HARRY FALK, Berlin
1. The general pattern of MRE sites
Several l visits to the relevant places in India showed that all sites of the Minor Rock Edicts (MRE) seem to follow a uniform pattern: at hills where — in some cases even today — the population gathered once a year for a melã we encounter the MREs either at the foot of the hill inscribed on vertical sides of boulders , or on the surface on top of hills. Very often the inscriptions are found inside caves or rock shelters halfway up or even on tops of the hills
Ašoka obviously wanted to use these gatherings connected with popular deities to offer his way of devoted living as an alternative kind of worship. Living his style included the observation of major points of the Siksãpadas of the Buddhist laity and required "effort", prakrama or parãkrama. Whoever tried to give his best this way would please the gods much more than by simply visiting a melä. This interpretation finds corroborating evidence in the festivities on top of hills called giraggasamajja in the Pãli canonical literature? as well as in Ašvaghosa's dramas. Buddhist monks are forbidden to attend such festivities (Vin 11,107-8), which seem to have offered all sorts of vulgar distractions — as do their present-day equivalents. It is certainly not by chance that Ašoka deals disapprovingly with such festivals in the first Rock edict (RE) stating that samajjas are not praiseworthy, generally speaking.
2. Conditions at Päñgurãriã
With this interpretation in mind we encounter some difficulties when we look at the place and the text of Päñguräriã, a village which lies at the southern end of the Vindhyas and close to the Narmada, 50 km east of Hoshangabad, or 50 km south of Bhopal. At first glance everything seems to fit the general pattern: we have a rock-shelter, halfway up a hill, and inside the shelter MREI. But looking down from the cave we see something unusual: immediately below, on a second platform survive the remnants of a stüpa, plain and simple, looking as old as old parts of Sãñcr. The place seems to have an old Buddhist history. Looking left and right we discover more stüpas: their stones are scattered, their middle broken open from above, but they are nonetheless stüpas, about nine on the level of the rock shelter and some more on top of the ridge. Was it necessary for Ašoka to tell Buddhists about his efforts as a layman or how to please the gods best? This sounds very unlikely. So, either my general interpretation of MRE sites is wrong or Päñguräriä is different.
The age of the main stüpa is ascertained by an inscription on a chattra-pillar, meant to be erected on top of the stüpa together with a beautifully shaped chattra.9 The text was edited in Epigraphia Indica. i0 It records that a nun together with her three anteväsinrs had the pillar and chattra made. ll The erection of the chattra never took place. When the stüpa was excavated the pillar and chattra were found lying on the ground, unconnected, in the debris immediately to the north of the stüpa 12. The dedicatory text on the pillar uses the earliest forms of Brähmï characters after Ašoka. The stüpa which is older than the pillar, can therefore with some certainty be dated at least to the 2nd century B.C. This first survey tells us that with regard to its religious background Päñguräriä is different from other MRE sites indeed. We can also determine that the text of the MRE is unusual. It starts with a sentence found nowhere else. D.C. SIRCAR edited it from black and white photographs. His readings
10 S. Subramonia IYER, "Panguraria Brahmi inscription", El 40 (1973), pp. 119-120.
Il Text and explanation as given by Subramonia IYER are somewhat off the- mark. Read: sagharakhitãya bhichuniya dãna koramikaya atevasinihi kãrapitam / pusãya ca dhamarakhitãya ca arahayã ca etã atevasiniyo kãrãpikã chatasa, "(This parasol is) the gift of the nun Samgharakhitä, (haling) from Kurama (?), who had it made by (her) Anteväsinïs Pusã, Dhammarakhitã and Arahã. These (three) Anteväsinïs had the parasol made." 12 Personal communication by the local guardian. and his interpretation have been taken for granted by all epigraphists ever since.
