The elephant naLagiri/nalagiri

Artur Karp hart at POLBOX.COM
Fri Apr 16 08:22:38 UTC 1999

>My friend,  <  >>wrote this.
>Just happened to be reading a Jataka tale, the Crab Jataka (#267). In
>describing an elephant (an incarnation of Bodhisatta) the English
>translation reads, " he was like a purple mountain of collyrium."
> I wonder why 'purple' and not 'black'?

>N. Ganesan

When the KakkaTakajAtaka (267) describes the elephant, it says: "so...
mahAsarIro... aGjanapabbato viya ahosi" (he became of... great body..., like
a mountain of collyrium [or: like a black mountain]). The adjective "purple"
may have been added by the authors  of the translation [H.T. Francis, E.J.
Thomas, Jataka Tales] just to make it sound better. The PED translates
aGjana as 'ointment, esp. a collyrium for the eyes, made of antimony', also,
as adj.: 'glossy, jet-black'.

Quite interestingly, the PED notes two instances when aGjana is used in the
meaning of 'ointment-tube, collyrium-box' (aGjana=aGjana-nALi - TherIgAthA
413, Dhammapada-aTThakathA II.25). Was also nALI/i ('a hollow stalk, tube,
pipe') used to mean 'ointment-tube, collyrium-box'? With its suggestion of


Artur Karp
University of Warsaw

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