An Indic Palm-leaf Manuscript: Please Help Identify It!


We are trying to identify this Indic palm-leaf manuscript. We've consulted several scholars and have accumulated the following information about it. The most recent comments are added at the bottom of this page.

Please click on the links for a front and back view of the first 5 leaves of the manuscript. Then, if you have any ideas on what it is, please contact Jennifer at planbinc@bitstream.net

Click to view first five leaves and last five leaves:

Updated Description (3/3/99)

Palm leaf manuscript, 108 folios (plus one blank) with 5 lines of script on each side of each folio for a total of 1080 lines. Two thicker wooden covers, entire ms bore through and connected by cord. The overall dimensions are 1" W, 2"H, 4"L. The ratio therefore is 1:2:4. Numbers 1 - 108 on lines in the folios indicate the ms is most likely complete and in order. The dimensions of the ms, the number of folios, number of lines in the text and the numbering system used on the folios are likely to be significant (see scholar comments below). The ms opens with an invocation/ salution and possible title (all in Sanskrit):

shrir astu shri ganesha-sharada-gurubhyo namah /
nava-ratna-cintamani-pustaka...

The language is Kannada and Sanskrit, possibly with Telugu or Marathi in some sections. Scroll to bottom for transliteration of folios 1-5 and 104-108.

What we know

  • Age: 500-600 yrs. or less
  • Script: almost certainly some variation of Nandinagari
  • Language: Kannada and Sanskrit, possibly with Telugu and Marathi in some sections.
  • Place of Origin: UNCONFIRMED - Most likely Karnataka or nearby
  • Subject matter: UNKNOWN
    • likely a Jyotisha text, a "Paaiychgai Aaruudam" (see comments)
    • possibly a Tantric text
    • possibly a stotra

Relevant comments from contacts (most recent comments are found at bottom of list)

"Looks like Nandinagari.... script dates to 14th-18th centuries, used in some p.l.mss in S. India, especially in Vijayanagara and amongst Madhva brahmanas"

"Does not look Dravidian to me... recognize a few devanagari characters, a number of clear 'ka' syllables."

"not being Sanskrit, one would usually assume it would be some middle or modern Indo-Aryan language... but cannot say which one... wonder if it is that or some other language group... Munda or Dravidian....... I can scarcely find a word that makes any sense to me... vocabulary seems highly unSanskritic... doesn't look like Nandinagari..."

"not north or north western nagari.... could be the eastern variety... Bengali, Assami, Nepali....this mss could be a Tantric text...."

"first of all, it is palm leaf, not bamboo, secondly, it definitely is nandinagari script, language possibly Telugu and Sanskrit or Manipravala. It begins: shrir astu shri ganesha-sharada-gurubhyo namah / nava-ratna-cintamani-pustaka..."

"One thing to consider is what is sometimes called ".dakini" script. This is used, at least in Tibet (I know-- your MS is unlikely to be Tibetan) for esoteric texts, for example terma (gter ma); the writing is often meant to look like real writing, but it is not; the treasure finder - terton (gter ston) then deciphers/reads the text -- ie, he invents the meaning he wants."

"Another depressing possibility is that it was created as a forgery by someone who found out that someone somewhere somewhen was buying up MSS he could not read..."

"...it does not look like bamboo. It's more like leaf of the Palmyra Palm or slices of wood."

"...there are many literary works which always start with Sanskrit verses and followed by the local language. Quite a number of Tamil verses start like that."

"....very clear Nandinagari script. I think the manuscript must have been written in the Dekhan area. A couple of weeks ago I have read a manuscript in a very similar script, which I had earlier photographed in Mysore. So what I have read until now is Sanskrit. I started with the first line which reads: SrIr astu. SrI gaNeSa SaradA gurubhyo namaH. The second line begins: navaratna (s)ItAmaNipustaka ... and something which I could not read on the first sight. I think that the first two pages at least should be readable (understandable). The lines of pages two, three and so on seem to begin with a number and the same syllable. So far I have seen too little to give any further judgement."

"The first line "SrIr astu" means "Let there be prosperity". It is followed by the salutations to the god Sri Ganesa and the teacher. Or it can also mean salutations to SriGanesa who is perpetual guru . "SaradA" could have been misread. It might mean salutations to the feet of Ganesa who is the Guru. "navaratna (s)ItAmaNi pustaka" could be the name of the manuscript. It could be " navaratna cintAmaNi pustaka". Then, it makes more sense. navaratna = nine gems; ciNtamaNi = the jewel that gives all that is desired. It is a mythical jewel which, when held in the hand and a certain wish is made, the wish is fulfilled. "pustaka" is book."

