Workshop on the Vajrāmṛtatantra by Prof. Francesco Sferra

Manuscript Or.158, colophon with the date Nepāla saṃvat 282 / 1162 CE.

Prof. Francesco Sferra (Istituto Universitario Orientale, Naples), will hold a two-hour workshop on the Vajrāmṛtatantra, a Buddhist Tantric work transmitted in a very old Nepalese manuscript kept in the Cambridge University Library (Or.158, dated 116 CE). Only one other manuscript of this text is known to have survived and is presently kept in a library in China. The reading and interpretation of selected passages will be integrated with the examination of images of the manuscript, thus providing both an introduction to manuscript analysis as well as to philological methodologies.

The workshop will take place on Monday January 20th, from 10.30am to 1pm in room at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Cambridge.

 

On Air 6: From Kāntipura to Kanyakumārī (or so)

The sixth release of the Cambridge Digital Library includes twelve new descriptions of Sanskrit manuscripts.

This release starts a series in which we will showcase the CUL astonishing collection of manuscripts of the Pañcarakṣā, a corpus of of Buddhist texts which played a central role in Nepalese Buddhism. In the first release, we provided the description of what is probably the oldest illuminated manuscript of this corpus (Add.1688), and in the present one we add descriptions of four more manuscripts (Add.1325, Add.1395, Add.1460 and Add.1475.1). Add.1395 is a quite old exemplar of the corpus, and “was written in 1384 during the reign of king Jayasthitimalla (1382-1395). […] Both covers are decorated with representations of the five Buddhas of directions and the five goddesses of protection.”[1] Add.1460 and Add.1475.1 are comparatively recent exemplars of the corpus—both were written in the 17th century. Add.1460 is a paper manuscript dated to 1672 CE. It lacks miniature decoration, but like the majority of Pañcarakṣā manuscripts, it is written in the ornamental script Rañjanā and has decorative puṣpikās dividing the various dhāraṇīs. Add. 1475.1 is a composite paper manuscript, and the script and the layout clearly points to the 17th century. The last folio is a later supply bearing the date 1682 CE. However, “there is every reason to believe that it is simply a fresh copy of leaf(!) found to be damaged” (Bendall 1883: 105).[2] However, even if this might be an instance of a copied date, judging from the script and layout features, the additional folio might not have been written much later than the date of production of the kernel. If this is the case, then according to the colophon the whole manuscript might be dated 1682 CE, and was written during the reign of Pārthivendramalla, who ruled in Kathmandu between 1680 and 1687. Finally, Add.1325 is a quite recent exemplar of the corpus, a paper manuscript dated to 1819 CE, a witness of the importance of this corpus up to modern Nepal.

From the Kahtmandu Valley we move to the banks of the Gaṅgā with the descriptions of two modern paper manuscripts of king Bhoja’s Rājamārtaṇḍa, the famous commentary on the Yogasūtra of Patañjali, Add.897 (in this manuscript, the text is called Bhojavṛtti) and Add.2146, both bought in Vārāṇasī in the 19th century. Add.897 was bought by Prof. R. Griffith on behalf of Prof. E. B. Cowell in 1873, while Add.2146 was bought by Prof. C. Bendall from Pandit Vindhyeśvarīprasāda on January 3rd, 1885.[3]

