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The origin of the khatvanga staff.

In its most widely known meaning, the Sanskrit word khatvariga denotes the skull-adorned staff carried by Siva and commonly found in visual and literary representations of that deity, especially in representations of his particularly fearsome aspect known as Bhairava. However, in its earliest occurrences, which are found in the dharmagastra literature, the word khatvanga has no discernible Saivite connotations whatsoever. Instead, it refers to a staff that a Brahmin-killer is supposed to carry as a component of his prescribed penance. In particular, the dharmasiitras of Gautama and Baudhayana state that a Brahmin-killer should carry a khatviitiga as part of the twelve-year rite that will expiate his sin. The relevant passages of these works read as follows:
  agnau saktir brahmaghnas trir avacchatasya I laksyariz vet syCzj janye
  Sastratthrteun khatvidrigakaplilapCznir vd dvadata sarhvatsaroin
  brahtnaciiri bhaiksclya gramariz pravilet karmacaksanah I (GDh 22.2-4)
  Emaciated, a Brahmin-killer should cast himself into a fire three
  times; or he should become a target for armed men in battle; or for
  twelve years, he should carry in hand a khatviiriga and skull, remain
  celibate, and enter a village to beg alms while proclaiming his deed.

  bhrunaha dvildasca samtih I kapali kharveirigi gardabhavasii
  aranyaniketanah ttnascane dhvajath tavagirah krtva kutith karayet tam.
  avaset I (BDh 2.1.2-3) A Brahmin-killer' should do the following for
  twelve years: He should carry a skull and a khatveiriga; wear the skin
  of a donkey; reside in the wilderness; make the head of a corpse his
  banner; have a but built in a cemetery; and live in it.

Subsequent to these works, a number of purdnas recount two different stories in which Siva commits acts of Brahmin-murder: firstly, he kills Vist,u's doorkeeper, the Brahmin Visvaksena, and, secondly, he cuts off the fifth head of the creator god Brahm[bar.a](2) Hence, based upon these textual sources, several scholars have drawn the rather obvious conclusion that Siva must carry the khatvariga staff because he is in some sense a Brahmin-killer.(3) As far as I am aware, however, no one has answered the more fundamental question that this raises: why should a Brahmin-killer carry as his staff something called a khatvanga, which by its etymology would appear to denote the 'post' ((Riga) of a 'bed' or 'cot' (khatvet)? It is the purpose of this article to provide a satisfactory answer to this question.

In order to understand why a Brahmin-killer is supposed to carry a khapariga, it is first necessary to understand the precise meaning of the term when it is originally mentioned as part of the penance for Brahmin-murder. Unfortunately, the earliest passages in which the word khatvCiriga occurs--all of which come from the early dharmasUtras (4)--are far from explicit on this point. Later dharmagastric commentaries, however, explain the term's signification quite unambiguously. These texts offer two possible interpretations. Vijrianegvara's Mitakyara (on YSm 3.243) clearly expresses the first of these in the following passage:
  khatvangagabdena dandaropitairahkapalatmako dhvajo grhyate na punah
  khatvaikadelali mahoksah khatvangariz parafur ity adivyavaharesu
  tasyaiva prasiddhet I The word khatvanga is understood to denote a
  banner having the character of a skull mounted on a staff, rather than
  a particular part of a bed, for that exact meaning is well established
  in usages such as "A great bull, a khatvatiga, an axe. ..." (5)

Here it is argued that the word khatvouiga does not denote a particular part of a bed, but rather a staff upon which a skull has been mounted; and as support for this position the Mittikrard cites the usage of the word in the givamahimnastava (8), a well-known praise of Siva. Hence, the text clearly dissociates the word khatvariga from its apparent etymology and, instead, associates it explicitly with Saivite paraphernalia.

