Bows in ancient India

Tieken, H.J.H. H.J.H.Tieken at LET.LEIDENUNIV.NL
Fri Jul 11 19:49:32 UTC 2008

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 this.
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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