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Tracking a devil in a textual maze

Citations from the Mudrārākṣasa in anthologies of Sanskrit poetry

Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae
Author:
Dániel Balogh

Viśākhadatta’s Mudrārākṣasa is somewhat unique among Sanskrit dramas in that its plot is concerned with political intrigue. Though the occurrence of certain stanzas of the Mudrārākṣasa in other (non-fiction) works has been noted even by early editors of the play, no attempt has yet been made to fully explore the textual interconnections of the play. The present paper attempts to sketch a map of the appearance of Mudrārākṣasa stanzas in anthologies of Sanskrit poetry. Such anthologies containing hundreds of well-phrased (subhāṣita) stanzas — collected from classical literature, but detached from their context and usually arranged in thematic chapters — made their appearance on the literary stage at the end of the 11th century and remain popular to the present day. Out of the total 175 stanzas of poetry in the Mudrārākṣasa, 18 occur in one or more major subhāṣita anthologies and other literary works. While 12 of these are probably indeed Viśākhadatta’s own compositions according to the testimony of the anthologies, the authorship of the remaining 6 is somewhat dubious, since they are attributed in one or more anthologies to a different source, and/or are found in texts that may be earlier than the Mudrārākṣasa. The paper argues that stanzas of poetry, mostly of a gnomic/didactic nature, could freely migrate not only from works of fiction into anthologies but also in the opposite direction. Widespread quotes that sounded relevant to a specific situation may well have been inserted into the text of dramas (and other opuses) both by the playwrights themselves and by subsequent copyists or redactors of their texts.

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This article is a continuation of a study published in AOH 66/1 (2013), pp. 25–45 entitled “What makes a good poet according to Someśvaradeva? Poetic merit, demerit and the ethics of poetry in the Surathotsava and the Kīrtikaumudī”. It provides the texts and the first English translations of several verses concerning ethics (Surathotsava 1.1–1.64 and Kīrtikaumudī 1.1–1.47) by the 13th-century poet Someśvaradeva, which had formed the basis of the analysis in that study. The edited texts here improve upon the older published versions, and, in the case of the Surathotsava, utilise textual variants and glosses to difficult puns not given in the printed text, by additionally taking into account two manuscripts.

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What makes a good poet according to Someśvaradeva?

Poetic merit, demerit and the ethics of poetry in the Surathotsava and the Kīrtikaumudī

Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae
Author:
Bihani Sarkar

In 13th-century Gujarat, the court of the Caulukya emperors in Aṇahilavāḍa-Pāṭan offered patronage and employment to a highly learned group of individuals. These men also wrote poetry and drama in their spare time — for their amusement, as a mark of culture and to comment upon the events of their times. Within this group, Someśvaradeva, royal chaplain to the Caulukya monarch Bhīma II and his Vāghela successors Lavaṇaprasāda and Vīradhavala, was renowned for having written a composition in only one and a half hours. He offers us in his writings a wealth of historical information on his political circumstances, along with subtle reflections on the ethics of poetry. Who is a good poet? Who is a bad poet? Is a good poet a virtuous individual (sajjana)? Is a bad poet a rogue (durjana)? Who are the models of poetic propriety? Such are some of Someśvaradeva’s concerns. These frequently satirical commentaries on standards of poetry and the ideal poetic disposition appear in the preambles to his two epic poems, the Surathotsava 1.30–64 and the Kīrtikaumudī 1.7–46. Despite their sophistication, they have hardly interested most scholars working on these texts. The article analyses these passages in detail for the first time, and examines the ethics that Someśvaradeva, and the poets of his company, felt underlay the art of poetry.

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Sanskrit Poetry being a Collection of witty, Epigrammatic, Instructive and Descriptive Verses . Bombay : Nirnaya Sagar Press . Suvarṇaprabhāsasūtra = Bagchi , S . (ed.) 1967 . Suvarṇaprabhāsasūtra . Darbhanga : The Mithila Institute . Taittirīya

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