[INDOLOGY] Sacrificial Tortoise?

Jean-Luc Chevillard jean-luc.chevillard at univ-paris-diderot.fr
Thu Aug 1 05:01:28 UTC 2013

Dear George,

when I read such passages,
I feel it impossible not to wonder
whether the poet was ALSO expressing COMPASSION
for the tortoise,
given the fact that the human characters in the poem
are imaginary
(and therefore their suffering is unreal?
and we need not bother about it)
whereas we have to believe
that such CRUEL ACTS
as putting a tortoise in that position
must have been REALLY performed,
at least a few times.

-- Jean-Luc (Pondicherry)

On 01/08/2013 02:34, George Hart wrote:
> Akanāṉūṟu 361 (probably dating to the first 2 centuries CE) mentions a sacrifice in which a tortoise is placed in a fiery sacrificial pit (tittiyam) for the gods "whose flowers do not fade" to eat.  This is also referred to 5 or 6 centuries later in the Cīvakacintāmaṇi (2878).  I have never heard of such a ritual and am wondering whether it is mentioned in Sanskrit.  The poem uses the image quite beautifully: a man separated from his beloved as he crosses the wilderness to get wealth addresses his heart, telling it that it must not think of her and must not be like the tortoise in the sacrificial pit longing for its cool, shadowed pond.  George Hart
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