[INDOLOGY] Searching for a little-known Nyāya

Walter Slaje slaje at kabelmail.de
Thu Jun 25 18:49:24 EDT 2015

This video is so convincing that the idea of a śaśīsarpanyāya develops all
by itself, even without ever having heard of it before. Great!

Jan's likely assumption that this textually unattested nyāya might "have
been based on actual observation" reminds one all the more painfully of our
insufficient knowledge of realia and the material culture of pre-modern

Speaking of nyāyas - and we may as well include the kavi-samayas, the
ideological and material roots of which still remain unexplored by and
large -, I should like to draw your attention to a promising rumour
according to which the Indological Section of the DMG (German Oriental
Society) consider a prize competition for cracking the history of
development of some of the toughest nyāya- and kavisamaya-nuts. This might
possibly materialize in the broader context of the 33rd Deutscher
Orientalistentag to be held from the 18th to the 22nd of September 2017 in
Jena, Germany (the domain of, among others, Otto von Böhtlingk and the
Schlegel brothers).
I am not well informed enough, but would advise an occasional glance at the
homepage of the Section (http://www.dmg-web.de/indologie/index.html) in the
run-up to the Orientalistentag in 2017. So, plenty of time for warming-up.

Many thanks, and kind regards,

2015-06-25 13:40 GMT+02:00 Patrick Olivelle <jpo at uts.cc.utexas.edu>:

> Walter and all:
> I do not know abut this maxim, but this real life video of a mother rabbit
> doing just what the maxim say could be instructive. It was probably filmed
> somewhere in south India, I am not sure of the language of the people
> taping it.
> Patrick
> http://zeenews.india.com/news/world/watch-the-epic-fight-here-rabbit-battling-a-snake-to-protect-her-bunnies_1619126.html
> On Jun 25, 2015, at 3:24 AM, Walter Slaje <slaje at kabelmail.de> wrote:
> Dear Colleagues,
> I am searching for textual evidence of a little-known Nyāya.
> In an article by Soutik Biswas “Why India's sanitation crisis kills
> women” (BBC News India, 30 May 2014), it was claimed that “Several studies
> have shown that women without toilets at home are vulnerable to sexual
> violence when travelling to and from public facilities or open fields.
> [...]“. One mother told researchers, “We have had *one-on-one fights with
> thugs in order to save our daughters from getting raped*. It then becomes
> a fight that either you [the thug] *kill me to get to my daughter*, or
> you back off.”
> This courageous behaviour of mothers fighting for her girls at the risk of
> their own lives reminds one of the *śaśī-sarpa-nyāya* (“the bunny and the
> snake”), known to some by hearsay only, but not (yet) traceable. The
> generalization here lies certainly in the fact that a (physically weaker)
> female (*śaśī*) effectively fights a (physically stronger) male (*sarpa*).
> The latter would be the aggressor(s), the victim(s) the (female) bunny
> and/or her young.
> The rare feminine formation *śaśī* causes no real trouble, as occurrences
> of the word are anyway testified in the *Mokṣopāya* (VI.34.103) and in
> Ratnākaraśānti’s *Vidagdhavismāpana* (175) [written communication by
> Roland Steiner].
> In connection of the very idea behind this nyāya, I should also like to
> add that Gandhi could indeed have been aware of a similar popular maxim, as
> he refers explicitly to “the violence of *the mouse against the cat*“,
> writing that
> “A girl who attacks her assailant with her nails, if she has grown them,
> or with her teeth, *if she has them* [? W.S.], is almost non-violent
> (...). Her violence is the violence of the mouse against the cat.“ (Harijan,
> 08-09-1940).
> On the other hand, Gandhi had
> „(...) always held that it is physically impossible to violate a woman
> against her will. (…) If she cannot meet the assailant’s physical might,
> her purity will give her the strength to die before he succeeds in
> violating her. (…) I know that women are capable of throwing away their
> lives for a much lesser purpose.” (Harijan, 25-08-1940).
> The statement in the last paragraph, only cited for its somewhat
> conflicting character with the first one, would, if further pursued,
> however lead into an entirely different matter, better not to be touched.
> I would be fully satisfied if someone among this learned community could
> contribute to the mysterious* śaśīsarpanyāya*, on- or off-list.
> Thanking you,
> WS
> -----------------------------
> Prof. Dr. Walter Slaje
> Hermann-Löns-Str. 1
> D-99425 Weimar
> Deutschland
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