The second possible interpretation of khatviinga is found in Apararka (on YSm 3.243), whose statements on this matter read as follows:
  dhvajavan khatvaizgi I . . . .khatva catra tavanirharanartha
  I tadangam eva dhvajatabdena viva/Q.11am I The phrase
  'carrying a banner' [in YSm 3.243] means 'carrying a
  bed-post' (khatvariga). . And in this compound, the word
  'bed' (khatva) refers to one used to carry away a corpse.
  The word 'banner' [in YSm 3.243] denotes a 'post' (anga)
  of that (= khatva).

As one can see, in direct contrast with the Mitaksara, Apararka defines a khatviiriga as part of a bed, specifically as part of a bed used to carry away corpses, which would nicely explain its use in a penance for Brahmin-murder. The fact that Apararka's interpretation reflects what appears to be the etymology of khatvibiga strongly suggests that it is closer to the original meaning of that term. And significantly, both Bilhler (1879) and Olivelle (2000) apparently agree, for they interpret the word khatvatiga in the various dharmasutras to denote a post from a bed-frame.

Important additional support for this position comes from the following passage of the A pastamba Dharmasutra (1.28.21-29.1):
  atha bhravaha scvajinariz kharafinath va bahirloma paridhaya
  purusafirah pratipanartham adaya I khatvarigath dar3darthe
  karmartamadheyath prabruvartat cankramyeta ko bhrunaghne bhilcsam iti
  I Now, a bhrunahan [= abortionist/Brahmin-killer] should wear the skin
  of either a dog or a donkey with the hair facing out; carry a human
  skull for a drinking cup and a khatvatiga for a staff; and wander
  about, announcing the name of his deed, saying, "Who (will give)
  alms to a bhrittjahan?"

This passage, which contains probably the earliest occurrence of the word khatvatiga in Indic literature, (6) prescribes the penance for a bhrtinahan, a term that can denote either an abortionist or a Brahmin-killer. Tellingly, it specifies that a bhrigtahan should "carry a human skull for a drinking cup and a khatvariga for a staff" (purusafiralz pratipanOrtham adaya khatvatigath danarthe). Since here a human skull is obviously being put to an unusual use, there is the implication that a khafrariga is as well. And if it is not being put to an unusual use, then Apastamba supplies a clearly unnecessary detail when he specifies how a bhrunahan should use it. Consequently, it makes much better sense to interpret khatvatiga in this passage as a post from a bed-frame rather than as a specially designed staff. Moreover, given that Apastamba uses both the words khatvc1 (1.6.4, 15.21) and (lga (1.2.28, 22.7, 26.7, etc.) separately outside of the compound khcoviinga, it is clear that they were part of his active vocabulary. Therefore, it seems most natural to interpret khatvariga in Apastamba and by extension elsewhere in the dhannasiitras as a compound of these words. Of course, this conclusion is unlikely to surprise many Indologists, but it is, nevertheless, crucial to establish at the outset if one hopes to understand why a Brahmin-killer must carry a khatvii riga.

Beyond this, one might even plausibly surmise from the available evidence both the precise part of a bed that was originally a khatvariga and the particular kind of bed that was originally a khatva. Since, according to [bar.A] pastamba (1.29.1), a khatvanga can function as a staff, it would likely have been one of the long wooden rails of a rectangular bed-frame, for only these parts of a bed would seem to be of the right length, width, and material7 to serve as staffs. Whether or not this type of bed-rail would have been easily recognizable within the ancient Indian context is impossible to determine, given the dearth of material evidence from this period. Hence, although of potential interest, the immediate reaction of strangers to a person carrying such an item cannot be guessed. Clearly, however, if a khatvatiga originally denoted the rail of a bed-frame, a khatva must have been some kind of raised or elevated bed rather than a simple mat or pallet intended to lie directly on the floor. In other words, a khatva must have been roughly similar to the sort of bed typically referred to by the English word 'cot', which is--perhaps not coincidentally--derived from Sanskrit khatva via Hindi khat. (8) Indeed, Sanskrit-users may well have coined the word khatva to denote precisely some sort of raised bed. (9)

