Question on Chinese folk novels

Lakshminarayan Iyer laks at IDMB.TAMU.EDU
Wed Sep 30 04:48:10 UTC 1998

Dear Mr. Ganesan:

I find this compilation really interesting... Ofcourse, the Indology novice
in me wonders if there is a connection between Potalaka and Sabarimala.. the
ardurous journey (something we still follow), the river Pampa, the Amman
temple next to the temple of Lord Ayyappa (Here according to the legend, the
goddess is not wedded to this lord of the hills)... the temple architecture
is reminiscent of Buddhist influence? The directions in the texts mentioned.
All very suggestive of some homology, if not similarity.

Thank you,


> ----------
> From:         N. Ganesan[SMTP:naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM]
> Reply To:     Indology
> Sent:         Tuesday, September 29, 1998 9:44 PM
> Subject:      Re: Question on Chinese folk novels
> <<<
> Nowadays in China, "Potalaka" is firmly identified with
> Putuo Shan, a mountain and small island off the coast
> near Shanghai and Taiwan in the East China Sea.  It
> is considered one of the "four sacred mountains" of
> Chinese Buddhism.  Pilgrims and tourists go there.
> >>>
> Pl. see Yu Chun-fang's article, "P'u-t'o Shan: Pilgrimage and the
> Creation of the Chinese Potalaka," in Susan Naquin and Chun-fang Yu,
> editors, "Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China" (Berkeley: University of
> California Press, 1992).
> Chinese Pu-to and Tibetan Potala palace are secondary derivations
> after South Indian Potalaka.
> The following is what I read on location of Potalaka.
> In addition we have GaNDavyUha sUtram where Potalaka comes after
> describing a string of Tamilnadu places. In any reference, there is
> NO mention of Potalaka in the Northwest.
> T. Watters, On Yuan Chwang's travels in India, 1905
> 2.229 says:
> "From Kanchi city he went south above 3000 li to the Mo-la-ku-ta
> country"
> (K. A. Nilakanta Sastri, Foreign notices of South India, 1939
> says "This is the contemporary Pandyan kingdom. See Proc. of the
> Transactions of the sixth All India Oriental conference, p. 173-179")
> T. Watters continues:
> "In the south of the mo-lo-kuta (malakUTa)
> country near the sea  was mo-lo-ya (malaya) mountain, lofty cliffs and
> ridges
> and deep valleys and gullies, on which were sandal, camphor and other
> trees.
> To the east of this was the pu-ta-lo-ka (potalaka) mountain with steep
> narrow
> paths over its cliffs and gorges in irregular confusion; on the top was
> a
> lake of clear water, whence issues a river which on its wayto the sea,
> flowed
> twenty times round the mountain. By the side of the lake was a deva
> place
> frequented by kuan-tzu-tsai-p'usa (avalokitezvara). Devotees, risking
> life,
> brave water and mountain to see the p'usa, but only a few succeed in
> reaching
> the shrine. To the people at the foot of the mountain who pray for a
> sight
> of
> the P'usa, he appears sometimes as a pazupata tIrthika, or mahezvara,
> and
> consoles the suppliant with his answer."
> S. Beal, Si-yu-ki, Buddhist records of the Western world, 1884
> 2.233  says:
> "To the east of the Malaya mountains is Mount Po-ta-la-ka (Potalaka)."
> L. M. Joshi, Studies in the Buddhist culture of India, 1967
>  "This Potalaka is located by Hsuan Tsang in MalakuuTa, identified by
>  Cunningham with a tract between Madura, Tanjore and Travancore.
> Nandolal De suggested that Potalaka lay in Western Ghats.
> Nalinaksha Dutt  suggets that modern Potiyam may represent Potalaka
> [203]"
> Have few papers including those of  Lokesh Chandra (Kailash jl) and S.
> Hikosaka (JIAS)
> placing Potalaka as Potiyil mountain in Malaya mountain range.
> In Tamil literature, it is interesting to see that Malaya mountain is
> considered
> a cultural symbol of the South while Himalayas symbolozes the North.
> "poRkOTTu imayamum potiyamum pOn2RE" - puRanAn2URu
> "imayam Ayin2um potiyam Ayin2um ... pukArE tamatUr" - cilappatikAram
> In Manimekalai, instead of going to Himalayas, a couple decide as a
> substitute
> to go to Potiyil (can give exact lines).
> Eighth century Pandya copper plates refer to Agastya as their
> Kulaguru...
> Agastya resides in Potiyil in ParipaaTal. For Kamban, Agastya teaches
> tamil
> in Potiyil/Malaya mountain which he learnt from Siva. For the buddhist
> author of ViiracOziyam grammar, Agastya learns Tamil from
> Avalalokitezvara.
> This theme is used in Sanskrit too. In Lalitaa sahasranAmam, bhagavatii
> (acc. to Bhaskararaya) is) malayAcala vAsini, In Buddhist Taaraa
> suuktam,
> she is potalakagirinivAsini.
> Tara is the spouse of Avalokitesvara.
> In DaNDin, an anonymous quote in DhvanyAlokam and Jayadeva, we find the
> malaya breeze
> hurts lovers in separation. (This theme comes in tamil early on:
> ainguRunURu, akanaan2URu, Cilampu, nammAzvAr, tirumangai AzvAr, Kamban,
> Villi, ..
> will provide the passages later). Is the Sanskrit usage arising because
> Tamil is well-known for
> akam"interior,love"/puram"exterior,societal" division of life
> and majority of sangam poems are love poems?
> Agastya represents the Aryanization of the South in Tamil literature
> from
> 4th century AD onwards. That is from the time Agastya appears in the
> literature
> of the South. It is only natural that his abode, malaya figures
> in Hindu Sanskrit texts while potalaka figures in Buddhist Sanskrit
> texts in special ways.
> More later,
> N. Ganesan
> Prof. Meir Shahar gave some references to read when asked about
> Xuanzang carrying
> Potalaka from the South and deposting in West China.
> <<<<<
> I will not try to address your Potalaka question directly, since I am
> really not an expert on the subject.  However, I am enclosing the titles
> of several publications where you may be able to find answers to this
> fascinating question:
>         1) Yu Chun-fang's article, "P'u-t'o Shan: Pilgrimage and the
> Creation of the Chinese Potalaka," in Susan Naquin and Chun-fang Yu,
> editors, "Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China" (Berkeley: University of
> California Press, 1992).
>         2) Anthony Yu, translator, "The Journey to the West" (Chicago:
> The
> University of Chicago Press, 1977), 4 volumes. (especially the
> translator's introduction in volume 1).
>         3) Arthur Waley.  "The Real Tripitaka and Other Pieces" (London
> 1952).
>         4) Glen Dudbridge, "The Hsi-yu chi: A Study of Antecedents to
> the
> Sixteenth-Century Chinese Novel" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
> 1970).
> >>>>>
> When I read Qobad Afshar's work on Geographical appellatives in
> gaNdavyUham,
> I find many parrallels in tamil literature. For example, the vasumitra
> story has some
> thing to do with kollippAvai of sangam texts. Vasumitra's place is full
> of
> gemstones
> vaiDuurya (cat's eye), beryls, etc., Near Kolli hills these are found.
> May
> be 60-70%
> Roman coins ever found in India come from that region traded for these
> gemstones.
> ng

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