[INDOLOGY] Techniques of Blinding

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan palaniappa at aol.com
Sun May 3 11:51:18 EDT 2020

In the Tamil Vaiṣṇava hagiographic work Āṟāyirappaṭi Kuruparamparāprapāvam, the Cōḻa king orders the two Vaiṣṇava devotees Periyanampi and Kūrattāḻvāṉ to be punished with netropāṭana (the word netropāṭanam is used in the text). Immediately Kūrattāḻvāṉ used his own nails to take out his own eyes while the king’s men carried out the orders on Periyanampi. (See p. 256 of the 2006 edition)


On the Śaiva side, we have the story of Tiṇṇaṉ (who later is called by Śiva as ‘Kaṇṇappa’ (the respectable person of the eye)) in the Periyapurāṇam in which Tiṇṇaṉ takes out his own eyes with his arrow to replace the bleeding eyes of Śivaliṅga). Here is a sculpture of the episode. https://www.flickr.com/photos/26216916@N05/2464433626/





From: INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at list.indology.info> on behalf of Indology List <indology at list.indology.info>
Reply-To: Walter Slaje <walter.slaje at gmail.com>
Date: Sunday, May 3, 2020 at 8:15 AM
To: Indology List <indology at list.indology.info>
Subject: [INDOLOGY] Techniques of Blinding


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:




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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