wards off the fall of thunderbolt!”

Oncoming Events

On 27-28 January Professor Harunaga Isaacson (University of Hamburg), Professor Dominic Goodall (École française d’Extrême-Orient, Paris) and Dr. Csaba Dezső (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest) will visit Cambridge to examine some manuscripts in the UL Sanskrit collections and discuss cataloguing methods and priorities with the project team. On this occasion, on the afternoon of the 27th, Prof. Isaacson will also deliver a lecture about the Buddhist manuscripts in Cambridge, the achievements of Bendall’s catalogue and some of the work that remains to be done.