Bows in ancient India

Richard Salomon rsalomon at U.WASHINGTON.EDU
Fri Jul 11 20:23:16 UTC 2008

In general on Indian bows, there was an article by M. Emeneau on  "The 
Composite Bow in India." (Proceeding of the American Philological Society 
97, 1953). But I doubt whether it would help with this problem.

Rich Salomon

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Tieken, H.J.H." <H.J.H.Tieken at LET.LEIDENUNIV.NL>
Sent: Friday, July 11, 2008 12:49 PM
Subject: Re: Bows in ancient India

Dear Professor Hart,
Maybe you should look into a completely different direction. Note in this 
connection that in two of the three instances in Akananuru the word vilimpu 
is followed by the participle uriiya "which rubs (against)". In the third 
instance vilimpu is followed by amainta "which is lying against". Note also 
the expression vilimpu-kattutal "to form proud flesh around a wound" (TL, p. 
3729). The bow string, when released, often hits the inside of the bowman's 
left wrist (if he is right-handed), forming callosity there. Such "wounds" 
add to the picture of the fierce bowman. I do remember having read about 
wrist protections and things like that. Probably it was somewhere in the 
Mahabharata. Unfortunately, at the moment I can't help you any further with 
Kind regards
Herman Tieken


From: Indology on behalf of George Hart
Sent: Thu 7/10/2008 8:22 PM
Subject: Bows in ancient India

In translating Akananuru 175 (this is one of the Tamil anthologies), I
have the following excerpt:

My lover crossed the hot wilderness where cruel men

never miss as they draw their strong, swift bows

with their heavy strings, and, every time they shoot,

their sharp-tipped, whistling arrows fly, taking the lives

of strangers walking on the paths there and vultures

summoning their flocks feast on their flesh.

I am wondering about "heavy strings," which in Tamil is viinku
viLimpu.  The first word means "enlarged," "swollen," and the second
means "edge," "border," "eyelid" (which leads the commentators to
interpret it as "edge of the upper arm").  Other occurrences, however,
make it clear that viLimpu refers to the string or a part of the
string.  I am wondering whether anyone on this list has dealt with
bows in Sanskrit sources and whether the strings of bows are mentioned
as having some special feature.  I think viLimpu might possibly refer
to the part of the string that comes in contact with the arrow and
that might have been thicker than the rest of the string.  I recall
that when I would shoot a bow as a child, that part was often thicker,
as it could get worn down more easily than the rest of the string.
George Hart

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