PANDANUS Project  
Pandanus Publications
 •   Pandanus Homepage  •   Database of Plants  •   Publications  •   Sanskrit E-texts  •   Seminar of Indian Studies  •

Pandanus is a biannual peer-reviewed international journal publishing original research papers in English on nature symbolism in Literature, Art, Myth and Ritual. It has a regional focus on South Asia but welcomes papers from other regions. The journal is the outcome of the Pandanus project, based at the Institute of South and Central Asian Studies, Seminar of Indian Studies, Philosophical Faculty, Charles University in Prague. Pandanus volumes started coming out in 1998 on an annual basis as a result of co-operation between three Universities ... please click here to read the full text of Pandanus Mission Statement.

Pandanus is indexed by ERIH PLUS.
Buy Pandanus online
Contact us
Pandanus ’07: Nature in Literature, Art, Myth and Ritual.
Editor-in-chief: Jaroslav Vacek
Deputy Editor: Martin Hříbek
Members of the Editorial Board:
Giuliano Boccali (University of Milano, Italy)
Alexander Dubianski (University of Moscow, Russia)
Oldřich Král (Charles University, Prague)
Dagmar Marková (Oriental Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague)
Chettiarhodi Rajendran (University of Calicut, Kerala, India)
Lidia Sudyka (University of Krakow, Poland)
Eva Wilden (EFEO, Paris, France)
Reviewed by Prof. Emanuela Panattoni (University of Pisa)
and Prof. Oldřich Král (Charles University, Prague)
Institute of South and Central Asian Studies, Seminar of Indian Studies
Celetná 20, 116 42 Praha 1, Czech Republic
Published and printed by Triton
First edition, Praha (Prague) 2007
ISSN 1802-7997
(Registration number MK ČR) E 17677


  • Preface
  • Giuliano Boccali: Descriptions of nature in Kavya and Greek lyric poetry
  • Mariola Pigoniowa: Nature in some Sanskrit lamentation passages. The Lament of Rati and the Epitaph on Adonis
  • Maria Piera, Tiziana Pontillo, University of Cagliari: The (in)separable parts of a plant in the Mahabhasya imagery, or how nature may inspire a grammarian
  • Adalbert J. Gail: The four ‘Buddhist’ animals lion, elephant, horse and bull and their symbolic meaning – a eeconsideration of evidence
  • A. Dubianski: The palai – landscape in Tamil poetry
  • Jaroslav Vacek: The pig in Sangam literature – images and textual properties
  • Soňa Bendíková: Milk, cow and buffalo in the life of the Kotas, a tribe from the Nilgiris, South India
  • Barbara Grabowska: The rainy season in the writings of Vidyapati and the Vaisnava lyric poetry of Bengal
  • Martin Hříbek: Flowers and trees in Tagore’s songs relating to summer, autumn and winter
  • Dagmar Marková: The motif of the weather in Hindi prose on Indians abroad
  • Daniel Berounský: Lapsed Buddhists, evil tobacco and the opening of the Bon pilgrimage place of Dmu ri in the Thewo region of Amdo
  • Alena Oberfalzerová: Perception of the landscape by Mongolian nomads
  • Zdenka Švarcová: Nature in Poems by Nishiwaki Junzaburo
  • Petr Holman: Flora in the work of Otokar Březina


We are bringing out another volume of Pandanus which continues the series of previous years. To begin with (since 1998), the published material was a result of co-operation of three Universities – Charles University in Prague, Milano University and Leipzig University – in the form of specialist seminars. In the course of time colleagues from all over Europe and also India have come to take part in these seminars. The subject of ‚nature‘ in the broadest sense appeared to be little researched and since it was also an attractive topic, a few years back the University of Krakow joined the co-operative effort as an organiser of seminars, and most recently the University of Warsaw has also joined hands with us.

Since the volumes have been published for almost ten years, we have decided to make Pandanus a regular journal starting from this year, and to offer it as a space for the publication of papers dealing with the questions of nature in all its aspects, its use and function, as reflected in literature, art, myth and ritual. Though the previous volumes were devoted mostly to India, it has already become a tradition that other literatures and cultures, and not just those of Asia, are also welcome.