Before checking the inscription, let us again look around. SIRCAR reproduced a site-description he got from the exploration team. According to this description the introductory sentence "is engraved in the upper half of, the wall on the uneven surface of the face at a height of 4.25 m from the floor of the shelter". This is correct and we have to add that no other text apart from the pillar edicts has been inscribed at such a forbidding height. The next sentence in SIRCAR's description sounds as if the MRE proper was separated from this initial sentence only because of the peculiarities of the rock: "due to change in the alignment of the wall, the main edict faces south while this part faces the south-west". The directions given are only partially correct, since the MRE faces east. More important is that the reason given for the separation, i.e. the "change in the alignment of the wall", is SIRCAR's personal guess. In fact, the unique text of the so-called preamble is found high upon the back wall, and the MRE at ground level on a low rock separated from the wall. There is no connection of whatever nature between the preamble and the MRE. Both texts must therefore be understood as two separate units. SIRCAR's misinterpretation of a description supplied by the excavators and his poor understanding of the so-called "first sentence" led to the assumption that both parts belong together. When inspecting the site we find the MRE itself in a relatively normal position with ak§aras of 3-4 cm size at a rather low eye level. However, compared to the MRE the preamble shows several peculiarities:
— The ak§aras are very big, about 10 cm each, so that they can be read even from a distance on the platform.
— The characters of the MRE at ground level have been chiseled the usual way with a metal instrument and a hammer producing continuous grooves. The preamble, on the other hand, is so high on the wall above a flat rock of about 2 m height that not even a tall man could have chiseled them without a pedestal. Inspecting the akyaras at close range shows that they have not been incised by chisel and hammer, but instead we see a multitude of tiny cuts in every aksara resulting from a completely different procedure: the writer seems to have tied this chisel to a handle, so that he could hammer on the wall above his head. This is truly noteworthy: nowhere else do we find a parallel to this chiseling technique. The reason for this is probably that the writer wanted to make sure that no-one could destroy the letters without using a similar device. Obviously, the text of the MRE at ground level was meant for close-up inspection, whereas the preamble was given a special sort of protection by placing it out of everyone's reach. Comoared to all other texts this procedure looks more complicated than necessary. The different chiseling techniques alone are evidence enough that both texts are two different items altogether.
3. The reading
What does the text of the preamble say which was given such an extraordinary treatment? According to SIRCAR we have five lines reading" as follows: piyadasi nãma räjã kumãra[sa] samvasa mane mades[el [u]punitha vihãra[ya] tãy[e] This he translated as "The king named Priyadaršin [speaks/ writes] to Kumara šamva from [his] march [of pilgrimage] to the Upunitha (or Opunitha) vihära/monastery in Mänema-deéa" (8/102/975).
Only G. SCHOPEN regarded this interpretation as highly conjectural. Nowhere else was it seriously questioned. But it should be questioned, no doubt, because the whole construction is utterly unstable: 1 We have a very short text with three names, Samva (as a member of the ruling family), Mãnema and Opunitha. None of these names is known from other sources.
2 The genitive of kumãrasa samvasa is understood as equivalent in meaning to a final dative in the sense of an address. K. R. NORMAN accepts it therefore as another case of a "covering letter". But the dative of a-stems is frequent and absolutely normal in Ašoka's language. There was no need to substitute it by an ambiguous genitive. If we accept the genitive as it is, the text would require a nominal supplement, which is missing. 3 To give a monastery a name was usual, but monasteries using the title vihãra are found only much later than Ašoka, as SCHOPEN has shown in the same article (p. 551 b).
4 The sentence lacks a predicate. SIRCAR supplied "speaks" or "writes" in brackets. But if already his "genitive-for-dative" assumption sounds dubious we better look for a different solution. Seeing so many flaws in this construction, we can proceed to look at the stone itself. It appears to me that SIRCAR's interpretation is nothing but a series of mistakes starting from the first doubtful akyara.
4. Inspection of the text
There is no doubt about the first line, "piyadasi nãma". Line 2 starts with a clear "rãjã" and ends with "kumara"] 7 and a character which SIRCAR interpreted as sa leading to a genitive kumarasa with all its syntactical problems. But, does this line really end in sa? The sign looks like a sa only if we suppose that the upper hook was not executed at all. Is this possible? Yes, especially when we compare the akyaras of the MRE on the spot. Here we read in line 3: am sumi saghã yayate, faultily engraved for intended am sumi samghe upayrte. The sa of sagha again has the same truncated appearance, coming with one hook and a vertical e . Browsing the MRE for further instances reveals that this hook cum semi-vertical is used two more times. In line 6 we find the "small people", khudaka ca, and here the ca is given the same shape of hook and semi-vertical . A third case appears in line 7 in vadhisiti vipule: here the same shape is used to delineate a va (with i-mãtrã)
I conclude from this and some other mistakes 18 that the stone-mason copied a written original without being able to graphically correct some of its scribal licences. Going back to the preamble we can now say that hook and semi-vertical could stand for sa, ca or va. A sa would be a genitive ending; a particle ca would require a second nominative, in this case kumäre instead of kumara. The condition of the stone admits such an emendation: either the e-mãtrã was
17 S. P. GUPTA, The Roots of Indian Art, Delhi 1980, p. 196, speaks about Piyadasi of this text as mahärãjakumãra without telling where the -ha- comes from and how he analyses the construction. Apart from the nonexistant mahã, the text with its nominative rãjã also forbids a compound *rãjakumãre. 18 The number sign for 200 [ . A ] displays again that this character was still unknown to most of the engravers (cf. Harry FALK, "The Art of Writing at the Time of the Pillar Edicts of Ašoka", Berliner Indologische Studien 7 (1993), p. 83.
