[INDOLOGY] the meaning of Daśaharā

Lubomír Ondračka ondracka at ff.cuni.cz
Wed Dec 20 11:25:54 UTC 2023

Dear Asko,

thank you very much for your answer.

Yes, I have come across the explanation that the term daśaharā comes 
from the words daśa + ahan. This is stated, for example, by Kane in his 
History of Dharmaśāstra (but there he explains the Hindi word dasarā, 
vol. 5.1, p. 194). I think that due to Kane's authority, many others 
then adopt it (without quoting him).

I am not a linguist, but I do not see how daśaharā could be derived from 
daśāha-. All the NIA dictionaries I have looked at (including Turner) 
derive this word from daśa + √hṛ. Moreover, the summer Daśaharā is not a 
"ten-day period" but a "tenth tithi".

I see that in several of your publications you derive the Hindi word 
daśahrā from the unattested *daśāharaka. I do not know whether this is 
linguistically possible, and whether it is necessary when we have a 
well-documented Sanskrit name for the festival, Daśaharā.

But even if we allow for the possibility that the word for autumn 
Daśaharā has a different linguistic origin than the summer Daśaharā, the 
question still remains, how is the autumn Daśaharā explained? We have a 
beautiful nirvacana for that summer festival (harate daśa pāpāni tasmād 
daśaharā smṛtā), but is there something similar for the autumn one?

So I am still puzzled as to what the word means.

All the best,

On 19.12.2023 5:29, Asko Parpola wrote:
> Dear Lubomir, the word goes back to the Sanskrit  daśāha-, ’ten-day period’, a compound of daśa- ’ten’ + ahar- ‘day’. In Vedic religion, chandoma-daśāha is the ten-day period before the final mahāvrata in a yearly rite of ādityānām ayana (Pañcaviṁśa-Brāhmaṇa 25,1,1.13). The term daśāha- seems to occur only in this variant of the yearly rite, in the normal gavām ayana, the texts use the synonym daśarātra for the ten-day period in the middle of the dvādaśāha ’twelve-day period’, which occurs in gavām ayana before the mahāvrata without the first and last day of the dvādaśāha (PB 4,8,5 - 4,9,19; 24,20,1). In Hindi, daśahrā- denotes especially “the tenth day of the bright half of the month Āśvin; the celebrations in honour of Durgā held on this day (vijaya-daśamī) as a culmination of the Durgāpūjā festival” (McGregor, Hindi-English dictionary,1993, p. 484). In my book “The Roots of Hinduism” (2015), p. 249 ff. I suggest that the daśahrā continues the Vedic "tenth day” + mahāvrata.
> With best wishes, Asko
>> On 18 Dec 2023, at 20.17, Lubomír Ondračka via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
>> Dear Colleagues,
>> I have an apparently very trivial question, but I have not found the answer in my sources.
>> What is the meaning of the name of the autumn festival Daśaharā?
>> All the textual references I have found are to the summer festival in the month of Jyeṣṭha. Here the name is clear: daśaharā is [a day (tithi)] destroying (harā) the ten (daśa) [sins]. The sources mostly refer to a verse in the Brahmapurāṇa:
>> śuklapakṣasya daśamī jyeṣṭhe māsi dvijottamāḥ /
>> harate daśa pāpāni tasmād daśaharā smṛtā // BrP_63.15 // (Gretil)
>> In other sources it is related to the descent of the Ganges, so we have the bathing festival of Ganga Dussehra in summer.
>> If we understand the construction of the name of the autumn (Āśvin) festival in the same way, namely daśaharā = "[the tithi] removing/destroying (harā) the ten (daśa) [X]", what is X here?
>> I once read in a secondary source that what is being destroyed here is the ten heads of Rāvaṇa. That would be a nice explanation, but I have not found any textual source for it. Is this really the standard meaning? And is there any textual evidence for it?
>> But even if this were correct, it would only explain the Rāmaistic form of the festival, not the Śākta form (Durgā celebration).
>> I would be grateful for your explanations and their textual references.
>> Best,
>> Lubomir
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