"....first character of the lines....is probably I (long i), but it is not always long i. Sometimes it is short i. In the first set of folios, there comes first a blank folio, then the folio beginning "zrIgaNezazAradAgurubhyo". This first inscribed folder has no number... although there is a character in the left margin of the obverse side of the leaf where folio numbers are written on the other leaves. This character appears to...perhaps be an ornamental form of zrIH, but I would not stake my reputation on this interpretation. The next three folios are numbered 1, 2, and 3. On each of these, the second line begins with the number 1, the third line with the number 2, the fourth line with the number 3, and the fifth line with the number 4. We see this pattern also on all the obverse sides of the last five folios. Also, the obverse sides of the last five folios are numbered 104, 105, 106, 107, 108. On the reverse sides of all of these numbered folios, the lines are numbered 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.

There may be some numerological or "mystical" significance to the parallelism between unnumbered first folio followed by numbered folios, and unnumbered first line of folios, followed by numbered lines, particularly as the last numbered folio line is 9, which is also the sum of the digits of the last folio number (108).

....it may be more convenient to refer to the folios by the serial numbering that appears on them, and to refer to the numbered obverse side as the a side, and the apparently unnumbered reverse side as the b side. That is, we would refer to 1a, 1b, and so on. An additional number after a or b is the line number (determined by counting). The blank folio falls outside of the count, as does the first incised folio. Now I can direct you to lines beginning with short i. These are 1a3, 2a4, 3a5. In all of these, the second character is M ( = anusvAraH), while the long i is apparently never following by M, either in folios 1-4, or 104-108.

We may also note that most of the lines of the unnumbered folio do not begin in I (long i) or i, so that we may state as an hypothesis that the character of the text, and possibly the language, of this folio may be different from that of all the numbered folios which follow. We already know that at least the beginning of this folio is formulaic invocation of deities, etc. Since the folios I have seen thus far seem to be in their proper order, we may seemingly infer that the text is in its proper order."



"...it appears to me that the forms of the NUMERALS in the mystery manuscript are either Kannada or Telugu, and probably date from about 500 years ago, give or take a century. This should give a clue as to the language of the text."

"The numerals are in Nandinagari script. The language is almost definitely Kannada."

"As far as I can tell it is not a Tantrik text but a Jain Text."

"This text is no doubt a nandanagari script. Also it starts with the ganesh sharada gurubhyonamaha. Certainly this cannot be a madhva text. Since most of manuscripts / palm leaves which I have and seen starts with Sri Vedavyasa gurubhyo namaha.Irrespective of text it is. I am really unaware if there are such text available among Madhva sampradaya which starts with ganesh sharada guru bhyo namaha. Also this cannot be sanskrit text if one notice on first page, there is pustaka instead of pustakam. Immediately after pustaka it says bareyuvaddkke nirv~jnamastu| I think this seems like a kannada text in nandanagari script. Also in 2nd page there are kannada numerals at the beginning of every line and page nos are also in kannada."

" ...it looks like Kannada/Telugu. Perhaps its a local Manipravala variety. Manipravala is common in Tamil. In that style, the basic Tamil grammer is maintained. The connecting words will be Tamil words. The structure of the sentence will resemble a Tamil sentence in all aspects. But half the words used will be Sanskrit. "Mani" is ruby, and "Pravala" is red coral. So, Manipravala is a mixture of two types of precious gems. In Tamil, this is known as "Mani midai Pavalam". It is not like creole or pidgin, because in Manipravala, only classical language is used. It's more like Esperanto-the failed attempt to create a universal language with all the main European Languages. Tamil and Sanskrit combine to form Manipravala. So it would not be surprising that the Karnataka people also had their own version. Or the Telugu people for that matter."

"As it has been identified earlier, this may be in the nandinagari script different from the current devanagari script. This may have some similarity with the Modi script of the Marathi language. The language as such seems to be Sanskrit. Definitely it is not any one of the Dravidian languages."

"The palmleaves seem to be written in the Nandinagari script of about the 15th century AD. The langauge is Sanskrit. Apparently the text is some kind of a prayer.""We visited your website. We have checked the manuscript. The language which is used in mans. is definately KANNADA. For example, `sattaanu' (he may die) `aaguvudu' (it will happen) etc."