forgotten or it is hidden under the layer of sediments obliterating this part of the wall. The third possibility is va, skt. eva, meaning "only, still, even", stressing or restricting the value of the noun after which it stands. va is the most probable alternative from a graphotechnical point of view, since a fast-written va may most easily take the shape of a hook and semi-vertical. Semantically, both ca and va are admissible. If we read piyadasi nama rãjã kumãre ca we end up with two persons as the subject of the sentence. In the second case of piyadasi nãma rãjã kumãre va there is only one person and kumãre va has to be understood as a subordinate clause meaning "when he was still a kumara".
5. Who is kumãra?
The usual translation of kumara as "prince" seems to apply to the devzlcumãras mentioned in PE 7 (DD), alongside with his sons, dãlaka, all busy in promoting his dharma. Some kumãras are different, in that they held top posts as governors. One is known from Tosali, modern Dhaulï in Orissa. The second one was posted in modern Ujjain west of Päñgurana. 20 A third one may have ruled from Taksašilä, modern Taxila in North Pakistan, but in this case the title kumara is not used in the edicts (SepE 1, Dhau BB takhasilate). The most prestigeous of these posts seems to have been the one in Ujjayinï, since Ašoka held it himself before his accession and it was there where he sent his brother Tissa as an uparãja or yuvarãja. Since Ašoka himself as well as others of his family bore the title kumara, the readings ca as well as va might give sense. The next problem comes with line 3. SIRCAR split the text into genitival samvasa and mane. But if we examine the possibilities of either ca or va we can raise doubt about the otherwise unknown kumara Samva, whose existence is wholly dependent on the doubtful last letter of line 2. Without the assumption of a kumãra Samva, the most compelling reading would be samvasamãne, another nominative and a present participle from a rather common verb. This participle would have to be construed with the now nameless kumara in the case of ca or with the king — when he himself was kumara — in the case of va. Now, what sort of meaning is samvasamãne likely to convey in our context? I see two possibilities.
6. samvasati for Buddhists
The first possibility is that it could mean the same as samvasati in Buddhist Vinaya texts, namely to live together with the community of the ordained monks, undergoing regular purification on uposatha days. Either Ašoka as a kumara or the second person called kumara would then have been an ordained Buddhist monk. Let us examine the alternatives.
6.1. kumäre ca samvasamãne
In the case of ca there are three members of Ašoka's family who were as well called kumara and also known to have become Buddhist monks. The first is the younger uterine brother of Ašoka, Tissa, several times called tissakumãra in the Samantapäsädikä (Sp), who after Ašoka's accession to the throne held the post of kumara or uparãja at Ujjayinï. Tissa gave up politics and joined the Buddhist order at Pätaliputra in Ašoka's fourth regnal year. Aggibrahmä was a nephew (bhãgineyyo) of Ašoka who was married to his daughter Sañghamittä. He joined the order along with Tissa. The third person is Ašoka's son Mahinda from his first consort Vidisädevï, brother of Sañghamittã, who joined with her the order in the sixth regnal year.24 So, since all three joined the order before the creation of the MRE it is possible that in the case of ca the text mentioned either Tissa, Aggibrahmä or Mahinda as an ordinated monk alongside the king called Piyadassi.
