An Important Distinction

Viṣṇubhaktagaruḍa with Malla king in Bhaktapur

I am usually thrilled to be able to work with old manuscripts.  The older it is, the more excited I get!  But excitement aside, we really need to be clear on the following distinction: the age of the manuscript is almost never equivalent to the age of the text it contains.  Hypothetical example:  A text was penned in the 10th century, but the original is lost.  What survives are a 12th century palm leaf manuscript and an 18th century paper manuscript.  At first thought, one may suppose the palm leaf manuscript to be closer to the original text than the one copied 600 years later, and this may be, but it is not necessarily so.  We don’t know how many times the manuscripts that survive were copied.  It is possible, therefore, that the 12th century manuscript was the result of a copy of a copy x 10 of the original.  It is also possible that the 18th century manuscript is a direct copy of a 10th century copy of the original.  I exaggerate a bit to highlight the point that just because a manuscript is recent does not mean that the text it contains is recent and likewise just because a manuscript is old does not mean the text it contains is older than a more recent manuscript.  Each needs to be evaluated on its own merits.

File Searching Speed

Torana over entrance to Śāntipura, Svayambhunath, Kathmandu

Noticing that some of my colleagues get results for their GREP searches almost instantly, I began to wonder why my searches of all my Sanskrit etexts took close to 2 minutes.  They use grep from the command line (Terminal on OSX), and attributed the speed to that.  Not wanting to drop my one-stop application BBEdit, where I can edit the files returned when I search them right then and there, I decided to run a test with a colleague who had a similar machine and etext collection.  The same search on his was finished in just 20 seconds, while mine took almost 2 minutes.  He attributed it to having converted most of his files to have Unix line breaks.  Not having luck with batch converter applications, I realized I would have to go through every folder individually and batch convert on a smaller scale.  This allowed me the chance to see what was there and clean out non-text files.  I moved several hundred megabytes of web-archives and PDFs out of the etext collection and reduced my number of files and size of the collection by about 25%.  In the process I converted everything to have the ending .txt, whereas before there was a plethora of endingless files and files with many different types of extensions.  I haven’t gotten to converting the line breaks yet, but now I can search all of my Sanskrit etexts in around 20 seconds, and have them ready for editing instantly in the results window of BBEdit.  This is a huge improvement, because now I can search more freely, whereas before I often limited the searches to specific folders to keep the speed within reason.


