Sunday, October 03, 2010

South India in Tibetan Geography

Shree Ayyappa

It was only a few years ago that I first visited South India. I wonder what took me so long. Today I am wishing I had taken a camera with me. All my earlier Indian travels had been in the north, mostly in the Gangetic Plains, Delhi area, and Himachal Pradesh. But I’ve felt an increasing interest in South India that can in some part be explained by my personal liking for some special persons who study the area or who originated there. And all this knits together in an inexplicable way with my interest in Padampa Sanggyé, and the ever-increasing conviction that I may need to know more about South India in order to understand him better. 

I believe Padampa lived his young life somewhere in the coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh, probably in the mouth of the Krishna River. My reasons for thinking so are several. The most obvious indications in early sources are that he must have lived quite close to Shri Parvata (Dpal-gyi Ri), by which I understand the Shri Parvata that is in  the same area as Dhanyakataka Stūpa in Amaravati (there is this wiki with a map location if you are curious). We also have (less specific) testimony in the frequency of sea turtles in his metaphors, along with the story that his father was a sea captain. A number of early sources say that he was from Be-ta’i Yul. Some have interpreted this to mean the kingdom of Vidarbha, but I don’t believe this is necessarily correct. I think the name Be-ta Country would just mean Coconut Country, as a cover-all term for the entire South Indian region, where coconuts are one of the most important items in the cuisine.  Be-ta is the Tibetan word for the coconut palm.* 

(*Berthold Laufer’s remarkable work on Loanwords, known to readers of earlier blogs, discusses this on pp. 457-8, but it can be found in quite a few modern English-Tibetan dictionaries under ‘coconut.’ I say this for the benefit of those who might pride themselves on their unwillingness to trust me.) 

I’m eager to read Karl Brunnhölzl’s new book Straight from the Heart, supposedly already in the mail. Among many other things, it has what looks like a very substantial chapter on Padampa entitled Padampa Sangyé’s Meetings with Milarepa and the Nun Düdsi Gyi. It can be seen in part at Googlebooks. There (p. 203) he gives the country’s name as Veta and says that it was in a particular part of that land in a place called Carasimha that Padampa was born. With no footnote or other identification, both place names are left drifting across the page as blank signifiers, with not much of a clue as to where we might be, although it does say, without clueing us in on how anybody would know this, that he was a South Indian.

I’m not ready to rule out the Vidarbha idea quite yet. It was more-or-less synonymous with ‘the south’ in the Mahābhāratabut south in those days didn’t seem to go very far on the map. (And nowadays the name Vidarbha is limited to eastern Maharashtra with its population of Marathi speakers — try this wiki.) Anyway, ‘coconut country’ could be equally descriptive of the Kingdom of Vidarbha and of South India as a whole. Still more mysterious is the identity of Padampa’s hometown Tsa-ra-sing-ha. I’ve found some new sources that might shed light on that, but it’s not too relevant at the moment, and would provoke some lengthy technical arguments. Another time, perhaps.

Today I will limit myself to a fairly simple question. What general knowledge did educated Tibetans of the past have about South Indian geography?

No sooner is this simple question framed than the doubts and complications raise their tiny heads to assert their importance. If names are preserved in books, it doesn’t mean that people necessarily knew about them or knew how those names ought to be found on the ground. Let’s keep those tiny hydra heads at bay and try heading for the big picture based on what textual sources we have, in an attempt to avoid being ruled by our overactive imagination.

Butön (Bu-ston Rin-chen-grub, 1290‑1364 CE) was one of the most intelligent among the leading Tibetan historical personages, no doubt about it.  Tibetan iconography normally depicts him with an abnormally shaped head, extremely wide at the temples with a huge cranial bump, but narrowing sharply downward to his jutting v-shaped chin.  (As you can see, I’m trying to get a job writing art show catalogues.)

