pots, brahmin names, and potters

Artur Karp hart at POLBOX.COM
Thu Dec 10 17:49:46 EST 1998

At 10:59 10.12.98 +0100, you wrote:
>Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan wrote
>>Several Tamil inscriptions have intriguing names of brahmins who received
>>royal grants. The names contain words meaning pot, bowl or urn. These are
>>very rare occurrences either. For instance, along with droNa/tONa, we find
>>caTTi (DEDR 2306), tA_li (DEDR 3182), maNTai (DEDR 4682) all refer to
>>different type of earthern vessels.
>- cut -
>>We should note that Pallavas claimed themselves to be brahmin descendants of
>>droNa born in a bucket/trough. As a result one can assume many brahmins
>>have had droNa/tONa in their names. But, we also have the form tONamaNTa
>>zarman (<droNamaNTai zarman?).
>- cut -
>> Why would brahmins have words
>>referring to different kinds of earthern vessels in their names?
>- cut -
>>The epic droNa is of course similar to bhArgava rAma in
>>being born a brahmin but behaving as a kSatriya. I have in my earlier
>>pointed out the potter-priest-warrior connections.
> Though kumbhayoni can be used as an argument in this case, the problem (at
>least for me) is that droNa - probably to be derived from dru/dAru, "wood"
>- means "wooden vessel" (or has this meaning changed in the Dravidian
>languages?), and therefore cannot directly be connected with pottery.
>Georg v. Simson


A remark on Georg v. Simson posting and a question in connection with pots.

Dro.na/dro.n_i might have lost its original connection with 'wood' quite

Despite CDIAL 6641, where Pali don.i_ is explained as "wooden trough" -
don.i_ seems to denote rather a certain type of vessels ("trough, vat,
tub"). [Cf. The PTS Pali-English Dictionary, p. 331, where don.i_ "a
(wooden) trough...]

In order to be more specific about material out of which the don.i_ type
vessels were made, one had then - at least in some cases - to resort to the
use of attributive adjectives.

One such case is when tela-don.i_ is attributed by a_yasa_, making it of
course not "iron wooden oil trough" but simply "iron oil trough".

It might be of possible interest that in the Mahaparinibbana-sutta [5.11;
Sacred Books of the Buddhists,  Vol. III, Pali Text Society 1995, pp.
155-156] don.i_ is mentioned in connection with death:

"Then they place the body in an oil vessel of iron [ayasa_ya
tela-don.iya_], and cover that close up [pat.ikujjitva_] with another oil
vessel of iron. They then build a funeral pyre..., and burn [jha_penti] the
body of the king of kings..."

[In the footnote to ayasa_ya tela-don.iya_ the translator (T. Rhys Davids)
says: "Ayas was originally used for bronze, and only later for iron also,
and at last exclusively for iron. As kam.sa is already a common word for
bronze in very early Buddhist Pali texts, I think a_yasa (not ayasa) would
here mean 'of iron'..." And he goes on: "The whole process as described is
not very intelligible; and one might suppose that ayasa after all had
nothing to do with any metal, and was a technical term descriptive of some
particular size or shape or colour of oil vessel. But it is frequently
found in the MSS. when iron is clearly meant."]

Body [s'ari_ra], (closed) vessel, and oil seem to form a triad. Or tetrad -
if we add heat.

Could it be equivalent to the triad: foetus [garbha]/(closed) vessel/(warm)


Artur Karp

University of Warsaw

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