hair's colour in Sanskrit

cardona at cardona at
Thu May 8 22:14:23 UTC 1997

>Despite the emphasis on the beauty of fair skin in India today...isn't
>there an old story that ancient Indians heard tales from travelers of
>white-skinned, blue-eyed people and laughingly denied such tales, saying
>the gods could not be so cruel as to make such people?

There appear to have been such features known in the 2nd c. BC. In the
MahAbhASya on 2.2.6 and 5.5.15, Patanjali quotes a verse giving the
characteristics of BrAhmaNas, then describes some features.  The text as
found in Kielhorn's edition and others has gauraH zucyAcAraH piGgalaH
kapilakezaH.  In addition, a different reading is noted in the Uddyota and
RatnaprakAza: piGgalakapilakezaH.  With the first reading, a BrAhmaNa is
described as being white, of pure behavior, yellow-brownish and with
reddish-brown hair.  Under the second, he is white, of pure behavior and
with hair that is yellowish to reddish brown. It is understandable that
NAgeZa exerts effort to explain gauraH under the first reading. In his
commentary, KaiyaTa remarks that this harks back to an earlier time, and
that the same characteristics are seen to continue rarely even now-a-days.
George Cardona

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