[INDOLOGY] Charon's obols in Gandhāra?

DIEGO LOUKOTA SANCLEMENTE diegoloukota at ucla.edu
Thu Mar 22 16:43:22 UTC 2018

​  ​
Dear list members,

    I am working for my dissertation on Kumāralāta's Kalpanāmaṇḍitikā
Dṛṣtāntapaṅkti, whose composition I believe can be reasonably placed in
Taxila in the 3rd Century AD. Story XV
​in the collection contains an interesting reference, only extant in the
Chinese translation, to what appears to be a burial and the placement of
"Charon's obol" in the mouth of the deceased. In the story, one king Nanda
has gathered all the wealth in the land and prostituted his own daughter; a
young prospective john, desperate to find money to pay for her services, is
told by his mother:

    (Taishō IV.201.273a.2-3)

When your father died, he had in his mouth a golden coin; if you dig his
grave you can retrieve that coin and use it to achieve [your purposes]

    (Cfr. also Huber's French translation: « Quand ton père est mort, on
lui a mis dans la bouche une pièce d'or. Si tu vas dans son tombeau, tu
trouveras peut-être cette pièce, moyennant laquelle tu atteindras l'objet
de les désirs. », from Sûtrâlaṃkâra, Paris, Ernest Leroux, 1908, p. 85,
lines 8-9)

    Again, the Sanskrit is not extant for this portion. The later narrative
makes clear that the coin was placed in the mouth of the deceased during a
funeral ceremony.

    In my understanding,
​the funerary usage of ​
"Charon's obol" is limited to Greek and Roman antiquity (and of course
hellenized areas of the M
​editerranean and the Middle East
​, which may include Gandhāra to an extent​
). My question for the list members would be: is anyone aware of another
occurrence of "Charon's obol" in Indian sources? From the point of view of
​are there ​
any graves
​known with any degree of certainty to be ​
from historical times in the Greater Gandhāra area? Any coins ever found in
graves? Buddhist sources do list burial as
​one possible​
method of disposal of the dead, but otherwise it would seem to have been

    Any feedback on this topic would be greatly appreciated!


    Diego Loukota

​ ​
PhD Cand. - ​
    Department of Asian Languages and Cultures - UCLA - 290 Royce Hall

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