[INDOLOGY] Techniques of Blinding

Walter Slaje walter.slaje at gmail.com
Mon May 4 14:40:54 EDT 2020


The passage talking about the substance resulting from a mixture of
specific bird droppings with specific plant saps only says that it causes
blindness (*andhīkaraṇam añjanam*):

*śārikā-kapota-baka-balākā-leṇḍam arka-akṣi-pīluka-snuhi-kṣīrapiṣṭam
andhīkaraṇam añjanam udakadūṣaṇaṃ ca* || (AŚ 14,1.15)

“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)



The two translators refer to this *andhīkaraṇa añjana* with a view to
establishing the meaning of *yogāñjana* in AŚ 4,10.13.



As an interim summary let it be noted that

first, only (4 species of) birds are enumerated in this context. Their
droppings have high uric *acid* levels.

Second, the sap of the two identified plants (of altogether 4 plant
species), *arka* and *snuhi*, are spoken of as “*corrosive*” (*arka*) and “
*caustic*” (*snuhi*).

This is what the Wikipedia has to say about the spurge: „The milky sap of
spurges (called „latex“)“ is said to have „caustic effects“: “In contact
with mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth), the latex can produce extremely
painful inflammation. The sap has also been known to cause mild to extreme
Keratouveitis, which affects vision. […] wearing eye protection while
working in close contact with *Euphorbia* is advised. […] *severe eye
damage including permanent blindness* may result from exposure to the sap.”



What effect would a conglomerate of highly acidic bird droppings and
caustic plant saps exercise on the unprotected eye? The notion of
“poisoning” is less likely than that of causing severe burns. So far
everything points therefore to "acid" as the technique of blinding
recommended in the AŚ, as spontaneously suggested by Christophe Vielle.



Regards,

WS

Am Mo., 4. Mai 2020 um 19:20 Uhr schrieb Dominik Wujastyk <
wujastyk at gmail.com>:

> "yogāñjana" could mean "magic ointment" (magic<-yogic), or "an ointment
> consisting of a medicinal compound."
>
> The *samāsa* may refer deictically to poisons or corrosive substances
> (denotation), but that's not what the *samāsa* means lexically (i.e.,
> semantically).
>
> *Arka*, Purple Calotropis <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calotropis>, is
> a milkweed with a corrosive, poisonous sap. *Snuhī*, a spurge
> <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euphorbia#Irritants>, similarly has white,
> corrosive sap.  Etc.
>
> Best,
> Dominik
>
>
> > 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.
>>
>
>
> --
> Professor Dominik Wujastyk
> <https://www.ualberta.ca/arts/about/people-collection/dominik-wujastyk>
> ,
>
> Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Society and Polity
> ,
>
> Department of History and Classics
> <http://historyandclassics.ualberta.ca/>
> ,
> University of Alberta, Canada
> .
>
>
> South Asia at the U of A:
>
> sas.ualberta.ca
>
>
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