Dear List,

Two additional notes on mr̥tyóḥ padám:

First, thanks to the kindness of Hartmut Buescher, I now have access to a pdf of my "Pursuit of Hidden Track" paper, and will try to attach it here.

Second, the Thieme paper on Ambrosia is also available in *Indogermaische Dichtersprache* edited by R.Schmitt for the Wege der Forschung Series, Band CLXV, 1968.  I have been re-reading it.  This is how Thieme translates amrta [accent on second syllable] [neuter]: "Leben, Lebenskraft [nicht "Unsterblichkeit"], heisst also eigentlich "Lebenskraft enthaltend" [p. 114].  Thieme demonstrates that the term amrta, like ambrosia, belongs to the old IE Dichtersprache.

With best wishes,


On Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 2:46 PM, George Thompson <> wrote:
 Dear Jarrod, Dipak, and all,

In 1995 I published [in IIJ 38, pp.1-30] a paper entitled "The Pursuit of Hidden Tracks in Vedic."  In it I discuss RV 10.18.2 briefly.  Unfortunately I do not have a pdf of this.  Buy I can quote what I said there:

"Similarly metonymic is the expressive magic used in an apotropaic practice attested in a funeral hymn, RV 10.18.  In st..2 the relatives of the deceased are required to "erase the footprints of death" [I leave out all Skt text to save time], as they leave the funeral pyre to return to everyday life.  The hope is expressed in st. 3 that death will thereby not follow them as they return home, to dancing and laughter....  {T]hese relatives are afraid that the deceased's spirit will not be satisfied with his leave-taking, that he will trouble his family unless he is adequately appeased, that death may thus pursue the living.  Among other precautions... the ritual of erasing the footprints is a means pf preventing death's pursuit....

What interested me back then about the term pada is its wide semantic range.  This also attracted Renou's attention in his 1958 monograph *Etudes sur le vocabulaire du Rgveda*.  To give a sense of what I was thinking then, I wrote a version of it for *Semiotica: Journal of the Intl. Association for Semiotic Studies.*  The ediitor-in-chief at the time was Thomas Sebeok, whose work I was introduced to b Frits Staal.  The title of that paper was ""From 'footstep' to 'word' in Sanskrit." 

In both papers I suggested that the Vedic rsis, absorbed as they were in their riddling, esoteric brahmodyas, were highly sensitive to signs of all sorts [not just footprints but also words] and to the inferences that we draw from them.   In both papers I conclude that not only were the Vedic rsis sophisticated proto-linguists [as Frits has argued], but that they also had a science which I called "Vedic semiotics."

Well, I was more exuberant then than I am now. 

Maybe this is of some interest to you all.

Best wishes,


On Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 12:16 PM, Dipak Bhattacharya <> wrote:

pada may mean ‘place, station’.

There is a discussion on pāda/pada by Renou. Unfortunately I cannot go into the details immediately. But I remember that it occurred either in the Introduction Générale AiG I 1957 or in ‘Notes sur la version “Paippalāda” de l’Atharvaveda’ Journal Asiatique 1964, 421-450. I may give further information later.



On Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 10:05 PM, Jarrod Whitaker <> wrote:
Has anyone written on the phrase mr̥tyóḥ padám (mr.tyo'h. pada'm) in the RV and AV (or later texts)? My cursory search has come up short.

Does death leave a footprint behind (possessive or subjective genitive)? Or are the footprints left by the living for death to follow (objective genitive)? The latter seems to be the reasonable conclusion, but it's not evident in the genitive phrase. The phrase appears in the RV's funeral hymn (10.18.2), where the living wipe out "death's footprint" when they return home, which suggests they erase their own trail so death can't follow them,  but in stanza 1 death is banished along his own faraway/distant/remote path (which is different to the gods), which suggests that death does follow (and leave?) his own footprints or trail. Perhaps it's some kind of "plenary" genitive indicating both possibilities...

Happy New Year!

Jarrod Whitaker, Ph.D.
Associate Professor,
Graduate Program Director,
Department for the Study of Religions.

Faculty, Department of Women's,
Gender and Sexuality Studies.

Wake Forest University
P.O. Box 7212
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
p 336.758.4162

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