[INDOLOGY] Khotanese Sīysā-/Sīysaā-: th/dh MIA and NIA versions of the name of Sītā?

DIEGO LOUKOTA SANCLEMENTE diegoloukota at ucla.edu
Mon Jan 11 16:37:50 UTC 2021

   Dear all,

   Long note here, please read at your own risk. The ca. 5th Century
Khotanese Buddhist compendium, the so-called *Book of Zambasta,* contains a
short but fascinating tirade against the Sanskrit epics (translation mine):

*cū Bāratä pyūṣṭu kye arthä samu ttaṃdya paṃjsa naḍaune hīśśäḍai pūra
Kaṃsadāysna biśśä śśūra jsatāndättä vā biśśä Vyāysä riṣayä nāte
Kālśasundhare bīsähvanaino āhau haṃbaste tcamna lova bitandaRāmä Daśagrīvi
Sīysau nāte Laṃggä kīnthai bāstettye käḍäna jīvätu rruste Rāmāyąnä ttandī
arthi Valmīki räṣayī haṃbaste haṃtsa drūgyau hāḍe cvī lovi mānya pyūṣḍe
samu haṃdaraysaṃthva karma*

What has been heard by you in the *[Mahā]Bhārata*, whose point [is] only
that five men,
Sons of a relative (?), [together] with Kaṃsadāsa killed all the heroes,

These [things] the seer Vyāsa, the servant of Kāśīsundarī, gathered;
He composed a fabulous tale by which the people of the world are misled.
[From] Rāma Daśagrīva took Sītā, he led her to the city of Laṅkā,
For this reason he lost his life. Such is the point of the *Rāmāyaṇa*.
The seer Valmīki composed it but together with lies.
That the world listens to him with [any] respect is only [due to] the deeds
of [his] other births.

  Many things are noteworthy here, especially the contemptuous tone that
the text strikes by referring to Kṛṣṇa as the "slave of Kaṃsa" (cfr. *Mbh*
9.60.27 *kaṃsadāsasya dāyada* and *Viṣṇupurāṇa* 5.27.13) and by bringing up
the Buddhist satirical version of the story of Vyāsa and Ambikā, which
involves the former being infatuated with the latter, and the latter
kicking him in response (cfr. *Buddhacarita* 4.16; *Saundarananda* 7.30).
  What interests me here, though, is the form of the name of Sītā. The
Khotanese *Sīysau* should be acc.sing. for a *ka*-suffixed stem *Sīysaā*-=/
*si:za.a:*/ (*-aā>akā*), but conceivably also for a simple thematic stem
*Sīysā-=/si:za:/* (these generally end in -o, but even in Old Khotanese
there is a noticeable o/au oscillation). In the much later "Khotanese
*Rāmāyaṇa*" (9th Century?) the name appears as *Sījsā-=/si:dza:/*, but this
is probably an indigenous Khotanese development.
  To me the most promising way to explain the form Sīysā has to do with the
vast number of Gāndhārī loanwords present in Khotanese: in Gāndhārī /z/ is,
among others, the outcome of intervocalic OIA [th] and [dh], so that
OIA *bodhi>
*Gāndhārī *<bosi>=*/bozi/ *and OIA *śamatha> Gāndhārī <śamasa>=*/çəməzə/*.
The Khotanese form could be made sense of by postulating a source form
**Sīthā* or **Sīdhā* (or **Sīthakā*/**Sīdhakā*) for a hypothetical Gāndhārī
*<*sisa*>=*/*si:za:*/, neither of which seems to be attested. **Sīsā* would
of course also be a candidate.
  However, under entry "13428. *sītā* f.  'furrow, goddess of agriculture'
" Turner's *Comparative Dictionary* mentions a form *sihā* 'furrow' from
the Bhalesi language spoken in central Kashmir, which may conceivably act
in support of my hypothesis in view of its geographic proximity to ancient
Gandhāra proper: here we would have [th/dh]>/h/ instead of Gandhārī
  Is anyone aware of (other) Middle Indo-Aryan or New Indo-Aryan versions
of the name of Sītā that may point in a similar direction?


  Diego Loukota  - The University of Winnipeg

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