What is a nadividugga?

This is one of those little words that is obvious on the surface, but a little tricky to pin down exactly. It’s used a number of times in the suttas alongside other terms to depict land that is impassable or rugged: mountains, thick forest, and the like.

Nadi is “river”, du-(g)ga is “hard to pass”, and vi either means “division, split”, or is simply an intensifier.

Ven Bodhi in AN uses “river hard to cross”. But this sense seems impossible in DN 26, where the various inaccessible places are said to be “entered into” for hiding and protection.

Curiously enough, the commentary varies in almost every explanation.

DN 26
Nadīvidugganti nadīnaṃ antaradīpādīsu duggamanaṭṭhānaṃ
Nadīvidugga means in inaccessible places of rivers, such as islands etc.

MN 121
Nadīvidugganti nadiyo ceva duggamaṭṭhānañca
Nadīvidugga means both rivers and inaccessible places

SN 16.3
Nadīvidugganti nadiyā viduggaṃ chinnataṭaṭṭhānaṃ
Nadīvidugga means places with banks cut by rivers that are hard to get across

SN 45.11 (the term is found in comm, but is not in sutta)
nadīviduggādīsu setuṃ attharanti
they lay bridges at nadīviduggas etc.

AN 1.347
Nadīvidugganti nadīnaṃ bhinnaṭṭhānaṃ taṃ duggamattā nadīvidugganti vuccati
Nadīvidugga means places cut by rivers are hard to get across, so they’re called nadīvidugga.

AN 3.50
Nadīvidugganti nadīnaṃ duggamaṭṭhānaṃ antaradīpakaṃ
Nadīvidugga means islands in the middle of rivers that are inaccessible places.

Obviously the general meaning is similar, and the matter is of no great significance. Still, it is important to remember that the commentaries are not omniscient and perfect, but are often more like collections of tips and interpretations.

There does seem to be a general trend, however, that the term refers to the place—whether the cut-up banks and gorges, or islands—rather than the river itself. I suggest “inaccessible riverlands”.


A very interesting essay to start the day, with coffee. Thanks Bhante.

I took a look at references to riverbanks:

The Battle of Tomochic: Memoirs of a Second Lieutenant references the riverbank as the place where soldiers hid, awaiting the next wave of attacks. Under Mad Anthony’s Banner has the Native peoples hiding along the riverbank, waiting to spring an attack.

King Arthur’s Battle for Britain: the riverbank was Galanan’s ideal hiding place for his soldiers.

“We are now co-ordinating and reinforcing our positions all along the riverbank to ensure there are no weak points,” said Jibouri, scanning the river from the pumping system platform." Battle for Mosul: Iraqi troops prowl ruins for IS militants

Through history, the riverlands and riverbanks were the site of refuge for soldiers either avoiding detection, or planning the next attack. So, your translation makes clear this distinction, and this resonates perfectly with what I gather as part of the message of DN 26, that of refuge :

Keep to your own pastures, brethren, walk in the haunts where your fathers roamed.
If ye thus walk in them the Evil One will find no landing-place, no basis of attack.

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Thanks, that gives some nice context.

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In Sinhalease Nadi is river.
Dugga (Balana Durgaya) means a place hard to cross due to river and the mountain.