[INDOLOGY] Publication Announcement

x kiepue kiefferpuelz at gmail.com
Thu May 19 13:47:04 UTC 2022

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce a new publication in German in the Series Studia
Indologica Universitatis Halensis

Walter Slaje, *Vájra. Zur Schleuderwaffe im Rigveda*. Studia Indologica
Universitatis Halensis 21. Halle  (Saale): Universitätsverlag
Halle-Wittenberg, 2022, 110 p.; with 26 illustrations.
ISBN 978-3-86977-253-0S., 69,00 €

Further details can be found here, where orders can also be placed:

 *Summary in English: **The sling as a weapon in the Rigveda*

The present study deals with the sling as a weapon in the Rigveda and with
the *vájra *as a special further development in terms of material and form.
It is an attempt to find out about the original nature of this weapon by
following a realistic path. The premise is thus anchored in the real world
in terms of weapon technology, with a *vájra *idealized by the Vedic poets
as an infallible weapon of the gods, in particular of Indra. The thesis
advanced here of the nature of the *vájra *as an innovative sling bullet is
based on the established, millennia-old omnipresence of the slingshot as an
important military weapon in the entire Old World from the Mediterranean
and Middle Eastern civilizations to the Indus culture, as well as on
evidence in the Rigveda for stones thrown by means of a sling. In contrast,
a (copper) mace has firmly established itself as the equivalent of a
*vájra *in recent scholarship without a sound basis. The pragmatic question
of the actual suitability of a mace with primitive clubbing qualities and
with only a few metres of staggering flight as an accurate long-range
weapon has not been raised, or if it has, then only in an inapt manner in
terms of weapon technology. Under the premise of a long-range military
weapon, the suitability for precise and lethal use is the central criterion
for identifying a *vájra*. Superior weapon technologies generally gain
acceptance everywhere and are quickly adopted by the defeated. One would
thus have expected that the peoples of the regions through which the
Indo-Aryans wandered and through which they had to fight their way would
have appropriated the highly effective *vájra *of these Vedic tribes
themselves if possible. Such an assumption, however, is not supported by
the evidence from outside India. The question therefore suggests itself
whether a *vájra *might not have been a type of weapon that was already in
widespread use in the cultural areas of the Middle East and the ancient
world, as abundantly testified to by written and archaeological evidence.
In such a case, a *vájra *would not have been the unique Vedic weapon it is
generally taken to be, known only to Vedic tribes and reserved for them
alone, but rather the well-tried and established long-distance weapon of
war as was the hand sling. Precisely this one, omnipresent throughout
antiquity, seems conspicuously absent from Vedic culture. So one is led to
believe that the real reason for this seeming absence is not absence in
terms of non-existence, but absence in terms of absence of recognition.

Chapter II summarises the philological and archaeological findings for the
existence of the slingshot in cultural areas outside India, especially in
classical antiquity, the Middle Eastern world, in Iran, Tibet and the Indus
civilization, and presents in detail the characteristics of this weapon,
the bullets, their manufacture and use.

Chapter III examines the use of the slingshot with stone bullets in the
Rigveda and compares their characteristics with those of the neighbouring

Chapter IV deals with the attributes of *vájra*s in the Rigveda, especially
with regard to handling, sound, impact and the metal of which they could be
made. As a result of the comparison with the hand slings of the Old World
and sling stones mentioned in the Rigveda, it becomes clear that these
features also apply to *vájra*s. In the case of a *vájra *made of metal,
*áyas *points to lead ore, and *āyasá vájra *correspondingly to cast lead
projectiles, as everywhere else in use, in particular in the ancient Greek
and Roman realms.

Maintaining a material view of Rigvedic culture in the context of weaponry,
the word *vájra *as a real weapon appears to have been used for extremely
effective sling projectiles specially crafted from lead. The apparently
innovative character so admired by the Rigvedic poets may have lain
precisely in this. Occasionally, *vájra *seems to refer more generally to
the hand sling as a whole, encompassing the sling and the projectile as its
two components. A *vájra *shares the following characteristics with
Rigvedic sling bullets made of stone known as *ádri, aśáni, áśman *and
*vadhá*. These bullets are or can be: used for slinging (*sā́yaka*),
optionally made of metal (*āyasá*), specially manufactured (√*takṣ*),
sharp-edged (*tigma*) and jagged (*sahásrabhṛṣṭi*) by whetting (√*śā*),
carried along (√*bhṛ*), raised (in the sling pouch) threateningly with both
arms (*úd*-√*yam*) before the sling is whirled (√*vṛt*). When thrown they
fly (√*as*, √*pat*) with a buzzing sound (*svarya*) and descend in a
ballistically high curve from above down to earth.

Link to the series:

With best wishes,
Petra Kieffer-Pülz


Dr. Petra Kieffer-Puelz
Academy of Sciences and Literature, Mainz
Email: kiepue at t-online.de <kiepue at t-online.de>
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