I find myself entirely unable to make up my mind whether [1] the cranial bump is an iconographic convention to denote superior intelligence or [2] this way of depicting him his based on his actual physical appearance, which is not to neglect the possibility the answer might be [3] both (see the Heller book).

In volume 24 of the old Lokesh Chandra edition of his collected works (that’s right, he wrote more than 24 volumes of collected works!), at pages 866-7, is one of the most interesting of classical Tibetan lists of countries. This is part of his famous history composed in 1322 CE. I’ll give this list in a moment, with some of the countries identified in parentheses. I believe all of these country names are names of real countries, and No, that really does not go without saying. If a few of them might not be immediately identifiable with real countries, my assumption is that we need to go back to the earlier sources for parts of the list and think harder until we come up with the answers.  (That’s right.  I’ve got faith.  But I feel I have good reasons to have faith.) You will soon see that I give links to Wikipedia articles, which are, you know, sometimes not exactly on the cutting edge... But I believe many will benefit from having the quick reference, on the understanding that no seal of approval has been applied from my side.

First he gives a list of a few places in which gigantic versions of tantras are said to exist: 

1. lha’i gnas (divine abodes).
2. Shambha-la (Shambhala).
3. U-rgyan (Oḍḍiyāna), etc.

Then he gives a much longer list of countries where the Buddha-Dharma has spread at some time or another in one form or another:

4. Rgya-gar (India).
5. Kha-che (Kashmir).
6. Bal-yul (Nepal Valley).
7. Li (Khotan).
8. Rgya-nag (China).
9. Rgya-nag Chen-po (Greater China, or China together with Tang Dynasty conquests).
10. Par-sig (Persia).
11. Tsam-pa-ka (Campaka).
12. Spre’u (this being Tibetan for ‘monkey,’ but most likely intending Sanskrit Vānara).
13. Gser-mig (This being Tibetan for ‘gold eye,’ but probably a misreading of Skt. Suvarṇākhya as Suvarṇākṣa; to simplify, this just means the ‘Gold Country’ or the country known as ‘Gold’.)
14. Rug-ma, with an added note reading Shambha-la, implying that it is part of that country.
15. Ram-ma.
16. Zangs-gling (Tibetan meaning ‘Copper Isle’), with an added note reading Rgya-gar, ‘India,’ implying that it is part of India.  It may be Sri Lanka, a part of Bengal, or a coastal area of Burma. It’s the place Sinhala was when his lamp laughed at him.
17.  Sing-ga-la’i Gling (Isle of Siṅgala), with an added note reading Rgya-gar, ‘India,’ implying that it is part of the Indian sphere.
18. Pri-yang-ku’i Gling (Isle of Priyaṅku).
19. Ya-mu-na’i Gling (Isle of Yamunā [River?]).
20. Gser-gling (‘Gold Isle’), with an added note reading Rgya-gar, ‘India,’ implying that it is part of India.  Likely to be the Śrīvijaya kingdom in Southeast Asia?
21. Zla-ba’i Gling (‘Moon Isle’).  Candra Dvīpa, sometimes identified as an island in the Ganges delta area, or a larger part of coastal Bengal.  The Das dictionary says something about it.
22. Ma-kha (Mecca).
23. Kha-sha (Khasa?).
24. Gyi-ljang (a known placename in Tibet, but not well identified).
25. Zhang-zhung (Zhangzhung kingdom of western Tibet).
26. Bru-sha (Burusho).  
27. ’A-zha (T’u-yü-hun).
28. Sum-pa (Supi).
29. Za-hor (as the birthplace of Atiśa, although disputed, this must be in area of Bengal).
30. Me-nyag (Tangut).
31. ’Jang-yul (Nan-chao).
32. Yo-gur (Uighur), with a note that says it is in the direction of China.
33. Tho-gar (Tokhar).  This ethnonym also occurs in the Hebrew Bible (Bereshith 10:3) according to Jäschke.
34. U-rgyan (Oḍḍiyāna).  This repeats no. 3 above.
35. ’Gro-lding-ba’i Yul.
36. Long-ba’i Yul.
37. Tso-la.
38. Ka-lingka.
... etcetera.