Most of the papers included in this volume deal with Indian literatures, ancient (Sanskrit, partly in comparison with ancient Greek literature, and classical Tamil) and modern literatures, both classical and present-day (Hindi and Bengali). One paper is devoted to tribal culture. Several papers were read at the International seminar in Prague in 2006 but for various reasons could not be included in the 2006 issue. Besides that, there are papers devoted to Central and Eastern Asia (Tibet, Mongolia and Japan) and one paper continues the systematic description of nature in the work of Czech symbolist poet Otokar Březina.

We are pleased to offer this volume to all colleagues interested in the subject of nature and look forward to further co-operation.



Descriptions of nature in Kavya and Greek lyric poetry
Giuliano Boccali, University of Milano

The paper is devoted to the comparison proposed in the title. In the twentieth century, the critics showed neither the Greek poems nor the Indian ones to have been born from a “romantic” and spontaneous expression of the feelings of the authors admiring the beauties of nature. In fact, in both these traditions one can easily recognize the strong literary structure and the influence of the social context.

The two major cultures definitely differ as the Greek landscapes deeply mirror an attentive contemplation of nature, while the Indian ones have mainly built with conventional literary images. However, in India direct observation is not absent, but emerges in the attention to the details – often quite refined – or in the transformation of great panoramas in very powerful and synthetic images, as in the aerial views of the Meghaduta.

Among the authors who will be examined are Homer, Alcmane, Sappho, Aśvaghosa and Kalidasa.

Nature in some Sanskrit lamentation passages. The Lament of Rati and the Epitaph on Adonis
Mariola Pigoniowa, University of Wrocław

In this paper the similarities of themes and certain elements, especially those relating to nature, between The Epitaph on Adonis, a poem by the Greek poet Bion of Smyrna (the turn of the 2nd cent. BC), and sarga IV of Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhava (The lament of Rati) are pointed out. At the root of these similarities are some relationships between the two myths themselves, that dealing with Adonis and that dealing with Kama.

The first part of this paper is devoted to the myth of Adonis who in Greek religion stands for the rise of vegetation; particular attention is given to the cult of Adonis, his origin and connection with the Sumerian Dumuzi.

The second part discusses Kama and the elements common to the two deities are emphasized: their association with a tree, an incest, a curse, the role played by the spouses, the connection with vegetation. Also the rites related to the two deities are examined: during celebrations in their honour they are offered various flowers, ‘gardens’, and the ritual lament is performed.

In the third part of the paper there is a discussion of the structure of the two poems followed by a detailed analysis of some particular passages; emphasis is laid on themes and elements common to both works.

The (in)separable parts of a plant in the Mahabhasya imagery, or how nature may inspire a grammarian
Maria Piera Candotti, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris – Tiziana Pontillo, University of Cagliari

The grammarian Patanjali makes a wide use of examples and similes taken from the natural word and everyday life. The article concentrates on one image, that of the tree with its branches, occurring thrice in an identical formula and once in a different context. We want to show that this image is used as a metaphor of a specific kind of part-whole relationship relevant as far as the interpretation of linguistic segmentation is concerned.

The Four ‘Buddhist’ animals lion, elephant, horse and bull and their symbolic meaning – a reconsideration of evidence
Adalbert J. Gail, University of Berlin

On the capital of the Aśokan pillar of Sarnath a set of four animals is depicted: a lion, an elephant,a bull and a horse. This quartet is taken up not in India but in the Buddhist art of Śri Lanka. Individually, these animals provide various symbolical references to the career of the Buddha himself (cakravartin, laksana, anuvyanjana etc.). As a set of four they can be interpreted as ‘directional patrons’ (Kantaka Cetiya, mythical cosmography). They occur on stelae, flanking projections of stupas, and above all in the form of moonstone friezes.

While the Anuradhapura period (3rd century B.C. – 10th century A.D.) still keeps the quaterni tradition alive – particularly the moonstones of the Mahavihara – this scheme is dissolved in the Polonnaruwa period (1000–1234 A.D.).

While, however, the lion disappears from the moonstones, his importance is enhanced in religious and secular imagery, thus firmly connecting Simhaladvipa with the lion of the Śakyas, i.e. the Buddha.

The palai – landscape in Tamil poetry
A. Dubianski, Moscow State University

The paper is devoted to the theme of separation of lovers in the season of summer (palai-t-tinai), which is well represented in early Tamil Poetry. Pictures of nature during the hot season are analysed in the paper on the basis of verses of old anthologies. It is stressed that the landscape created by poets forms not only a sympathetic but a symbolic background for human relations. A hypothesis about the origin of the traditional name of the corresponding poetical theme is offered.

