on both sides of 205 palm leaves approx. 1½" x 18¼", 7 or 8 lines to a side, numbered in Tamil 283-499 but lacking leaves 331, 454-459, 461, 463-464, 481 and 498, each secured by two holes to the string and wooden stake between the wooden boards, a few leaves chipped or with tiny worm holes with loss of a few letters, but generally in very good condition,
In a fine hand, skilfully 'etched' with a sharp stylus, and then inked with vegetable dye. (For uninked lettering, see f. 354v, abandoned after 1½ lines, presumably on realising an error). The leaves are from the latter part of Part 3 ('Aaranyakaandam', 'the Forest Trek') and from the first part of Part 4 ('Kishkindhaakaandam', starting at leaf 422, see the part title in the margin), out of the seven parts of the epic. Rama spent 10 years in the forest on his way to recover Sita, his bride-to-be, and then in Part 4 came to Kishkinda, peopled by a giant monkey race. There he helped to depose Vali, once a great ruler but now consumed with jealousy. The original epic, in 24,000 stanzas, was composed in Sanskrit by Valmiki. Traditionally ascribed to 1500 B.C., it may be of the 4th c. B.C. Its stories are known all over India. They are read for many reasons, as scripture, for their philosophy of life, and for sheer adventure, coupled with scenes of tender affection, ideals of justice, and descriptions of landscape. The Tamil version by Kamban, in 10,500 stanzas, of the 11th c. A.D., is a work of art in its own right, and from it descend the prose versions such as the present. We are grateful to Mrs Nalini Persad of the British Library and to Kalyanasundara Gurukkal for help in preparing this note.
Stock ref: 14068