pots, brahmin names, and potters

Artur Karp hart at POLBOX.COM
Fri Dec 11 12:59:36 UTC 1998

At 23:49 10.12.98 +0100, you wrote:
>At 10:59 10.12.98 +0100, you wrote:
>>Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan wrote
>>>Several Tamil inscriptions have intriguing names of brahmins who received
>>>royal grants. The names contain words meaning pot, bowl or urn. These are
>>>very rare occurrences either. For instance, along with droNa/tONa, we find
>>>caTTi (DEDR 2306), tA_li (DEDR 3182), maNTai (DEDR 4682) all refer to
>>>different type of earthern vessels.
>>- cut -
>>>We should note that Pallavas claimed themselves to be brahmin
descendants of
>>>droNa born in a bucket/trough. As a result one can assume many brahmins
>>>have had droNa/tONa in their names. But, we also have the form tONamaNTa
>>>zarman (<droNamaNTai zarman?).
>>- cut -
>>> Why would brahmins have words
>>>referring to different kinds of earthern vessels in their names?
>>- cut -
>>>The epic droNa is of course similar to bhArgava rAma in
>>>being born a brahmin but behaving as a kSatriya. I have in my earlier
>>>pointed out the potter-priest-warrior connections.
>> Though kumbhayoni can be used as an argument in this case, the problem (at
>>least for me) is that droNa - probably to be derived from dru/dAru, "wood"
>>- means "wooden vessel" (or has this meaning changed in the Dravidian
>>languages?), and therefore cannot directly be connected with pottery.
>>Georg v. Simson
>A remark on Georg v. Simson posting and a question in connection with pots.
>Dro.na/dro.n_i might have lost its original connection with 'wood' quite
>Despite CDIAL 6641, where Pali don.i_ is explained as "wooden trough" -
>don.i_ seems to denote rather a certain type of vessels ("trough, vat,
>tub"). [Cf. The PTS Pali-English Dictionary, p. 331, where don.i_ "a
>(wooden) trough...]
>In order to be more specific about material out of which the don.i_ type
>vessels were made, one had then - at least in some cases - to resort to the
>use of attributive adjectives.
>One such case is when tela-don.i_ is attributed by a_yasa_, making it of
>course not "iron wooden oil trough" but simply "iron oil trough".
>It might be of possible interest that in the Mahaparinibbana-sutta [5.11;
>Sacred Books of the Buddhists,  Vol. III, Pali Text Society 1995, pp.
>155-156] don.i_ is mentioned in connection with death:
>"Then they place the body in an oil vessel of iron [ayasa_ya
>tela-don.iya_], and cover that close up [pat.ikujjitva_] with another oil
>vessel of iron. They then build a funeral pyre..., and burn [jha_penti] the
>body of the king of kings..."
>[In the footnote to ayasa_ya tela-don.iya_ the translator (T. Rhys Davids)
>says: "Ayas was originally used for bronze, and only later for iron also,
>and at last exclusively for iron. As kam.sa is already a common word for
>bronze in very early Buddhist Pali texts, I think a_yasa (not ayasa) would
>here mean 'of iron'..." And he goes on: "The whole process as described is
>not very intelligible; and one might suppose that ayasa after all had
>nothing to do with any metal, and was a technical term descriptive of some
>particular size or shape or colour of oil vessel. But it is frequently
>found in the MSS. when iron is clearly meant."]
>Body [s'ari_ra], (closed) vessel, and oil seem to form a triad. Or tetrad -
>if we add heat.
>Could it be equivalent to the triad: foetus [garbha]/(closed) vessel/(warm)
>Artur Karp
>University of Warsaw


Let me add that the division of the remains of the Buddha was performed by
a brahman named Don.a. And he himself obtains "the vessel" [i.e. kumbha].

MPS 6.25: "Don.o  bra_hman.o  tesam.  sam.gha_nam.  gan.a_nam.
pat.issutva_  Bhagavato  sari_ra_ni  at.t.hadha_  samam.  suvibhattam.
vibhajitva_  te sam.ghe  gan.e  etad  avoca:  'Imam.  me  bhonto  kumbham.
dadantu,  aham.  pi  kumbhassa  thu_pan~  mahan~  ca  karissa_mi_ti'.
Adam.su  kho  te  Don.assa  bra_hman.assa kumbham.".

Translated by T. Rhys Davids as: "...said Don.a the brahmin, in assent to
the assembled brethren. And he divided the remains of the Exalted One
equally into eight parts, with fair division. And he said to them: - 'Give
me, sirs, this vessel, and I will set up over it a sacred cairn, and in its
honour will I establish a feast.' And they gave the vessel to Don.a the

Was the vessel [kumbha] given to Don.a the same with the iron oil trough
[a_yasa_ tela-don.i_], in which the body of the Buddha was placed prior to
its cremation?

Or an urn to which the relics were transferred after cremation and prior to
their division by Don.a? (Thus, it seems, Buddhaghosa; but the text of the
MPS does not say anything on the matter.)

Artur Karp

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