FW: [INDOLOGY] curses

Arlo Griffiths arlogriffiths at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Feb 24 14:05:13 UTC 2011

This got rejected because it exceeded the size limit. So here it goes again, with just two attachments.
Arlo Griffiths
> From: arlogriffiths at hotmail.com
> To: indology at liverpool.ac.uk
> CC: arlo.griffiths at efeo.net; tres.sekar at gmail.com
> Subject: RE: [INDOLOGY] curses
> Date: Thu, 24 Feb 2011 13:02:22 +0000
> Dear colleagues,
> This is an attempt to answer simultaneously a private message from Harry Falk as well as Whitney Cox' and Tim Lubin's messages to the list.
> It may well be the case that Sanskrit curses far outnumber the vernacular ones in Indian epigraphy, although when one hears about the tens of thousands of Tamil inscriptions lying unpublished, this might give cause for hesitation with regard to such comparisons of numbers. In any case, in Southeast Asian epigraphy vernacular curses are very common, both on the mainland and in Indonesia.
> For example the Cam inscription C. 148 B, l. 8-12 (919/920 CE):
> siy urāṅ yaṅ (9) mavāc tuy śanāpa niv asuv hitaṃ asu(10)v putiḥ asuv miraḥ (11) asuv pāk matā avis ta ya nan (12) āśraya inā urāṅ nan
> This seems to mean something like: 'The man who incurs this imprecation, may the black dog, the white dog, the red dog, the four-eyed dog, all of them visit that man's mother!'
> There is obviously something similar going on if you look at the different regions of India and of Southeast Asia, despite the differences of language and specific themes chosen to express curses. This asks for comparison.
> Whitney mentions curse-images. Harry Falk told me about the 'obscene' images he had noticed on some stone inscriptions at Ratnagiri and in the Orissa State Museum. I happen to have seen and photographed the same last month, so can attach some photos here. (I particularly enjoyed the innocent label for one of the two OSM pieces.) Although I haven't checked the texts of these inscriptions, and am a little unsure about the identification of the sexually aggressive beast, I suppose we see here a depiction of the 'ass-curse' that figures prominently also in text and image in the inscriptions of the Śilāhāras of the western Deccan. The language used for the curse is there often (always?) Marathi.
> The reference for the Karashima article I alluded to is as follows:
> Noboru Karashima, "New Imprecations in Tamil Inscriptions and Jāti Formation", in: idem, Ancient to Medieval: South Indian Society in Transition, Delhi: OUP, 2009.
> Whitney mentions the Telaga Batu Old Malay inscription, which is indeed one of the most important (and most studied) inscriptions of Indonesia. It raises the problem of whether we make a difference between 'oaths' and 'curses'. The Sanskrit and vernacular languages may not make a clear lexical difference, at least the forms derived from śap in Sanskrit and borrowed into many vernaculars --- see Cham śanāpa above --- might be ambivalent from the English language point of view. But it seems to me there is a difference implied at least by the difference in structural composition. The Telaga Batu text is different in several ways from the common 'curses' in Indonesian land-grants. The (to Southeast Asianists) famous epigraphical Khmer 'oath' of allegiance to Sūryavarman I is likewise fundamentally different from the 'curses' that are very common in Khmer epigraphy (both Sanskrit and vernacular). These 'oaths' make up the entire text or at least the bulk of it, whereas the 'curses' that started this thread normally stand at the end and are a relatively minor part of the inscription's message. Actually I think the mentioned 'oaths' also use a different vocabulary for 'oaths' (vaddhapratijñā in the Khmer, sumpah in the Malay case) than they do for curses (loan-derivatives of śap).
> I hope this has at least begun to address the interesting points raised in response to my query. Thank you for the tasty food for thought.
> Best wishes,
> Arlo GriffithsEFEO/Jakarta
> ----------------------------------------
> > Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2011 17:10:17 +0000
> > From: wc3 at SOAS.AC.UK
> > Subject: [INDOLOGY] curses
> > To: INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk
> >
> > I posted this a few hours ago; I think that perhaps it didn't go through to
> > the list since it contained multiple addresses. Re-posted, with a few typos
> > corrected. Apologies to anyone seeing this for the second time.
> >
> > wc
> >
> >
> > Dear Arlo,
> >
> > I second Tim's interest in this great topic, and I look forward to hearing
> > what your student turns up. I can add a few references to what have already
> > been mentioned: Michael Willis has recently discussed the imprecatory
> > formulae found in Gupta and post-Gupta copperplates; see his The Archaeology
> > of Hindu Ritual (Cambridge, 2009), pp. 84-88. Especially interesting here
> > are his comments (esp p. 86 and nn. 27-29) on the locus of attribution to
> > these stereotypical verses in the Mahābhārata's Āśvamedhikaparvan.
> >
> > I largely agree with Tim's suggestion that these imprecations are very often
> > given in Sanskrit, even in otherwise non-Sanskrit grants: very broadly,
> > there's a magical efficacy to the use of the language (or to tatsama
> > vocabulary in vernacular texts, as Tim suggests) here that would reward
> > further scrutiny. It is, however, not always the case that curses must be
> > couched in Sanskrit, as the title Karashima's article (for which I would
> > appreciate the reference) would seem to indicate. I'm very much an amateur
> > in Southeast Asian materials, but there is the fascinating case of the
> > Telaga Batu inscription of ca. 686 CE edited by de Casparis in his Selected
> > Inscriptions for the 7th the 9th Centuries AD (Masa Baru, Bandung: 1956),
> > pp. 15-46. This very interesting record (and forgive me if this is common
> > knowledge among Indonesianists) takes the form of a nāga-headed stele that
> > ends in a spouted ledge, the text of the inscription is a sort of loyalty
> > oath that was evidently meant to be recited prior to drinking water poured
> > down the incised surface of the record. Such anyway was de Casparis'
> > interpretation; some of the philological details of his reading were
> > questioned by K. Adelaar (in "The relevance of Salako for Proto-Malayic and
> > for Old Malay epigraphy." Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 148
> > (1992), no: 3/4, Leiden, 381-408), but not his overall interpretation of the
> > inscription's unusual magical function.
> >
> > Finally, in addition to verbal curse formulae, there are instances of
> > inscribed curse-images, as well. An example of this can be seen in, e.g.
> > the Rajapura plates of Madhurāntakadeva (edited by Hira Lala, EI 9: 23, pp.
> > 174-181, and esp. plate iii b facing p. 179). This particular image is of
> > what the editor rather mildly describes as "a woman pursued by a donkey"; it
> > is poorly executed, but obviously and deliberately obscene.
> >
> > I am copying this message to Daud Ali, who is not on the list but who has
> > worked on both the Telaga Batu record and the curse-images. He may have
> > much more to share with you.
> >
> > Best,
> >
> > Whitney
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