In one of the Nepalese manuscripts on which this project is based, the fifteenth-century Nepalese MS, MS Kathmandu NAK 5-333, there are mysterious characters at a few places. For example, on folio 371v:
they are the two similar characters on the fifth line from the top, in this enlargement:
and another example
Here, the surrounding word is pāke.
On folio 385v we have a line of them across the bottom side of a string-hole space:
And on 396r we have another line in the same setting below a string-hole:
These symbols are not letters, since they don’t contribute to the surrounding text, but interrupt it. I have wondered whether they are the scribe expressing that his archetype has a string-hole at this place, perhaps, but I don’t see the symbols often enough for that. They occur rather rarely, every ten folios or so. The scribe uses other signs to mark missing or illegible akṣaras in his exemplar. He uses other signs to mark section or chapter endings. He uses other signs to fill up an unwanted space (like contemporary “this page deliberately empty”) or as an end-of-line hyphen. He uses other signs for exuberant decoration:
After posting a query about this symbol to the INDOLOGY forum on 11 April 2021 [archive link], Prof. Birgit Kellner kindly sent us her observations of this and similar symbols in early Bengali-script manuscripts and permitted us to share them as a blog post on this site. That the sign occurs in our fifteenth-century Nepalese MS shows that the sign was known by scribes beyond the Bihar/Bengal area.
For a general study of this (p. 265) and similar signs, see .
Following the Unicode Newa script encoding , we initially considered provisionally encoding this filling character as
which is in fact defined in the unicode standard as follows:
This NEWA GAP FILLER character U+1144E displays as:The Unicode standard notes that this FILLER character can be represented by a variety of different visual glyphs. Further useful discussion and examples in the context of the Unicode standard are given by . See especially figures 42, 43 and 50.
But none of these representations is quite the same as our “conspicuous filler” glyph. So we have decided, rather, to encode it locally as,
This is correctly interpreted by Saktumiva and a custom character is provided in the font used by Saktumiva, Pedantic Indic.