For an easy reading

The source of all the pictures of INDIEN 72 and 73 is BnF

The manuscripts Indien 72 and Indien 73 in the BnF collection both contain a collection moral or didactic stanzas entitled Nīticāram (“The gist of moral teachings”).1 In both these copies of the same work, the root-text (mūlam) is accompanied by a commentary (urai), that is, each individual stanza is followed immediately by its commentary.

Fig. 1 — BnF INDIEN 73, f1r, stanza 1 of Nīticāram

While the copyist of Indien 72 (Fig. 2) wrote his text in strict scriptio continua, filling each line of the page up to the end, the copyist of Indien 73 (Fig. 1) used a lay-out device to ease the use of his manuscript.

Fig. 2 — BnF INDIEN 72, f1r, stanza 1 of Nīticāram

Each page contains the text and commentary of one stanza only. Moreover, the page is divided into two columns.

The root-text (mūlam) is found in the left column, while the final word at the end of the fourth line is etu, the abbreviated form of eṉpatu (Fig. 3), literally “that which says”, designating the word, phrase, sentence, or verse (as in the present manuscript), which precedes it, and introducing the commentary that follows.

Fig. 3 — BnF INDIEN 73, f1r, stanza 1 of Nīticāram, left column, detail: the last two letters of the fourth line are எது etu

The commentary (urai) is found in the right column, while at the end of the fourth line is given the verse number.

Fig. 4 — BnF INDIEN 73, f1r, stanza 1 of Nīticāram, right column, detail: at the end of the fourth line is the figure ௧ 1 framed by two piḷḷaiyār cuḻis (an auspicious sign used often as punctuation) and preceded by the phrase என்ற வாறு eṉra-v āṟu (“a way of saying”), which ubiquitously in Tamil manuscripts concludes a commentary portion.

Another visual aid to the reader is the indentation of the final letter of the shorter lines (Fig. 3, see lines 2-3).

Such user-friendly Tamil manuscripts are quite uncommon. Another example is known in the BnF collection: Indien 66, a copy of the Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai, in which, likewise, root-text and commentary are distributed in two columns.2

  1. An alternative title, Nīticākaram (“The ocean of moral teachings”) is found also in Indien 73. []
  2. See https://www.manuscript-cultures.uni-hamburg.de/mom/2012_07_mom_e.html []

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