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0548 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 548 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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532   184. COWRIES

Our word « cowry » ultimately goes back to Skr. kaparda, probably a pre-Aryan word, which occurs also under the derivative forms kapardaka and kapardikâ (cf. Maheivyutpatti, SAKAKI ed., Nos 5994, 9374; not «kaparda» and «kapârdika» as in SCHILDER, 324) > Prâkrit kavadda, Maharati kavdâ, kavdi, Hind. kauri, Gujarati kodi, Singh. kavadiya. The pseudo-Skr. kvana in BAGCHI, Deux lexiques sanskrit-chinois, 50 and 281, must be read *kvada or even perhaps *kavada; it is one of the many cases when the Brahma form was in fact reconstructed from the Chinese transcription, and in the Chinese transcription the nasal often renders the corresponding unaspirated sonant (cf. the pseudo-Skr. forms vainuriya and nenâra instead of vaiduriya [vaidùrya] and denâra [dinâra], ibid., 281). Our word cowry comes from Hind. kauri (cf. YULE, Hobson-Jobson2, 269-271; DALGADO, Glossc rio Luso-Asiâtico, 241-243; JA, 1920, II, 290-291); the earliest European example of the word, in a Portuguese plural form caurrys, is dated 1520. For other European forms of « cowry » cf. SCHILDER, 324, and for African ones SCHILDER, ibid. and DELAFOSSE, in JA, 1926, I, 177-179, 183. Equally based on Hind. kauri, but earlier by a century,

is the Chinese transcription   (or ;,) k'ao-li, in Ma Huan's Ying-yai shêng-lan, § of Bengal;
Ma Huan may have heard the word before 1416, and certainly not later than 1433 (cf. TP, 1915, 437). The impossible derivation of cowry from the Greek x,ivi ought not to have been repeated by JACKSON, 126, and ANDERSSON, loc. cit., 305, even as an alternative solution.

The true Arabic name of the cowry is; wad`ah, pl. e., wada`, or àç:3; wada`a, pi. wads`ât, which can easily be accounted for by deriving it from wada`a «to place », because the cowries were worn as amulets or ornaments; GRAY'S opinion (Pyrard of Laval, II, 443) that it is « evidently » an Arabic corruption of «Sansk. kavadi» (read «Mahrati kavdi ») is valueless. But Mohammedan authors also employ terms of which the foreign origin is not doubtful. The earliest one occurs in the 'Abbâr as-aSin wa l-Hind, which was written in 851. There it is said that, in

the Maldive Islands, the cowries were called   kastaf by the natives (cf. J. SAUVAGET, Relation

de la Chine et de l'Inde, 1948, 3, 36. The MS and REINAUD's text read cz,S kabtaJ, which   1
FERRAND, Voyage du marchand arabe Sulayman, 33, accepts, but SAUVAGET changes it to kastaf (kastag) on the authority of Le livre des merveilles de l'Inde, 216-217, where it is the equivalent of kanbâr, coco-nut fibre (Biruni [Bèrôni], I, 210) which the author of the Relation mistook for the word of cowry, kawdah, or kûda, Tamil kavadi); the word has been altered to cis" kan)

in JAUBERT's Géographie d'Êdrisi, I, 69; it has not survived in modern Maldivian, in which the cowry is called boli (often used by PYRARD of Laval as early as the beginning of the seventeenth

century). [If SAUVAGET is right, all this passage is unnecessary, kabtaf a miswriting of kastaf =   i

coco-fibre, kastaf mistaken by author for « cowry ».] I hold it for practically certain that kabtaf goes back to a Prâkrit form of kapardaka; a final -ka, passing to -ga, is regularly rendered -j' in

Arabic. But the median -bt- is hard to explain. The Arabic -b- seems to represent a native form in   1
-p-, because a native -b- would have probably been rendered in Arabic with a -w-; but I do not see how the influence of this native -p- could make a surd -t- out of the sonant -d- which must have resulted in Prâkrit from the -rd- of kapardaka. More frequent is ;-3Ç kawdah, sometimes written -,,( kawdah, which is regularly entered in Arabic dictionaries. Al-Birûni (A. D. 1030) speaks of

the Maldives as Diwa-Kawgah, «Cowry Islands» (cf. SACHAU, Alberuni's India, I, 210), and kawdah   111
occurs in Persian in the i7'abagdt-i Na.4iri, written in 1240 (the «kauri » adopted in RAVERTY'S