Finally cracked it: the padālatā in Aggañña Sutta DN 27

I have been thinking about the word padālatā (v.l. badālatā) in Aggañña Sutta DN 27 on-and-off for about five years now. It’s the creeper that the beings eat at the beginning of the aeon. I noticed it because some translations had crazy stuff like “foot-vine” or had left it untranslated. I was starting to think that it might be unsolvable, but someone was telling me about the Sinhala language book “Baeddagama” (the forest village), and a lightbulb went off.

Anyway, I think I’ve finally cracked it. If we assume that Sanskrit vanalatā is a correct semantic translation, we can guess that the phonetic element badā means “forest”. Unfortunately, there is no Indic word bada meaning forest (ok, maybe arguably bada in Bengali…and Sinhalese baedda/baeda would obviously be an option). So I did a little bit of historical reconstruction of the word bada, assuming that we could find a variant ba.ta. I didn’t have to look hard to find it, as Marathi bē.ta does in fact, mean a “thicket”. Nepalese bo.ta means a “small tree”. This is actually what we are after.

So I conclude: the word badālata was originally ba.talatā, similar to Marathi be.ta. It means either a “forest vine” or “small trees and vines”, although I prefer the latter as a dvanda (c.f. Sinhalese turu-liya, trees and vines). The pun is on “aho bata” (aho vata). Ba.ta possibly became badā under influence from Sinhalese Prakrit.

Hope that helps someone out there in the world (so you don’t have to think about this like I did). :smiley:


Should have posted this in the original… but the real Sanskrit for padā here is probably pota, meaning a young plant/small tree (=Nepalese bo.ta, Marathi pō.ta/bē.ta), as opposed to vana (a forest).


That sounds awesome, congrats! I’m thinking of changing my translation, but first let me post me comment here, and get your opinion.

When the ground-sprouts had vanished, bursting pods appeared, like the fruit of the kadam tree.

Readings and meaning of padālatā are uncertain. It has usually been understood that the second element = latā creeper. But this leaves the first part unexplained, and comm’s bhaddālatā is unconvincing. It also leaves unexplained the connection with kalambukā, unconvincingly translated by RD and MW as “bamboo”. I think padālatā is related to padālana in the sense of “bursting”. Kalambukā is probably the fruit of the kadam tree, described thus: “small, fleshy capsules packed closely together to form a fleshy yellow-orange infructescence containing approximately 8000 seeds. On maturing, the fruit splits apart”. Thus padālatā would be a kind of bud or seed pod that splits open, somewhat like a fig or pomegranate.


I would refer to Steven Collins on this…he is very sure it should not be kadambuka, he is in favour of kalambuka… Kalambuka could also be a number of different types of edible green (including young shoots, radish leaves, etc), possibly also ka.limbuka. But I haven’t done a thorough enough investigation to conclude. My guess would be that the sense is Skt “au.sadhi”, the medicinal herbs. Or salad. Like, salad greens.

What stands out to me personally is that this theme also occurs in the upanishads, including in the rebirth-sequences e.g. BAU, CU. We see Skt “vanaspati”, which has been historically read erroneously as “lords of the forest” (LOL- vedic skt pati actually means a bush, it’s via PIE *trewas).

I can’t really grok padalana, as cpds with XXX-lataa are very common in Indic languages. Lataa is a given.

Anyway, just my opinion. There are two PIE root possibilities: *trewas and *trewos. Words derived from *trewas are superior. Pali typically has vowel “a” for modern Marathi and Hindi “e”, compare also Hindi “pe.d” (a tree) and Skt “pada” (a tree–> not in the dictionaries, but in the mahakavya like Naisadha Charita). One day I will get my act together and just be in a situation to publish this stuff properly.


I will look forward to that day!