You can find a quite old, but not for that reason negligible, English translation of this.  If you have on hand a copy of E. Obermiller’s The History of Buddhism in India and Tibet by Bu-ston, look at part 2, p. 171. If you have the recently published book Thuken Losang Chökyi Nyima’s The Crystal Mirror of Philosophical Systems, The Library of Tibetan Classics series vol. 25, Wisdom (Boston 2009), p. 371, you will find a translation of a later borrowing of Butön’s list with some interesting footnotes, although the translators could have saved themselves a bit of trouble if they had known about the earlier version of the list in Butön’s history along with Obermiller’s translation of it. (I know of another copy of Butön’s list in a much-neglected mid-16th-century history.)

One significant part of our list is copied from a passage in the Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakra Tantra (chapter 1, part 4).  Following the Peking edition of the Tibetan text, these countries are: 

[1] Bod (Tibet),
[2] Rgya-nag (China),
[3] Rgya-nag-chen-po,
[4] Pār-si-ka,
[5] Tsam-pa-ka,
[6] Spre’u,
[7] Gser,
[8] Rug-ma, and
[9] Su-ra-ma. 

In each of these countries, says the Vimalaprabhā, the teachings of the Buddha have been set down in writing in their own languages (the author saw no reason to mention India here, since that would go without saying... and did; likewise for Butön’s list Tibet went without saying).  So I hope it’s clear that nos. 8-15 in Butön’s list correspond exactly in order and very closely in spellings to the earlier Vimalaprabhā list nos. 2-9. Although I have some different ideas than those he arrived at some years ago,* I would like to just send you to John Newman’s unpublished 1987 dissertation on the Kālacakra Tantra’s chapter 1 for further discussion of these particular names (on p. 362 of my UMI reprint). There is nothing better to the best of my knowledge.

(*I’m now of the somewhat supportable opinion that nos. 14-15, Rug-ma and Ram-ma both (or perhaps the latter alone) are somehow concealing the names of the two halves of early Burma Rāmañña (EoB [Encyclopaedia of Buddhism] VII 496) and Maramma ("upper Burma"), the two countries that combined to form that once-blessed country of Burma/Myanmar.)

We could go into a lot of other interesting problems, but I am eager to get to the end of the list. So let me just say, perhaps stating the obvious, that no. 17, the Isle of Siṅgala, could only mean Ceylon / Sri Lanka.  But then what is no. 18, Isle of Priyaṅku?  I believe I am the first person to identify it as the Piyaṅgu Island known to Sri Lankan sources (EoB VII 421 has an entry). I found in a Singhalese dictionary that piyaṅgu and priyaṅgu are considered variant spellings.  It is variously interpreted to mean panic seed or millet (both regarded as poor-people’s foods, known as ‘famine grains’), black mustard-seed or long pepper. Or, a tree with fragrant flowers (?). Pri-yang-ku is even known to Tibetan medicine, which would further perplex us if we were to pursue it now, which we won’t. The conclusion of the EoB entry is just that it was a small island near the northern coast of Sri Lanka.  Since anyway the monks mostly had to commute there by miraculous means, especially by flying, I imagine a better explanation may be that it is Pegu. In early times Pegu was a well-known port-of-call (true, not an island, although this doesn’t bother me much) in eastern coastal Burma (preserved in the modern city name Bago, I guess).  I would like to find good reasons to verify or reject this idea.

Okay, enough of that.  Let’s look at the last four in the list.

35. ’Gro-lding-ba’i Yul.

