The Sancha family of scripts have been used in the peaceful valleys of Kashmir as early as 9th CE and now are mostly used in present day Himachal Pradesh in India in the Sirmour, Solan and Shimla areas where they form an integral part of the heritage of these lands, especially in the practice of divination, medicine, and magic.
The etymology of the word Sancha can be retraced to the Sanskrit word ‘Sanch’ or ‘Sanchai’, which means repository or compilation. These treatises are also known in different communities by different names.
Pabuchi (पाबुची), a descendent of the ancient Sharada script, is used by Pabuch Brahmin families (tracing back to the 10th – 11th CE) and is preserved in documented form in part of Chopal and Sirmaur in Himachal Pradesh, India. Another variation of the script is Bagoi Codex (Sancha) बागोई पोथी (सांचा) which means – “ledger of luck” (“भाग्य की बही”) also known as Choi (चोई).
The number of codices or texts written in Pabuchi are numerous in contrast to the Pandwani or Pandvani and they themselves are many in number as opposed to the Chandwani or Chindvani scripts, of which only a handful exist.
The holy scriptures enclosed in the Sancha script are an illustrious example of the traditions, belief systems and ancient wisdom. The secrets that could be unlocked with the understanding of these scripts could be categorised into sacred incantations (मंत्र or mantra), astrology, or hallowed devices to gain insights into plausible person’s temporal activities (ज्योतिष Jyotish) and shamanic practices & mystical hymns invocations (तांत्रिक Tantric). Some of the present day Kashmiri pandits in Himachal Pradesh are believed to be the custodians of these miraculous systems.
What makes these scriptures unique lies in their multitude of uses. In remote parts of Kinnaur, Mandi, and Kulla districts people consult them (pandits, who are associated with local deities), when a calamity strikes or if someone is ill or even during an auspicious occasion. This is because the Sancha vidya (or texts) offer solutions and remedies to people who are troubled by the negative influences of a wide range of scenarios ranging from necromancy, black magic, witchcraft, occult effects and influences of evil spirits besides demonology. Additionally people who are saddled by anxieties and worries arising out of afflictions by various ailments can find health reassuring remedies by consulting the pandits. They also guarantee a triumph over one’s hidden enemies by recitation of certain mantras or sacred incantations.
The Codex or Pothi (पोथी) is purposed for the diagnosis of diseases and ailments which are not being controlled by any remedy. The Pothi is used as the basis for calculation or divination. It is handwritten potha or granth (diagrammatic representation) that is kept as a collection (or Sancha) by the highest priest (Guru Purohit) of the village, called Bagoi, who also possesses dice (or pasha) made from the teeth of musk deer.
When a person is in a lot of trouble due to any problem like disease or calamity, they offer rice (dakshina) to the Bagoi. Then the priest rolls the dice three times on the page with a request to remember the deity and solve the problem of the questioner. By reading the resulting numbers, the measures for prevention are seen. Furthermore, a person can use Sancha texts to get a succinct knowledge of auspicious timings (hora), and also to gain an understanding of when, where and by whom an item belonging to them was stolen.
The Sancha as a process should be cast depending on time of the day, which consists of four parts before noon and seven parts after noon.
The construction of the Sancha are mainly of two types, either made of vulture (garuda गरुड़) bone & feather and deer (kakhad काखड) horn, or wood and metal. In the Jaunsari society amongst the Guddi (गुद्दी) scholars or pandits, the book of Sancha or Bagoi codex (बागोई पोथी) is considered to be sacred and it is always wrapped in a red cloth and incense is given to it. The book deals with Kashmiri (कश्मीरी), Joysha (जोयशा), Buxadi (बुक्साडी) and many many more methods of black magic.
One of the Sancha books has been transliterated to Hindi (हिंदी) and is available as an eBook on archive website. There has been an attempt to create the first ever computer font for Pabuchi Sancha. The book The Paleography of Himachal by Om Prakash Sharma vividly captures the precise details of the varied Sancha scripts.
The Sancha scripts are among the many minority scripts in north India that are slowly falling out of use, yet there are constant efforts being made to revive them. The communities are working towards digitally converting the scripts and languages, but the local government hasn’t taken steps to preserve them.
The Sancha treatises are a testament of human endurance, which has blossomed with generations spanning aeons. The desire to sustain and use the knowledge is still alive amongst their custodians and the people who consult the pandits, and for now, at least, the passage of time leaves them unscathed.
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