|Pandanus ’01: Research in Indian Classical Literature.
Edited by J. Boccali, C. Pieruccini and J. Vacek.
Charles University, Faculty of Arts; Signeta, Praha 2002, 173 pp.
The volume includes contributions to the Seminar organized in Milano on May 25-26, 2001. The publication was supported financially by the University of Milano and it is a result of several years of cooperation between both Universities in the sphere of classical Indian literature.
- A. Dubianski: The Semantics of Colors in Old Tamil Poetry
- B. Lo Turco: The Story of Lila: A Paradigm of the World of the Shared Experience
- G. Milanetti: Anti-alamkaras in Sanskritised Hindi Poetry
- G. Pellegrini: The Poet at Play: Scientific Texts and Poetic Expression in Ancient Kavya
- C. Pieruccini: The Cakravaka Birds: History of a Poetic Motif
- D. Rossella: Odd Pairs: Indian Stories in Western Music
- J. Vacek: Types of formulaic expressions in Cangam – A preliminary survey of their structural patterns
- A. Wezler: Application, and Applicability, of Methods of Literary Theory to Indian Textual Material
I am really pleased to offer the pages of Pandanus for the publication of the following papers, which were read in the Seminar “Research in Indian Kavya Literature”, held in Milan on May 25-26, 2001. This is not the first time that we join hands with the University of Milano in the study of topics relating to classical Indian literature. The Pandanus project of the Department of Indian Studies started in 1998 as a project sponsored by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic. The general subject of the project was the role of nature in classical Indian literature. It was inspired by my discussions with the late Prof. Bernhard Kölver from Leipzig, with whom we agreed that analysing various aspects of natural symbolism can throw light on the specific literary idiom of classical Indian literatures, not only Sanskrit and Prakrit, but also Old Tamil. Prof. Kölver suggested that colleagues from Milano worked along similar lines. In Venice, indeed, two international seminars on Kavya had already been held (1994 and 1995), organized by Prof. Giuliano Boccali with the advice of Prof. Siegfried Lienhard. Later on Prof. Boccali moved to Milano and formed there a research group on poetical conventions in Indian classical literature. Thus it seemed useful that colleagues of this group should also be invited to the Seminar in 1998 (cf. Pandanus ’98, Flowers, Nature, Semiotics. Kavya and Sangam, Prague 1999). That was a starting point for several seminars (Milano 1999, Prague 2000), in which colleagues practically from all over Europe (from London to Moscow and from Stockholm to Rome) contributed to various questions of classical Indian literature, while the accent was mainly on natural symbolism (2000, 2002).
The Milano Seminar in 2001, according to the aims of the Italian researchers, had a more general topic, though nature was directly or indirectly also the subject of some of the papers (C. Pieruccini, J. Vacek, A. Dubianski). The subjects ranged from classical Kavya and Old Tamil to classical Hindi literature, and they also included the impact of Indian literary tradition on European opera composers (D. Rossella).
Three of the papers by Italian colleagues deal with topics related purely to classical Sanskrit (and Prakrit) literature. B. Lo Turco (pp. 27–43) presents the “story of Lila” as a paradigm of the world of “shared experience” and summarises the discussions around the Yogavasistha and Mokshopaya from both literary and religio-philosophical points of view. G. Pellegrini (pp. 71–83) discusses the function of poetic expression in ancient Kavya and underlines the importance of knowledge of the scientific idiom of the day in order to be able to understand the texts more intimately. In her well documented paper, C. Pieruccini (pp. 85-105) traces the cakravaka motif through the most ancient Old Indian texts up to Kavya and shows to what extent it underwent “modernisation” in later texts and how the motif was eventually shaped by various classical poets. Still within the context of classical Sanskrit literature is A. Wezler’s (pp. 159–173) contribution, which however discusses more general questions of application (and applicability) of literary theory to Indian literary texts, and presents the Hamburg project for the study of Kavya. He also touches upon the relation of traditional Indian and European theoretical interpretations.
Two papers are from the field of Old Tamil literature, both attempting a generalisation in their own way. A. Dubianski’s discussion (pp. 11–25) of the semantics of colours in Old Tamil poetry deals with the specific features of the use of colours in Old Tamil literature in the context of more general works on colours from both semiotic and ethnological point of view. It will certainly be an inspiration for similar reflections on classical Sanskrit and Prakrit poetry and possibly also later literary creation. J. Vacek (pp. 123–157) proposes a basic survey of the formal and semantic structure of formulaic expressions in Old Tamil literature, which he presents as a continuation of his earlier case studies of various formulas connected with the names of plants and which he sees in the context of select theoretical works on the problem of formulas in general.
Two papers are from different, though related fields. G. Milanetti (pp. 45–69) offers an extensive analysis of some features of Sanskritised Hindi poetry of the 20th century with a deep insight into the intricacies of its form and contents. D. Rossella (pp. 107–122) summarises the impact of classical Indian literary topics on European musical scene and opens up a fascinating subject of how many famous and less famous composers drew upon Indian subjects in the last more than two hundred years.
The present volume of Pandanus represents a result of the work of the individual authors and also of the discussions of the respective topics in the small but inspiring Seminar organized by Prof. G. Boccali in the hospitable atmosphere of the University of Milano last year. The editors feel that the papers present not only interesting views, but also new interpretations of the respective subjects, and they offer these papers to the Indological public with the hope that they find acceptance and generate further discussions, stimulating an even wider exchange of opinions.
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