Thonmi Sambhota

A very ancient and indigenous feature of Tibetan verse, that is found even in the documents from Tun Huang, but has continued in Buddhist verse down to the present day is what might be called the ?onomatopoeic verb?.


R.A. Stein says:

No systematic study has been devoted to this very engaging form of poetic expression, and we know nothing of the associations of ideas that determined the use of a given expression for various situations. [?] Thus kyi-li-li is used for a woman?s glance, the rainbow and lightning, kyu-ru-ru for laughing or songs, khyi-li-li for a squall and for heaving waves, khra-la-la for the sound of hooves, tha-ra-ra for ?clouds? of assembled warriors and the black poison, me-re-re for a thick crowd, the ocean, stars (the crowd of stars, no doubt) and so forth. 

In Buddhist texts, this form of verse is most often encountered in invocations of one kind or another, especially invocations of deities (spyan 'dren pa), or practices for the 'descent of blessings' (byin 'bebs), or in rites for invoking prosperity (g.yang 'gugs) or summoning longevity (tshe 'gugs).

You might find it necessary to keep your own lists, but here are some I have collected:


kyi li li  to shine brightly (like the sun) (of rainbows or lightning)

kyu ru ru  to hum and chant; to echo eerily (of birds); the sound of laughter

khor ma khor  to rotate, wheel (of clouds)

khor ro ro  to buzz ?? (of bees)

khyi li li  rolling of waves

khyugs se khyug  to strike

khra la la  to dangle and sway; sound of hooves

khrabs se khrab  to stomp about in a dance

khro lo lo  to chime and tinkle, rattle (of bones)

gya ma gyu  to flow? (of a river)

rga ra ra  to glow vividly (like the moon)

chi li li   ? (of fragrant flowers)

nyi li li  to glow

ti ri ri  ?

tha ra ra  to gather noisily (of an assembly of warriors), the rolling of clouds or waters

thibs se thib  to gather in throngs, or gather thickly (of clouds or mist), to swarm

thu lu lu  to waft (of incense)

di ri ri  to resound, rattle (of thunder), to peal out (whistle), to reverberate

?du ru ru  to gather and flow (like a river)

ldems se ldem  to gather and swing, shift and move

pu ru ru  to tumble and wave (of hair); sound of trotting horses; to fly and flutter (flags)

pyo la la  to splash (of water)

ban ma bun  to bend and sway (of grass)

brengs se breng  to strike again and again (bow strings)

me re re  to gather and swirl (like the ocean); murmur of a crowd, roar of waves

?u ru ru  to roar, crash, rumble (music and cymbals)

ya la la  to sparkle (of smiles)

yengs se yeng  to float and flap (of flags)

rol lo lo  to charge forward

lang ma ling  to soar (of an eagle)

lam se lam  to sparkle brilliantly (like stars)

sha ra ra  to appear in an endless stream, to advance in procession

shigs se shig  to whirl about in dance; to rustle (of long hair), to swirl

sangs se sang  to utter fiercely (of wrathful mantras)

si li li  to shower down (like rain), to jingle (of ornaments), clatter

hu ru ru  to gasp (in wonder, horror, or confusion)

lhabs se lhabs  to flutter to and fro (of flags)



Further Reading


The Classical Tibetan Language, Stephan V. Beyer, pp.148-152