Category: Paratexts

Sascrit 1442.6 Ṣaṭsāhasrasaṃhitā. Courtesy of the BnF.

Kathmandu, Calcutta, Paris: the life of a Tantric manuscript

Scholars have long sought to classify people and things based on their geographic origin. In the Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun insisted that climate shapes both the appearance and temperament of different human races; Vātsyāyana imagined an entire geography of desire in his Kāmasūtra. Space, as well as time, seem to be...

BnF Indien 743, Castes et professions de l'Inde. 73r. Courtesy of the BnF.

The ébéniste inconnu of the palm leaf manuscript collection

The grand siècle of the 17th century was — and still is — widely romanticized as a period of history in which art and literature reached their pinnacle in France. French painters, poets, composers, and gardeners from this era were celebrated across Europe and are still remembered today. The art...

Paratextual Material in Indien 206, the Taṇṭiyalaṅkāram

At the end of a Tamil manuscript we are accustomed to find various paratextual materials such as colophons, verses and occasionally even indices. There are, however, other types of texts that were likely added to suit particular needs and are consequently unique or quite rare. Indien 206, a manuscript of...

Sanscrit 1827 Hindu Law, page 346.

The invisible sisters of Anglo-Hindu inheritance law

In a previous article, we discussed the Lakṣmīvyākhyāna, an 18th-century commentary on the Mitākṣarā, written by Lakṣmīdevī, and the influence it had in the law courts of colonial India. As we mentioned, this influence was greatly magnified due to Henry Thomas Colebrooke’s reliance on it in his translation of the...

Sanscrit 814, title page, in Foucaux's hand. Courtesy of the BnF.

Lakṣmīdevī’s “intellectual petticoats” and the flamewar they inspired

When the English East India Company seized large swathes of the Indian subcontinent in the 18th century, they were forced to transform from “merchants” into administrators. They needed a new army of English civil servants, not only to deal with the considerable revenue that was being generated, but also to...

Detail from "Thibet, Mongolia, and Mandchouria". 1851. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Prayer wheels on the Siberian frontier

As Russia pushed its borders eastward in the 17th century, it gained control of a vast, mountainous region in eastern Siberia, populated by Buddhist adherents and dotted with datsans, Mongolian Buddhist monasteries. Although both the Buddhists and their monasteries were officially acknowledged by and assimilated into the Empire, their existence...

Plaque en hommage à Ph. Ed. Foucaux. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Philippe-Édouard Foucaux in the margins

Philippe-Édouard Foucaux had a habit of coming in second place. Although he is described as the “first teacher of Tibetan in the Western world”, the way in which that “first” is qualified belies the fact that he was not the first Westerner to master the Tibetan language. That achievement is...

BnF Sanscrit 715, folio 1, verso, detail

The long-forgotten colophon of Sanscrit 715 Mudrārākṣasa

Viśākhadatta’s Mudrārākṣasa, variously translated as “Rákshasa’s Ring”, “The Signet Ring”, or “Signet Rākṣasa”, is a unique Sanskrit drama set during the reign of Candragupta Maurya, in the 4th century BCE. As G. V. Devasthali notes, it is the only work “in the whole of Sanskrit dramatic literature [to have] a...

Sanskrit title page, MS Sanscrit 1145

A glimpse of Umraosingh Sher-Gil in Sanscrit 1145

Umraosingh Sher-Gil  (1870-1954) is perhaps best known by association, as the father of Amrita Sher-Gil, the avant-garde painter whom the New York Times once hailed as “a pioneer of Indian Art”. But, in recent years, Umraosingh himself has become recognized as an artist in his own right, through his photographs...

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