Noteworthy, if modest, support for this thesis comes from the [bar.A]pastamba Dharmasutra, which appears to use the word khatva selectively to denote exclusively a raised or elevated bed. Like the authors of the other dharmasatras, [bar.A]pastamba most frequently refers to beds with the words s'ayyd and s'ayana. (10) He opts to use the word khatva instead in just two passages where an elevated bed seems explicitly intended. The simpler of these passages prohibits a man from placing a fire in some way close to his bed. It (ApDh 1.15.21) reads khatvezyeuh ca nopadadhyat. Perhaps the most natural and safest way to interpret this sutra is as a general proscription against placing a fire in any way near one's bed. The commentator Haradatta, however, understands it to prohibit a man from placing a fire under his khatvez,1 I and Biihler (1879 [vol. 1]: 56) and Olivelle (2000: 33) essentially follow suit. Thus, if this interpretation is correct, the khatva mentioned here clearly must be a raised bed, for otherwise it would be impossible to place a fire beneath it. The other passage of [bar.A]pastamba that contains the word khatva (1.6.1-4) is a bit more complicated. It reads:
  sada nilayarh gururh sarhvelayet tasya padau prakyalya sarhvaya I
  anujfia tat? sathvis'et I na cainam abhiprasarayita I na khatvayaM
  sato 'bhiprasaratjam astity eke I Every night (a student) should have
  his teacher lie down to bed after washing and massaging his feet. When
  permitted, he should then lie down to bed himself; and he should not
  stretch his feet out toward him (= his teacher). (However,) some say
  that this is not so, he may stretch his feet out toward him when
  (his teacher) is situated on a khatva ('bed/cot').

This passage gives the rules that a student should observe when he and his teacher lie down to sleep, concluding with the rule that once they have lain down, he should not insult his teacher by stretching out his feet in his direction. The text then states that according to some, this last rule does not apply when a teacher is situated on a khatva. Now, if the word khatvei is here taken to denote a bed in general, this statement appears quite strange, for a teacher would presumably have slept on a bed of some sort virtually every night. Thus, rather than constituting an exception to the concluding rule, it would be tantamount to an oddly phrased nullification of it. If, however, a khatvii is taken to denote specifically a raised or elevated bed, the statement makes perfect sense: a student is prohibited from stretching his feet out toward his teacher when they both lie at floor level, but permitted to do so when his teacher is elevated distinctly above him. Hence, based upon these passages it appears that [bar.A]pastamba uses the term khatvei in the specific sense of a raised bed.

To return to Apararka, since his interpretation of khatveiriga as part of a bed quite likely corresponds to the term's original meaning, it is worth considering the plausibility of his additional assertion that the word khatvet in the compound khatveiriga denotes a bed used to carry away corpses, for, if true, this would reasonably explain why a Brahmin-killer is supposed to carry a khatvatiga. Sadly, however, there is no evidence to support it and, indeed, a considerable amount of evidence against it. In this regard, the most crucial thing to note is that none of the early Brahmanical literature, including most importantly the early dharmasEtras and dharmagAstras, uses the uncompounded word khatv[bar.a] to denote a bed used for removing corpses, nor does it include any noticeable indication that a khatviittga is part of such a bed.(12) In fact, the passage of [bar.A]pastamba just cited (1.6.1-4) clearly uses the term khatvet to designate the bed of a living teacher. Furthermore, the dharmasutras never even use other words for 'bed' within the context of killing or death.(13) Hence, despite the explanation offered by AparArka, a khatvatiga or 'bed-post' seems an unusual item for a murderer to carry as a symbol of his crime, at least within the context of the early dharmasutras.

Apar[bar.a]rka's interpretation of a khatviiriga as part of a bier becomes even more implausible when one examines the late Vedic ritual sutras, a number of which describe in detail Brah-manical funerary rites as they presumably would have been practiced during the period of the early dharmasiitras. Significantly, several of these texts explicitly state how a corpse was supposed to be transported to the cremation ground. Some mention that, according to certain authorities, a cart should be used, (14) while other texts prescribe the use of a chair (asandi) as standard.15 None, so far as I am aware, makes any mention of a khatvei; and, in fact, only a single passage rrom the isauanayana rarmeanasurra cites a oeu or any sort as a means of transporting a corpse. (16) Even there, moreover, it is clear that a bed is just an alternative to the more standard chair (asandi). Now, it strains credulity that a funerary item apparently absent from typical Brahmanical funerals would have been chosen by Brahmins to symbolize Brahmin-murder. Therefore, given the evidence from the ritual sutras, Apararka's assertion that a khatvariga is part of a bier seems to reflect a decidedly later development.

