[INDOLOGY] Aśokan formula problem?

Artur Karp karp at uw.edu.pl
Sun Apr 27 11:18:11 UTC 2014

Dear List,

Recently, I came upon a claim (not published so far) that the Aśokan
formula *(X-number)var**ṣā**bhi**ṣ**iktena* [like in RE I, Girnar,
*dbādasavās**ābhisitena*] does not convey the information on the number of
years since the king's anointment, but, rather, the information on the
successive number of *abhishekas* the king would perform on every
anniversary of his rule's inauguration.

So - not "the year X since my inauguration", but, against the standard
renderings: "the year of my Xth *abhisheka*".

Is there any linguistic reason for this kind of the formula's
reinterpretation? The compound's structure?

While looking through materials I have on hand, I came across the following
statement in Jan Gonda's 1957 paper on Indian kingship (*Ancient Indian
kingship from the religious point of view*, Numen, Vol. 4, Fasc. 2, p.

<<As  the  Asvamedha  is  the  king  of  sacrifices  701),  and  as  on
 the  other hand the  sacrificer,  i.e.  the  king,  is  identical with
 the  asvamedha,  certain  peculiarities  of  this  ritual  are  stated  to
 correspond  to  certain  qualities  of  the  king.  Thus  he  is  disposed
 to  be  "strong  in  arms",  because  the  front  legs  of  two  goats
 sacrificed  during  the  asvamedha  are tied - "he  thereby lays  strength
 into  the  front  legs" 702)  and  strong  in  thighs,  for  similar
 reasons.  Before  we  leave  this  point  we  should  call attention  to
 an  important  statement  made in  the  Visnudharmottara-purana  703).  *On
 every  anniversary  of  the  first  'coronation' * *the  king  should
 repeat  the  rites*;  this  leads  to  welfare,  to  increase  of  the
 country,  to  the  destruction  of  the  enemies  and  so  on.  *Then  the
 'inauguration'  has  become  cyclic*,  annually  carrying  the  ruler  and
 his  realm  beyond  a  difficult  stage,  and  recreating  the  beneficial
 power  inherent  in  kingship [boldfaces mine, A. K.]>>

Is there - apart from the Vishnudharmottara-purana fragment quoted by Gonda
- any evidence for such an annual royal ritual to be found anywhere in the
corpus of Śastric/Buddhist literature?

Any comment would be much appreciated.


Artur Karp

Senior Lecturer in Sanskrit and Pali (ret.)
South Asian Studies Deptt
Oriental Faculty
University of Warsaw

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