In a new article that is to be published in the eJournal of Indian Medicine in the near fututure, researcher Andrey Klebanov does a deep dive into the Nepalese manuscripts of the Suśrutasaṃhitā. Andrey has kindly shared a draft of his article with me in advance of publication, and I have his permission to report on some of his critical findings.
His research focusses on three manuscripts that are preserved in Kathmandu, Nepal, in the Kaiser Library and in the National Archives of Kathmandu, the same manuscripts that are the focus of this Suśruta Project:
- MS Kathmandu KL 9/699 (Klebanov’s “K”)
- MS Kathmandu NAK 1/1079 (“N”)
- MS Kathmandu NAK 5/333 (= 5/334) (“H”)
The critical study of these manuscripts had only just begun, and there is much still to discover. But already Andrey reports important differences from the well-known printed editions of the Suśrutasaṃitā (henceforth SS).
First of all, Andrey does not call the version of the SS a “Nepalese” version as such. Rather, it seems that these manuscripts preserve a version of the SS that was current in north India during the first millennium, perhaps especially in Bengal or elsewhere in eastern India. That version has disappeared elsewhere, but these very old Nepalese manuscripts bear witness to it.
Andrey’s remaining conclusions can be summarized as follow:
- The colophon of K shows that it was produced for a particular family.
- The MSS may all derive from a version that was written by a Nepalese scribe who added Buddhist invocations to the text.
- Manuscripts K and H preserve, in addition to the SS, a dictionary of herbal medicines called the Sauśrutanighaṇṭu. This important and semi-legendary work is known only from these manuscripts. (It was published in 2000 by Suvedi and Tivari.)
- The earliest known commentators on the SS, such as the famous Jejjaṭa (fl. 650-750), were aware of this early version of the SS.
- The commentator Cakrapāṇidatta (fl. 1075) had before him a version of the SS much closer to the Nepalese MSS than the commentator Dalhaṇa (fl. 1150). Similarly, the author Mādhavakara (fl. 700) too appears to have used this version, although this needs deeper study.
- MS K, dated to 878 CE, predates all the main commentators except Jejjaṭa.
- This version of the SS preserves archaic features of the text and of Indian medical theory that were otherwise lost. For example, the well-known 5+1 structure of the SS (five sthānas plus the Uttaratantra) is strongly emphasized, with colophons calling the work “the SS plus the Uttaratantra.”
There is much more information and discussion in Andrey Klebanov’s article, and we eagerly await publication. Watch this space.