Instead, within the Brahmanical culture of the dharmasutras, beds in general and khatveis in particular seem most typically to connote sexual intercourse and, by implication, procreation. One clear piece of evidence of this is the word talpa, which originally denotes a bed, but within dharmagastric literature is almost always used to express improper sexual intercourse, as in the common compound gurutalpaga Cone who has gone to the bed of--i.e., had sex with the wife of--an elder'). (17) Another piece of evidence comes again from Apastamba, who specifies that a householder should make a Bali offering at the place of his bed while reciting a ritual formula that is tellingly addressed to kama ('love'). (18)

With regard to the word khatva specifically, strong evidence of sexual connotations comes from Patatijali's commentary on Astedhydyi 2.1.26:
  khatva ksepe I (Asta-dhydyi 2.1.26) kim udaharanam I khalvdradho
  jalmah I ksepa ity ucyate kah ksepo nama I adhitya snatvO gurubhir
  anuffidtena khatvarodhavya I ya idanim ato 'nyatha karoti sa ucyate
  khaNdradho 'yarn jalmah I nativratavan iti |

  (In an accusative tatpurusa compound with a past passive
  participle) the word khatva (
  'bed') denotes derision. (Astadhydyi 2.1.26)
  [Question] What is an example of this rule?
  I Repy] The word khatvarudha Cone who has
  mounted a bed'), which denotes a vile person. [Question] The rule
  states that khatva "denotes derision." What is the derision that is
  referred to? [Reply] A man may mount a bed (khatva) only if he has
  studied the Veda, taken the graduation bath, and received his
  teachers' permission. If he does this prematurely in a manner contrary
  to this, he is called a khatveiradha Cone who has mounted a bed'). He
  is a vile person, that is, one who does not strictly adhere to his

In the sutra given at the top of this passage, Parini provides not only the earliest attestation of the word khatv[bar.a] in Sanskrit literature, but also lays down the interesting, if cryptic, rule that when compounded with a past passive participle khatv[bar.a] denotes derision. Here, if this word were somehow associated with death as Apar[bar.a]rka suggests, Patailjali would surely give some indication. However, as one can see, his interpretation of P[bar.a]nini's s[bar.u]tra proceeds in an entirely different direction, for as an example of its application he gives the compound khatvaradha ('mounted on a bed') (19) and explains that this term expresses derision, because it refers to a student's mounting a bed in violation of his vow of chastity. Thus, in this particular usage, the word khatvei clearly connotes sex and specifically sexual misconduct.

Further evidence of the sexual connotation of this term is provided by Manu, who makes no mention of khatvti ligas whatsoever when enjoining the various penances for Brahmin-murder (11.73-90), but includes carrying a khatvehiga as part of a penance for the paradig-matic sexual sin, namely, sleeping with an elder's wife (MD'S 11.106):
  khatv[bar.a]ngi cirav[bar.a]s[bar.a] v[bar.a] 'sma'srulo nirjane
  vane | preljapatyarh caret krcchram abdanz ekarit sam[bar.a]hitah
  || Or (a man who has sex with an elder's wifelgurutalpaga) should
  perform the Praljapatya penance for one year, while carrying a
  khatviinga, dressing in tree bark, wearing a beard, living in an
  unpopulated forest, and keeping his mind focused.

Therefore, abundant evidence suggests that a 'bed-pose' or khatviiriga would most appropriately be used as a symbol in a ritual penance when the crime being expiated somehow involves sexual misconduct.

