Mandala Of Indic Traditions
Did You Know?
By D.P. Agrawal
Question: Did you know where the famous Bower manuscript was found and what
is its importance for Ayurvedic Studies?
The Bower Manuscript (mss), which is named after its discoverer, Lieutenant
H. Bower, was found in 1890, in Kuchar, in Eastern Turkestan, on the great caravan
route of China. It was then sent to Colonel J. Waterhouse, who was then the
President of Asiatic Society of Bengal. On reaching Calcutta in February 1891,
it was taken over by the famous epigraphist and indologist Hoernle who was at
that time the Philological Secretary of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. After
the completion of its editing, Hoernle returned it to Bower in 1898.
The Bower Manuscript in reality is a collection of seven distinct manuscripts,
or it may be called a collective manuscript of seven parts. The total of the
existing leaves of the Bower Manuscript is fifty-one. But unfortunately the
more important portion of it, Parts I- III, which deals with medicine, is incomplete.
Detailed studies of the mss indicated to Hoernle that the writers of Parts
I- III and Parts V-VII were Indian Buddhist monks. The mss is written in Indian
Gupta script. The use of birch-bark for writing shows that they must have come
from Kashmir or Udyana. Hoernle thinks that they passed the mss into the hands
of the writer of Part IV, who would seem to have been a native of Eastern Turkestan,
or perhaps of China. But the ultimate owner of the whole series of manuscripts,
Yasomitra, must have held a prominent position in that monastery. For this collective
manuscript was contained in the relic chamber of the memorial stupa at the Ming-oi
of Qum Tura, built in his honour.
The large medical treatise called Navanitaka forms the second part of
the Bower mss. As the date of that mss falls somewhere in the second
half of the fourth century A.D., and as the Navanitaka quotes numerous
formulae from the Cikitsita-sthana of Charaka's Compendium, it
seems obvious that none of the chapters of the latter, from which quotations
occur in the Navanitaka, can have been written by the famous physician
Drdhabala, who lived several centuries later, probably in the ninth century
A.D. The date of the composition of the Navanitaka is probably much earlier
than that of the writing of the Bower mss, in which it has been preserved
for us. "That the latter is not the autograph of the author of the Navanitaka,
but is a copy of a pre-existing work, is proved by various marks in the mss."
Hoernle holds the view that the Navanitaka being later in date than the
Caraka-samhita, and of the latter work (in the form in which it at the
time existed, before its revision and completion by Drdhabala) having been one
of the sources drawn on by the author of the Navanitaka.
Hoernle, A. F. R. 1909. The Composition of the Caraka-Samita in the Light of
the Bower Manuscript. Reprinted in Studies in the History of Science in India.
1982. Vol. I. (Ed) Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya. New Delhi: Editorial Enterprises.
Hoernle, A. F. R. 1909. The Bower Manuscript. Reprinted in Studies in the
History of Science in India. 1982. Vol. I. (Ed.) Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya.
New Delhi: Editorial Enterprises. Pp. 116- 140.
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