Lumbini-Kapilvastu Day Blog

Welcome to Lumbini, Nepal – the birthplace of Buddha

Lumbini Lexical Analysis

Posted by worldamity on February 16, 2010

By B. K. Rana

This article is the continuation of  NEPAL’S LUMBINI: WHERE THE BUDDHA WAS BORN

The Lumbini Ashokan Pillar standing by the ‘Maya Devi Temple’ in Lumbini Garden speaks the fact for ever. The writing on the pillar,- ‘hida bhagabvam jateti Lummnigame’ – exclusively offers a proof that the Buddha was born in present Nepal’s Lumbini some 2600 years ago. It is therefore worthwhile discussing the lexical importance of  – ‘Lummini+game’ i.e. ‘Lumbini’ also.

Fa-Hian transcribes ‘Lumbini’ as ‘Lun-min or Lun-ming’ with two distinctive nasal variations whereas Hwen Tsang ‘sinotizes’ it as ‘La-fa-ni’. These two Fa-Hian and Hwen Tsang variations are due to their reception of a different family lexis. Such difference normally occurs among the speakers of different language families. Here the Indo-European ‘Lumbini’ has either become ‘Lun-min or Lun-ming’ or ‘La-fa-ni’ in Sino-Tibetan, which is very understandable. This is natural and there should be no specific meanings attached to them. But some scholars find Hwen Tsang’s ‘La-fa-ni’ corresponding with ‘La-va-ni’ of Sanskrit, which means ‘a beautiful woman’. Phonetically, ‘La-fa-ni’ and ‘La-va-ni’ bear same voiced and voiceless i.e pharyngeal fricative features. ‘La-fa-ni’ more in a sense is a ‘folk-etymological toponym’ of ‘Lumbini’  which could have been something like ‘Lam-ba-ni’ reflecting later Chinese Buddhist lexicography[1]. This lexicography certainly looks somewhat funnier. The lexes ‘Lafani’ and ‘Lavani’ here seem to be  referring to Buddha’s grand mother who might have been a beautiful woman.

Some scholars believe ‘Anjan, the king of Devadaha[2] made a beautiful garden and named it ‘Lumbini’ after his Queen Lumbini. The queen was Buddha’s grandmother from his mother’s side’. Not much information is available on the Queen Mother Lavani, however, she could give a famous name for the garden where the Buddha was born[3].  Etymologically, ‘Lumbini’ or Lumbinidevi, Rummindehi, Rupandevi and Rupandehi bear the same distinctive feature.

Additionally, what has also been said, is that Lumbini can also be ‘Lhum+beni[4]’ of which ‘Lhum’ means ‘a vast land’ and ‘beni’ means ‘confluence of two rivers’. Lumbini is on a vast land or ‘Tarai’ of western Nepal.

And also, there seem to have been some sizable waters around Lumbini in  those days. Such as some springs at Lumbini and the Telar river[5] flowing south east of it. They should have made a confluence near Lumbini. This nomenclature in Magar language, a Tibeto-Burman language, spoken around the present Lumbini, may offer partisan meaning but it appears more reasonable than the  Chinese Buddhist lexicography discussed above.

[ More to follow in research report soon ]


[1] Fayun’s Fanyi-mingyi-ji [Collection of the Meaning of Translated Names] – ‘Linweini,or Luimini or, Lanpini mean ‘ place of redemption’ or ‘ circle of light of happiness’- [Max Deeg, 2003]

[2] Which is also called Ramgram in Nawalparasi district some 26 kilometers east of Lumbini.

[3] Some writer have treated Lumbini garden as Maya Devi garden which is therefore not true. The garden existed before Buddha was born.

[4]‘Lhumbeni’ in Magar language of west Nepal.

[5]  The Oil River

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