The Śrīkaṇṭhacarita is a Sanskrit court poem (mahākāvya) written by the poet Maṅkha in the 12th century in Kashmir and commented on by the erudite and historian Jonarāja two centuries later. The poem, in twenty-five cantos, is undeniably important not only to understand the development of kāvya in medieval Kashmir, but also as a source of history. The last canto of the poem, in particular, offers a rare first-hand account the official recitation of a work by its author at a literary assembly. The reigning king Jayasiṃha, however, is not participating in the assembly, and his absence has been explained by some as the reflection of societal changes driven by a new emerging urban elite.

Despite its literary and historical importance, the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita has received relatively little scholarly attention. While a complete translation of the poem is certainly desirable, a description and study of its manuscripts are even more urging. The lack of philological precision of the printed editions makes it hard to study accurately, and a close reading of the poem reveals typos, additional variants suggested by the commentator, and lacunae in Jonarāja’s commentary. Among the manuscripts already collected, a birch bark manuscript in Śāradā script held at the Oriental Research Library in Srinagar is particularly interesting as it contains a still unedited three-folio colophon which may offer new insights into the transmission and reception of the poem in Kashmir.

The scope of my research project is, therefore, to fill in the gaps regarding the manuscript tradition of Maṅkha’s poem and its commentary by Jonarāja, as well as to provide the scholars with an inventory of all the manuscripts needed for a future critical edition. During this process, the creation of a controlled vocabulary is a fundamental step to promote the consistent use of a shared terminology that simplifies the retrieval of material culture information, lacking in the realm of South Asian manuscript descriptions but required by today's digital standards.