[INDOLOGY] Techniques of Blinding

Walter Slaje walter.slaje at gmail.com
Mon May 4 07:57:38 EDT 2020

> blinding with acid is the technique recommended in AŚ 4,10.13

Is “acid” the meaning of yogāñjana?

Meyer translates „Giftsalbe“ (p. 352).
Kangle translates „poisonous collyrium“ (p. 282)
Olivelle translates „toxic collyrium“ (p. 422)

For the meaning of yogāñjana in AŚ 4,10.13, Kangle and Olivelle both refer
to AŚ 14,1.15, where “andhīkaraṇam añjanam” occurs. The preparation of this
substance with the power of blinding is defined there as:
“Dung of Myrna bird, pigeon, Baka-heron, Balākā-flamingo, made into a paste
with the milk of the plants Arka, Akṣi, Pīluka, and Snuhi, produces a
collyrium that causes blindness and poisons water” (Olivelle 2013: 422).

It is well known that bird droppings consist of uric acid. Their mixture
with plant sap could indeed have resulted in a substance, which might be
seen as a premodern precursor of acid used in today’s attacks going by that
name. Our colleagues focussing on Indian alchemy and medicine will be able
to judge it better.


Am Mo., 4. Mai 2020 um 11:38 Uhr schrieb Christophe Vielle <
christophe.vielle at uclouvain.be>:

> Note that (beside the fact that one of the actors of the film, Irrfan
> Khan, recently died) the blinding with acid is the technique  recommended
> in AŚ 4,10.13
> (Tokunaga's input on GRETIL)
> KAZ04.10.13/ śūdrasya brāhmaṇa.vādino deva.dravyam avastṛṇato rāja.dviṣṭam
> ādiśato dvi.netra.bhedinaś ca yoga.añjanena^andhatvam, aṣṭa.śato vā daṇḍaḥ
> //
> (tr. R. Shamasastry
> https://archive.org/details/Arthasastra_English_Translation )
> When a Sudra calls himself a Brahman, or when any person
> steals the property of gods, conspires against the king, or destroys
> both the eyes of another, he shall either have his eyes destroyed by
> the application of poisonous ointment, or pay a fine of 800 panas.
> (Sorry, I have not Olivelle's translation at hand)
> bW
> Christophe
> Le 3 mai 2020 à 15:26, Matthew Kapstein via INDOLOGY <
> indology at list.indology.info> a écrit :
> Dear Walter,
> I don't think that "touching" is the adjective that I would choose to
> describe the harrowing scene from the film you mention. (The connotation of
> the word in English is the arousing of positive sympathy.)
> But that is not my main reason for responding. The reference to the use of
> a needle recalled a scene in Orhan Pamuk's novel *Red* set, not in India,
> but in Ottoman Turkey. Perhaps the practic e was rather widespread in
> earlier times.
> best,
> Matthew
> Matthew Kapstein
> Directeur d'études, émérite
> Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris
> Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies,
> The University of Chicago
> ------------------------------
> *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 3:35 AM
> *To:* Indology <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:
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy1Wxxcp7_Y
> <https://eur03.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Ddy1Wxxcp7_Y&data=02%7C01%7Cchristophe.vielle%40uclouvain.be%7Cf6f215cdf0a4428c098608d7ef65b958%7C7ab090d4fa2e4ecfbc7c4127b4d582ec%7C0%7C0%7C637241092485205606&sdata=zG6NN86LcXPgqI%2BEHYStASVX39ahLZQNfEtum9wkASo%3D&reserved=0>
> 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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> Christophe Vielle <https://uclouvain.be/en/directories/christophe.vielle>
> Louvain-la-Neuve
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