Gandhāran Buddhist Reliquaries

Five years ago, I published my new edition and translation of the corpus of 58 inscribed Gandhāran reliquaries then known (Baums 2012). Work on this edition had started in 2006 and proceeded in tandem with the compilation of an illustrated online corpus and catalog of the same reliquaries on together with Andrew Glass. The complete set of relic inscriptions now known and covered on numbers 68.

Since the publication of my print edition, I have kept this online edition of the Gandhāran reliquary inscriptions up to date, improved several readings, provided complete lexicographic coverage for it in the Dictionary of Gāndhārī and enriched the presentation of the inscriptions with a number of new features. New additions to the corpus are CKI 240, 267, 827, 332, 455, 466, 827, 828, 975 and 1124. Images formed a feature of from its inception, and I have been working towards complete image coverage for the reliquaries in particular, with the aims of allowing users to verify the readings presented, of preparing a paleography of the inscriptions and of contextualizing them with better documentation of the inscribed objects that would be of use to art historians and archeologists. In my years of working on the relic inscriptions, it also became clear that the complexities of this particular epigraphic genre had led to a large number and wide range of interpretations by different scholars, and that a complete documentation of the history of research was desirable (for these as for all texts in our corpus). I therefore compiled a set of digital texts of all earlier editions of the relic inscriptions which are currently available from the Comments section of each individual entry.

It is my hope that these materials are of use to scholars already in their current form, but they will fully come into their own with the forthcoming update of to a new software backend that has been developed at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities with partners over the last three years. The new software will make it possible to offer a more integrated presentation, by linking our Dictionary edition of each reliquary inscription as well as all historical editions to a reference image, enabling comparative visualisation of the differences of editions, synchronized navigation between texts and images and the generation of paleographic tables.

Last not least, I would like to take this opportunity to share some material from presentations that I have given on my work on the relic inscriptions over the years: a set of highlighted slides illustrating the formulaic structure of a variety of inscriptions (from a talk at the Center for Buddhist Studies, University of California, Berkeley in January 2011; under CC BY-ND license) and a video of a lecture on the dating of the inscribed Gandhāran reliquaries (from the workshop “Problems of Chronology in Gandharan Art” at the Classical Art Research Centre, University of Oxford, in March 2017).

Seven Thousand Articles

Our Dictionary of Gāndhārī has reached 7,000 articles with a total of 35,967 references. Article seven thousand is paḍivivegakasa, from a fragmentary Ekottarikāgama sūtra found at Bamiyan where it is the third in a set of (probably) ten terms, three of which are preserved:

apichakasa satuṭhakaso pra[t]i[vi](*vegakasa) …
‘talk of few wishes, contented talk, talk about seclusion … ’

The Pali parallel to this sūtra (AN IV 357) gives the three as appicchakathā santuṭṭhikathā pavivekakathā, and pravivega‐ would certainly also be the expected term in Gāndhārī (cf. pravivega and pravivitavihari). The editors of the Ekottarikāgama fragment (Jantrasrisalai, Lenz, Lin & Salomon 2016, 34) suggest an otherwise unattested Gāndhārī variation between the prefixes pra‐ and prati‐, similar to the well‐known one between pari‐ and prati‐ (or rather pari‐ [pəɾi] and paḍi‐ [pəɽi]). No less likely, however, seems a phonetic slip from correct pravivega‐ [pɾəʋiʋeːjə] to [pɾəðiʋeːjə], suggesting an alternative reconstruction pra[t]i[ve](*gakasa) that would be consistent with the remains of writing on the fragment. The feasibility of such a phonetic confusion is shown by chaḏi, corresponding to OIA chavi in a Gāndhārī Saṃyuktāgama‐type sūtra.

Re‐Editing Gāndhārī

When we first began studying Gāndhārī, the decipherment and edition of newly‐discovered Gāndhārī manuscripts was – as it continues to be – very much the focus of the field. But lurking just beyond the horizon was the idea of one day creating a ‘new Konow’ or a ‘new Boyer,’ informed by the new manuscript discoveries and shedding light on them in return. As we compiled our source corpus for the Dictionary of Gāndhārī and described it in our Catalog, we kept this greater goal of a comprehensive and consistent presentation of all Gāndhārī texts always in sight.