6.2. kumäre va samvasamäne
7. samvasati for couples
The second possible meaning for samvasati is that it denotes the cohabitation of couples with an implication of sexual activities more or less pronounced a meaning which is also well attested in the Pãli canonical literature. As an example, the case of an unusual union of hen and crow can be cited, Vin Il 17 • (. . . ) kukkutr kãkena saddhim samvãsam kappesi. sã potakam jãnesi, or the expelled children of King Okäka having intercourse with their sisters, DN 1,92: te jätisambhedabhayã sakãhi bhaganthi saddhim samvãsam kappesum. As in the first case the next example, when the Buddha questions the brahmin Ambat!ha, also connects samvãsam kappesi with begetting offspring, DN 1,97: tam kim maññasi ambattha? idha khattiyakumãro brahmanakaññãya saddhim samvãsam kappeya, tesam samvãsam anvãya putto jãyetha . . . . That samvãsam kappesi is not automatically connected with sexual intercourse is demonstrated by the monks' rule, SN 283: suddhã suddhehi samvãsam kappayavho patissatã, "Being pure, make your dwelling with the pure, being mindful" (Norman).
7.1. kumãre va samvasamãne
The term samväsam kappesi is not unknown from Ašoka's own biography. The Päli chronicles use it unisono when they refer to his first consort, Vidisãdevï. When Ašoka travelled to Ujjayinï to take up his post as uparãja he passed through the town of Vidišä. Here, in the house of a rich merchant, he met his daughter and took her with him. The alliance was not a regular marriage. The Mahävamsa when speaking about this alliance, uses the term samvãsam kappesi, "he practiced cohabitation", and instantly connects his arranging samvãsa with begetting offspring just like the example of hen and crow in the example cited above: samvãsam täya kappesi gabbham ganhiya tena sã. The Dïpavamsa 6,16 uses the same expression: tassa sam-
25 vedise nagare vãsam upagantvã tahim subhum, devÿn nãma labhitvãna kumarim setthidhnaram.9. samvãsam tãya kappesi, gabbham ga4hiya tena sã, ujjeniyam kumãram tam mahindam janayz- subham. 10.
vãsam anvãya ajãyr puttam uttamam, as does the much younger Vamsatthappakas1nï. Definitely, samvãsam kalpayati does not refer to a regular marriage. This has been seen before and needs no proof other than a look into a dictionary. To practise samväsa does not necessarily imply sexual intercourse, as seen above in the case of the monks "living together"; but in, the case of Ašoka and Vidišädevï the term certainly implies such a notion. Nowhere else in Ašoka's biography do we hear of his arranging samvãsa: it is restricted to his time in Ujjayinï. His marriage at Pätaliputra to his chief queen (mahesö) Asandhimittã is not described in the chronicles.
Later, when Ašoka went to succeed his father on the throne, Devï did not move with him to Pätaliputra. Her children played a role in the spread of Buddhism, but Mahinda was never brought into state politics. So, in the case of va we are left with the single possibility of connecting Ašoka's time as a kumara at Ujjayinï with his private life at that place spent in an alliance called samvãsam in the Päli chronicles.
Up to now we see two possibilities for the subject of the sentence, but we still lack a predicate: what was Ašoka as a kumara or Ašoka and the kumara — doing? I think the answer lies in line four. Skipping its beginning for the moment, let us look at the supposed name opunitha. As the name of a monastery it does not express a meaning. Its ending -itha looks in fact much more like a verbal ending, just like the prakritic middle aorist kãmayitthã in the Jogimärä cave at Rãmgarh . In Ašokan texts these forms are found only in nikhamithã in Kälsi RE 8 (C), and in the linguistically related 7th Pillar edict on the Delhi-Toprä pillar with huthã (D+J) and vadhithä (B+E).
If at Pãñguräriã we were also confronted with an aorist, then -punitha should most likely be the end of pãpunitha, written for pãpunithã. The verb pãpunãti (Päli pãpunãti) occurs numerous times in the Kaliñga Separate Edicts as an intransitive verb denoting "Kenntnis erlangen, gewahr wer "to realize, to get". This attested meaning must not necessarily be expected at Pãñgurãriã though, since pãpunãti can as well be used transitively, denoting then either "to obtain (something)" or "to reach (some place)" , as attested in Pãli and other Middle Indic languages.
