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On Vedic śvāpada- in the Prose of Paippalādasaṃhitā 17.22.10

Umberto Selva

Pages 123 - 148


This article presents a critical edition of the Paippalādasaṃhitā prose mantra 17.22.10, a curse that aims to bring about the death of an enemy by evoking the image of a corpse being devoured by carrion-eating birds. Among the list of carrion bird species, the mantra mentions the śvāpadāḥ. This article reviews the etymology of the term śvāpada-, generally translated as “wild beast of prey,” and its occurrences in the verses of the R̥V and AV and in the ritualistic prose literature; it further argues that, in the language of AV yajus-style prose, probably due to a familiarity with the specific poetic tradition of portraying scenes featuring wild beasts as scavengers, the adjective śvāpada- (a vrddhi derivative based on śvápad-, “wild beast”), meaning “ravenous (like a śvápad)” (in nominal use: “the ravenous one”), came to be used as a general term meaning “carrion-eating”; as a noun, it can also mean “carrion-eating animal, scavenger” in general. Thus it can refer to the birds that often appear next to wild beasts in such scenes and in PS 17.22.10 in particular.


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