A well cared for Ākāś-Bhairab mūrti in Kathmandu

My interest was piqued by Goudriaan and Gupta’s description of the Ākāśabhairavakalpa whose main deity, Ākāśabhairava, is “a fearsome winged deity, a manifestation of Bhairava, who is invoked in various ways–of course by means of mantras–for the sake of exorcism.” who “manifests [himself] in three forms, viz. Ākāśabhairava, Āśugāruḍa, and Śārabha…” (Hindu Tantric and Śākta Literature 1981: 115)  Given my research interests, I thought the second form sounded promising, and was further spurred to seek out this text by a posting on the Mānasataraṅgiṇī blog where the blogger mentions the text as “a combination of the bhairava srotas with the earlier garuḍa-srotas” (“A Discursion on the Sanatkumārīya Pañcabrahma (siddha-śaṅkara) Tantra and the Early Evolution of the Dakṣiṇaśaiva System” January 5, 2010).  The staff of the NGMCP graciously allowed me to view copies of several Nepalese manuscripts of the text.  For my own purposes of scoping out the text for Gāruḍa material, I have made a list of the chapter titles:
Chapters 1–71 are from NGMPP reel number A 144/13
Chapters 72–81 are from a different manuscript, A 145/9
<> indicates that the title was not given or illegible.  I occasionally checked uncertain words against the other MS.
1: utsāhaprakrama (–f.2r)
2: yajanavidhi (–f.3r)
3: utsāhayajana (–f.4r)
4: utsāhābhiṣekavidhi (–f.5r)
5: mantrayantraprakrama (–f.6r)
6: citramālāmantra (–f.7v)
7: vaśyākarṣaṇaprayoga (–f.8r)
8: mohanadrāvakaprayoga (–f.8v)
9: stambhavidveṣaprayoga (–f.8v)
10: uccāṭananigrahaprayoga (–f.9r)
11: bhogaprada (–f.9v)
12: āśutārkṣyavidhi (–f.10v)
13: āśugāruḍaprayoga (–f.11v)
14: āśugāruḍakavaca (–f.13v)
15: śiṣyācāravidhi (–f.15r)
16: <śarabhasāluvapakṣirājakalpa*> (–f.16v) = title of ch.81?
17: śarabheśāṣṭakastotramantra (–f.18r)
18: <mālāmantra> (–f.20r)
19: <nigrahaprayoga> (–f.20v)
20: <homaprabhedaprayoga> (–f.22r)
21: <(no title)> (–f.23r)
22: rakṣābhiṣekhavidhi (–f.24r)
23: balividhāna (–f.25v)
24: <sadācāravidhi> (–f.28r)
25: māyāprayogavidhi (–f.29r)
26: ācāravidhi (–f.29v)
27: mātṛkāvarṇana (–f.32v)
28: bhadrakālīvidhi (–f.33r)
29: auṣadhavidhi (–f.35r)
30: śūlinīdurgākalpana (–f.37r)
31: śūlinīvidhi (–f.41v)
32: vīrabhadrakalpa (–f.42v)
33: jagatkṣobhaṇa<mālāmantra> (–f.45r)
34: <bhairavaprayoga> (–f.46r)
35: balividhi (–f.47v)
36: kṣetrapālavidhi (–f.49v)
37: vaḍavānalabhairavavidhi (–f.50v)
38: dikpālavidhi (–f.51v)
39: vyādhikalpa (–f.52r)
40: mṛtyuvidhi (–f.52v)
41: śarabhakavaca (–f.57v)
42: manmathaprayoga (–f.59v)
43: cāmuṇḍāvidhi (–f.60v)
44: mohinīvidhi (–f.61r)
45: drāviṇīprayoga (–f.61v)
46: śabdākarṣiṇīprayoga (–f.62r)
47: bhāṣāsarasvatīmantraprayoga (–f.63r)
48: mahālakṣmīprayoga (–f.63v)
49: māyāvidhi (–f.64r)
50: pulindinīvidhi (–f.64v)
51: mahāśāstāvidhi (–f.68v)
52: saṃkṣobhiṇīvidhi (–f.69r)
53: dhūmāvatīvidhi (–f.69v)
54: dhūmāvatīprayoga (–f.70r)
55: nadyuttāraṇavidhi (–f.71r)
56: citravidyāvidhi (–f.72v)
57: deśikastotra (–f.74v)
58: duḥkhasvapnanāśanamantravidhi (–f.75r)
59: pāśavimocana (–f.75v)
60: gaṇapatividhi (–f.76v)
61: auṣadhamantravidhi (–f.78r)
62: mūlikāvidhi (–f.79v)
63: kālamantravidhi (–f.80r)
64: ṣaṇmukhamantravidhi (–f.80v)
65: bhairavavidhi (–f.81r)
66: tvaritāvidhi (–f.82r)
67: vīrabhadravidhi (–f.82v)
68: vaḍavānalabhairavaprayoga (–f.83r)
69: brāhmīvidhi (–f.83v)
70: māheśvarīvidhi (–f.84r)
71: kaumārīvidhi (–f.84v)
72: vaiṣṇavīvidhi (–f.32r)
73: vārāhīvidhi (–f.32v)
74: nārasiṃhīvidhi (–f.32v)
75: indrāṇīvidhi (–f.33r)
76: cāmuṇḍāvidhi (–f.33r)
77: sāluvabhujaṅga (–f.34r)
78: śarabhahṛdaya (–f.35v)
79: śarabhāṣṭottaraśata (–f.37r)
80: śarabhasahasranāma (–f.44r)
81: śarabhasāluvapakṣirājakalpa (–f.46r)
Unfortunately I didn’t notice any Gāruḍa material in my brief look through the text.  If anyone reading this knows of something there I overlooked, please let me know.  The Āśugāruḍa form of Bhairava seems to be more of a general purpose kavaca procedure.  The Tvaritā chapter (66) mentions nothing about poison or snakes, only giving her mantra (notably the word vidyā is not used) in an encoded form.  There seems to be an abundance of references to exorcism (in the tradition of the Bhūtatantras), which accords with what Goudriaan and Gupta wrote, quoted above.  It certainly would be a boon to have this typed in and edited, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to get to that for some years to come.

Sample XeTeX/LEDMAC File

I am attaching a sample file, MinimalExample.tex, containing only one verse, for newcomers to experiment with.  To typeset it one needs to have previously downloaded all of the packages listed in the first several lines: ledmac, fancyhdr, xunicode, and SDVerseMG.sty.  The last was kindly made available by Somadeva Vasudeva in order to easily reference variants in the critical apparatus by verse number and pāda, rather than just line number.

One further procedure is necessary to have the convenience of typing the source file as unicode roman, and having the typeset version come out in Devanagari.  For this you need to install TECkit, available from SIL International.  Once you have TECKit, go to Dominik Wujastyk’s blog “Cikitsa” and see this entry.  Some of the links are now dead, but one from Somadeva Vasudeva’s blog “” is here.  Following his instructions, I hope you will be able to successfully compile the sample file.

I should also say that this is meant to work on a Mac, using the Apple font DevanagariMT.  In theory one should be able to use it on any system and simply substitute another unicode Devanāgarī font.  I welcome questions and comments, and I’ll revise the instructions if I have omitted any steps.

Lightbulb Moment

Clip from my MA edition of the 9th chapter of the Kriyākālaguṇottara. Shows what I had marked as a corrupt pāda.

