22 May 2011

Yig mgo and shad

I noticed this image on Wikipedia this morning under Mongolian writing systems. I've straightened it, cropped it, and saturated the colours to highlight the text. The image combines a number of scripts and helps to illustrate something I've been researching for my book. There are two lines of vertical phags pa script at either end and five lines of horizontal text in the following scripts:
  1. Lantsa
  2. dbu can
  3. soyombo (A Mongolian script based on dbu can)
  4. dbu can
  5. Classical Mongolian
The top line reads : *|| la kṣiṃ ja nya su kha hī paṃ ||
The next line reads: **|| la kṣiṃ dza nya sukha hī paṃ ||

This is not a mantra I'm familiar with, but in any case I was mainly interested to draw attention the the marks I have transcribed as * and ||.

The sign transcribed by * I only know by its Tibetan name yig mgo pronounced 'yimgo'. It is followed by the vertical stroke । in Sanskrit is called daṇḍa 'rod, stick', and in Tibetan shad (pronounced shé), which here is doubled ॥ . In this case the Tibetan yig mgo combines both the standard yig gmo - - and the 'following' yig mgo - - to give ༄༅. This and even more ornate forms are often found at the head of texts. The Lantsa yig mgo adds what looks like the long ā diacritic which probably is the same idea.

The latter is simply the double daṇḍa or nyis shad in Tibetan. The daṇḍa is the only form of punctuation regularly used in Sanskrit. In poetry a single daṇḍa marks the end of a line, and a double daṇḍa marks the end of a stanza. In prose it is used more freely where in English we might use commas, semi-colons, dashes, colons, and full-stops.

I'm planning a longer article about these and similar marks for my blog in a couple of weeks, and have more detail in my forthcoming book.

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