Re: [INDOLOGY] textual source for nirvāṇa-mastaka

David and Nancy Reigle dnreigle at
Tue Jan 17 01:09:18 UTC 2017

Dear Madhav and Tim,

Thank you Madhav for your good suggestion about Atharvaśiras and
Atharvaśīrṣa. Thank you Tim for your qualifying comments about this idea.
Even after considering it for a couple of days, I am still not clear about

I understand the *Vācaspatyam*'s definition of nirvāṇa-mastaka, nirvāṇam
nirvṛtir mastakam iva yatra, as saying that this nirvāṇa is like the head.
Whereas, in the second verse you quoted, Tim, the construal is atharvaṇaḥ
śiro, the head of atharvan. But we cannot say for nirvāṇa-mastaka, the head
of nirvāṇa. Is this the point?

In any case, until we can find a textual source for nirvāṇa-mastaka, we do
not know how or in what context it is used.

Best regards,

David Reigle
Colorado, U.S.A.

On Sat, Jan 14, 2017 at 5:24 AM, Madhav Deshpande <mmdesh at> wrote:

> Thanks, Tim.  Looking forward to your edition of this text.
> Madhav
> On Fri, Jan 13, 2017 at 11:56 PM, Lubin, Tim <LubinT at> wrote:
>> Madhav,
>> It is very hard to say whether there could be any connection since other
>> occurrences are not known, but it seems unlikely to me.  The
>> *Atharvaśiras* in its extant form(s) includes, near the end, two stanzas
>> from the Atharvaveda that justify the name of the text itself:
>> *7.2     mūrdhānam asya saṃsīvyātharvā hṛdayaṃ ca yat | *
>> *mastiṣkād ūrdhvaṃ prairayat   pavamāno ’dhi śīrṣṇaḥ || *
>> *(= PS 16.59.9 / ~ŚS 10.2.26)*
>> *7.3     tad vā atharvaṇaḥ śiro   devakośaḥ samubjitaḥ | *
>> *tat prāṇo abhi rakṣati    śiro annam atho manaḥ || *
>> *(~ PS 16.59.10 [rakṣatu, śriyam] / ŚS 10.2. 27)*
>> PS = Paippalādasaṃhitā, ŚS = Śaunakasaṃhitā.  Some recensions have these
>> in the 6th section.
>> Older references to the “Atharvaśiras” (e.g., in the Mahābhārata and in
>> sūtras) seem to refer to a mantra text of some sort, thought to encapsulate
>> the essence of the Atharvāṅgirasaḥ.  My edition will include a full
>> discussion.
>> Atharvaśirṣa is just a synonymous name of the text, in common use later,
>> esp. in Maharashtra where a set of five distinct devotional works
>> circulated under the names Rudrātharvaśīrṣa (or Śivātharvaśīrṣa),
>> Devyatharvaśīrṣa, etc.
>> Best,
>> Tim
>> Timothy Lubin
>> Professor of Religion and Adjunct Professor of Law
>> Chair of the Department of Religion
>> Washington and Lee University
>> Lexington, Virginia 24450
>> From: INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at> on behalf of Madhav
>> Deshpande via INDOLOGY <indology at>
>> Reply-To: Madhav Deshpande <mmdesh at>
>> Date: Friday, January 13, 2017 at 4:13 PM
>> To: David and Nancy Reigle <dnreigle at>
>> Cc: Indology <indology at>
>> Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] textual source for nirvāṇa-mastaka
>> I wonder if this term can be compared with names of the Upanishads like
>> Atharvaśiras and Atharvaśīrṣa.
>> Madhav Deshpande
>> Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
>> On Fri, Jan 13, 2017 at 3:10 PM, David and Nancy Reigle via INDOLOGY <
>> indology at> wrote:
>>> Has anyone seen the Sanskrit term nirvāṇa-mastaka in use? It appears in *A
>>> Dictionary in Sanscrit and English*, by H. H. Wilson, 2nd ed., 1832
>>> (not in his 1st ed., 1819), defined simply as "liberation." From there it
>>> was copied in the Petersburg Wörterbuch (defined as Erlösung) and in
>>> the Monier-Williams dictionary (defined as liberation, deliverance), both
>>> of which give only Wilson as their source for this term. It is not in the
>>> *Śabda-kalpa-druma*, but is in the *Vācaspatyam*, defined as: nirvāṇam
>>> nirvṛtir mastakam iva yatra. Various searches by me have so far failed
>>> to turn up this term in a Sanskrit text. Hoping that one of you has seen it
>>> in use and can give a textual source for it.
>>> Best regards,
>>> David Reigle
>>> Colorado, U.S.A.
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