heavenly car - a reference to comet?

prr

Senior Member
English--USA
Reading the Edicts of the Indian King Ashoka (200s BC), there was a reference to "heavenly cars." The best guess was a comet, but I've never heard this phrase before and I'm wondering what it meant. Of course Ashoka didn't write in English, but his translator sure did, and I'm wondering what it meant.

This source here has "heavenly chariots."
 
  • lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    It's actually quite common (within a certain temporal boundary) to refer to stars, comets, etc as "cars." Here's the OED:
    b. From 16th to 19th c. chiefly poetic, with associations of dignity, solemnity, or splendour; applied also to the fabled chariot of Phaëthon or the sun, and so to that in which the moon, stars, day, night, time, are figured to ride in their grand procession. Also in prose, a chariot of war, triumph, or pageantry.
    1590 Spenser Faerie Queene i. ii. sig. B3, Phoebus fiery carre, In hast was climbing vp the Easterne hill.
    1597 Shakespeare Richard III v. iv. 2 The wearie sonne‥by the bright tracke of his fierie Carre.
    1667 Milton Paradise Lost ix. 65 Four times [he] cross'd the Carr of Night.


    1697 Dryden tr. Virgil Georgics iii, in tr. Virgil Wks. 120 To draw the Carr of Jove's Imperial Queen.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    'Car' in this sense really means the 'chariot' in which the heavenly bodies were imagined to ride.
    OED: that in which the moon, stars, day, night, time, are figured to ride in their grand procession
    .('Grand procession' meaning 'stately movement').
     

    prr

    Senior Member
    English--USA
    So this was not a reference to a visible object such as a comet, but a mythical one (such as Apollo moving the sun across teh sky in a chariot)?
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    The sun (identified with Apollo) was seen to move, and the chariot was imagined as the explanation of its movement.
     

    prr

    Senior Member
    English--USA
    Certainly all of Lucas-SP's references could be read this way ("car/chariot" as mythical body that moves the star), if in fact the context doesn't demand it.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Reading the Edicts of the Indian King Ashoka (200s BC), there was a reference to "heavenly cars." The best guess was a comet, but I've never heard this phrase before and I'm wondering what it meant. Of course Ashoka didn't write in English, but his translator sure did, and I'm wondering what it meant.

    This source here has "heavenly chariots."
    The complete sentence should be in the post itself:

    In the past, the killing and injuring of living beings, lack of respect towards relatives, brahmans and sramanas had increased. But today, thanks to the practice of Dhamma, on the part of the Beloved of the Gods, the king Piyadassi, the sound of the drum has become the sound of Dhamma, showing the people displays of heavenly chariots, elephants, balls of fire, and other divine forms.


    As you point out, the context is relevant to the question you are asking. In particular, references to Apollo may not be relevant to the tradition discussed here, though it is also possible that the traditions do share this feature.
     
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