Monday, April 19, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 1.12: Big Hair, Puffy Rice, and Flowers

virejur hariNaa yatra
suptaa medhyaasu vediShu
sa-laajair maadhavii-puShpair
upahaaraaH kRtaa iva

- = = - - = = -
= = = = - = - -
- = = = - = = =
- - = = - = - -

The stags there, their manes beautifully braided,

On undefiled elevations fit to be sacrificial altars,

Seemed as if,
complete with puffy rice and madhavi flowers,

They had been prepared as religious offerings.

In this verse, which needs to be understood in conjunction with the further description of small and large deer in the next verse, I am not sure whether or not Ashvaghosha is continuing with the subtext of mocking the ascetics at Kapila's ashram. Assuming that he is, then given the double-meaning of the word supta, then I am not sure whether Ashvaghosha is comparing the ascetics to stags with shaggy manes or to sleeping fawns.

In conclusion, I may be wrong, but I think Ashvaghosha's intention might be to allude again, following on from the previous verse, to the traditional attitude of Indian ascetics and holy men who (sometimes in the name of non-vanity) pay so much attention to how they wear their hair.

This attitude of ascetic peacocks and stags could hardly be more different from the traditional attitude of a follower of the Buddha who simply shaves his head.

EH Johnston:
There the spotted deer, asleep in the enclosures sacred to worship, seemed as if made into offerings accompanied by madhavi flowers and puffed rice.

Linda Covill:
Here the deer slept in the sacrificial compounds, seemingly made into offerings along with dried rice and madhavi flowers.

virejuH = 3rd pers. pl. perfect of viraaj: to be illustrious or eminent , shine forth , shine out (abl.) , glitter ; to appear as (nom.)
hariNaaH (nom. pl.): m. a deer , antelope , fawn , stag
yatra: ind. where

suptaaH = nom. pl. m. supta: (1) mfn. (fr. su + ptaa) having beautiful braids of hair; (2) mfn. sleeping, asleep; fallen asleep , slept , sleeping , asleep ; lain down to sleep (but not fallen asleep) ; paralysed , numbed , insensible ; closed (as a flower) ; resting , inactive , dull , latent
medhyaasu (loc. pl. f.): mfn. (fr. medha) full of sap , vigorous , fresh , mighty , strong ; fit for a sacrifice or oblation ; free from blemish (as a victim) , clean , pure , not defiling (by contact or by being eaten)
vediShu = loc. pl. vedi: f. an elevated (or according to some excavated) piece of ground serving for a sacrificial altar (generally strewed with kusha grass , and having receptacles for the sacrificial fire ; it is more or less raised and of various shapes , but usually narrow in the middle , on which account the female waist is often compared to it)

sa-laajaiH: with accompaniments of fried rice
sa: (possessive suffix) along with, containing, accompanied by etc.
laaja: m. pl. fried or parched grain (esp. rice grain)
maadhavii-puShpaiH (inst. pl. m.): with madhavi flowers
maadhavii: " spring-flower " , Gaertnera Racemosa
puShpa: flower

upahaaraaH (nom. pl.): m. offerings , oblations ; complimentary gift , present (to a king or superior) ; food (distributed to guests &c )
upa- √ hR: to bring near , reach forth , proffer , offer , place before , give to taste (esp. food)
kRtaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. done , made , accomplished , performed ; prepared , made ready
iva: like, as if


Anonymous said...

Dreadlocks or a bald head can both be Peacocking if the intention is that one stands out as someone who is on a spiritual quest.

Mike Cross said...

Indeed so.

But your comment looks like an apology for not shaving the head.

Having shaved my head for the past 25 years, when I become conscious that my hair is getting past a certain length, I just simply shave it off.

For one thing, I know my wife didn't marry me for my flowing golden locks. For another, I have saved a lot of money along the way on shampoo and visits to the barber's shop.

For someone who aspires to a simple life, shaving the head has a lot of merits. I'm grateful to the Buddha for advocating it.

jiblet said...

Hey Mike,

MW has upta as "shorn, shaved"!

But it's not su-upta, is's su-pta.

Never mind.

Mike Cross said...

Hi jiblet,

Good to know you are keeping an eye on proceedings. Thanks as always.

MW gives under pnaa:

f. the braided hair of shiva; (read ptaa).

It would be helpful to identify exactly what root "-pta" comes from.

Anyway, I am glad you haven't dismissed my oddball interpretation out of hand.

jiblet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jiblet said...

Hi Mike,

I can't find the root of pta /pna either.

FWIW, I'm finding your unearthing of an ironic subtext persuasive.

Mike Cross said...

Thanks, jiblet.

Unearthing is the right word -- when I started digging, I had no idea it was there.