June 26, 2018

On the Tibetan Translation of the Name Umā

It may not always be clear how Tibetan translators came to translate Umā as “dKa’ bzlog ma.” But if we consider the explanation of the derivation of the name found, for example, in MW (s.v. umā)—“Oh, do not (practice austerities)!”—then, it should become clear that Tibetan translators presupposed such an etymology and thus translated, so to speak, ad sensum. The name “dKa’ bzlog ma” may be thus rendered as “One who was barred/prevented from the practice of austerities (dka’ thub: tapas) [by her mother].” It has not been clear to Johannes Schneider (i.e. Schneider 1993: 308, 89) what the exact Sanskrit correspondence of the Tibetan translation, dKa’ bzlog ma, could have been, that is, despite citing an explanation of the name found in the Devātiśayastotraṭīkā (Schneider 1993: 89, n. 4): dka’ bzlog ni dka’ thub bzlog pa ste | lha mo u ma’o ||. Schneider seems to suggest (with a question mark) that “dKa’ bzlog ma” could be a rendering of Durgā. The Tibetan translation of the name Umā is actually recorded in the Mahāvyutpatti but Schneider does not seem to refer to it. To be sure, Durgā has been translated as into Tibetan as “dGrod dka’ ma” by Tibetan translators and Durgādevī as “rDzong gi lha mo” (Mahāvyutpatti, no. 3171).


  1. Dear D, Have you got your speculating glasses on again? Doesn't bgrod mean to 'traverse', as for instance, a path from beginning to end? Or to get from one side of something to the other (like a woods)? Or to "get over" with a woman? As a name of a female, wouldn't it mean she's difficult to get with? I know one vocabulary glosses bgrod-bya or 'traversibles" with 1. bud-med and 2. lam — 1. woman and 2. path. Now, doesn't Durgâ itself mean something like 'hard going'? Does that mean she made herself inaccessible? Sorry, but I wonder, why can't I say anything that doesn't turn into a question? Shall I await your answer?

    1. Dear Dan, yes Tibetan translators obviously understood durgā as being derived from dur+ √gam and thus the primary meaning seems to be “impenetrable” (or “difficult to penetrate”). But my actual concern here is Umā and not Durgā. You have nothing to say on this? By the way, now I think that perhaps it should be durgā devī (Mahāvyutpatti, no. 3171) and not durgādevī as it can be found in Ishihama’s edition. We have to ask our Sanskritist colleagues. Warmly, D.

    2. Dear Dan, I hope all is well. There is no sign of activity from your side. I hope it is not because of the curtness or terseness of my reply. Without you comments these blogs seem to be without much fun. Haha. D.