How a buck/stag could have become a lion!

Palaniappa at Palaniappa at
Sat Jun 28 04:41:26 UTC 1997

In a message dated 97-06-21 19:21:53 EDT, thillaud at
(Dominique.Thillaud) writes:

<< From my point of view, that's not a problem. mRga and vyAghra (or
 simha) are strongly linked as the couple prey/predator (MBh III,11,24;
 III,200,14 and tens of others) and the hunter can be identified with both
 (see the greek myth of Akteon): obviously mRgahan = vyAghra, but, all over
 the world, the hunting ideology contains an identification with the prey
 (magical ?). I believe that explain the verb mRgayati (te).
 	The two animals of the greek Huntress Artemis are the deer and the
 	Even if it is etymologically (stricto sensu) wrong, we can't
 neglect the rapport between mRga | mR + gA and dur-gA.
 	This don't presume DurgA to be an eurindian Goddess because the
 Wild Beast's Lady (correct ? Greek: PotniA ThErOn, French: Dame des Fauves)
 is well known in many civilizations. But that can explain why, linked with
 DurgA, stags and lions are structurally the same.
 	Hoping to help, namaste!
 Dominique THILLAUD
 Universite' de Nice Sophia-Antipolis, France

I have a theory as to how lion could have replaced stag/buck as the vehicle
of DurgA. I got this idea when I came across the name of a Tantric text,
'mRgendratantra'. 'mRga' can mean both a deer as well as an animal in
general. If there were an early text mentioning the vehicle of DurgA as
'mRgendra', is it possible that it was interpreted as the 'king of animals'
instead of 'king of deers'? While the original could have referred to a
buck/stag as the 'king of deers', the mistaken interpretation could have led
to 'lion' as the 'king of animals'.

In Tamil the word 'mAn' has a similar semantic range as 'mRga' in Sanskrit.
(See DED 3917.) It can lead to some misinterpretation in some contexts but
the concept of 'king of animals' or 'king of deers' seem to be alien to
Classical Tamil usage. CT and CilappatikAram use the word 'kalai' which
avoids the confusion of whether a lion or buck/stag is meant?

What do the Sanskritists think? Can 'mRgendra' result in this type of


S. Palaniappan

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