This then raises the question: could the sin of Brahmin-murder in some way be construed as sexual? I believe the answer is no. However, if one carefully examines the Apastamba Dharmasutra, which contains probably the earliest occurrence of the word khatvariga, an interesting possibility presents itself. As one can see from [bar.A]pDh 1.28.21-29.1 (cited above), this text prescribes the use of a khatvethga in the penance for a bhrunahan, a term that can denote not only a Brahmin-killer, but also an abortionist. Hence, it is distinctly possible that carrying a khatv[bar.a]nga was originally intended as part of the penance for abortion rather than Brahmin-murder; and this sin--unlike Brahmin-murder--bears an obvious connection with reproduction and, by implication, sexual intercourse. Indeed, when viewed from this perspective, [bar.A]pastamba seems to have constructed a bhrimahan's penance in such a way that it rather elegantly reflects his Brahmanical conception of abortion. On one hand, it is an act of murder, which is symbolized by the human skull that a bhrimahan must carry. On the other, it is an instance of improper sexual activity in that it thwarts the religious obligation to sexually reproduce. And it is this aspect of abortion that is symbolized by the bhr[bar.u]nahan's khatv[bar.a]uga.

Moreover, unlike all later dharmasatras, [bar.A]pastamba unambiguously lays down a penance for Brahmin-murder in another separate passage (1.24.6-15, 20, 24) that makes no mention at all of khatv[bar.a]ngas:
  parvayor varnayor vedadhytlyariz hatva savanagatarh vabhiIastah |
  brahmanameitrariz ca | garbhatir ca tasytivittlatam | eitreyiriz ca
  striyam I tasya nirvesah | aranye kutirh krtva vagyatah
  s'avagiradhvajo 'rdhatanipaksam adhonabhy uparijiinv acchadya | tasya
  panthei antarti vartmani | dp.stva camyam utkramet | khandena
  lohitakena s'artivena grame pratistheta I ko 'bhis'asteiya bhiksOm iti
  saptergarcini caret | . . . dvadas'a varstirti caritvii siddhah
  sadbhih saMprayogah |. . . gururiz hatva serotriyartt vat
  karmasamaptam etenaiva vidhinottamad ucchvastic caret |

  A person becomes a heinous sinner by killing a member of the two
  prior social classes (i.e., a Ksatriya or a Vaigya) who has studied
  the Veda or is engaged in a Soma sacrifice; an ordinary Brahmin; a
  Brahmin's fetus of which the gender is unknown; or a Brahmin woman
  soon after her menstrual period. The following is his expiation: he
  should build a but in the wilderness, curb his speech, carry the
  head of a corpse as his banner, and cover himself below the navel
  and above the knees with half a piece of hempen cloth. His path
  should be between the tracks (left by carts); and he should step
  aside if he sees another. He should set out for a village with a
  broken metal dish. There he should visit seven houses, saying,
  "Who (will give) alms to a heinous sinner?" . . . After he has lived
  like this for twelve years, his right to associate with cultured
  people is established. . . . (However,) if a man kills his elder or
  a learned Brahmin who has completed a sacrifice, he should live in
  accordance with these very same rules until his final breath.

Given the exhaustive details of this passage, it is hard to understand the need for ApDh 1.28.21-29.1, if by bhrunahan Apastamba refers to a Brahmin-killer of some kind. If, however, he uses the word to denote an abortionist, which is its historically earliest meaning, [bar.A]pDh 1.28.21-29.1 surely conveys information that the author would have deemed important. There are two reasons we can feel confident of this. Firstly, Apastamba (1.21.7-8) lists abortion (garbhalatana)(20) as a 'sin causing loss of caste' (pataniya) distinct from homicide (purusavadha). Therefore, he clearly regarded it as a major transgression for which one might reasonably expect to find a separate penance. Secondly, he scarcely touches upon abortion elsewhere in his discussion of penances. In fact, the only place where he conceivably does so is in the above passage when he mentions killing a "Brahmin's fetus of which the gender is unknown" (ApDh 1.24.8: garbharh ca tasyavictiatam). Here, however, [bar.A]pastamba lays down a rule only for a Brahmin's fetus of indeterminate gender, not for fetuses of any other sort. Moreover, he gives no indication that when he speaks of the killing of such a fetus, he intends specifically abortion and not injury to the pregnant mother, which might likewise result in the fetus's death. Indeed, given that the passage generally concerns homicide and that the following sutra speaks of killing a "Brahmin woman soon after her menstrual period" (ApDh 1.24.9: Citreyirit ca striyam), injury to the mother seems to be at least part of the author's intention. All of this strongly supports the conclusion that the penance [bar.A]pastamba prescribes for a bhranahan is a means to expiate abortion rather than Brahmin-murder.