When I was editing the 9th chapter of the Kriyākālaguṇottara for my MA thesis, I spent several hours trying to figure out pāda 25d, which I ended up marking as corrupt.  The palmleaf manuscript, oldest of the group, was indeed corrupt and hypometrical: kimedaṃ vikaryate.  I speculated about taking edaṃ as some kind of Prākṛtic pronoun, effect of non-standard sandhis, anything that would help me draw some sense out of it.  In retrospect, the corruption of the palmleaf manuscript lead me astray in transcribing the other manuscripts, and the true reading was further obscured by several things: lack of word division in the manuscripts, lack of discrimination between va and ba akṣaras, use of anusvāra for any nasal, and the inconsistent differentiation of pa and ya.  In error, I transcribed the reading of the “Beta” manuscripts thus: kimetadaṃ vikāpate.  I reviewed the passage with my advisors–some of the world’s leading Sanskritists–to no avail, they too were misled because of my interpretation, my “transcription.”  Transcription is usually thought to be a fairly cut and dry affair.  You put into roman or typed Devanāgarī exactly what is written in the manuscript, and faithfully record that in your critical apparatus and even if you choose the wrong reading then at least future scholars can disagree and accept a variant reading from the critical apparatus.  In fact, it is always an interpretation.  How do you transcribe a letter that looks like a hybrid pa/ya?  I am not aware of any critical edition that list variants without any spaces between words, but I am seriously considering adopting this convention for my own work.  The real reading for the pāda, in the Beta manuscripts now seems so obvious: “kimetadaṃvikāpate” or formally “kim etad ambikāpate.”

Critical Edition Typesetting Notes

This is how my source files currently look. There has been progress.

This is how my source file looked two years ago. What a mess! Luckily the results are the same once you compile the PDF, see below.

For my editing work, I am using XeTeX and ledmac, typeset in TeXshop on my Mac.  XeTeX is a modern incarnation of LaTeX, itself builing on TeX, that lets one type virtually any unicode script or font directly into the source file.  With the help of Somadeva Vasudeva’s handy character mapping converter, one has the advantage of typing transliterated Sanskrit into the source file and still having perfectly rendered devanāgarī on the other end.  I include the above screenshots lightheartedly, but they illustrate an important point: LaTeX may seem hopelessly complicated in the beginning, but it really isn’t; one just needs to master the basic principles.  Eventually, sooner if anyone is interested, I will post a full sample file that beginners can use as a template to typeset their own texts.  I have spoken with colleagues who type their critical apparatuses by hand in Microsoft Word.  The beautiful thing about TeX systems is that they automate almost everything so that the writer can concentrate on writing, or in this case editing.  In the top example, you can see that variant readings are called by the command \var{}.  The command \dn{} is how I tell the program to typeset the enclosed text in devanāgarī (\dnnote{} signaling the footnote sized font), and the commands \P, \prb, and \Dc are telling the program to print my predefined sigla for each manuscript.  This is all automated with keyboard shortcuts, so when I have a variant I copy the word(s) from the main text and paste it into the variant field called up at a moment’s notice with a quick shortcut stroke.  The command \p (lowercase mind you) stands for the end of a pāda, and \v for the end of the verse.  This is all the program needs to label each variant entry with the correct tag: 3c if the variant occurs in the third pāda of the third verse, and so on.  Everything in TeX is customizable, but it does get technical very quickly and I must admit that I do very little experimenting now that I have figured out the basic system.  Perhaps in a few more years I’ll be enough of a TeXpert to write my own fancy code and create that long sought after parallel edition, but now I am content to pick up the small gems offered by more experienced scholars:
Somadeva Vasudeva’s Blog has several useful entries on typesetting issues.
Daniel Stender’s Blog has a special category for LaTeX
John Smith’s programs page
Dirk-Jan Dekker: Typesetting Critical Editions with LaTeX

Visit to the Red Cross Snake Farm, Bangkok

Banded Krait

In transit to Nepal, my wife and I spent a few days in Bangkok and had the chance to visit the fascinating Red Cross Snake Farm in the Silom area of Bangkok.  Here they farm the most venomous snakes for venom extraction in order to make antivenom.  There is a nice lower level with specimins in glass cases and an upper level with video and poster displays.  We especially enjoyed the snake-handling show, although it was a bit intimidating to be sitting in the front row when they set the twin King Cobras on the ground.  I suppose there’s no better place to be bitten than at the antivenom lab.
Upper right is the Russel’s viper (gonasa in Sanskrit), Siamese variety.  It belongs to the maṇḍalin family of snakes in Sanskrit typology.  Very venomous, it is one of the “Big Four” species of snakes that cause the most deaths in South Asia, the others being the cobra (darvīkara, lower left), krait (rājila), and saw-scaled viper (also maṇḍalin). The lower right shows a green pit viper, exact species unknown to me.