June 13, 2020

The Tibetan Rendering of Suśroṇī

In the Mūlasarvāstivāda narrative sources, there is a story of Suśroṇī, a queen who takes a musician and then a robber as her lover (Panglung 1981: 193–194). Panglung usually provides the Tibetan renderings of the Sanskrit names. But not for Suśroṇī. The BHSD, SWTF, TSD, and so on, do not seem to record this name. Rockhill 1884 (p. 82), whoever, records “Sho shum” as a Tibetan rendering of “Suśroṇī” and also points out that it is not a literal rendering. Literally it should mean something like “having beautiful hips” (MW). And indeed one can see in other contexts (Tshig mdzod chen mo) that the rendering sked legs ma in the sense of a “beautiful woman” (bud med mdzes ma) and “goddess” (lha’i bu mo), which is probably a literal rendering of suśroṇī. But the meaning of sho shum is not clear. Possibly sho shum is a mimetic word, comparable to ’khyug ’khyug and ldem ldem, which describes the movement and hence meaning something like “having graceful movements/gait.” The meaning of the expression ’dar shum shum (Tshig mdzod chen mo) as “a certain way of moving [one’s] body” (gzugs po g.yo tshul zhig) may support such a speculation. If this speculation holds, we shall have to consider sho shum and shum shum simply as phonetic variants and suppose that the Tibetan translators interpreted that “one who has beautiful hips” is also “one who has graceful movements/gait.” One should also perhaps consider the words shom ra (byued) and shom can (Jäschke 1881: s.v. shom pa).


  1. Excuse me, D, but I believe the word you are looking for is vavoom, or va-va voom. The first is the one we would have used when seeing an attractive girl swinging it with pride out in the street. It's all about the swaying and sashaying. Of course it was originally used for some particular car, I forget which one, but you know where I grew up admiration for cars and women often crossed over. You know, like "Classy chassis!" Sorry I had to bring this up. -D

  2. :) Dear Dan, I think it should mean something like that. I also think of “dashing” or “dandyish.” Maybe “jiggling” would not be quite appropriate. I like your “classy.” D.