In our journey, we reach also the Southern tip of the South Asian subcontinent, and provide the description of five more Grantha manuscripts: Or.2339, Or.2340, Or.2341, Or.2342 and Or.2343.1. They are all multi-text palm-leaf manuscripts from the 19th century. Or.2339 contains “Sukumāra’s Kṛṣṇavilāsa with Vilāsinī commentary by Rāmapāṇivāda (only portions of the first two sargas); Kālidāsa’s Raghuvaṃśa with Padārthadīpikā commentary by Nārāyaṇapaṇḍita (only portions of the third sarga); and the Taittirīya Āraṇyaka, with the Vedic pitch accent marked through signs indicating svaritas, anudāttas and kampas (the first three prapāṭhakas are incomplete, prapāṭhaka 10 is missing).”[4] Or.2340 is a manuscript containing a corpus of ten devotional texts, mainly stotras and namāvalīs of a saurya and śākta character.[5] According to the information in the colophon, it was written in Cantiracekapuram (perhaps this is Candraśekharapura, Andhra Pradesh) by a certain Ayyar Śāstrikaḷ Kumāraṉ Cuvāmika, and finished on Thursday, July 17th, 1891 CE.[6] Or.2341 containins “Sāyaṇa’s Vedārthaprakaśa commentary on Taittirīya Saṃhitā 4.5.1-11, the famous hymn in praise of Rudra known as
Rudranamakādhyāya, Śatarudrīya or Śrīrudra […]; the first 64 verses (out of 150) of the Caturvedatātparyasaṃgraha (or Śrutisūktimālā), an unpublished śaiva text ascribed to Haradatta (or Sudarśanācārya); two folios from an unidentified śaiva work.”[7] Or.2342 is a manuscript of an anonymous Sanskrit commentary to Śaṅkarācārya’s Śivānandalaharī, a poem in one-hundred stanzas extolling the greatness of Śiva, very popular in South India. Folio 16 is missing, and the text is incomplete, breaking off at the end of the 48th stanza. Or.2343.1 contains the unpublished Sanskrit version of “the Tulākāverīmāhātmya (from the Āgneyapurāṇa) in 5 ādhyāyas, and a single folio (numbered as “2”) from an unidentified vaiṣṇava work of the kavaca sort”.[8]

1. From the description of the manuscript.

2. Bendall, Cecil, Catalogue of the Buddhist Sanskrit manuscripts in the University Library, Cambridge. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1883). [download]

3. On part of the collections, see the post on the fourth release.

4. From the description of the manuscript by M. Franceschini.

5. The texts are the following: Śūryanārāyaṇapūjā, Sūryāṣṭottaraśatanāmāvalī, Īśvarisevamantra, Lalitāsahasranāmāvalī, Lalitātriśatīnāmāvalī, Śivāṣṭottaraśatanāmāvalī, Lalitāsahasranāma, Lalitātriśatīstotra, Śivāṣṭottara[śatanāma?], Ṣoḍaśīkalyāṇīstotra.

6. The colophon runs as follows: [59r3] śrīmahāde[-3-] [59r4] kollam_ 1066 matu āṭi MĀ° 3 VĀ°
cantiracekapuram kiṟāmam ayyar śāstrikaḷ kumāraṉ
[-1-] cuvāmikayyeṭittuga[-3-].

7. From the description of the manuscript by M. Franceschini.

8. From the description of the manuscript by M. Franceschini.

Buddhist Manuscript Culture: Textuality and Materiality

Programme (online version)

Programme (print version)

The two-day workshop held at the Faculty of Asian Middle Eastern Studies of the University of Cambridge was an attempt to analyze and look at Buddhist manuscript culture combining a more traditional philological approach with a broader perspective encompassing codicology and history of the book. The first day has been dedicated to papers dealing with the aspects of manuscript production and circulation, while the textual aspect has been the focus of the second day.

The discussions following each paper and the round table at the end of the two days were dominated by one key word: database. The urgent need for easily accessible and well structured data was felt as a priority above all for palaeographical and codicological studies—as it has been clearly pointed out in the papers by M. Delhey and C. Formigatti, as well as in the joint paper by H. Diemberger and M. Clemente.

Thanks to the contributions by H. Isaacson, F. Sferra, P. Szántó and G. Hidas, another aspect that emerged from the workshop is the importance of the Buddhist Sanskrit Manuscripts collections of the Cambridge University Library for the study of Tantric Buddhism.

Two papers were devoted to lexicography, both traditional and modern (by L. Deokar and M. Cone). The two speakers stressed the necessity of the application of a rigorous philological methodology in the examination of the data resulting by the analysis of manuscripts.

Last but by no means least, the influence of the material aspects of manuscripts (writing material, layout etc.) in shaping the text has been highlighted in three papers (by C. Scherrer-Schaub, A. Griffiths and V. Tournier), and it has been the focus of a lively debate during the round table.

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.