Regarding the supposed opunrtha, the difference amounts to one single character, i.e. initial o- against pa-. A look at the line drawing shows that a regular o- or u- in itself is rather unlikely because the lowest part of the sign does not form an angle with the vertical. Instead, we see only a curve just like the lower part of a pa. This could in fact be a carelessly written u-, just as in u-pa-sa at Maski, long misread for bu-, or like the hook that led to ya-yate, instead of u-pa-yite on the spot in Pãñgurãriã. In any case, the upper part of the character either was never chiseled or is still hidden under sediments. Even continued inspection at close range did not disclose the upper part. That means that we can choose between either a nonsensical upunitha or a meaningful and otherwise attested pãpunitha. Both readings could be defended. If we opt for pãpunitha, written for pãpunithã, we end up with a Prakrit aorist of pãpunoti, meaning "to reach" or "to obtain".
Having ascertained a possible predicate, we can now decide about ca or va in line 2. Since the verbal form pãpunitha is 3rd person, singular, it is only compatible with the reading va; the reading ca would presuppose two persons and thus would require a plural form of the verbal predicate. Restoring the text to pãpunitha also allows us to explain the rest of the text. If piyadasi . . . pãpunitha means that Ašoka reached something then we find the place he reached in desa just in front of the verb. There should be a dot after sa for the accusative desam. A dot would have been chiseled close to the upper part of pa of pãpunitha, which is also missing or untraceable. So, either the original was defective at that place or the sediments on the wall still hide both dot and the upper part of pa side by side.
Before desam we see a ma with a clear anusvãra-dot after it. This dot is so distinctly cut that any doubt of its existence is excluded, even if SIRCAR did not see it on his black-and-white photographs. So, the line starts with
mam. This mam taken alone is a first person pronoun in the accusative, but a sentence piyadasi . . mam desa(m) päpunitha makes no sense. What we need instead is an explanation about which region, desam, was reached. A pronoun mam does not help. So, let us check the copy again. Before mam at the beginning of line 4 we read samvasamãne at the end of line 3, itself a clear nominative masculine singular. The final dental -ne 1 shows some white patches which would also allow SIRCAR's reading of retroflex -ne although for this the top horizontal which I take for the e-mätrã, does not protrude to the right of the vertical, as it should. But the most important thing comes after -ne: we perceive a dot closing line 3. SIRCAR noticed this "mark", as he called it, but was "however, inclined to believe that no aksara was actually incised at the place so that the name of the territory in question is MThema-desa" (p. 975). Now, a dot alone would indicate an anusvãra. After a nominative samvasamãne we need no anusvãra. In addition, the dot is incised close to the base line whereas an anusvãra-dot has its place right under the top line. What should we therefore do with a dot close to the base-line preceding an incomprehensible mam? It is certainly not too daring to explain this single dot as an insufficiently copied initial i-, consisting of three dots, with at least one of them close to the base-line.
With an initial i- we end up with a complete word imam, i.e. accusative demonstrative pronoun, explaining desam: this would mean that the king reports that he once reached (pãpunrtha) this (imam) spot (desam) while he was still the ruling prince (kumãre va) and living with his chosen lady (samvasamãne).
The last line is difficult to read. The rock is uneven at the lower end of the inscription and the letters have not been .hammered with the same care as above. SIRCAR conjectured v[i]hãra[ya]tãy[e]. My slides prove that we should read vihãrayãtãyã, under the condition that the third sign is nothing but a vertical. The fourth sign in its deficient state looks very well like yã, but other possibilities are not excluded. The last two signs can be read with certainty as tãyã. The different reading does not change the sense: we end up with an oblique fem.sg. corresponding to Skt. vihãrayãtrãyãm. SIRCAR connected -vihära with the supposed proper name opunitha-, explaining it as the name of a monastery. However, SCHOPEN has shown that the term vihära for a monastery is rather young, at least decidedly younger than Ašoka. How could Ašoka therefore use a monastic term in a definite sense which is established only centuries later? The solution is found in Rock Edict 8 (A-D) where Ašoka says: "In the past, devãnampiyas (plural) used to 1 19 go out on what was called a pleasure tour (vihãrayãtram nãma). This included hunting and other similar diversions (abhiramãni). But now Devanam Piyadasi, when he was consecrated for 10 years, went to Sambodhi. With this began the tours (in the service) of the Dharma„ On the basis of this statement the last line of the preamble becomes intelligible, in that vihãrayãtäyä explains pãpunitha: the king came to this country while on a pleasure tour which included hunting and other "diversions".