Therefore, it may now be possible to fully explain why a Brahmin-killer, like Siva, would carry a khatvariga. Originally, at a stage attested only in the Apastamba Dharmasutra, carrying a khatvanga was part of the penance for abortion, since, as a post from a bed-frame, it symbolized the thwarting of proper reproductive activity. Later on, however, by the period of the other dharmasutras, it had become a standard component of the twelve-year penance for Brahmin-murder, because the crimes of abortion and Brahmin-murder were regularly equated to the point of even being designated by the same term: bhrunahatya. The reason for the equation of these crimes, as Albrecht Wezler (1994) has compellingly explained, is that Brahmanical authors often considered the potential represented in a Brahmin fetus of unknown gender to be fully equal to a learned, adult, male Brahmin. Consequently, for these authors abortion was in effect Brahmin-murder of the worst variety.

This explanation of the origin and early history of the khatviinga, however, leaves one important issue unresolved: how and when did a common bed-post transform into a specially constructed skull-adorned staff? Thus, by way of conclusion, I will propose a tentative answer to this question. I have argued that Apastamba, the author of probably the earliest dharmasara, prescribes a penance for Brahmin-murder only at 1.24.10-24, not at 1.28.21-29.1. And there he makes no mention whatsoever of khatvafigas, but interestingly states that a Brahmin-killer should take the "head of a corpse as his banner" (aavagiradhvajah). Although rather cryptic, this statement seems to indicate that he must in some fashion carry with him a corpse's head. Writing sometime after [bar.A]pastamba, Gautama (22.2-4) says that a Brahmin-killer must bear in his hands a khatvatiga and a skull (kharviitigakapredaptinib) innovations that he seems to borrow from [bar.A]pastamba's earlier penance for abortion (1.28.21-29.1). Then, following Gautama, Baudhayana (2.1.2-3) prescribes a penance for Brahmin-murder that combines elements from Apastamba's and Gautama's earlier penances, for he enjoins a Brahmin-killer both to carry a skull and a khatvariga (kapali khatvarigi) and to make the head of a corpse his banner (dhvajarn s'avascirah krrva). This suggests that for Baudhayana, unlike his predecessors, a Brahmin-killer was supposed to possess two skulls: one that he would carry on its own and one that would act as his banner. But if a Brahmin-killer must carry in his hands a khatvariga and a skull, it is unclear precisely how another skull or "corpse's head" (favasciras) is supposed to serve as his banner.

The Mitaksara and Apararka offer a plausible solution to this problem in their commen-taries on Yedilavalkya Smrti 3.243, which reads:
  firahkapali dhvajavan bhikyaii karma vedayan | brahmaha dvadalabdiini
  mitabhuk luddhim apnuyat || If he carries a skull, bears a banner,
  consumes only almsfood, announcing his action, and eats sparingly for
  twelve years, then a Brahmin-killer thereby attains purification.

