[INDOLOGY] Techniques of Blinding

Madhav Deshpande mmdesh at umich.edu
Sun May 3 09:43:31 EDT 2020


Dear Walter,

     In the history of the Maratha period, we have the example of Sambhaji
Raja being blinded by Aurangzeb by inserting hot metal sticks into his
eyes, and later he was killed.  Apparently, this punishment was not
uncommon. Best,

Madhav

Madhav M. Deshpande
Professor Emeritus, Sanskrit and Linguistics
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Senior Fellow, Oxford Center for Hindu Studies

[Residence: Campbell, California, USA]


On Sun, May 3, 2020 at 6:15 AM Walter Slaje via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> Dear Colleagues,
>
>
>
> I take the advantage of the muted attempts at postmodern creative writing
> in Sanskrit to post a request pertaining to the study of material culture
> and social history in mediaeval India. My source is a representative of –
> if I might say so – “Sanskrit literary realism”, namely Kavi Śrīvara, who
> depicts a technique of blinding in his *Rājataraṅgiṇī* as it was
> practised in Kashmir between c. AD 1472 and 1474.
>
>
>
> Most of you will certainly be aware of the prevailing practice in South
> Asia of using acid, and possibly of the touching blinding scene shown in
> Slumdog Millionaire:
>
>
>
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy1Wxxcp7_Y
>
>
>
> but what Śrīvara was watching as an eyewitness at the royal court he was
> serving in Sultanate Kashmir was done differently. It comes closer to the
> verbatim meaning of *netra-utpāṭana* (“tearing out one’s eyes”), as they
> seem to have gouged out the eyes of the victim, to wit, Bahrām Khān,
> pretender to the throne and uncle of the ruling Sultan Hassan:
>
>
>
> *tasya tūlācite netradvaye taptāṃ śalākikām* |
>
> *Jonarājānako lauhīṃ dṛṅnāśārtham adāpayat* || III.107 ||
>
>
>
> [107]In order to destroy [Bahrām’s] eyesight, the Rājānaka Jona
> administered a red-hot copper needle to [his] eyeballs, which had been
> covered with cotton.
>
>
>
> Śrīvara comments:
>
> *nairghṛṇyam akṣihartur yat kṛṣṭākṣasya ca yā vyathā* |
>
> *dvayaṃ na śakyate vaktuṃ yathārthaṃ mādṛśāṃ girā* || III.108 ||
>
>
>
> [108][Poets] like me have no words to express in an adequate manner the
> heartlessness of the one who took his eyes and the agony of the one from
> whom they were torn.
>
>
>
> It is not the only instance of *netrotpāṭana* in his work, however to my
> present knowledge it is the only one to render precise details.
>
> In preparation of a new edition and annotated translation of Śrīvara’s
> masterpiece I would like to ask if someone might be aware of any other
> source having preserved details of the techniques of blinding in India? My
> request does not concern the undisputed occurrence of *netrotpāṭana*, but
> only the techniques, if known.
>
>
>
> On- and off-list replies would be equally welcome.
>
>
>
> Thanking you,
>
>
>
> Walter Slaje
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