Thursday, February 23, 2012

Scribal abbreviation in Sanskrit manuscript

Here is an extract from folio 4r of MS Baroda 12489 (includes the Carakasaṃhitā), showing इति iti followed by a ह ha with a loop to the right of the glyph.  A bit like the loop on the syllable ॐ oṃ. This is probably an abbreviation for the phrase इति स्माह भगवानात्रेयः iti smāha bhagavān ātreyaḥ that occurs as the second phrase in most chapters.

Here is the phrase from the next chapter, f.5v of MS Baroda 12489.

Baroda 12489 dates from AD 1816/17.
Scribal abbreviations are not as common in Sanskrit manuscripts as they are in medieval European ones.


  1. Thanks for the interesting post! I hope someone will be inspired enough to start collecting such abbreviations. Am I reading correctly that in the other chapters it is said iti ha smāha bhagavān ātreyaḥ?

  2. This might, it seems to me, be not a 'loop' like that on the syllable ॐ oṃ, but a circle, in other words what is sometimes called a kuṇḍala, a fairly common (at least in more recent centuries) abbreviation sign. It is lower than one would usually expect; but this may be because the ha and the double daṇḍa had already been written before it was added; there was more space available towards the bottom. Hard to be sure, of course, from this image.

    1. Thanks, H[aru], I expect you're right. Can you provide references (in pre-modern sources) for the use of the term kuṇḍala for an abbreviation sign?

      It looks to me as if the scribe wrote the extra loop in one clockwise stroke, straight from the bottom of the ह. Although, when I write ह, I write the bottom half anti-clockwise.

      Deven Patel's recent article "Source, Exegesis, and Translation" (JAOS 131 (2011): 245--266) cites
      Śrīharṣa's Naiṣadhīyacarita 1.14, that uses the image of drawing a circle around the sun and moon that are redundant (vṛthā) and crossing them out. This is a reference to a scribe or merchant who crosses out something in a MS by drawing a circle round it and a line through it.
      tanoti bhānoḥ pariveṣa-kaitavāt
      tadā vidhiḥ kuṇḍalanāṃ vidhor api // NC 1.14
      In this context, kuṇḍalanā is a cancellation mark.