Translating the Tibetan, this means ‘country of hovering/soaring travel.’  Obermiller gave it in an Indic form as Dramila (a form that actually appears in a few Sanskrit texts). This means the land of Tamil speakers.  I haven’t thought of a reason why the Tibetan would be translating the name, have you?  But I’m sure that it does translate it, since it appears in this Tibetan Kanjur title:
Dramiḍa Vidyārāja (’Phags pa ’gro lding ba’i rig sngags kyi rgyal po).  Tôhoku no. 927 (also, no. 610), Dergé Kanjur, vol. E (101), folios 273‑276.  It was translated in late imperial times, or circa 800 CE.
The Tanjur contains a quite lengthy text that would appear from its title to be a Dravidian vase ritual:
’Phags pa drā bi da’i bum pa’i cho ga.  Tôhoku no. 3130.  Dergé Tanjur, vol. PU (74), folios 129‑244.

36. Long-ba’i Yul.

Translating the Tibetan, this means ‘country of the blind.’  The reason for this is not very difficult to find (and Obermiller found it long ago).  Someone at some point in the past dropped the ‘r’ from Andhra, resulting in Andha, which means ‘blind.’

37. Tso-la.

This can only mean the Chola (Cola) kingdom of south India.  Tamil in its origins, when the Chola was at the height of its power in around 1050, it controlled most of the eastern India coastal regions as well as the western parts of insular Southeast Asia.

38. Ka-lingka.

Kaliṅga was a very well-known kingdom in the history of southern India. It was centered north of Andhra in what today is Orissa.

The first two of these four would seem to correspond very nicely with the two modern states of Andhra Pradesh, with its majority of Telugu speakers, and Tamil Nadu with its majority of Tamil speakers. The two other modern states of South India, Kerala with its Malayalam speakers, and Karnataka with its Kannada speakers, may not have yet achieved identity as ethnic entities when this list was originally made. In the case of Malayalam, it could in early times have been considered a dialect of Tamil. Kannada, according to linguists, would have split off from Tamil at an even earlier date. There are about 20 more Dravidian languages, but the four I mention are today the major ones.

So at least we know that an early 14th-century Tibetan source appears to know something about the lands of South India. Like other lists incorporated into that list, the list of lands of South India is probably older than the 14th century, reflecting as it does earlier political divisions (for example, the Chola Dynasty ended in 1279). This doesn’t directly bring us closer to finding out where Padampa was coming from.  But it doesn’t hurt, either. At least we know that he, just like Nāgārjuna, was from Coconut Country, a place the Tibetan teacher Manlung Guru visited in the 13th century. That's right.  A Tibetan actually went there back in those days. But now I’m getting ahead of myself on a story that hasn’t even started yet.

And do I even need to mention that a lot of this requires further work? Please be brave and kind and write to me in the comments box if you want to criticize or discuss any of this.

Ready to read more?

Bu-ston Rin-chen-grub’s history of Buddhism is available on the world-wide web in the Wylie transcription form of Tibetan. I believe there are two versions out there.  These digital texts are extremely useful for Tibetan readers, given the ease with which you may locate Tibetan words and names in it. Limited to English? You will probably have to settle for mail ordering an Indian reprint of the 1932 Obermiller translation. The indexing is totally inadequate.

Alain Daniélou, translator, Manimekhalai (The Dancer with the Magic Bowl) by Merchant‑Prince Shattan, New Directions (New York 1989). This is an English version of the only significant Buddhist literary text that survives in Tamil, dating from around the 6th century CE. The translation gets mixed reviews. There may be a better one out there.

D. Martin, Tibet at the Center: A Historical Study of Some Tibetan Geographical Conceptions Based on Two Types of Country-Lists found in Bon Histories, contained in: Per Kvaerne, ed., Tibetan Studies, Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture (Oslo 1994), vol. 1, pp. 517-532.

John R. Newman, The Outer Wheel of Time: Vajrayāna Buddhist Cosmology in the Kālacakra Tantra, doctoral dissertation, University of Wisconsin (Madison 1987), in 681 pages.  UMI order no. 8723348.