Konow’s corpus of Kharoṣṭhī inscriptions, published in 1929, contained a total of 96 items then known. For each of them, he described the circumstances of its discovery and the interpretations that it had received in earlier scholarship, before arriving at his own conclusions regarding each inscription’s meaning. Konow also provided visual documentation of all inscriptions to help readers form their own opinion, and a glossary to make his corpus easily accessible. The task of Boyer, Rapson and Senart’s 1920–29 edition of the Central Asian Kharoṣṭhī documents was at the same time easier and more difficult than Konow’s: for the most part there was no previous history of scholarship on these documents to evaluate, but by the same token they had to face the interpretive difficulties of their material from scratch.

Now that our collection of Dictionary source texts has reached completion, we find that we are providing – and could hardly have avoided to provide – many of the same services as Konow, but for a corpus including not only the 1,108 inscriptions now known, but a total of 2,743 items. We document the history of study of Gāndhārī texts in our Bibliography, and from the available editions we selected the overall best ones as base texts for the Dictionary. Since the quality of published Gāndhārī editions is very uneven, however, and knowledge of the language has greatly increased in recent years, we critically evaluate each and every reading in these base texts and make corrections where needed. In all such cases, the readings of the base edition (and others) are recorded in notes and our choice justified. A forthcoming software upgrade will help us extend our documentation of variant interpretations to all historical editions, giving users of the Dictionary full access to ghost words and other dispreferred readings, and at the same time providing them with the complete evidence on which the solutions adopted in the Dictionary are based. Last not least, over the last fifteen years we collected comprehensive photographic documentation for our source texts, which we will make available side by side with our source texts to further support the interpretations adopted.

In effect then, the Dictionary of Gāndhārī does what every critical dictionary has to do: it provides a complete re‐edition of its source corpus. This is a second‐order edition in the sense that we only cover material previously published and document existing interpretations. At the same time, however, it is an original edition since for all texts it is based on our own judgement and incorporates our own improvements. It does not pretend to be a final edition of every single text, but rather aims to provide – as Konow and Boyer did – a reliable framework for future research.

Research Environment for Ancient Documents

When we established, we intended it not only as a venue for our Dictionary, Bibliography and Catalog, but also as an environment for scholars to prepare their own editions of Gāndhārī documents using the text collection and tools we provide. As more and more colleagues took us up on this offer and shared their experiences, it became clear that the software on which we run (originally written in 2006) imposes some limitations on its usefulness as such a research environment, particularly in the areas of linked management of images and transcriptions, content sharing and collaborative work. We made plans for improving these areas as early as 2007, but lack of funding and time prevented us from completing and implementing a redesign. More favorable circumstances arrived in 2012, with major new resources for Gandhāran studies at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the University of Washington. We resumed our design plans, and I presented the outline of a new software system in a workshop at the Somaiya Vidyavihar in December 2012. In the summer of 2013, we joined forces with Ian McCrabb of the University of Sydney, who was working on the computer‐aided analysis of Buddhist relic‐donation formulas, and completed a new software design and development team with Stephen White as programmer and system architect. In November 2013, I introduced the planned new software (which I called Research Environment for Ancient Documents, or READ for short) to the public at the University of Tokyo. Over the last two years, software development of READ has been generously supported by the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the University of Washington, the University of Lausanne and the Prakaś Foundation. We are now entering the phase of beta‐testing, leading up to a public release of the software (and its installation on in 2016. While READ initially grew out of concrete needs in the study of Gāndhārī documents, we designed it to be useful for scholars of ancient documents in general and will make it available to the public under the GNU GPL open‐source license. We are happy that one recently inaugurated project (“From Vijayapurī to Śrīkṣetra,” funded by an ACLS Ho Foundation grant) has already adopted READ as its software framework, and hope that many more scholars will add it to their digital toolbox after its public release.

Five Thousand Articles

Our Dictionary of Gāndhārī has reached 5,000 articles with a total of 23,531 references. Article five thousand is seduga, as read by Sten Konow in the difficult Saddo Rock Inscription:

mu … dhe … (*saṃbatsarae ca)duśadama(*e) Śra 4 4 iśa . . . (*pra)di(*stavide) eṣa (*sedu)ye garuheasa(*rtha)e
‘ … in the one‐hundred‐and‐fourth (*year), in (the month) Śrāvaṇa, on the 4th (day), at this (*moment) this bridge is established for the sake of heavy … ’

The inscription is situated on a boulder where a bridge crosses the Panjkora river, but Konow 1931: 26 cautioned that while it seemed to him “as though it were possible to trace se,” still “the reading is highly uncertain.” If a word for bridge is accepted, then an alternative would be to read simple (*sedu) (the extended form setuka is not well‐attested in Sanskrit) followed by a relative pronoun (‘this bridge that is for the sake of heavy … ’).

Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary

We added a digital version of Franklin Edgerton’s Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary to the collection of lexical resources supporting our Dictionary of Gāndhārī. We prepared this BHSD version by comparing the University of Cologne digitization against our own independent digitization and bringing the formatting in line with that of the other lexical resources on Heartfelt thanks are due to those colleagues who selflessly helped us in proofreading the BHSD data, ensuring an accurate reproduction of Edgerton’s text: Siglinde Dietz, Harry Falk, Rupert Gethin, Chanida Jantrasrisalai, Ian McCrabb, David Mellins, Ralph Moon, Fred Porta, Andrea Schlosser, Blair Silverlock, Chang Tzu, Janet Um and Simon Wiles.

Gāndhāri from China

Over the last weeks, I went through the body of Chinese and Japanese publications on Gāndhārī documents from China, completing the coverage of this material in our Bibliography of Gāndhārī Studies and Catalog of Gāndhārī Texts. With the addition of 95 new documents, the Catalog now contains a total of 2,712 entries. I would like to thank my colleagues Matsuda Kazunobu 松田和信 and Ching Chao‐jung 慶昭蓉 for their generous help in locating and procuring the relevant publications.

Dictionary Lookup Types

We added Sanskrit and Pali search functionality to our Dictionary, and together with the existing Lemma and Form searches we now offer four different ways to look up articles:

  • Prefixing L: to the search string or choosing ‘Lemma’ in the drop‐down menu to the right of the search box will search article headwords in their normalized spelling.
  • Prefixing F: or choosing ‘Form’ will search for word forms as they are actually spelled in source documents.
  • Prefixing S: or choosing ‘Sanskrit’ will search Sanskrit words cited in the etymology sections of articles.
  • Prefixing P: or choosing ‘Pali’ will search Pali words cited in the etymology sections of articles.

The Sanskrit and Pali lookups may still return a small number of false positives, but we hope their usefulness far outweighs this inconvenience as we continue to improve them. Any of the four lookup types understands the regular‐expression syntax described in the Preface so that the search string


for instance will return all those lexemes whose etymologies involve Sanskrit words containing r followed by a sibilant.

Aśoka’s Edicts

We completed coverage of the Aśokan edicts in our Dictionary. This includes the sets of Major Rock Edicts at Shahbazgarhi and Mansehra as well as the lipikara signatures at Brahmagiri, Jatinga‐Rameshwara and Siddapura. Overall, thanks to a long history of study and the available parallels, the Aśokan edicts are among the best‐understood groups of Gāndhārī texts, but still some riddles remain and await a solution. One is the enigmatic yesu vihita eṣa agrabhuṭisuśruṣa in Rock Edict XIII, apparently corresponding to τοὺς ἐκεῖ οἰκοῦντας ἔδει τὰ τοῦ βασιλέως συμφέροντα νοεῖν in its Greek translation.

Outline of Gāndhārī Grammar

The discovery of numerous Gāndhārī manuscripts and inscriptions in the last twenty years calls for a reassessment of Gāndhārī grammar. I took a first step towards an up‐to‐date description of Gāndhārī grammar (from the vantage point of a single text) in Baums 2009: 110–239. When I began teaching introductory classes in Gāndhārī (at the University of California, Berkeley, in fall 2010, then at the University of Leiden and the University of Munich), I reworked this material into a practical outline of Gāndhārī grammar for the use of students. I am currently preparing a comprehensive working grammar of Gāndhārī as a tool for scholars editing Gāndhārī texts, but several colleagues teaching Gāndhārī at their own institutions have asked for my grammar outline which seems to fill a need. I am therefore making it available here under the CC BY-ND license. If I were to prepare the outline today, I would base it on the standard orthography that I developed for the Dictionary of Gāndhārī rather than on IPA transcription. When my working grammar of Gāndhārī is complete, I will thoroughly revise the grammar outline, drawing on the full range of grammatical information that will then be accessible.