[INDOLOGY] Techniques of Blinding

Uskokov, Aleksandar aleksandar.uskokov at yale.edu
Sun May 3 10:56:29 EDT 2020

Dear Walter,

This is somewhat circumstantial as it does not pertain to South Asia (and is based largely on my High School memory, so -- take it with a grain of salt), but there is the tradition of the Battle of Kleidon / Belasitsa between the Byzantine Emperor Basil II and the Bulgarian (or Macedonian, as my countrymen would claim) Emperor Samuel, in 1014, when some 15,000 soldiers of Samuel were allegedly blinded by the Byzantine army by gouging out their eyes with knives (or some form of iron object). That would put the practice (or a similar practice) close to Turkey, as Matthew's reference from Orhan Pamuk suggests, but not quite in "Ottoman Turkey" yet. This suggests that the practice might be Byzantine in origin.

Best wishes,

Aleksandar Uskokov

Lector in Sanskrit

South Asian Studies Council, Yale University

203-432-1972 | aleksandar.uskokov at yale.edu

From: INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at list.indology.info> on behalf of Walter Slaje via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info>
Sent: Sunday, May 3, 2020 10:22 AM
To: Madhav Deshpande <mmdesh at umich.edu>
Cc: Indology <indology at list.indology.info>
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Techniques of Blinding

Dear Madhav and Matthew,

first, thank you for alerting me to my "touching" connotation blunder, and second, yes, blinding - especially of pretenders to the throne - was certainly not uncommon. To the references already given by you to Ottoman and Mughal practices we can furthermore add Humayun’s blinding of his brother Mirza Kamran and Jahangir’s blinding of his first son Khusrau by using the needle (in 1607). In this context it is perhaps interesting to note that what Śrīvara has reported dates only from Sultanate Kashmir of the 15th century. To my knowledge no earlier occurrences are documented in the Rājataṅgiṇīs. Should we regard the practice of blinding with the needle an Islamic import? How does this technique conform to the Sanskrit notion of utpāṭana ("tearing out"). This is why I was asking for evidence of techniques from other and ideally pre-Islamic sources.

Thanks again,
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