D.C. [Dinesh Chandra] Sircar, Studies in the Geography of Ancient and Medieval India, Motilal Banarsidass (Delhi 1971), 2nd edition.  This (plus other works by the same author) is my Bible for the historical geography of India.  You can get a good look at most of it at Googlebooks

Japanese readers are invited to download this PDF to find out more about a Tamil mantra in the Lotus Sutra. 

On Butön's iconography, be well advised to go and have a look at plates 63 and 64 in Amy Heller's book Tibetan Art: Tracing the Development of Spiritual Ideals and Art in Tibet, 600-2000 A.D., Jaca Book (Milan 1999), with discussion on pages 85-86. The island of Buton, unbeknownst to Butön, is located here.

And here is a marvelous passage from the  Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 2.4.18.  In the commentary, notice how the Khasa (the Kha-sha of  our list?) are explained as people with stunted hair on their upper lips, and therefore Mongolians and other equally moustache-challenged peoples. Really, I somehow doubt this. The general point of this country listing within its context is to assert that even the most dreadfully sinful foreign cultures can find their full salvation in Vishnu. Are you listening to this out there?

For a discussion on Shri Parvata and surrounding area, since around 1960 submerged beneath a huge reservoir created by the Nagarjunasagar Dam, see this blog at

§ § §   § § §   § § §

The frontispiece is a popular print of the famous Ayyappa deity image, object of the largest pilgrimages in Kerala. Some believe this deity and its shrine were originally Buddhist. I have nothing illuminating to say on the subject, just to say that it is a fairly commonly expressed idea, that may or may not have a strong basis. You may be the judge. I might be the only one to notice it, but the deity's (iconographically speaking) rather unusual sitting position resembles the Zhijé (not the Chö) form of Padampa. I guess it is only a coincidence. But then their right hands are also displaying the same mudrā...  Hmmm...  I would also invite you to pay attention to the small detail of the coconuts in the offering tray. A gentle reminder that you are in coconut country.

§ § §   § § §   § § §

The hardcore Tibetanists among you are welcome to go and download “50 Geo Texts” HERE at Tibetological website. I uploaded it a long time ago, but then I forgot to tell anyone it was there. It is supposed to be useful as a search file for answering some kinds of questions about Tibetan geography and geographical knowledge. Its only proper use is as a reference tool along the lines of an index. That means the user should feel obliged to look up the original publications in order to verify that the readings are actually there.


I imagine this to be a mother-of-pearl representation of Lao-tzu’s journey to the west on a water buffalo's back.  I can’t explain the ears, but I think that's probably a flute he’s holding.

Success is as dangerous as failure,
hope is as hollow as fear.

Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
your position is shaky.

When you stand with two feet on the ground,
you will always keep your balance.

Hope and fear are both phantoms
that arise from thinking of the self.

When we don’t see the self as self,
what do we have to fear?

Tao Teh Ching

I also put up an informal listing of titles of Tibetan texts of the typical geographical genres. It includes guidebooks to holy places (gnas), hidden countries (sbas yul), itineraries (lam yig) and the like. It's findable in HTML by clicking here.


  1. Hi Dan:

    Pe: Priyangku -- I don't suppose it will be any help to you, but these days in Ayurveda, Priyangku is identified as Callicarpa macrophylla, whereas in Tibetan medicine, it is identified as Dracocephalum tanguticum Maximowicz.

    These two herbs have roughly the same taste properties, and strangely enough, the flowers are roughly the same color. Clearly a case where the Tibetans found an adequate substitute.


  2. Dear Dan,

    There seems to be an early reference to South India in the Bka' chems ka khol ma, where it says that "Tönmi Sambhoṭa travelled to the south of India, where he met a scholar of letters, called Lijintika the Brahmin." That's my translation from the Reading Tibetan Manuscripts site, but unfortunately I don't have the Tibetan text with me at the moment. It should be on p.105 or 106 of the Lanzhou edition (1989).

    It's not clear why the text would specify South India, and I do remember wondering at the time whether this would be better translated as something like "India [in the] south." Of course, that would depend on the original Tibetan!


