Yaroslav V. Vassilkov yavass at YV1041.SPB.EDU
Sat Dec 5 11:57:02 UTC 1998

Dear Lars,
        as far as I can judge, with your "wild guess" about the genetic
connection between epic *daiva* with the root div- "to gamble" (and in its
IE depth, probably, "to divine"), you have surely fit the mark. But please
don't look into Mayrhofer: you will not find this etymology there. It seems
to have been offered for the first time by the Croatian indologist,
Klara Gonc-Moacanin in her article "Znacenje kokanja u Mahabharate: Kokanje
kao sudbina" ("The Significance of the Game of Dice in the Mbh: Dicing as Fate",
in Croatian) - "Knjizevna smotra", 1984, n.3, pp. 60-64. Now reprinted in her
book "sahRdaya. Knizevno putovanje sa srcem u Indiju. Zagreb, 1996, pp.37-46.
I learned about it quite recently. In the course of my work on the large
monograph on the concepts of Fate in the Mbh (which is based on the complete
corpus of relevant material in the epic and is now close to being completed)
I have come independently to the same conclusion. I mentioned this etymology
in a paper summarizing my results which I read at the Modern SA Conference
1996 at Copenhagen, and was told then that this etymology had been suggested
also by Madelaine Biardeau in some of her recent works (no exact reference).
Shulman probably had this etymology in his mind when he formulated the title
of his contribution to the Heesterman volume.
        But in spite of its most archaic original meaning, *daiva* never means
"chance" in the Mbh (there is a special word for *chance* - yadRcchA). In the
basic "classical heroic" (as I call it, in opposition to "archaic heroic")
worldview layer in the Mbh *daiva* is
always the blind, non-personal, unpredictable and usually cruel Fate which is
higher than the gods, which is mystery to the gods, and so on. Therefore
the best translation, in my opinion, would be the traditional one: Fate,
        By the way, dhAtR (dhAtA) is not identical with BrahmA in the Mbh
(with the exception of some very late contexts). dhAtA is the specific Epic
god of Fate, its apportioner and supervisor.
        Here are some titles which may prove to be useful for the
list-members interested in *daiva*:

Bhattacharji S. Fatalism in Ancient India. Calcutta, 1995.
Bharadwaj S. The Concept of "Daiva" in the Mahabharata. Delhi, 1992
Krishan Y. The Doctrine of Karman, Daiva and PuruSakAra. - ALB, vol. 48
(1984), pp. 119-132.
Hara Minoru. Kodai indo-no ummeikan. [Tokyo], 1971 (large monograph
on Fate in the Mbh; in Japanese; Skt references in Latin transcription).
      On Daiva and PuruSakAra
Kar B. Indian Philosophy: An Analytical Study. Delhi, 1985.
Rocher L. The Purana of Fate and Human Effort. - ABORI Diamond Jubilee
Volume, Poona, 1978, pp. 271-279.
        Best wishes to all,
                                Yaroslav Vassilkov

Yaroslav V.Vassilkov, Ph.D.
Department of South and SE Asian Studies
Institute of Oriental Studies
Dvortsovaya nab., 18,
St Petersburg, 191186,

Home address: Fontanka, 2,
kv. 617, St Petersburg,
191187, Russia
tel. +7 (812) 275 8179
e-mail: yavass at

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