Although I have already cited those portions of Vijrianegvara and Apararka's commentaries that bear directly on the original meaning of the term khatvariga, a more complete citation of them is now necessary:
  s'irasah kap[bar.a]lam asy[bar.a]stiti lirahkapeili I tatizei
  dhvajavem krtva tavalirah dhvajam iti manusmaranett I anyac
  chirahkapalath dandagrasametropitant dhvajalabdavacyarh
  grhniyeit | . . . khatviirigafabdena
   dandaropitafirahkapaleitmako dhvajo grhyate na
  punah khatvaikadelah I (Mitaksara)
  The phrase "carries a skull"
  (Iirahkapillin) means that he possesses the bowl (kapala) of a head
  (liras) (i.e., a skull). And the phrase "bears a banner" has a similar
  meaning, for the Smrti of Manu (11.73) states that he should "make the
  head of a corpse his banner." Thus, he should carry another skull that
  has been mounted on the top of a pole; and this should be referred to
  by the word 'banner'. . . . The word khatveinga is understood to
  denote this banner that has the character of a skull mounted on a pole
  rather than a particular part of a bed.

  dhvajavan khatveirigi | . . .
  khatvii ceara s'avanirharanartha | tadangam eva dhvajascabdena
  vivakfitam I dhvajagraropitakapalena bhavitavyam | lathed:a
  'varnish-brahmahei dverdas'abdemi kutith krtvei vane vases |
  bhaikscity atmaviluddhyarthath krtva ofavagiro dhvajam || (Apararka)
  The phrase "carrying a banner" means "carrying a khatvanga". . . And
  in this compound, the word khatvet ('bed') refers to one used to carry
  away a corpse. The word 'banner' denotes an ariga ('part') of that (=
  khatven. And there should be a skull mounted atop this banner. Hence,
  Manu (11.73) states: In order to purify himself, a Brahmin-killer
  should build a but in the forest and for twelve years dwell in
  it, eat almsfood, and make the head of a corpse his banner.

As one can see, here both Vijithgvara and Apararka make essentially the same argument: when Manu (11.73) states that a Brahmin-killer must "make the head of a corpse his banner" (krtva favadiro dhvajam), the meaning is that a skull must be mounted upon his staff, which they identify as a khatv(Mga. That is, they endorse a literal interpretation of those statements that enjoin a Brahmin-killer to use a corpse's head as his banner. Although arguably a stretch in the case of MDh 11.73 and ApDh 1.24.10-24, which make no reference to staffs or khatvarigas, such a literal interpretation seems highly plausibly in the case of BDh 2.1.2-3, which does. If correct, this shows that by the period of the Baudhliyana Dharmasutra (c. first--second cent. B.C.E.), the khatvaga had already changed from an ordinary bed-post into a skull-topped bed-post. And from there, it is only a small step for the khatvariga to change again from a skull-topped bed-post to a skull-topped staff, especially since the original sexual symbolism of the bed-post had long become irrelevant. As the above commentaries indicate, this is a step that the MitaIcsard obviously took, but AparArka did not.


Primary Sources

Apararka. Commentary on the Yajnavalkya Smrti. 2 vols. Anandagramasamskrtagranthavali, vol. 46. Pune: [bar.A]nandagrama, 1903.

Apastamba Dharmasutra (ApDh), ed. and tr. P OliveIle, in OliveIle 2000.

Asvaayana Grhyasatra, ed. T Ganapati Sastri. Trivandrum Sanskrit Series, vol. 78. Trivandrum: The Government of His Highness the Maharajah of Travancore, 1923.

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Wezler, Albrecht. 1994. A Note on Sanskrit bhruna and bhrrojahatya. In Festschrift Klaus Bruhn, ed. N. Balbir and J. Bautze. Pp. 623-46. Reinbek: Verlag fiir Orientalistische Fachpublikationen.

(1.) Although the word used here, bhrunahan, can denote either an abortionist or a Brahmin-killer, in this passage it very likely has the latter meaning, because later on (BDh 2.1.8-11) the text specifies the ways in which this penance for bhrunahans should be reduced for the killers of Ksatriyas, Vaigyas, and Sildras.

(2.) For a list of relevant textual citations, see Stietencron 1969.

(3.) See Stietencron 1969 and Lorenzen 1972: 73-82.

(4.) ApDh 1.29.1, GDh 22.4, BDh 2.1.3, and VaDh 20.28.

(5.) These are the opening words of givamahimnastava 8.

(6.) Regarding the relative and absolute dating of the dharmasutras, 1 follow Olivelle (2000: 4-10).

