Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Smallpox MS in Sanskrit

MS R.15.86 in the library of Trinity College Cambridge is a tract in Sanskrit in the Bengali script about smallpox.  To the right is the description of this MS in Aufrecht's 1869 catalogue of the Trinity collection (click to enlarge).
The work is described as Rājasiṃhasudhāsaṃgrahanāmni granthe Masūrikācikitsādhyāyaḥ, meaning "The chapter on therapies for smallpox in the book called The Collection of Nectar of Rajasinha."  Aufrecht says it's by a Mahādeva.  It's hard to know who either Mahādeva or Rājasiṃha might be.  A work called Siṃhasudhānidhi "Collected Nectar of the Lion" was composed by one Prince Devīsiṃha of the Bundela dynasty in the 17 century (Meulenbeld, History of Indian Medical Literature, v. IIA, p. 299), but that's a long shot.  Rājasiṃha is a bit of a generic name, "King-Lion".  All Sikhs have "siṃha" (=Singh) as part of their names.  Could be anyone, really.  The MS collection comes from John Bentley (d.1824), who was a historian of astronomy in early 19 cent Calcutta (he wrote A historical view of the Hindu astronomy (1825)).  The MS has written on it in a copper-plate script on the last leaf, "The Forgery of the Hindu respecting the Cowpock-innoculation."  Probably Bentley's hand, though I'm not certain.  The verses on p.25 that Aufrecht says "are open to the suspicion of modern authorship" say,
There are plukes (grantha, knot, lump) on the breasts of cows, with discharge.
One should collect the pus from them, and protect it carefully.
Preceded by
the illnesses of Śītalā, having placed on the surface (pratīka?) of a child,
with a small knife a wound like the wound of a mosquito,
having made it enter into the blood, with the pus itself,
and with the bloods on a little brush, the wise person to what is cured.
The very best physician fearlessly approaches (m-? upaiti) on the child _ _ _

My translation is a bit incoherent, because the original is too.  Maybe if I thought about it longer, I might come up with something better, but probably not.  The vocabulary is a bit strange: pratīka for a limb or the surface of the body is unusual; the stuff about a brush may be wrong. Any suggestions gratefully received.

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