Manuscriptology-A Bird’s View

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A country’s pride resides in its heritage. It is evident from the richness of archeology, monuments, arts & crafts including manuscripts. Manuscripts are the original texts or scripts which are manually written and are the basis for the learning of science and technology today. Hence, it is granted a top place of honor to the science of Manuscriptology and can be considered as 'Encyclopedia of all Sciences'. The scripts, writing tools, languages, conservation, preservation, maintenance of the manuscripts, the study of medical manuscripts and its constraints, the strategies to
validate the old concepts, drugs, diseases, and methods of treatment hidden in the manuscripts and application in the field of medical science are discussed here under.


Definition: Manuscriptology means science of manuscripts in which editing of the work is given supreme importance. Editing of the work means reconstructing the
text, nearest to the author’s autograph work on the basis of evidences i.e. readings available in existent copy/copies in the form of manuscript, quotations, translations,
summaries, adaptations & research articles. Manuscript means manually recorded book or literary work. Bills, receipts, calculations, note, official records are prepared
manually. But they are not considered as manuscripts. Studying hand written works of literature or lore is subject matter of Manuscriptology.

Script and Language: Script is nothing but a set of visual symbols representing language depending upon public convention. Some languages have scripts and others,
Examples: 1. Roman script is being utilized for almost all of the European languages.
2. Devanagari is being used for writing not only Sanskrit and Hindi but also Marathi, Konkani etc.
There are number of scripts available throughout the world some of them are as
1.Vattelittu 2.Tamilu 3.Grantha 4.Sarada 5.Kannada 6.Nandinagari 7.Tigalari 8.Devanagari 9.Roman.

Writing tools: They are classified into types
Lekhya samagri: 1.Taale patra 2.Bhurja patra 3.Paper
Lekhana samagri: Kanta , Peacock feather, Brush,Paint etc.

Kanta is having dual properties are it can be used for cutting patras and also for writing only on taale patra. Usally brush and paint are using to write on bhurja
patra & paper. Kanta is prepared out of metals. Paint is prepared by combination of gomutra and burnt cashew nuts. Taale patra is of 2 varities a) sritaale b) kharataale.
sritaale is thin & brown in colour and kharataale is thick & yellow in colour.

Preparation of manuscripts: For the preparation of palm leaf manuscripts the palm leaf is cut into required size. Then leaf is dipped in hot water for about 30-40
mins or one day. In some parts of our country, palm leaves were earthed for some days. Leaves are set tightly & leveled with the help of hattari (ramp).then one or
two holes are made & is for posing threads to bind the leaves. Then with the help of kanta any thing may be written on the leaves. Ink is applied afterwards & is prepared out of ragi gruel. A piece of cloth is dipped in gruel & rubbed over the leaves after drying with a dry cloth excessive gruel is taken out .the gruel glued firmly where the letters are incised will be seen clearly. use of carbon powder made of banana bud is another technology. Then manuscript is dried. A wooden bar are kept on side of the manuscripts and tied with cotton threads.

Scribble errors: These are 3 types.


3. Adesha (substitute): Scholar came across the word vasudeva in the proof, which was out of context. On verifying the original , it was found that the word written
by the author was vamadeva.

Sources of Ayurvedic manuscripts:
The information of the Ayurvedic can be collected from various sources like:
1. Old libraries
2. Catalogues i.e. a checklist of medical manuscripts by CCRS.
3. Oriental Research Institute, Mysore-66,000 manuscripts
4. Adyar library and Research Institute. Madras-18,600 manuscripts
5. Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune.
6. Saraswathi Mahal Library,Thanjavur-50,000 manuscripts
7. Various Patashalas or old Ashramas.
8. Famous traditional physicians.
9. Temples.
10. Museums

Study method for manuscripts:

For the cataloguing or critical study of different manuscripts,a standard formate is available as follows

1. Serial number.
2. Title of the work.
3. Name of the institute/individual.
4. Accession or serial number given by the institute.
5. Whether the work is published?
6. Whether critically edited?
7. Author and date.
8. Folios and size of manuscript.
9. Scripts and Language.
10. Complete/in complete.
11. Condition and age of manuscript.
12. Name of scribe Colophon.
13. Any other remarks.

Published manusripts are:
1. Ayurveda sutrani
2. Paryaya pada manjari
3. Vaidhya samhita saarnava
4. Amarakosha
5. Advice On Family Planning In Old Tamil Medical Manuscript.etc.
Unpublished Manuscripts are:
1. Asvinikumarasamhita – Cikitsasara
2. Ayurvedagama
3. Madhavacikitsita – Madhava
4. Nadi sastra sangraha
5.Rasavatara etc.

Preservation of manuscripts:
“Tailaadh rakshayedh jalaadh rakshedh raksheth shitila bandhanaath|
Murka haste na daatavyam yevam vadati pusthakam ||”
Ancient techniques like: 1. Using of nimba patra, peacock feather, sarpa nirmuka etc in between the papers.
2. Keeping in air tightened wooden box.
3. vacha & karpoora are tied in a small a piece of cloth and kept in the boxes etc.

Modern techniques like: 1.Using butter paper between the pages to prevent the Sticking of two papers.
2. Using glass racks or boards
3. By Xeroxing/photocopying
4. By scanning
5. By microfilming

Importance of manuscripts:

1. Manuscripts are the proofs of our well developed ancient sciences .The literature about various subjects like philosophical, medicinal etc is scattered all over .They
deserve the value and importance in the literary research field.
2. There are different various versions of the same text at different places and according to different readings about the same topic are seen. Ayurveda being
presented in Sanskrit, slight difference in reading makes a lot of difference in the interpretation of the meaning.
Ex: Guduchyadi varga-vathike ( by Vd.Purandare
Guduchyadi varga-Kaphajware(
It means that manuscript of dhanvathari nighantu of shodal was more correct and was different than manuscript used by Vd.Purandare. Thus correction or critical
study of all the old Ayurvedic texts with different manuscripts is necessary.
3. There are considerable Ayurvedic literature including veterinary texts ,which are still in the form of manuscripts, also a good number of commentaries on basic
texts like those of Caraka and Sushruta have not seen the light of day.

1. As there is renewed interest in herbal medicines and Ayurveda in western countries, critical editions of Ayurvedic books must be given great importance.
This can be achieved only by collection of Ayurvedic manuscripts.
2. Unpublished literature should be published because they contain practical implications dealing with human life.
3. Manuscriptology is actually for process of listening the pulse of our past.


Dr. Ranjith Kumar Shetty


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