Online Workshop, September 2020

TST Online Workshop

21 September 2020

10-12.30 (Paris time)


News from the BnF by Emmanuel Francis

Various news, from the Paris side, were announced, such as: (1) the hopefully forthcoming organisation of the Paris in-door Workshop in early 2021; (2) the arrival of Charles LI as TST postdoc; (3) the introduction of new TST members (Christophe VIELLE and Amandine WATTELIER-BRICOUT); (4) the delivery of digital images from the BnF service de la reproduction; (5) the enrichment of the descriptions of Tamil and Sanskrit manuscripts on the online BnF catalogue (BAM); (6) the forthcoming updated version of the TST Vademecum.

Report by Eva Wilden

Report by Marco Franceschini

The report dealt with the study of the colophons found in manuscripts written in Tamil and/or Grantha scripts, which is currently carried on by Giovanni Ciotti and Marco Franceschini. The report focused on the dates found in the colophons under investigation. More specifically, the report touched upon the following topics: identification of the symbols used in the Tamil script for writing relative numbers (fractions) and interpretation of their use in the context of the dates; palaeographical study of the different symbols and abbreviations used for labelling the Kollam year, the Jovian year, the month, the day – in order to classify them into groups and determine their phylogenesis and diachronic distribution; research on the conventional use made in the Tamil Nadu region of some astronomical/astrological terms and of some calendrical elements (lunar months, Saka-Salivahana and Kali years).

Report by Jean-Luc Chevillard

The report dealt briefly with the content of two manuscripts which have been examined with various degrees of attention by Jean-Luc Chevillard in recent years. These two manuscripts illustrate from two different points of views the great importance of the Paris BnF collection, at a time when Tamil studies must, like every other field, negociate the “virage” called Digital Humanities.

The first one, a BnF paper manuscript, known as “Indien 221” and bearing the title of “Vocabulario tamulico-lusitano”, appears to be a hand-written copy of a book printed in 1679 in Ambalacatta, in which the title indicated is ”Vocabulario Tamulico com a Significaçam Portugueza” (VTCSP). That book itself was the posthumously abridged version of the Vocabulario compiled by Antam de Proença, which also subsists in the form of a longer MS, preserved in Goa. Jean-Luc Chevillard is currently engaged in the preparation of an electronic edition of the VTCSP and has examined and documented the differences between those three stages of a work in progress (across the centuries), which is the first of its kind, as far as the linguistic contacts between Tamil and Europe are concerned.

The second one, a palm-leaf manuscript, known as Indien 113, is a Śaiva manuscript, containing three subsections, each one having its own folio numbering. The first subsection (A) contains a well known selection of 25 Tēvāram hymn, which is traditionally associated with Akattiyar, as is also attested here by the title அகததியததிரடடு [Akattiyattiraṭṭu], the 2nd one (subsection B) contains six hymns from the Tiruvācakam & the 3rd one (subsection C) seems to contain 14 hymns from the Tēvāram (3-67 to 3-80) (tiruvirākam, paṇ cātāri), although a complete verification is difficult because that third section is not completely inked.

Report by Christophe Vielle

The report dealt with a palm-leaf manuscript (BnF Indien 765) in Malayāḷam script and language containing the Christian poem Miśihācaritam or ‘Story of the Messiah’, without author’s ascription, that is the Puttaṉ pāna (the ‘New Hymn’) composed by the German Jesuit J.E. Hanxleden (1681-1732) alias Arnos Padiri. The Malayalam pāna tradition, an a capella singing of devotional songs, prevalent among the Hindus, was here adopted for a Christian topic. The text provided by this manuscript presents significant variation comparing to the critically edited text of the Puttaṉ pāna. With the absence of ascribed authorship, it bears testimony of some oral dimension (linked to a liturgical usage) acquired by the poem between about 1750-1850 (and the printing of the first edition, at the origin of a kind of “vulgate” version). At the end of the manuscript, the scribe (also known from a manuscript of another Malayalam poem of Hanxleden preserved in Rome) puts the date of finishing the copy as Kanni the 8th in the year 1774 after the birth of the Messiah and also as Kanni the 8th in the year 950 the of Kollam era, which corresponds to 8 September 1774. This double method of dating, both in the Christian and in the Kollam era, is interesting; the months of the Christian calendar are here equated with names of corresponding months in the solar Malayalam calendar.

Report by Margherita Trento

Margherita Trento presented her ongoing research on the palm-leaf manuscripts of Tamil Christian works in the BnF collection. She talked about some paratexts in Indien 474 and 475, two manuscripts containing the text and commentary of Costanzo Giuseppe Beschi (1680-1747)’s epic poem Tēmpāvaṇi, pointing to someone reading and annotating this manuscript in May-June 1841. She also presented Indien 469, a manuscript containing the life of Jesuit missionary and saint João de Brito aka Aruḷāṉanta Cuvāmi (1647-1693). The annotation at the beginning of the manuscript shows that the writer of this hagiography was a catechist working for Brito, who often reported the events in the first person, a rather unique writing style at this time and place. Margherita is currently preparing an article on this manuscript and on forms of self-writing among Tamil converts in the eighteenth century.

Report by Victor D’Avella

Report by Emmanuel Francis

Progress in different research topics explored by examining BnF Tamil manuscripts were briefly presented: (1) history of the collection, notably the title-page folios, ubiquitous in manuscripts from the Ariel collection; (2) the syllabaries and some peculiar forms of letters; (3) the collection of blessings, notably the x-tuṇai formula; (4) some curiosities, such as a manuscript purposively shaped in the form of a pot (?), a woodcover inscribed with the title of the work contained in the bundle, metal ornamented covers.

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