The Linguistic and Material Aspects of Mixed-Language Manuscripts in the Śrīvaiṣṇava Tradition
The manuscript collection of the École française d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO) holds approximately 130 multiple-text manuscripts (MTM) that contain materials pertaining to the South Indian Hindu sect of Śrīvaiṣṇavism. The tradition’s teachers (Ācāryas, c. 12th-15th CE) early on accepted three streams of scripture as authoritative – the Tamil devotional corpus, the Nālāyira Tivya Prapantam (NTP); the Sanskrit Vedas, especially via Rāmānuja’s philosophical works; and Sanskrit works on temple-ritual known as the Pañcarātrāgamas. In keeping with this stance, the MTMs of the EFEO collection contain, in an extensive variety of combinations, both Sanskrit and Tamil texts, alongside mixed-language Manipravalam commentaries on the NTP, esoteric works (rahasyagranthas), and hagiographies that are documented in the manuscript sources in a blend of Tamil and Grantha scripts. The project focuses on the material and linguistic aspects of the Manipravalam manuscripts of the collection, particularly the commentaries and esoteric works, with the hagiographies and paratextual materials as important supplementary sources for reconstructing the lines of transmission. It proceeds along three complementary avenues of investigation: 1) material and written transmission based on a manuscriptological approach to the MTMs; 2) internal testimony and paratextual evidence of oral lines of transmission; and 3) the linguistic characteristics of Manipravalam. Research output will range from overviews of the entire collection to detailed case-studies of particular MTMs, and the creation of an open-access database containing a lexicon of Manipravalam as attested by the manuscripts of the EFEO collection.