"We have been able to make out a few lines of this palm leave manuscript pictures. We have identified few phrases and lines in this file.
One line reads "matha tho illavo" (Aren't you like a mother)
"Banni Navu kandillavo" (come, I haven't seen you)
"meema thehatho illavo" ( you have no physical form)
"vaha kake thaya thoillava" ( have some mercy ...)
"ni nayaki thoothuva" (you are the messenger of God/alternatively/you are the royal messenger)
Taken together it looks like a devotional poem that reflects on the nature of God. So far we have not been able to identify any 'muthra' (signature) that usually identifies the composer. There is a mention of 'shesh' (snake) and 'garuda'(eagle)."

"It looks like a poem/religious text dedicated to Lord Krishna. This holds priority because of the Garuda/Shesh combination. If so, the Madva relationship is possible. On the other hand, it could also be a poem from the Basava school of Vira Saivism. MahaDeviyakka has composed songs of divine ecstacy (like ManiVaasagar, Andaal, and St.Theresa of Avilla). The Mudra might sometimes be found at the end of the whole text. Many a times, it occurs at the last verse or the last two lines of the last verse. Eg., All the Thiru padhigams of Thiru Gnana Sambandhar and Sundarar. At later times, we have the compositions of Thiyagaiyya. Since it looks like, the text is made up of 108 pages or verses, it is also likely that the whole text is divided into cantos, like adhikaaram or padhigam or ashtakam. In which case the mudra might occur somewhere along the end of the canto. If it is a Manthra Maala preceded by a sthothra, then we may not find it. If such be the case, it will be Sanskrit. But this is in Kannada. These are the possibilities that I can think of, at this juncture. They may be useful as pointers and hints."

"In folio 14 (in the file 9pgs(1).jpg),the second line 'udubi keshavanuke laSavaakare thinikipashanu ' and in the third line udubi kesharavanu banuthaanee, there is a reference to Udipi Keshava (i.e. Krishna). The Krishna Temple in Udipi is close to Managalore . This manuscript is likely to have originated from that area. The last line (of the file labelled as 104-108) reads "thage sevana krupera ramu relesu " (at your service , ramu, relesu.) The name "ramu relesu" could be the person who wrote this or the one who dictated in kannada."

"In many manuscripts, the composer dictates and the text is written by the scribe/scribes. Under such circumstances, the scribe's name will be found last. There is a heresay tradition that Kamban used the services of twenty scribes when he was composing Ramayanam. The first verse written by scribe#1, 2nd scribe writes 2nd and so forth. Then the scribes will ask the composer for anything that is left out. And they fill it in. Written verses are read and corrections are also made thus."

".... there may be few phrases of Telugu origin......some of the characters may be from Marathi. We can ask the Kannada scholars to see if they know of the original version of a similar manuscript in Kannada script. The name Ramu Relesu seen at the end, could be the person who took it down in phonetically in Nandanagari script, as he heard it recited in Kannada. As we translate more verses we may also come upon the composer's signature phrase (e.g. the compositions of Purandara Das have the word "Purandara vittala"; Swathi thirunal compositions have the word " Padmanabha" and so on like the famous director Alfred Hitchcock appearing in one shot of his movies)."

" Here are the things [we] have found:

Language of the mans. is definately Kannada, not Manipravaala.

Title of the book is Navaratna chintaamani
`navaratna-chintaamaNi' -in correct notation.

Subject - `jyotiShya' (Astrology)

After reading a couple of folios we have concluded:

In India people used many ways to know the future, to have an idea about the result of the work they're going to take on..... [i.e.] astrologers with a bundle of paper-leaves and a parrot sit beside the roads. When somebody comes to them with a question, they open the door of a parrot's cage. It comes out and selects one of the leaves. On the basis of the matter written on the leaf they answer the question.

Somehow on the same track this book also starts. After bowing to the deities, writer tells that he is going to write how to anticipate the result of any endeavour.

Writer at the beginning asks reader to follow some procedure. But unfortunately we are missing some crucial words...... According to the procedure, one (with the use of `kavade' some kind of shells) gets a number. On its basis one should read the particular page's particular line.

