What is the meaning of the words caṇḍālaṃ vaṃsaṃ dhovanaṃ

Hi all, i would like to ask what is the meaning of the words caṇḍālaṃ vaṃsaṃ dhovanaṃ in following sentence thank you
: yathā vā paneke bhonto samaṇabrāhmaṇā saddhādeyyāni bhojanāni bhuñjitvā te evarūpaṃ visūkadassanaṃ anuyuttā viharanti, seyyathidaṃ — naccaṃ gītaṃ vāditaṃ pekkhaṃ akkhānaṃ pāṇissaraṃ vetāḷaṃ kumbhathūṇaṃ {kumbhathūnaṃ (syā. ka.), kumbhathūṇaṃ (sī.)} sobhanakaṃ {sobhanagharakaṃ (sī.), sobhanagarakaṃ (syā. kaṃ. pī.)} caṇḍālaṃ vaṃsaṃ dhovanaṃ hatthiyuddhaṃ assayuddhaṃ mahiṃsayuddhaṃ {mahisayuddhaṃ (sī. syā. kaṃ. pī.)} usabhayuddhaṃ ajayuddhaṃ meṇḍayuddhaṃ kukkuṭayuddhaṃ vaṭṭakayuddhaṃ daṇḍayuddhaṃ muṭṭhiyuddhaṃ nibbuddhaṃ uyyodhikaṃ balaggaṃ senābyūhaṃ anīkadassanaṃ iti vā iti evarūpā visūkadassanā paṭivirato samaṇo gotamo’ti — iti vā hi, bhikkhave, puthujjano tathāgatassa vaṇṇaṃ vadamāno vadeyya.

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Greetings Ven Luan and welcome to the forum :slight_smile:

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Metta :slight_smile: :sunflower:

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I wonder if one of our members skilled in Pali might be able to provide some assistance here please :pray:


Hi Venerable,

I’ve just been alerted to your query. I am quite happy to give you a response.

If you go to SuttaCentral, you will find English translations of the suttas. The sutta you are quoting from here seems to be the Brahmajāla Sutta, the first sutta of the Dīgha Nikāya. Here and here you will find two different translation.

You will notice that Bhante Sujato translates the following phrase:

sobhanakaṃ caṇḍālaṃ vaṃsaṃ dhovanaṃ

as follows:

art exhibitions and acrobatic displays

Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi, on the other hand, translates the same phrase as follows:

picture houses; acrobatic performances;

Now if we move on to what the dictionaries have to say, we find the following. A Dictionary of Pali, basing itself on the Pali commentaries, defines caṇḍālaṃ vaṃsaṃ dhovanaṃ as

a name of an acrobatic feat (when one man balances a pole on his forehead or chin or chest, and another man climbs up and balances on the top of the pole)

So it seems the three terms you are asking about should be understood as referring to a single thing. Now you can see why both Ven. Bodhi and Bhante Sujato translate the way they do.

Why these three terms are used to refer to acrobatic displays is not entirely clear. The word vaṃsa is Pali for bamboo. It seems bamboo poles were used for acrobatic tricks. Thus it’s inclusion. With caṇḍāla and dhovana, however, things are much more obscure. Their root meaning (“outcast” and “washing”) would seem to have nothing to do with acrobatics. We are probably dealing with an ancient Indian idiom. Such idioms are generally hard to make sense of unless one is part of the culture to which they belong.

Does that make sense?


thank you for your help