  3. Hi S,

    Yes, I have that old edition of the Bka'-chems, and like you say on p. 105 it says "thon mi sam bho .tas rgya gar lho phyogs su phyin nas bram ze li byin ti ka bya ba'i yig mkhan cig dang mjal nas...

    Anyway, I think you're right to read it as saying that he went to the south part of India, rather than just 'India in the south.'

    For the name of the scribe, although there has been a lot of discussion about it, I think something like the form Lipikara (as Berzin says in his webpage) must lie behind the 'Tibetanizing' form of Li-byin-ti-ka. That would mean that the name of the scribe is, well, 'scribe'! But what can we do about it?

    The passage occurs at the beginning of the chapter on how the monk Akaramati went to south India, so obviously it's the destination of choice here.

    Gotta sleep. Thanks for writing. And thanks to M.S. for the real dope on priyangku (I'll take your word on it).


  4. Hi Dan

    re priyaṅgu: piya is Pāli for priya, so piyaṅgu could well be a Prakrit from of the name. I can't see gu, but gū is a contraction from √gam, and means 'going, having gone' used in the sense of 'being skilled at' or 'perfected in'. It's reasonably common to see the accusative - piyaṃ - in compounds, which would become piyaṅ by sandhi. Overall the meaning would be something 'perfect love'. . Indeed pegu (or pegū?) could be a further contraction of this form, though to be honest I can't think of any parallels.

    Ayyappa also resembles Pāli. Ayya is a form of ārya (via ariya). Perhaps originally āryapāla? (I have a friend who is called āryapāla!).

    Best Wishes

  5. The Japanese link to the Lotus Sūtra mantra doesn't work...

  6. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for all the information you make available on your blog.
    If you don't already know it, here's a link to a map with locations from the Mahabarata and other epic texts.


  7. Looking forward to this adventure ...! Documented, direct Tibet/South India connections? Not merely echoes? If can be true, what a coup!

  8. Dear S.P.,

    Nothing is new under the sun (ever heard that phrase before? It proves its own point!). But for everything there is a season (turn, turn, turn).

    Toni Huber (Berlin) for one has written some about Manlung Guru's travel to south India (in his book The Holy Land Reborn), and then there is a very old article in French by Ariane Macdonald. Eventually I'd like to look more at what can be known about this in the absence of his own travel account that once upon a time was available to somebody or another. Not any more. I'd also like to look more at Buddhaguptanâtha, although David Templeman is supposed to be coming out with a translation of his account of his (pre-1590 CE) travels as recorded by his Tibetan disciple Târanâtha, so maybe I'll keep quiet about him. You know what they say? Life is short, while the Art is long!


  9. PS Manlung Guru traveled in 1263 or 1264. The Mongols were at their height of power, moving their capital (their Khanbaliq) to Dadu (Ta-tu, Peiping, Peking, today Beijing). Marco Polo's father and uncle got there in 1266. in 1265 Dante was born... the first Czech Budweiser was brewed, and evidently quaffed (a word existing in English at least that long ago). Which reminds me.

  10. There is a remarkably accurate description of a Tamil temple, Tirukkalukkunram/Pakṣitīrtha, near Chengalpattu by Taranatha. The translators Chattopadhyaya and Chimpa give in a footnote a ref. to the relevant Gazetteer (I'd be very surprised if didn't have it). I went there a few years ago and the local brahmins still had the story about the birds flying to Benares and back.

  11. Thanks for sharing that beautiful story, PSz. I hope you'll blog it up in more detail. The birds were trained to bring treasures, and the king used this wealth to support the monks, right? Always thought it intriguing to know more about Târanâtha's literary sources. They do help argue that there were more medieval Indian historical works than we know about today, although like that famous Kashmir history by Kalhana, written rather late and in verse, you think?


  12. Something along those lines; my recollections are a bit hazy at the moment and too busy/lazy to look it up properly. Thanks for the suggestion though!

