One more feather in Sanskrit scholar’s cap in Puducherry

S. Sambanda Sivacharya examining palm leaves manuscripts, which are preserved at the French Institute of Pondicherry. Photo: S.S. Kumar  

Octogenarian S. Sambanda Sivacharya has founded his formidable scholarship on an in-depth study of the scriptures and the nuggets of knowledge engraved on palm-leaf manuscripts.

The 89-year-old Sanskrit scholar and researcher in the French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP), who has been chosen for the coveted Presidential Award of Certificate of Honour for lifetime achievement in the field of Sanskrit language and literature, has done phenomenal work, especially in the Saivasiddantha.

He has published critical editions of the Saivagamas, one of the 28 main texts (agamas) of Saivasiddantha tracing the historical evolution of its doctrines and the Saiva ritual system dating back several centuries. He also catalogued and translated over 300 ancient Saiva manuscripts.

On the Presidential award, which carries a certificate of honour, a memento and a one-time cash prize of Rs. 5 lakh, he believes it was a reward for “my hard work and affection for the language and outcome of the good deeds in my previous birth (Purvajanma punyam)”.

The scholar who joined IFP as a research assistant in 1969 is also the proud recipient of prestigious civil award ‘ Ordre des Palmes Académiques’ from the French Government in 2008 for his contributions to the study of the languages, texts, history and cultures of the Indian subcontinent. Among his other accolades are the prestigious Ikuo Hirayama award and the Agama Bhushanam Award from All India Aadhisaiva Sivachariyagal Seva Sangam in 2011.

Sambanda Sivacharya was born into a family archakas and had early exposure from the age of seven to temple rites and Veda Mantras under the guidance of his father D. Subrahmanya Gurukkal.

During his stint as scholar at the IFP since 1969, he extensively collected and studied Saiva manuscripts on palm leaves under the guidance of noted scholar N R Bhatt.

“IFP has about 8,400 bundles of palm leaf manuscripts (classified as Memory of the World collection) by UNESCO with a majority on Saivagama, rituals, astrology, traditional south Indian medicine, Sanskrit literary works and Tamil devotional literature,” he said.

Most of the manuscripts are written in Grantha script, used by Tamil Brahmins for writing Sanskrit while others are in Sarada, Nandinagari, Newari, Tigalari, Grantha, Tamil, Telugu, Oriya and Tulu scripts. Each palm leaf bundle contains dozens of texts engraved in tiny letters, Sambanda Sivacharya said.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 3:15:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/one-more-feather-in-sanskrit-scholars-cap-in-puducherry/article6364428.ece

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