Manuscriptology, Terminology, Diacritics and Other Aspects of Literary Research

Santhosh S R Nair

Associate Professor,
CBPACS, New Delhi

Literature research is acquiring the knowledge which already exists in the particular science or field. Literary Research in Ayurvea is a means of bringing to light or of throwing new light and verifying the validity of the claims of previous research in various spheres of Ayurveda. The following aspects are aimed to be studied under Literary Research;

The concepts, theories and practices of Ayurveda.

The events of medical importance like mention of origin and occurrence of discovery drugs, diet, poisons, habits, practices and therapeutical procedures at particular place, region or time.

The life-history, time period and contributions of authors of Ayuvedic literature.

The social and cultural life of the human being at particular place and time.

In Ayurveda, the literature research mainly depends upon the manuscripts. Ayurveda is believed to be the oldest medical system in the world. The literature of Ayurveda has a long history of at least 5000 years. Initially the knowledge of Ayurveda, like any other contemporary system, was effectively disseminated and then transmitted to next generation only though oral tradition. Later, due to the limitation of the human brain in storing the information efficiently and accurately, few started to preserve this knowledge by writing them on palm leaves, clothes, rocks, etc. These were later termed as manuscript which in a broader sense means any document written or incised by hand. These manuscripts were liable to damage or destruction due to time, fire, water, heat, dust, humidity, atmosphere, gases, fungi, ants, rats and last but not the least, human beings. Though India has a long history of at least 5000 years in literature, only 5 lacks manuscripts have survived. When India underwent a series of foreign invasions, its rich ancient knowledge suffered a great loss. Many manuscripts have been stolen, burnt down or destroyed. When the invader Baktiyar Khilji attacked India in 1202 AD, he ransacked Nalanda University and burnt down 9 million precious manuscripts. Therefore it is very essential to collect and preserve these manuscripts and some times it becomes quite necessary to add from other sources to repair the loss. The branch of learning concerned with the searching, collecting, cataloguing, preserving, transcribing, reading, collating, editing and publishing of manuscripts is called Manuscriptology.

More than 1,12,000 Ayurvedic manuscripts are preserved in the country and outside by various organisations and institutes. Out of them only about 12,000 are identified, still remain unexplored and unpublished. The remaining about 1,00,000 are unidentified. Near about 40 % of the mainstream Ayurvedic literature, 43% of Allied & Contemporary subjects of Ayurveda and 50% of Super-speciality subjects of Ayurveda are not published yet. Therefore a great effort is needed to publish them and make them available for the Ayurvedic scholars and Physicians.

The earliest and the primary texts of Ayurveda were composed in Sanskrit. At most incidences the authors adopted the common words that were used in the day to day life and converted in to a term having a very special meanings. Some times these meanings are very context specific. The study of the derivation and etymology of these terms is quite necessary to correctly decipher the sense of these terms. The primary texts were translated into most of the modern Indian languages. Still, the authors preserved most of the original Sanskrit terms of Ayurveda without any translation. The system of transliteration helps to convert texts from one script to another based on the phonetic similarity. Though the authors of Ayurvedic books in vernacular languages retained the original Sanskrit-terminology, some variations happened in the pronunciation of these terms. The application of diacritical marks indicate the apt pronunciation regarding to accent, tone, stress etc. Therefore comprehensive glossaries, dictionaries and definitional dictionaries of Ayurvedic terms in Sanskrit, English, Hindi and other Indian languages are essential.

The objective of this blog is to provide a platform to explore various aspects of Literature Review like Manuscriptology and terminology; History of Indigenous Medical sciences; Paleography of Ayurvedic Manuscripts; A comparative study of the concepts of various authors; the materials available in the Ayurvedic literature regarding to the social, cultural, political and history of the indigenous people; the contemporary social and ethical behaviour etc.