Re: [INDOLOGY] Cart-shaped, śakaṭākāra

Matthew Kapstein mkapstei at
Thu Apr 5 11:15:19 UTC 2018

Dear Toke.

I've never seen this referring to "the earth." But  in Buddhist sources frequently to the triangular or trapezoidal shape attributed to Jambudvīpa, the southern continent.


Matthew Kapstein

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From: INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at> on behalf of Toke Lindegaard Knudsen via INDOLOGY <indology at>
Sent: Thursday, April 5, 2018 12:53:40 PM
To: Indology
Subject: [INDOLOGY] Cart-shaped, śakaṭākāra

Hi all,

In a passage of interest to me, the author attributes to “some” the idea that the earth resembles or is shaped like a cart (bhuvam … śakaṭākārām). I’m trying to understand (1) what precisely is understood by “cart-shaped” (śakaṭākāra or śakaṭākṛti) and (2) how the earth can have the shape of a cart.

In Phanindra Nath Bose’s _Principles of Indian Silpasastra_ from 1926, śakaṭākṛti is explained (p. 75) as, “cart-shaped or quadrangular, with a long triangular projection on one side.”

In the Śilpa-prakāśa (Alice Boner and Sadāśiva Rath Śarmā’s edition, translation, and study, second revised edition, 2005), a list of shapes of building sites is given. One such shape is śakaṭākṛti (verse 1.39), which is translated as “a tapering bullock-cart (śakaṭākṛti kuñcita).” The book contains facsimiles of the palm leaf pages of a manuscript, which includes drawings to illustrate the building-site shapes (plate I). The drawing of the cart-shaped building site doesn’t look like what Bose describes (see above), but rather looks like an isosceles trapezoid.

I also found that “cart-shaped” is included in a list of possible shapes of the sacred śālagrāma stones. This particular shape is undesirable.

Would any of you have any clues or thoughts on which geometrical figure (or figures) “cart-shaped” refers to? Or further references in this regard?

Best wishes,

Toke Lindegaard Knudsen, Ph.D.

Associate Professor and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow
Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies
University of Copenhagen

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