All this information is given within the first folio. From second folio onwards in each and every folio, in each and every line `ONLY' different kinds of results are written! Believe me, I checked in between and the end folio we hardly find something else than lists of results, such as:

  • `This work would not be done by single person'
  • `There is doubt whether this is possible or not'
  • `The very person has done the murder'
  • `May the pregnant woman die' etc.

fol 1 front:
shriirastu shriigaNeshashaaradaagurubhyo namaH .
navaratna chiMtaamaNi pustaka barayuvadakke
nirviGnamastu. aaudaanoMdu kaa-
ryagaLi(vali)gaadaru noduva prakaara.
ii pustakavannu bhaanuvaara gu-
ruvaara divasadalli shubhadivasada-
lli taMna iShtadevara muMde puujeyannu maadi manada

fol 1 back:
iShtaarThavaagabekeMdu namaskaaravaM maadi
bhartukavadeiMdaa vaMbhattuveLe dhaalisi aa le-
khavaMnu vaMbhattariMda bhaagisi uLida
lekhake sariyaagi aShtane vaale
aShtane paMktiyaMnu tegedunodida-
lli aa chiMtisidda kaarya sidDhiyaaguva-
du. idaralli saMshayavilla nishchaya. shriiH.

Translation:

May prosperity be (for all). Salutation to shrii-gaNesha-shaaradaa and guru-s. May be the freedom-from-obstructions to cmpose the book `navaratna-chiMtaamaNi'.

The method to see(forsee?) (the result) of any work. [For the convenience, here one long sentence is devided in many.]

If,one keeps this book in front of his desired deity on Sunday, Thursday or any auspicious day.(fol1 back) Then prays for the fullfilment of his heart's desire. Then, (dhaalisi?) puts(?) nine (bhartu?)Cowries nine times. Then, devides the number he has get by nine. Then, sees the reminder number and opens the page which has the same number and reads the same line,then - his work would be fruitful. There is no doubt in this regard. shriiH = pros

fol 2 front:

ii chiMtisida kaarya aadiito aagado.
1 ii chiMtisida kaarya vabbaniMdaa?????
2 iMnu aalasyadiMdallade baaradu.
3 ii vastu iita tegadu illa mattobba wegadu iddaanu.
4 .......................


Translation:
This desired work may become or not
1 This desired work might be done by one, definitely
2 (I am not sure)
3 This person has not taken this thing, somebody other has taken it
4 ............ [ Like this the list of results goes on.]"


"If they have read it correctly and the translation is accurate, then it has to be a book on Aaruud."

"..... it is quite difficult to conclude as to what the manuscript is all about, because there are lots of ritual prayers where at the end one would see series of lines saying only what will happen or not happen if you do this prayer/ritual the right way or the wrong way. It could be Jyotish (astrology)."

"If we can confirm that this is a Jyothish manuscript, we have to focus our attention on the type or branch of jyothish. The most valuable among them would be the systems known as Prasna Tantra, the Naadi, and any rare Aaruud."

"Aaruud is otherwise known as Aarudam in Tamil. It is the prediction of events through certain signs or reference to certain texts or cards. Aaruud is also applied to find out whether to venture into something or not.

The Hindus have many systems of Aaruda Saastra. They go by various names like Agasthiyar Aaruudam, Vaaraahi Aaruudam, AnjanEyar Aaruudam, GanEsar Aaruudam, Atta Dhikku Aaruudam, Pushpa Aaruudam etc.

These are texts written in folios. You open a folio at random and open it. Certain other Aaruuds have certain indices. According what star or asterism governing the time did you open the folio. Still others employ a "Chakra". This contains 64 or 108 squares with numbers in them. You close your eyes and touch a square and read the "phala" or results according to the number in it.

We also have a type where parrots are employed. The parrot picks out a card from one pack and flips it over. In it are cryptic messages.

There are other systems where you use dice. Three throws of a particular type of dice that is in a pair and contains only blank, 1, 2, and 3.

There is another variety where ceratin types sea shells are used as dice. The above types are known as "Paaiychgai Aaruudam".

There is still another system where the cackle of the lizard is deciphered. This is known as "KauLi Saastra". Then there is the "Saguna Saastra" where the flight of birds, sounds of animals, crossings of birds and animals, falling of lizards, etc., are used to predict events.

In all these systems, the message or "phala" is written in a cryptic manner. You have to interpret it according to the circumstance."

