KOLKATA: Ancient Indian scholar Jaimini, a student of Ved Vyasa, has been held in great esteem for his re-telling of the ‘Mahabharata’. But most Indology scholars considered his works to be lost because no manuscript pertaining to Jaimini has been available in the country. However, two city scholars visiting Chennai Oriental Manuscripts Library stumbled upon some palm leaf manuscripts which turned out to be Jaimini’s version of the epic.

Retired IAS officer Pradip Bhattacharya and Major General Shekhar Kumar Sen, who were researching on the ‘Mahabharata’, could not decipher the Grantha (Sanskrit texts written in Tamil script) on the leaves and had to bring in someone to translate it into Devanagari. “It was then that we realised we had stumbled upon a treasure trove. They were Jaimini’s manuscripts, something that had eluded all eyes for so many hundreds of years,” Bhattacharya said.

The scholars found both complete and incomplete manuscripts by Jaimini. Of the complete ones, they chose ‘Mairavana Carita’ and ‘Sahasramukharavana Caritram’ to work on. “We found the National Manuscripts Mission was as excited as we were about the discovery. The Mission joined us in publishing this first ever critical edition of the texts along with the English translation in verse,” Bhattacharya said.

Both texts deal with episodes not found in Valmiki’s ‘Ramayana’. While ‘Mairavana Carita’ deals with the demon Mairavan who kidnaps Rama and Lakshmana to be rescued by Hanuman, the ‘Sahasramukharavana Caritram’, also called the ‘Sita Vijay’, is a story where Sita dons the warr-ior’s garb to fight and kill Ravana’s brother.

In the course of research, the two traced the stories to Cambodia where they found ancient paintings on palaces and temple walls corroborating them. “Rather than Krishna’s dominance, we read about Hanuman, a Shiva devotee, as the hero. In the second book, Sita embraces the power of Shakti/Kali to decimate the thousand-headed demon. These are unique stories that we had never heard before and are part of Jaimini’s imagination. At a time when Vishnu loomed large over our epics, you see a clear Shaivaite and Shakta influence in these two works, which are of great importance for scholars,” Bhattacharya explained.