Sanskrit and Prakrit Manuscripts

April 18, 2018 in Uncategorized

Palm-Leaf and Paper Manuscripts

[Posted on 18 April 2018, with updates and corrections]

Paper Leaf in Sanskrit with an Ornate Frame for the 4-Line Text. Gold-framed rectangular green border with frieze-like floral designs in dark green pigment. Private Collection. Photography by Mildred Budny.Inspired by some recent communications, as scholars, collectors, and devotees of manuscripts around the world recognize a welcome on our website, we present some fragments from palm-leaf and paper manuscripts which have joined a collection willing to welcome them.  This private collection of many varieties of scripts, texts, languages, formats across the ages and across many cultures — see our Galleries — has generously allowed us to display, study, and publish them, along with discoveries that this collaboration permits.

For some time, I have meant to present these images on a Gallery of one kind or another on our nonprofit website.  In the transition from our first (Drupal) website to the second (WordPress), I encountered so many difficulties regarding any advance with the Galleries and Media, ensuring an inevitably cumbersome transition from one to the other.

That was then.  This is now.


Here are a few of the images that we had intended to present, with generous permission of the owner, aware that our wide range of interests about scripts, texts, written sources might gather a broad range of spectators.  Experts, too.

The samples represent some Sanskrit and Jain manuscripts of various ages and texts.  Some have illustrations and decorative features.  On palm-leaf or on paper, some cases have centered holds for stringing.  Others have no such holes, but some cases included centered circular or similar elements which emulate stringing holes, without such functional characteristics.


Some sources of information, among many, offer points of reference and information about the range of materials, languages, and texts.

Jain Manuscripts

Sanskrit Manuscripts

Palm-Leaf Manuscripts

A Preview

All the images are reproduced by permission of the collector.

Captions and descriptions arise, as our tasks and access to expertise permit.

We welcome your suggestions and information.

As we strive to learn more about these cases and their contexts, we observe that exhibiting such examples might provide pathways to better recognition and understanding of the scripts, texts, materials, layout, and transmission.  Our collector observes:  “I am of course hardly an expert on these things, as much as I would like to be; one incentive to accumulate them is to attempt to get a feel for their characteristics, as well as to get feedback from those who may know something helpful.  Besides that, they are fascinating.”

Samples on Display

1 Hindu Manuscript on Paper, dated VS 1646 = AD 1589/90

The single column of 7 long lines is bounded by a pair of narrow bounding lines, which extend the full height of the extant page.

The date appears in the second-to-last line of text on the page shown here. Among the various luni-solar dating systems employed in the Hindu Calendar, this version represents the Vikram Samvat (= VS), or “Vikram Era”.

Hindu Manuscript on Paper, dated VS 1646 / AD 1589/90 (second-to-last line). Single column of text bounded by paired narrow bounding lines which extend the full height of the page. Private collection, reproduced by permission.

Hindu Manuscript on Paper, dated VS 1646 / AD 1589/90. Private Collection, reproduced by permission.


II.  Paper Manuscript in Prakrit of the Kalpa Sūtra (Sanskrit: कल्पसूत्र), “The Book of Rituals”, with Decorative Stringing-Holes

Presenting the biographies of the Jain Tirthankaras, this text is traditionally held to have been composed by Bhadrabahu I.  The oldest surviving copies of the Kalpa Sūtra, written on paper, were made in Western India in the 14th century.  From the mid 15th-century onward, copies often — as here — have illustrations of scenes.

Western India, Gujarat or vicinity.

Circa 1500 CE.

Purchased in the Portobello Road Market, London.

Folio 28
Folio 122 in the Kalpa Sutra
Folio 36 with illustration
poster1 no 6 uprightDetail of Illustration
Detail of illustration.

Detail of illustration.


III.  Manuscript on Paper with Decorative ‘Stringing Hole’

Leaf on Paper

Western India.

Circa 1500 CE.

Both sides of the leaf


Leaf on Paper, Western India, Circa 1500. Private Collection, reproduced by permission.


IV.  Palm-Leaf Manuscript in Sanskrit from Nepal

Probably 15th Century CE.
Purchased online from a seller in the U.S.A.

(zoo13poster 6) Palm-Leaf Manuscript from Nepal, probably 15th-century CE. Private Collection.


V.  Astrological Manuscript in Sanskrit on Paper with Functional Stringing-Hole
and Vertical Bounding Lines at both sides of the 9-Line Text

The manuscript is incomplete, lacking a colophon.  Its text appears to be astrological.

Purchased online in 2 groups of leaves, which amount to a substantial part of the manuscript, albeit incomplete.

The manuscript is old enough to have functional stringing holes, rather than solely decorative ones.

Probably 15th century CE.

The style of writing appears to be Jain.  A quick guide to the script is offered by Omniglot: Devanagiri (देवनागरी लिपि). Examples digitized by the Cambridge University Library appear here.

Detail of the Title
Detail of Title

Detail of Title.

First Page of Text
First Page of Text

First Page of Text

Page of Text with Diagrams
zoo13poster 10 upright = Kalpaspura leaf in Prakrit, western India c 1500


V. Paper Manuscript in Sanskrit with Vertical Bounding Lines for the 6- and 7-Line Text

Purchased from an online seller.

2.jpg = Fragment of a manuscript on paper in Sanskrit. Private Collection, purchased online in 2018.

Fragment of a manuscript on paper in Sanskrit. Private Collection, purchased online.


VI. Fragmentary Manuscript on Paper with Vertical Bounding Lines for the 5-Line Text

Perhaps 18th Century CE.



VII.  Paper Manuscript in Sanskrit with Ornate Border around the 4-Line Text

Leaf from a Manuscript on Paper in Sanskrit, with an Ornate Frame for the 4-Line Text.

Purchased from an online seller.

The gold-framed rectangular frame enclosing the column of text on each side of the leaf encloses a continuous border which presents a frieze-like series of compacted floral designs painted upon a colored ground.  These designs are rendered respectively in dark green pigment upon bright green background or in gold pigment upon bright blue background.

577 = Leaf from a Manuscript on Paper in Sanskrit, with an Ornate Frame for the Text in 4 Lines. Purchased from an Online Seller in 2016.

Blue-Bordered Side of the Paper Leaf in Sanskrit, seen from an angle within the transparent archival polypropylene slip-in protector. Image cropped to border of the column of text. Private Collection. Photograph by Mildred Budny.


Do you have suggestions, corrections, and refinements concerning these pages?  We hope to learn more.  Please add your Contacts below and/or Contact Us.