Thor bu - Curiosia Indo-Tibetica

Textual and visual odds and ends from India, Tibet, and around.

My Photo
Location: Kolozsvár/Cluj, Budapest, Oxford, ibi ubi

Friday, October 29, 2010


A new and highly recommended blog described as: Glosses on classical Indian literature and the history of premodern South Asia.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Don Quixote in Sanskrit

In spite of other obligations I spent a good part of last night browsing this site with some very nice trivia about the life of Marc Aurel Stein. Make sure to check out the Bodleian mss. of smaller works of Kashmiri interest here. The circumstances of a Sanskrit and Kashmiri translation of Don Quixote (!) are here. I am quite sure this was a well-known fact but it came as a surprise to me. For yet another nice site about Stein click here.

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Durbar catalogue online

Some of you might be interested in this: Shastri's catalogue of the Durbar collection (vol. 1 and vol. 2) is online at

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 11, 2010

Of the sons of donkeys and sows (a note on bureaucratic vulgarity)

Perhaps because of having dealt with so many wonderfully absurd bureaucratic situations Thor bu loves a bit of vulgarity in official documents. Apparently those good old Biharis (and Tibetans, on which a bit later) also loved a non-veg joke in their documents. This image comes from a grant dating to the early 13th century. A local king, the rather nebulous Aśokacalladeva, and/or his ministers built a small vihāra and left some endowments. The language of the document is pretty horrible. If you want to read more about it I suggest you download Epigraphia Indica 12. There are several other publications on this inscription, but unfortunately they are not available to me at the moment.

If you are reading Tsukamoto's Indo bukkyo himei no kenkyu ('A Comprehensive Study of the Indian Buddhist Inscriptions') you will perhaps get excited at the sight of one Kashmiri Abhayaśrī being mentioned. Unfortunately he is not. I still can't figure out what the name of Kashmiri fellow is, but I'm willing to wager a good bottle of wine that it is not Abhayaśrī.

Back to the image. Here is the bigger picture:

Apparently those good old Victorian gentlemen did not share the sense of humour of the people they were studying. Here is the same inscription in Sir Alexander Cunningham's Mahābodhi:

Notice the difference? Indeed, no more unlawful carnal knowledge between... but what are they? Well, we could argue about it, but I'm pretty sure it is a donkey and a sow (or more precisely a wild boar sow). But it's not because I'm so good at zoology; I could not tell you the difference between a boar and a badger (whatever those are). It's because the - I think rather well-executed - sketch is a somewhat unusual representation of an imprecation, which is, however, almost standard at the end of land grants. An inscription dating from 32 years later from the same location says:

vaṃśe madīye yadi ko 'pi bhūpaḥ
śiṣṭo 'thavā duṣṭataro vinaṣṭaḥ |
vyatikramaṃ cātra karoti tasya
tātaḥ kharaḥ sūkarikā ca mātā ||
"And should any king of my lineage,
be him learned/superior or wickedly damned,
violate [the terms of] this [donation], his
father is a donkey and his mother a sow."

So, what the image is saying is: 'I gently remind you to respect this here donation' (take that, semiotics!). Other standard verses, more common on Pāla grants, promise rebirth as a worm in excrement. Why can't we have things like this on our contracts? [sigh]

What about the Tibetans? Well, I came across this image some time ago in here.

I even remember having somehow deciphered some of the writing under the smudge, but I lost the higher resolution images some time ago. Maybe you will have more luck. The young scribe no doubt expressed how he felt about scribbling for the zhang blon, or for the other chap, who had nothing better to do but bother him with dictating a letter about how his yearly crops went on what I imagine to have been a sunny afternoon.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Grandpa sends the elephants home

This lovely little verse comes from the Monghyr copper plate of Devapāla:

vijitya yenājaladher vasundharāṃ
vimocitā moghaparigrahā iti |
sabāṣpam udbāṣpavilocanān punar
vaneṣu bandhūn dadṛśur mataṅgajāḥ ||

[yena = Gopālena, who was Devapāla's grandfather]

Crying elephants!

Labels: , , , ,