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0318 Ancient Khotan : vol.1
Ancient Khotan : vol.1 / Page 318 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000182
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Recovery of Vajracchedika MS.

Indications of ancient cook-room.


Indian architecture, while below were bases 8 inches square. I am unable to indicate the exact position and arrangement of these posts, but it seems probable that they had served to support the central beam.

A little beyond the latter, towards the east, the men clearing the sand just above the floor came upon a closely-packed layer of manuscript leaves (D. III. 13. a), evidently still retaining the order they had occupied in the original Pôthi. Subsequently two more small packets of leaves lying close by, and belonging to the identical MS. (D. III. i 3. b, D. III. 13. c), were brought to light, practically intact, though the action of moisture to which these leaves must have once been subjected, owing to their position not far above the ground, had stuck them close together, and had made them so very brittle that their successful separation could only be accomplished in London through the expert help of the MS. Department of the British Museum. The ends of the leaves had been bent over near the usual string-hole, and had often become detached through this folding of centuries ; but they could be fitted again without difficulty to their proper places.

The leaves in their complete state, as shown by the specimens reproduced in Plate CV I I I, measure about i41 by 3 inches, and show on each side six lines of Brahmi characters of the upright Gupta type, ascribed by Dr. Hoernle to the seventh or eighth century. In the text, which is Sanskrit, the same distinguished Indologist has recognized the Vajracchedika, a famous treatise of the Mahayana school, first edited by the late Professor Max Müller in the Anecdota Oxoniensia. The exact arrangement of the leaves was greatly facilitated by this discovery, and has shown to Dr. Hoernle that out of the twenty folia which this manuscript originally contained not less than fifteen have been preserved, in whole or part *. It is of some interest to record that, sticking closely to the packet D. III. 13. a of Vajracchedika leaves, there turned up also some much twisted fragments of the Sanskrit manuscript in large Gupta characters described above as a sort of Prajna Paramita. These fragments, which showed a far more brittle condition than the rest of the leaves described in Dr. Hoernle's Note i., had evidently become attached to the Vajracchedika Pôthi in its earlier resting-place, and sharing its fate had found their way into the sand of the basement-story far earlier than the other pieces.

The fact that all manuscript remains found in this ruined structure (with the exception of the small document in the ' unknown ' Eastern Iranian language) proved to have religious contents, makes it appear highly probable that they are derived from the library of a monastic establishment that once occupied the structure, and, no doubt, supplied the attendant priests for the adjoining small shrines. That the basement room excavated had offered only accidental shelter to these fragmentary relics of Buddhist literature, and had originally served the more prosaic purposes of a cook-room for the little Vihara, became abundantly clear as the work of clearing was carried on to the east wall. Built against the latter there was found a big fireplace, constructed of fairly hard plaster with an elaborately-moulded top looking like a chimney but showing no arrangement for the egress of smoke, the whole reaching to a height of over 6 feet from the floor.

By the side of it a broad bench, also seen in Fig. 33, filled a kind of recess. Judging from a similar arrangement still observed in Turkestan houses, and from bits of coarse broken pottery found below it, this bench probably served for the handy storing of cooking utensils. In front of it, and not far from the fireplace, there stood a rough wooden tripod (visible in the photograph), such as is still used throughout the Country to support large water jars required for kitchen purposes. In the same way the short rough post with branching head, which I found fixed in the ground close to where the first manuscript leaf was discovered, certainly served to hang

' See his Note v. in list below.