Re: [INDOLOGY] Cart-shaped, śakaṭākāra

Toke Lindegaard Knudsen toke.knudsen at
Thu Apr 5 11:52:29 UTC 2018

Dear Matthew,

Thanks. It’s certainly possible that the author of my source misunderstood the opinion he paraphrases and took “cart-shaped” to refer to the entire earth, whereas only a portion of the earth was intended.

In Hindu cosmography, Jambudvīpa refers to a circular continent surrounded by annular oceans and continents. Since the author rejects that the earth is cart-shaped, it’s possibly a refutation of a Buddhist idea.

The triangular or trapezoidal shape in the Buddhist sources you refer to agrees with the drawing in the Śilpa-prakāśa manuscript. I’m not sure where Bose got “quadrangular, with a long triangular projection on one side” from.

This begs the question, of course, of whether carts in ancient India were generally trapezoidal-shaped?

Best wishes,

> On Apr 5, 2018, at 13:15, Matthew Kapstein <mkapstei at> wrote:
> 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.
> best,
> Matthew
> Matthew Kapstein
> Get Outlook for Android
> 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
> -----
> Toke Lindegaard Knudsen, Ph.D.
> Associate Professor and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow
> Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies
> University of Copenhagen
> <toke.knudsen at>
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