The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has in its collection eight pages of a lost Nepalese palm-leaf manuscript that support extracts of the Suśrutasaṃhitā. The MS is accessioned as MS Los Angeles LACMA M.87.271a-g,MS description at PanditProject. and images are posted on the LACMA website.The overview photograph (view 1) lacks one page, which is however shown in “View 2.” The folio in “View 9” is an unrelated Sri Lankan manuscript.
The folia were generously donated to LACMA by Emeritus Professor and Mrs. Thomas O. Ballinger. Prof. Ballinger (1911-1998) spent his professional life at the University of Oregon and travelling in Asia and Africa as an educator. During a visit to Nepal during 1955-1957, working with the U.S. Aid Program, he contributed to the founding of Tribhuvan University and other institutions of learning. It was at this time that he collected Nepalese artefacts, including the MS now at the LACMA ().
Two of the folia contain miniature paintings. This is an extraordinary feature of these folia, as illustrated medical manuscripts are almost completely unknown in South Asia (). The images in question are not medical, but Buddhist. Mr Madhusudan RimalCurrently a research assistant on this project. has confirmed that the paintings were added to the MS after the completion of the writing, since the paint overlaps substantial portions of the writing area. It is possible that the paintings were added a long time after the MS was written, as a way to enhance the items for sale. It is also possible that these folios come from more than one original manuscript.
The raised fingers in ma-44975.tiff could conceivably be kartari-mukha, scissor-face, maybe suggesting surgery or healing. But other aspects of the iconography strongly suggest that this is the Buddha receiving reverence and not a reference to the medical content of the surrounding text.
I am grateful to my friend and colleague Jeremiah Losty who suggested that ma-44978.tiff might be an image of Bhaiṣajyaguru, the Medicine Buddha, with a pot between his hands. He noted further that enthroned Buddhas are not meant to incline their heads listening, but that Nepalese iconography can be non-standard. Mr Deepro Chakraborty suggested that the six-armed goddess may be Vasudhārā, one of the few goddesses with this iconography and a figure especially associated with Newar Buddhism and a bringer of abundance and prosperity.
The following preliminary notes on these folia reference the TIFF files downloadable from the LACMA website.
Image file ma-44975.tiff
This folio carries part of Suśrutasaṃhitā 6.47. This is a chapter about countering the effects of excessive intoxication (madātyaya).
Folio begins, Su.6.47.51cd : pibenmāgadhikonmiśraṃ tatrāmbho himaśītalam//
Folio ends, Su.6.47.60 : dhārāgṛhe pragalitodakadurdinābhe klāntaḥ śayīta salilānilaśītakukṣau// Su.6.47.61 gandhodakaiḥ [illegible in MS: sakusumairupasiktabhūmau ]
A translation of this chapter can be read in : 3, 289-301.
See digital copy at archive.org. A better and more modern translation is that of . Verses 51-61 correspond to verses 34-37 (pp.296-8) in Bhishagratna’s tr.
Image file ma-44977.tiff
folio ends: śārīrasthānaṃ samāptam iti
This is the end of Su.3.
Dr Andrey Klebanov notes further that,
The content of the folios, however, is rather peculiar. Apart from other things, it is interesting that the colophon in ma-44977, which — as you note — seems to conclude the śārīrasthāna, actually contains a little more (exciting) information. After the puṣpikā in the fourth line it reads (something like):personal email of 17 April 2019
※ suśrute candraṭene [!] bhiṣakṭīsaṭasūnunā pāṭhaśuddhi [!] kṛtā tantre ṭīkām ālokya yeyaṭīm /
āyurvedasauśru++ rvedaśāstraśārīrasthānaṃ samāptam iti // ※
(It’s metrical that’s why I set it in this way. “yeyaṭī ṭīkā” should be, I guess, Jejjaṭa’s ṭīkā.)
It is likely, moreover, that ma-44979, which contains some text roughly identifiable as Śā 2, belongs to the same MS as ma-44977, because of the matching numbers of lines, akṣara-s in a line as well as the general shape of akṣara-s. Other folios are likely to be written by other scribes (perhaps, by at least two other scribes), so that they may not necessarily belong to the same MS as ma-44977 and ma-44979.
Image file ma-44978.tiff
Line 4 has: athāto mūtradoṣapratiṣeḍhaṃ vyākhyāsyāmaḥ// vāta…<next line>ṣṭhīlā vātabastistathaiva ca/
I.e., Su.6.58.3, omitting the “dhanvantari said” phrase.
This chapter deals with forms of strangury (Bhishagratna 1916: 3, 361 ff.).