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0413 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 413 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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169. COIACH   397

Nothing more is known of «Cogatal », who never reached Europe. The information found in Jacopo d'Acqui, that Gregory X baptizavit principem ilium Tartarorum dictum Cogatal must be based on some confusion.

169. COIACH choiach Z; R

coiach Z

This word, as a designation in Malabar of unlucky hours, was only known before BENEDETTO'S edition from a single mention of «Choiach» in RAMUSIO; but RAMUSIO seems to have abbreviated the text of his ms. ; in Z (Z' is slightly altered), the word occurs seven times, and is spelt «choiach », «coiach », and even «coiath ». Moreover, in Z, we read the first time unam horam infelicem id est uciacham quam appellant choiach, and the next one Dora uciacha id est coiach. A very similar paragraph, without, however, the words uciacha or coiach, is found in the chapter on «Lar », and would have almost appeared to be a misplaced duplication were it not that both passages occur in Z.

For «coiach» CALDWELL ( Y, II, 368) has suggested Skr. tyajya, «rejected », pronounced «tiyacham» (more exactly tiya&iyam); possibly reduced to *tiyâch (> *toiach > « coiach») by Polo's Mussulman informants. In a letter dated August 31, 1937, K. A. NILAKANTA SASTRI declared himself in agreement with CALDWELL. But, even if we start from *toiach, the -o- of the first syllable remains unexplained. Moreover Polo's -ch is -k, not -5 as in *tiyach. Other words, such as tiyakkam, «faintness », «swoon », or kosakkam, « confusion », do not belong to the technical terms of Indian astrology.

Ross (RR, xiii-xiv) has successfully shown that, even now, popular Malabar superstition observes the same unlucky hours (rage, kalam) in the various days mentioned by Polo (but Ross is mistaken when he says that Polo speaks of «Malabar»; Polo's chapter is on Malabar, i. e. Coromandel). Ross adds that the Dravidian term for the evil hours is karippu kal, «which would be pronounced Kachukka by a lowcaste Tamil or Malayalam ». I must state quite frankly that I do not believe in any phonetic connection between karippu kal and «uciacha» or «coiach ».

Moreover, the relation of « uciacha » to « coiach » is not clear. It is not evident that RAMUsiO's ms. had both words, and in the two places in which they appear side by side, it is just possible that they betray the hesitation of a copyist who later decided for « coiach» alone. But, if we take Z at its face value, it looks as though «uciacha» were a term of Western astrology, and « coiach » alone a native term used in Malabar. I have nothing to add to MOULE'S ingenious suggestion that « uciata », read *uciata, might be the participle of either hucciare «to proclaim », or of bruciare, since ora bruciata is known in fact in the required sense of «unlucky ».

To YULE'S indications on Indian divination and lucky or unlucky hours, add al-Birùni's India, I, 344.