    Oh yes, see what Sanderson writes in his Śaiva Age about the historical sources of Taranatha. Of course he should still be regarded with caution, but there are quite a number of things there which he could simply not have known without Indian sources (and Prof. S restores some of the names and names of authors rather nicely - what a dream, to have those works somewhere in Dbus).

    As for Dravidians, I'm pretty sure that the syllable ḍa <- ḍā has to do something with the Tibetan rendering `flying'. This root is frequently given in the meaning `to fly' (ḍā vaihāyasagamane) and of course justifies why those ḍākinīs are mkha' 'gro ma-s. But the rest is still anybody's good guess.

    A propos Dravidians, the par excellence `gibberish' language as far as Northerners (and Easterners) are concerned, I wonder if anyone's noticed this funny little mantra-ending in the Mahāmāyūrī (Takubo ed., p. 9):

    [bla bla bla] me sidhyantu drāmiḍā mantrapadāḥ svāhā.

    `[...] may these Dravidian mantra-phrases work for me!'

    As for Khasa-s, they frequently show up in Pāla inscriptions, usually next to the Hūṇas. Who they actually were is a matter of debate, probably some sort of mercenaries, and very likely not `Indian' if the juxtaposition is anything to go by. It would not be a surprise if they were, there are plenty of Central Asian heavyweights around at this time.

    Anyway, sorry for this long babble, hope something might be useful in it.

  13. Dar PSz,

    For the sake of others, I thought I would quickly put up the link to Sanderson's very long article. (That's a direct link to the PDF.) Everyone who has read it already, please raise their hands. Those who haven't yet are advised to throw caution to the wind and get started. (I'll try to follow my own advice.)

    Oh, and the discussion about Târanâtha's text-sources — he may have relied even more on oral sources from Buddhaguptanâtha, I think; I even wonder if he had the physical texts in front of him or if they were just works cited as authoritative by Buddhaguptanâtha? I really have no idea — starts around p. 89 of the original print publication (with a very different page no. in the PDF, in case you want to print from it).

    So, you don't think the Khasa-s are Cossacks or Khazars or Khazakhs? (Sorry, I guess my thinking out loud is showing too much.) The Khasa-s (Kha-sha) are mentioned in Sakya Pandita's earlier country list, too, and to judge from its position, it is up somewhere in the northwest, up Kashmir (Kha-che) way.

    Anyway, Buddhaguptanâtha knew (from his own travels, evidently) about a South India that looks more up-to-date than the one you can get from these outdated (Mongol period & pre-) country lists.



  14. PSz, Just noticed in the same Sanderson article, at p. 86, mention of a 10th-century Buddhist king of the "Kâmboja dynasty of Priyaṅgupura." In early Tibetan country lists I'm used to always taking Kamboja (Kam-po-dza) to mean the one up in the NW, and not the one in SE Asia. Should I make an exception here so it will suit my Pegu theory? What do you think?

  15. ahhh, the Kāmboja Pālas... I am not up to date on this, but methinks it's still unsettled. all that is known for certain is that some weirdos show up on a copper plate (see Ep. Ind. XXII and XXIV) and imitate Pāla royal names... I'm not sure what's going on here (outdated, but still excellent assessment in Majumdar et al., History of Bengal, pp. 190-191). mind you, Hodgson's pandit, Amṛtānanda, called Tibet Kāmboja (I've checked the mss., there is no doubt about it that this refers to Tibet - you might find some uncertain voices in some of the secondary literature out there). some people also think that the Cambay is also Kāmboja.

    pffff, take your pick. it's not impossible that it is simply a convenient cover term like the xiung nu/hūṇa for all those pesky northern and western barbarians.

    as ever,
    the hūṇagarika
    neighbour of the be she nyag

  16. Dear PSz,

    I didn't realize (or did I just forget?) there is such an interesting strain of "scholarship virus" regarding Kamboja as being identifiable with Tibet (or with Khams!), but apparently it's true. Are there still people you know who suffer from it?

