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How to read a Jain manuscript

Author

Not all manuscripts or works have named authors. If there is an author, the name appears along with the title of text. This means that the author's name is given at the end of the text. If it has several sections the author’s name is also stated at the end of each section.

There are sophisticated ways to mention the author’s name. For instance, if he is a monk, poetical formulas known as praśastis or ‘praise’ are used. They give his teachers’ names as well as his own.

Scribe

Written in red ink, this colophon is found at the end of a manuscript. As is usual, it gives the date of the text's composition and the date it was copied in the style of the Indian lunar calendar. The poem was composed in 1621 and copied in 1726 CE.

Detailed colophon
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Not all scribes are named. If the scribe is identified, it is in the final part of the manuscript, usually in the formula ‘copied likhitam by X’.

The scribes are either professionals or Jain monks. If they are monks, details of their spiritual affiliation are often given.

Sponsors

If any people sponsored or commissioned the manuscript to be copied, their names and social status may appear at the end of the document.

In this part several abbreviations for social standing may be used.

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