Dear all,

A few attestations of kūṭa, kūṭākṣara, kūṭabīja are mentioned in volume 2 of the Tāntrikābhidhānakośa.

Another term that has not been mentioned in this discussion is piṇḍa/piṇḍākṣara.  This too is an old tantric usage, but it is not restricted to tantric literature, for we find it also in Vāmana’s Kāvyālaṅkārasūtra (4.1.7) and in some anonymous verses he quotes in his auto-commentary.  Now the word piṇḍa clearly does refer to things having being lumped together, and so such usages suggest that the same idea of “heaping or lumping together" might indeed be at the root of kūṭa, kūṭākṣara, etc.

Today, the expression most commonly heard is perhaps saṃyuktākṣara, which may sound as though it might have been a calque upon “conjunct letters" or the like, but it is in fact some centuries old (it is used, for instance, in the Kāmadhenu commentary on the Kāvyālaṅkārasūtra).

Dominic Goodall
École française d’Extrême-Orient

On 06-Mar-2012, at 5:36 AM, Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan wrote:

This is interesting. Although the word kUTa (CDIAL 3392) may ultimately have a Dravidian etymology, I would like to know if the interpretation 'heap syllables' is widely accepted among scholars. The reason I am asking this is this. The the word for a conjunct letter in Tamil is kUTTezuttu which according to Tamil Lexicon is:

n. < id. +. 1. Cursive writing, running hand; விரைவாகக் கூட்டியெழுதும் எழுத்து. 2. Two or more letters written conjointly; பல எழுத்துக்களைச் சேர்த்தெழு தும் எழுத்து. 3. Conjunct consonants, as க்ஷ் (kṣ); இரண்டுமுதலாகிய மெய்கள் இணைந்த வடவெழுத்து. (நன். 146, மயிலை.)

Here kUTTezuttu < kUTTu 'join' (DEDR 1882)+ ezuttu 'letter' 

Tamil Lexicon gives as an example, kS written in Grantha.

Thanks in advance.

S. Palaniappan

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Slouber <mjslouber@BERKELEY.EDU>
Sent: Mon, Mar 5, 2012 7:14 pm
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Joint Letters

Dear All,

Allen is indeed correct that in the Tantras they are called kUTAkSara.  See the attached image of one that extends down an amazing six lines.  It is from an Asha Archives manuscript from Kathmandu ("hAhArAva" #4790).


Michael Slouber
Ph.D. Candidate
South and Southeast Asian Studies
UC Berkeley

On Mar 5, 2012, at 6:11 PM, Allen Thrasher wrote:

I think that when several consonants are joined together into a single bIja, as in Tantrism, they are sometimes called kUTAkSara-s, which I guess means "heap syllables," and that this applies to them both as pronounced and as written.  Is this terminology especially likely to be used when the consonants are many  in number (say, more than three) and are hard or virtually impossible to pronounce?

I don't have my dicionaries or books on Tantrism and indrajAla easily accessible at the moment so can't double-check before posting, or give examples.