    The "Kamboja list" (I made up this name in an old article, since it was the first country-name held in common by all the variant lists I had collected), ultimately (?) derives from the Indicating the Tathâgata's Inconceivable Secret — Tathāgatācintyaguhyanirdeśa Sûtra (the longer passage is in "50 Geo Texts"). In the sûtra, the list of countries where Buddha's Word had achieved expression probably reflects a 3rd century CE situation (or in some part perhaps a little earlier), so Tibet isn't listed there. It was translated into Tibetan in 8th century, and much earlier in Chinese (but the oldest Chinese translation [280 CE] left out all but the first member of the list, and the 2nd translation [11th cent.] made some 'cultural' transformations, turning the sub-list of Indian tribal peoples into a ['culturally equivalent'] Chinese tribal peoples.

    Here is the first part of the list only:

    'di lta ste / yul KA SHA dang / PA HU PA dang / THO GAR yul dang / YA BA NA dang / KAM PO DZA dang / KHA SHA dang / HU NA dang / RGYA YUL dang / DA RA TA dang / U RA SHA dang / PI LIN dang / SO MA dang ...

    The first is the Saka (two syllables got switched). 2nd is Pahlava. Then Tokharians, Ionians, Kambojas, Khasas, Hun[garians], Chinese, Dards, Urasha, Pilin, Soma...

    This list was shortened and became popular in Phyi-dar (or 11th-century on) Tibet at least, and especially in Bon histories.

    In these Tibetan lists all the named countries are countries external to Tibet.

    What you say about "convenient cover term" makes me reflect again about how your business-as-usual sort of historical geography really ought to go along with historical studies of local peoples' historical consciousness (two very different concerns, since the one is busy mining the texts & divining 'recoverable' geography while the other tries to find out what the world looked like to earlier people in their time & place.) Either one is hard enough work. That's certainly true. So... Where are we?


  17. PS for PSz,

    Any idea what those last three are?

    U RA SHA dang / PI LIN dang / SO MA dang ...

    I believe the list reflects an Indian geographical outlook in around 3rd century CE or perhaps a little earlier.

    (It could be a conglomeration of shorter & earlier lists, as these country lists tend to be in any case.)

    I guess Uraśā is identifiable. And maybe Pi-lin is some truncated version of Pulinda? And Soma?

    (S. Lévi studied this list long ago, but I think it's good to try and look at it freshly!)

    I guess you did notice the Hun-garians there, so I won't belabor the overly obvious overly much.

  18. Where was Padampa Sangye born?! I guess, Machig Labdron knows the best!

    Thank you. This is site is very interesting, informative and intellectual.

  19. Hmmm, of things we cannot speak of... said the great man. I really don't know. At first glance (and not having seen Levy's article) I would've *guessed* that U ra sha was wrongly read as a separate country for -varṣa. Pilin: could it have been of the Pyu kingdoms? Soma: no idea.

  20. Dear PSz,

    Not that I think you have time for it, but Lévi's very valuable article is now available at that Persee site (they have all the BEFEOs of the 20th century!). Try THIS (nearly) DIRECT LINK to the PDF.

    The Inconceivable Secret list is there, starting around p. 288 (the list itself on 290-291). Notice, too, the Four Noble Truths as a Dravidian dharani!

    Now I see that Pulinda cannot possibly explain Pi-lin (as I had suggested), just because Pulinda (Pu-lin-ta) appears later on in the list.



  21. Dear Anon,

    I did once upon a time dream of one day identifying and paying a visit to Padampa's home village. But, well, I hate to say it and spoil the romantic vision, but chances are very good that it was flooded under a reservoir for the last 50 years or so. (Scuba diving anyone?) I'll give my more detailed reasonings for thinking so another time, if I can find out more, and if I can get around to it. I hope you will come back and visit again even before that happens. Thanks for stopping by.


  22. This discussion is not nearly over. Send in your comments and suggestions, please!


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