Tamar Reich reicht at POST.TAU.AC.IL
Tue Dec 9 20:57:08 UTC 2003


The Mahabharata is not a Dharma text, but Karna is probably the most famous
foundling in Indian literature.

Tamar Reich
Assistant Professor
Department of Religious Studies
The University of Calgary
email: treich at

Quoting Jonathan Silk <silk at HUMNET.UCLA.EDU>:

> Dear Friends,
> I am interested in any information anyone might have on foundlings
> (in ancient India, I mean). I know about the process of adoption,
> even including the young man who gives himself (because his parents
> are dead, or unable to give him). What I am interested in is infants,
> primarily, who are abandoned, and thus adopted by others.
> There is a very long and detailed history of this in Europe and the
> Classical world (connected, not incidentally, with oblation, another
> issue which in India is yet to be explored), but all I know about it
> in India is a couple of Buddhist examples, and it is these I am
> seeking to understand. In fact, I'm not even sure of what a foundling
> is called. In his English-Skt dictionary, Monier-Williams gives a few
> equivalents, but since the proffered terms do not turn up in PW, pw,
> MW (or for that matter in Pali in CPD), I suspect they must simply be
> neologisms MW invented himself (or perhaps that were in use, but not
> found in classical sources).
> Do the Dharma texts discuss this issue of foundlings? Is there some
> ritual for adoption of a foundling, comperable to the adoption
> rituals sketched by Kane, perhaps? The Buddhist sources I have
> suggest, although they are not 100% clear on this, that a family that
> found an infant might simply pretend that the wife of the family had
> given birth. (There is a little vignette, in which some neighbors
> basically say: Hey, she didn't look pregnant, to which another
> replies: well, some people just don't show, that's all.)
> By the way, unlike the European case(s), there is no mention of
> anything being left with the abandoned infant, such as a token
> (although we do have modern Indian examples of such things, such as
> in the story studied by AK Ramanujan as a modern Oedipus tale, in
> which a cloth is left). The absence of a token also makes me wonder
> how anyone who found the baby would know its caste, a matter which is
> of grave concern (and apparently legal controversy) in more formal
> adoptions.
> thanks in advance for any and all advice!
> --
> Jonathan Silk
> Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures
> Center for Buddhist Studies
> 290 Royce Hall
> Box 951540
> Los Angeles, CA 90095-1540
> phone: (310)206-8235
> fax:  (310)825-8808
> silk at

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