Apart from preserving an early, unpublished version of the Suśrutasaṃhitā , manuscript KL-699 may be one of the oldest dated Nepalese manuscripts to have survived . It is written in the so-called transitional Gupta script and comprises of at least four codicological units . This means that KL-699 is rich material for the study of palaeography, and more specifically scribal conventions, in South Asian manuscripts from the end of the first millennium onwards, as is evident in a recent publication of Bhattarai .
This note is a preliminary attempt to record the various symbols used by the scribes of KL-699 to insert text and marginal notes. Although some portions of the text have not been corrected (e.g., folios 200r–219v), insertions occur on most of the folios, which makes this scribal practice a salient feature of KL-699.
Crosses, vertical dashes, downward-facing arrows (i.e., “crow’s foot” [kākapada]) and the lucky mark (svastika) have been used to mark insertions. These symbols have been catalogued by Einicke, who notes that in the Newārī script the kākapada is most often used for insertions, but dots and crosses are also common . In the case of KL-699, most corrections and insertions were not done by the original scribes, but by later hands who deleted and added letters, words and even verses to the original text. The writing of these later hands can be recognised by differences in the ink and strokes, which are lighter and thinner than the original writing of the folios, as seen in Figures 3, 5-9, as well as their use of letters peculiar to subsequent versions of Newārī script.
Generally speaking, the insertions of the original scribes are marked by vertical dashes and crosses, whereas the more recent ones by kākapadas, crosses and svastikas. Therefore, within the microcosm of KL-699, changes in scribal conventions are apparent, which raises the question of whether such conventions changed over time – a question that can only be answered by a broader historical study of Newārī manuscript material.
When vertical dashes are used, a dash is inserted above the text to indicate where the additional letters should be read, and dashes are then also placed before and after the additional letters, which are usually written below the line of the text or in the bottom margin. Examples of such insertions by the original scribes is shown in Figures 1 and 2.
In Figure 1 the letter da has been added in the bottom margin to the words bastiviklekṛn mūtraṃ to render the correct reading bastivikledakṛn mūtraṃ.
Figure 1: Ms. KL-699, folio 14r, line 7 and bottom margin
A similar use of vertical dashes can be seen in figure 2, where the letter ca has been inserted between lines 6 and 7 to produce the correct reading of pariṣecayec ca.
Figure 2: Ms. KL-699, folio 113v, lines 6-7
Crosses can be used to insert letters but are more often used to insert words. Like vertical dashes, one cross is placed above the writing at the point at which the letter or words should be read, and a cross is placed either side of the additional letters or words. In figure 3, a scribe in a more recent hand has added yathā in the bottom margin and indicated with a cross above line 2 that it should be read between the words hi and parā. The same scribe had corrected parā to purā.
An example of the use of a cross in what is probably the hand of the original scribe is shown in Figure 4, where the letter ta has been added to pace nasyakaṃ to yield paceta nasyakam.
Figure 4: Ms. KL-699, folio 167r, line 4
Crow’s Foot (kākapada)
More recent hands often use crow’s feet to insert letters or words. A downward-facing arrow resembling a crow’s foot is written above the original text to indicate where the additional letters or words should be read, and the additional text is placed either directly below the line or in the bottom margin. Also, in KL-699 kākapadas are sometimes placed before and after the additional words. Figure 5 shows a typical example of this, where the letters vāta have been added to the original text to yield the reading śītoṣṇavātavarṣāṇi.
Figure 5: Ms. KL-699, folio 6v, line 7 and bottom margin
Alternatively, a kākapada may be placed above a line of text and the letters below it without symbols before or after the additional letters, as seen in Figure 6.
Figure 6: Ms. KL-699, folio 2r, line 2
The Lucky Mark (svastika)
There are several instances in which svastikas have been used to indicate an insertion, and in each case this symbol marks the addition of a larger portion of text, such as the hemistich of a verse. The use of svastikas as an insertion sign in manuscripts has been noted by Bhattarai (2020: 168, n. 351, who cites Thaker 2000: 146). However, this sign does not appear to have been used by the original scribes of KL-699. For example, in Figure 7, a daṇḍa between the verses of the original text has been changed into a svastika to show the intended location of the following hemistich:
Upon the arising of a humour and when a disease has spread, the physician should not apply medicines in the form of snuffs, etc., [in the case of blindness].
doṣocchraye naiva ca viplute gade dravyāṇi nasyādiṣu yojayed bhiṣak
This additional hemistich has been placed in the bottom margin with a well-formed svastika in front of it and a somewhat deformed one at the end.
Figure 7: Ms. KL-699, folio 167r, line 7 and bottom margin
Svastikas have been used in a similar way to insert a verse on folio 17r and in this case, as well as 167r (Figure 7), the inserted text has been added by a more recent hand.
Combinations of Crosses and Kākapadas
Crosses and kākapadas were used most frequently to mark insertions in KL-699. Sometimes, both are used together by later hands. In Figure 8, for example, a kākapada above the original text indicates where one should read the additional words pratanuṃ sūcyā, which are enclosed with crosses.
Figure 8: Ms. KL-699, folio 15v, line 7 and bottom margin
A further interesting variation on the use of these symbols is found on the first folio, where the word dhanvantari was added by a later hand to the list of sages who are taught medicine by Divodāsa, the king of Kāśi, at the beginning of the work (i.e., Aupadhenava, Vaitaraṇa, Aurabhra, Puṣkalāvata, Karavīra, Gopurarakṣita, Bhoja and Suśruta). The general absence of Dhanvantari in the Nepalese version has been discussed by Wujastyk (2013) and Klebanov (2021). In this instance, as shown in Figure 9, dhanvantari was written in the top margin and bracketed by crosses at either end. Its intended place within the original text is indicated by a kākapada pointing upwards from below the line.
Figure 9. Ms. KL-699, folio 1v, line 1 and top margin
Harimoto, Kengo. 2014. “Nepalese Manuscripts of the Suśrutasaṃhitā.” Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies, Vol. 62, No. 3 62 (3): 23--29 (1087-1093). https://www.academia.edu/6695321/.
Harimoto, Kengo. 2011. “In Search of the Oldest Nepalese Manuscript.” Rivista Degli Studi Orientali, Nuova Serie Vol. 84 84: 84–106. https://www.academia.edu/4128593/.
Bhattarai, Bidur. 2020. Dividing Texts: Conventions of Visual Text-Organisation in Nepalese and North Indian Manuscripts. Studies in Manuscript Cultures, volume 10. Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110543087.
Klebanov, Andrey. 2021. “On the Textual History of the Suśrutasaṃhitā (1): A Study of Three Nepalese Manuscripts.” EJIM: Electronic Journal of Indian Medicine 12 (1): 1–64. https://doi.org/10.21827/ejim.12.1.37385.
Wujastyk, Dominik. 2013. “New Manuscript Evidence for the Textual and Cultural History of Early Classical Indian Medicine.” In Medical Texts and Manuscripts in Indian Cultural History, 141--57. New Delhi: Manohar. https://www.academia.edu/4125988/.
 These observations are not based on a systematic study of the codex but on portions of the codex so far used to transcribe and edit the text.
 ‘In der Newārī-Schrift herrscht zwar das Häkchen vor, jedoch sind auch andere Formen, wie z.B. Punkte oder ein Kreuz, geläufig.’