Buddhist Indian Loanwords in Sogdian and the Development of Sogdian Buddhism


  • Pavel B. Lurje




Buddhist Sogdian texts, Sogdiana, Old and Middle Indo-Aryan, Middle Iranian, Chinese Tripiṭaka, translation technique, Buddha images, toponymy


Buddhist Sogdian texts contain about 300 loanwords of Indian origin excluding the ones that are known also in Manichaean, secular, or Christian Sogdian texts. About sixty percent of these can easily be seen to be borrowed from Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit. A further twenty percent or so are not so easily recognized as from that source because they also reflect linguistic developments within Sogdian. Another twenty percent are from a Prakrit or show the intermediation of another language, such as Parthian (probably including pwty ‘Buddha’), Tocharian, or Chinese. About one percent has unclear sources. The Indian loanwords in Manichean, Christian and secular Sogdian texts, in contrast, are in the majority from a Middle Indian source. In Buddhist Sogdian, the narrative texts like the Vessantara Jātaka feature more of the less regular loan shapes, which suggests a different path of transmission and probably an earlier date. An appendix discusses the role of Buddism in Sogdiana from finds there: personal names reflect the divinity of the Buddha; a wooden plaque with a devotional scene was recently discovered in Panjakent; a seal from Kafir-kala depicts a Turkish noblewoman rather than a Boddhisatva. A study of place names indicates the presence of Vihāras (Nawbahār, Farxār) at the gates of several main cities in and around Sogdiana.




How to Cite

Lurje, P. B. (2021). Buddhist Indian Loanwords in Sogdian and the Development of Sogdian Buddhism. Entangled Religions, 11(6). https://doi.org/10.46586/er.11.2020.9279