Potalaka

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Thu Nov 27 15:49:53 EST 1997


In a message dated 97-11-27 00:35:45 EST, raja at GALILEO.IFA.HAWAII.EDU writes:

<< Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan wrote:

 > Is there anybody out there who can throw some conclusive
 > light on the actual location of "potalaka"? It is really
 > perplexing how "potalaka" can be identified as two places
 > so far apart, one in the northwest of India and one near
 > Cape Comorin.


 This is fascinating.  Could you please mention
 which two places you are referring to?  Thanks
 in advance.


 The two places which I have seen being identified/confounded
 with "Potalaka" are:

 (1) the Dalai Lama's "Potala" palace in Lhasa (a somewhat
     natural conception, since Tibetans consider the Dalai Lama
     to be an embodiment of Avalokiteshvara bodhisattva).

 (2) the island of Pu'to, off the southern coast of China,
     which is considered the "home" of Kuan-yin, the
     Chinese (female) bodhisattva of compassion. >>

Shu Hikosaka identifies potalaka as potiyil or potikai mountain in
Tirunelveli District in Tamilnadu based on the following. A mahAyAna text,
"gaNDavyUha says, "In the southern direction, there is a mountain named
potalaka, where lives a bodhisattva of the name avalokitezvara." The
travelogue of Yuan Chwang says, "In the south of the mo-lo-kuta (malakUTa)
country near the sea  was mo-lo-ya (malaya) mountain, lofty cliffs and ridges
and deep valleys and gullies, on which were sandal, camphor and other trees.
To the east of this was the pu-ta-lo-ka (potalaka) mountain with steep narrow
paths over its cliffs and gorges in irregular confusion; on the top was a
lake of clear water, whence issues a river which on its wayto the sea, flowed
twenty times round the mountain. By the side of the lake was a deva place
frequented by kuan-tzu-tsai-p’usa (avalokitezvara). Devotees, risking life,
brave water and mountain to see the p’usa, but only a few succeed in reaching
the shrine. To the people at the foot of the mountain who pray for a sight of
the P’usa, he appears sometimes as a pazupata tIrthika, or mahezvara, and
consoles the suppliant with his answer." Chin-sheng (ChishO 688-740 A.D.) of
T’ang dynasty has also mentioned that malaya country is near the potalaka
mountain which is the place of avalokitezvara. "Studies in the Buddhistic
Culture of India During the Seventh and Eighth Centuries A.D." by Lal Mani
Joshi , after identifying potalaka with potiyil, also mentions that potalaka
was near dhAnyakaTaka identified with amarAvati in Andhra region. It is
interesting that the name of tirunelvEli, the district in which potiyil is
located is based on "nel", a grain.I did not mention in my earlier posting
that the pass which separates Potiyil mountain from mountains further north
is called Ariyan2kAvu, meaning the grove of "Arya". "Aryan" has been used to
refer to northerners as well as Buddha.

The identification of potalaka with a place near zAlatura in Afghanistan is
implied in M. M. Deshpande's article (based on S. Beal's work) mentioned in
eariler posting.

The problem seems to be the secondary sources (S. Beal's work and T. Watters'
work) on which the identifications seem to have been based. Does anybody know
what exactly yyuan Chwang says in his travel report?

Regards

S. Palaniappan



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