10. The restored text
I think that in light of this statement we can now understand the whole preamble. Its reading can be restored to. piyadasi nama räjã kumär[e] va samvasamäne (i) mam desa[m] (p)[ä]punitha vihãra(y)ätãyã "The king, who (now after consecration) is called Piyadassi, (once) came to this place on a pleasure tour while he was still a (ruling) prince, living together with his (unwedded) consort".
The word order makes it tempting to assume that "living together with his consort" belongs also to the predicate "came to this place". If this impression is justified, then the text says that Ašoka came to the rock-shelter of Päñgurãriä in the company of Vidisãdevï: a genuine abhirama indeed.
11. The character of the area
Ašoka tells us in RE8 (A-D) that his former vihãrayãtrãs included abhirama and hunting. The cave of Pãñgurãriä governs the entrance to a valley leading inside that part of the Vindhyas where the rock-art of Bhïmbetkã provides ample evidence for hunting expeditions already in the stone age. A hunter and deer painted in red can be found even right in the middle of the Pãñguräriä rock-shelter at eye-level. Today the country north of the cave is one of the last vast jungle areas in the central part of India. Tigers are still encoun-
tered there. The jungle is bordered by the road near Pãñgurãriä in the south, Vidisha in the North and Ujjain in the West — three places which are connected with Ašoka's activities as a kumara: in Vidisha he found his consort, from Ujjain did he govern the country of Avantï, and at Päñguräriä he reached the rock-shelter during a pleasure tour.
12. Pãñgurãriã in Ašoka 's career
Later, as a king, Ašoka's life did change completely. His personal name Ašoka was excluded from official parlance — except for writers like the Gujarrä/Maski and the Nittür/Udegolam envoys who wanted to be clearer than etiquette allowed. By using nama Ašoka hints at this chronological succession of addresses. Unlike Maski or Gujarrä the rock-shelter of Pãñguräriä was personally known to Ašoka when he dispatched his MREs from Pã!aliputra. The text came there not because he wanted to interfere with Hindu melãs, but because he wanted to commemorate his presence there. At Päñguräriä the preamble was the primary cause, whereas the MRE was just an afterthought. Päñguräriã as a Buddhist site is therefore not a counter-example to the rule about the selection of MRE-sites, but rather it is an exception for very personal reasons. We know Ašoka as an author who stresses his conversion to Buddhism and who points at his new way of living and the advantages this has for everyone. He uses parãkrama in every other sentence of the MREs to describe his sincerity. Compared to this, the preamble is a look back to the time long before his turn to the devotion to parakrama. Only here do we learn that Ašoka — after his accession to the throne and even after his conversion sometimes remembered the good old days as a kumara, i.e. when he was out on pleasure tours and living with Vidisädevï. Only at Päñgurãriä do we catch hold of the bonvivant. And the strange thing is, Ašoka is not condemning his old way of life; on the contrary, he wanted to make absolutely sure that his and most likely Vidisädevî's presence there remained known to posterity — because, after dictating the text of the preamble, he must have told the envoy to inscribe these lines at an elevated place in a manner that nobody ever can erase them.
A personal look at the site provided new readings, but it also put an end to SIRCAR's interpretation. We have to say Good-bye to prince Samva. Moreover, Indian geography lost the Mapema country and the history of Buddhism must live without the Upunitha monastery. Instead we have obtained a mean121 ingful and complete sentence and have gained insight into an otherwise unattested area of Ašoka's feelings. It remains to be stated that the only texts which preserve historical information for comparison belong to the Singhalese Päli tradition.
I N D I C A E T T I B E T I C A
Monographien zu den Sprachen und Literaturen des indo-tibetischen Kulturraumes
Herausgegeben von Michael Hahn unter Mitwirkung von Jens-Uwe Hartmann und Konrad Klaus Band
Studies in Honour of Heinz Bechert on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday
INDICA ET TIBETICA VERLAG • SWISTTAL-ODENDORF 1997 BAUDDHAVIDYÃSUDHÃKARAH
Studies in Honour of Heinz Bechert on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday
EDITED BY PETRA KIEFFER-PÜLZ and JENS-UWE HARTMANN