The elephant naLagiri/nalagiri

Artur Karp hart at POLBOX.COM
Sun Apr 11 12:57:23 UTC 1999

The name of the elephant Devadatta planned to use to kill the Buddha was in
fact not nalagiri but nAlAgiri  - "tena kho pana samayena rAjagahe nAlAgiri
nAma hatthI caNDo hoti manussaghAtako" [Vin. II, p. 194]. The Burmese
edition of the Canon has nALAgiri.

nAlA-/nALA- is not known to the PED. If it is connected with Pa. nAlI/i and
if its meaning covers the semantic field of Skt. nADI (among others also
"any hole or crevice", MMW), then the name nAlA-giri <<nAlAnaM giri -
"mountain of (covered by) ravines">>, alludes perhaps to fissures on male
elephants temples, when in rut. caNDo hatthI means "rogue elephant".

The jAtaka 533 (which presents a more detailed version of the incident) has
Devadatta ordering the royal elephant keepers to ply nAlAgiri with the
double measure of his usual portion of liquor (sixteen pitchers of surA
instead of eight) - as if to strengthen the animal's fury. It may be
significant that while pacifying nAlAgiri the Buddha touches with his right
hand the animal's frontal globe(s): "bhagavA dakkhinena hatthena nAlAgirissa
hatthissa kumbhaM parAmasanto..." [Vin. II, p. 195].

Hoping it helps,

Artur Karp

University of Warsaw

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