Transliteration

Srirastusriganesasaradagurubhyonamah.
navaratnacintamani/pustaka/barayuvada/ke
llih/nirvighnamastu/audanomdukaryavaligadaru/noduvaprakara/
ipustaka/vannu/bhanuvara/guruvara/ddivasa/valli/subhadivasa/dallitanna/istadevar
a/munde/puja/madi/mannadayanna(?)/

verso
Istartha/vagabekendu/namaskaravam/madi/...
bhartukavadeindavambhartuveledhalisiale
khevamanuvambhartarindabhagisiulida
lekhakesariyagiastanevale
astanedhaditayanutegadunodida
lliacintisidakaryasichiyaguva
du. idarallisamrayavillaniscaya\\srih\\

1. i/cintisidakarya/dhitoangakse
1 i/cintisidakaryavabbanindaaditunija
2 i/nualasyadindalladebaradu
3 i/vastuitategaduillamartobutegaduichanu
4 i/hendatisisuhadadusartalu
verso
5 i/kannikeyakadeindasukhaun(jha?)
6 i/garbhanijaun(jha?)
7 i/devarindadaridrayadegombuvadu
8 i/tavinallivallitagiichare
9 i/vastuvinindaupadraunjhanastavaditu
2. i/nambadukulesadhitoagado
1 i/badukuhigeiddukelavudinathelesu
2 i/cintisidakaryakkebhayaun(jha?)
3 i/dunalebandevuyanurataichare
4 i/vastuhengasutedugandasutegaduicha
verso
5 i/gandamodalusrtanu
6 i/kannikeindarajamanneyahudu
7 i/garbhahusimundenijaun(jha?)
8 i/devarindasampartahadu
9 i/dadallidaradehodarenastaun(jha?)
3. i/arasakandarelesum(ai)illavo
1 i/gaarasakandarehaniyahudu
2 i/badukinindalesunjhaparalavilla
3 i/cintisidkaryatvaritavahudu
4 i/nualasyadindalladesitharu
verso
5 i/vastuvanugadasutegaduichane
6 i/tanahendatihenahadadusartalu
7 i/kannikeindadaridrabeda
8 i/garbhadhi(ai)unjhacintebeda
9 i/devarindamakkalusavarudesatyaga
4. i/barirajikaun(ai)illavo
1 i/barirajikatoritappuvadu
2 i/arasakanaluvilambadindalesu
3 i/badukinindaheralakasta
4 i/cintealsyadidalesu
verso
5 i/varamukhadindabegabandaru
6 i/hendatihenhadadalusramaun(jha?)
7 i/kannikeindadaridravahudu
8 i/garbhanijavahudu
9 i/devarindadesatyagavahudu

(104)
i/garbhahusiyodhi(ai?)vo
1 i/garbhahusimatondadhitu
2 i/devaratandaresampartadhitu
3 i/tavinallipranabhayaun(jha?)
4 i/vastuvilambadindamaritu

5 i/tagepurvajanmadapavaun(jha?)lesilla
6 i/ko(ai?)katalusviraun(jha?)
7 i/keremadhyadallivadavudu
8 i/arasinakrpeyun(jha?)lesu
9 i/bijabirtirebeleyadhitu

(105)
i/kanniketandaremakkaladaroagaro
1 i/kanniketandaremakkalaharu
2 i/garbhaun(jha?)nijau
3 i/devaratandarehanibeda
4 i/tavinallibadatanadalliichare

5 i/vastubegamaritulabhaun(jha?)
6 i/tagedevaramukhadindalesadhitu
7 i/ko(ai?)kataludaridrabeda
8 i/kerekatalusthiravadhitu
9 i/arakhinallikrpeillanambalagadu

(106)
i/gandahe(?)ruvallitagiicharoillavo
1 i/gandagemundagihaniakegedaridra
2 i/kanniketandaremakkaladaru
3 i/garbhaninitunijau
4 i/devaratandarelesun(jha?)

5 i/tavinalliiruvarubandusamipadalliichare
6 i/vastumariturajarabhayaun(jha?)
7 i/tagesanaiscaranaka(ai?)innubidudilla
8 i/ko(ai)katalusampartadhitu
9 i/kerekatalujayaun(jha?) birun(jha?)

(107)
i/vastutategaddakotanokodano
1 i/vastuvaaramanebaluhinindakotaru
2 i/henusartumundeinnodumaduveyadhitu
3 i/kannikeindadaridra
4 i/garbhahusimatondadhitu

5 i/devaratandarebhayaun(jha?)
6 i/tavinalliiruvarualasyadindabaharu
7 i/vastubahaladinakkallademaradu
8 i/tagebahalaharakeyun(jha?0madidarelesu
9 i/ko(ai?)katisidatagepranahani

(108)
i/vastusarvathabanditobarado
1 i/vastusarvathabanditunija
2 i/tanutegaduduhusihengasautegadalu
3 i/gandamundesartanu
4 i/kannikeindalesumakkaladaru

5 i/garbhalligandumaganadanu
6 i/devaratandarerajamanane
7 i/tavinalliiddavarualliilla
8 i/vastubegamaritu
9 i/tagedevarakrpeindamundelesu