Chain letters in pre-modern India

Dominik Wujastyk ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK
Wed Dec 20 13:57:46 UTC 2000

I happened to be reading the Sankastanasanastotra the other day, in the
Brhatstotraratnakara, and I came across the following final statement
(Velthuis coding):

a.stabhyo braahma.nebhya"sca likhitvaa ya.h samarpayet |
tasya vidyaa bhavetsarvaa"sasya prasaadata.h || 8||

"Someone who writes this and sends it to eight Brahmanas will gain all the
sciences, by the grace of Ganesa."

I have no idea about the date of this Ganesa stotra.  But this must be a
fairly early example of an attempt to start a chain letter.  Is there any
evidence that it worked?  Are there other examples?

Some MSS of this text attribute it to the Padmapurana.  But there seems to
be a version with only five verses, which doesn't include the exhortation
in v.8 of the BSR version.  So there may be added question of when verse 8
got pasted on to the end of the stotra.

The site says that evidence
of chain letters before 1910 is sparse.

Dominik Wujastyk
Founder, INDOLOGY list.

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