Recently, I came upon a claim (not published so far) that the Aśokan formula (X-number)varṣābhiṣiktena [like in RE I, Girnar, dbādasavāsābhisitena] does not convey the information on the number of years since the king's anointment, but, rather, the information on the successive number of abhishekas the king would perform on every anniversary of his rule's inauguration.
So - not "the year X since my inauguration", but, against the standard renderings: "the year of my Xth abhisheka".
Is there any linguistic reason for this kind of the formula's reinterpretation? The compound's structure?
While looking through materials I have on hand, I came across the following statement in Jan Gonda's 1957 paper on Indian kingship (Ancient Indian kingship from the religious point of view, Numen, Vol. 4, Fasc. 2, p. 135):
<<As the Asvamedha is the king of sacrifices 701), and as on the other hand the sacrificer, i.e. the king, is identical with the asvamedha, certain peculiarities of this ritual are stated to correspond to certain qualities of the king. Thus he is disposed to be "strong in arms", because the front legs of two goats sacrificed during the asvamedha are tied - "he thereby lays strength into the front legs" 702) and strong in thighs, for similar reasons. Before we leave this point we should call attention to an important statement made in the Visnudharmottara-purana 703). On every anniversary of the first 'coronation' the king should repeat the rites; this leads to welfare, to increase of the country, to the destruction of the enemies and so on. Then the 'inauguration' has become cyclic, annually carrying the ruler and his realm beyond a difficult stage, and recreating the beneficial power inherent in kingship [boldfaces mine, A. K.]>>
Is there - apart from the Vishnudharmottara-purana fragment quoted by Gonda - any evidence for such an annual royal ritual to be found anywhere in the corpus of Śastric/Buddhist literature?
Any comment would be much appreciated.
Best,Artur KarpSenior Lecturer in Sanskrit and Pali (ret.)South Asian Studies DepttOriental FacultyUniversity of WarsawPoland
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