(7.) It is clear from a variety of sources that staffs were typically made of wood and roughly equal in length to a man's height. Note, for instance, VaDh 11.52-57: palCtgo va daticlo brahmahasya I naiyyagrodhah ksatriyasya vet I audumbaro va vailyasya I kelasarizmito brahmahasya I lalatasarizmitab ksatriyasya I ghratzasarrtmito vaityasya I "A Brahmin's staff should be made of PalAga wood; a Ksatriya's of Nyagrodha wood; and a Vaigya's of Udumbara wood. It should reach a Brahmin's hair; a Ksatriya's forehead; and a Vaigya's nose."

(8.) See The Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.), vol. 3, p. 994.

(9.) The etymology of khania is uncertain, although Burrow (1948: 376) suggests a Dravidian origin.

(10.) See n. 13.

(11.) Haradatta glosses ApDh 1.15.21 as follows: khatvaya adho 'gnith nopadadhyat I "He should not place fire under his bedlkhatva."

(12.) Within the context of an explicitly Saivite ritual, Atharva Padlista 36.7.2 mentions a Imaffinakhatvanga ( 'post from a cremation-ground khatva'), which suggests the use of a khatva as a bier. This text, however, very likely post-dates the dharmasiitras by a considerable period of time. In this regard, the clear connection between the khatvanga andSiva--also seen at AP 40.3.2--is particularly telling.

(13.) See ApDh 1.8.11, 1.27.10, 1.32.4, 2.1.21, 2.4.1, 2.5.5, 2.6.15, 2.22.23, 2.25.9, 2.27.15; GDh 2.21, 2.25, 5.38, 9.26, 12.7, 17.3, 23.8; BEM 1.9.6-7, 2.1.13, 2.11.8; and VaDh 7.15, 29.12.

(14.) See, e.g., Hiranyakefi Pitrmedhasatra 1.2.10: anasa vahantity eke I "According to some, they should carry (the corpse) by means of a cart." Similar statements are found at Katyayana Srautasfara 25.7.14, Alvalayana Grhyastara 4.2.3, and Baudhayana Partnedhasatra 1.3.9.

(15.) See, e.g., Baudhayana Parmedhasatra 1.2.10, Hiranyakeli Parmedhasatra 1.2.1, and Gautama Pitrnzedhasfara 1.1.13. The corpse appears to have been tied to a chair for purposes of transportation, as the following statement (BPS 1.5.12-13) suggests: athainam etaylisandya saha club, Mac-Mali I apakrtya rajjar iisandim apavidhyanti I "Then they should place him [= the deceased] on the pyre along with this chair. After cutting away the ropes, they should discard the chair."

(16.) BPS 1.3.8: athainam etayeisandyei talpena katena v[bar.a] sathvegya d[bar.a]s[bar.a]h pravayaso va vaheyuly I "Then servants or old men should carry him 1= the deceased by means of this chair, by means of a bed, or having wrapped him in a mat."

(17.) See ApDh 1.21.9-10, 1.25.1, 1.28.15, 2.17.21; GDh 15.22, 21.1, 21.8, 23.8, 23.12; BDh 1.18.18, 2.1.13, 3.5.5, 3.6.11; and VaDh 1.20, 20.13, 20.44, 26.7, 27.19. The only passage in the dharmasutras where talpa is not used to express improper sexual conduct is GDh 22.28.

(18.) ApDh 2.4.1: fayyddele kamalifigena I "At the place of the bed, (one should make a hall offering with the formula) addressed to Love." On this, Haradatta comments: k[bar.a]nt[bar.a]ya sv[bar.a]hety anena I.

(19.) As the anonymous reviewer of this article kindly pointed out, this compound provides additional support for my thesis that khatva originally denotes specifically a raised bed.

(20.) Haradatta clearly understands this term to denote abortion rather than the general killing of a fetus, for he comments on ApDh 1.21.8: ausadhadiprayogena garbhasya vadho garbhafatanain I "Abortion (garbha,fatana) is the killing of a fetus through the use of medicine, etc."

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