The pig in Sangam literature – images and textual properties
Jaroslav Vacek, Charles University, Prague

The paper describes select occurrences and contexts of the words for ‘pig’ in the Sangam texts. The pig referred to by two lexemes (panri pig, 21x; kelal boar, 23x) was not among the most frequent elements of nature described in Old Tamil literature. To be noted is the absence of these lexemes in Kuruntokai and also Kalittokai. However, there are a few typical attributes, some of them of a formulaic character. The descriptions and images of the pig confirm that the poets had a realistic approach towards nature, both in observation and description. Some formulas appear rather frequently, e.g. ciru kan panri small-eyed pig (9x). The summary of the formulas and phrases occurring with the word ‘pig’ is a further contribution to a systematic analysis of old Tamil literary stylistics.

Milk, cow and buffalo in the life of the Kotas, a tribe from the Nilgiris, South India
Soňa Bendíková, Charles University, Prague

In this paper, I will describe the role of the buffalo, cow and milk, products of nature important for the Kotas. Together with the relations among these products, I will also show that the knowledge of buffalo breeding and milk production has moved from one tribe – the Todas, to another tribe – the Kotas. As buffalo breeding and milk production in the Nilgiris were originally carried out by the Todas, we cannot speak about these two issues in the life of the Kotas without mentioning the Todas, the original herdsmen and dairymen, who almost abandoned their original specialization. Thanks to the reasons I explain in this paper, the Kotas learnt milk processing and buffalo breeding from the Todas and adjusted the procedures to meet their needs.

The rainy season in the writings of Vidyapati and the Vaisnava lyric poetry of Bengal
Barbara Grabowska, University of Warsaw, Poland

There are numerous images of the rainy season in the poetry of Vidyapati in the poems describing the heroine’s stroll to met her lover (abhisara) and her longing after the two have been separated (viraha). The rainy season is portrayed as the time of darkness and fright, lightning and thunders. There are virtually no descriptions of the beauty of the rainy season. The Bengali poets have included these descriptions in their writings, but they also added some new themes: caturmasi – a description of the four months of the rainy season, the crossing of the river and the heroine’s dream. In the scenes of abhisara the madness of nature mirrors the frantic passion of the heroine while viraha is based on contrast.

Flowers and trees in Tagore’s songs relating to summer, autumn and winter
Martin Hříbek, Charles University, Prague

This paper deals with references to plants in Tagore’s songs from the prakrti section of Gitabitan relating to the seasons of summer (grisma), early autumn (śarat), late autumn (hemanta) and winter (śit) as well as those included under the category ‘general’ (sadharan). A complete list of references with full transcription of the original Bengali line, its English translation and the song and line number is provided for each plant and followed by brief notes on botanical characteristics and poetic usage.

The motif of the weather in Hindi prose on Indians abroad
Dagmar Marková, Oriental Institute, Prague

In Hindi prose depicting the life of Indians in Western countries, the motif of the climate and the weather, different from that of India, appears repeatedly. The manner of depiction depends on the position of the writers in their respective countries and on their relations to the places of action.

Lapsed Buddhists, evil tobacco and the opening of the Bon pilgrimage place of Dmu ri in the Thewo region of Amdo
Daniel Berounský, Charles University, Prague

The paper touches upon the area located in North-Eastern Tibet called Thewo. Pilgrimage places in the given area are viewed as part of a contest between Buddhists (chos pa) and followers of Bon (bon). It then focuses on the youngest holy place called Dmu ri, which was opened in 1941 and is the only holy place visited solely by followers of Bon. To this holy place a lengthy guidebook written by the Bonpo monk, who himself opened the holy place, has survived. It is quite a rare document, which, besides its own ways of treating Buddhists through myths and legends, includes a detailed description of the opening of the holy place. Historical events in the area amalgamate with visionary experiences in it.

Perception of the landscape by Mongolian nomads
Alena Oberfalzerová, Charles University, Prague

The following paper is intended to mediate the subtle aspects of the perception of the landscape by Mongolian nomads. It is located in the C’uluut region of the Arhangai Aimag, which the author repeatedly visited in connection with her ethnolinguistic field work. The paper discusses the individual important places in that landscape and their characteristic features as they are described by the local people (petrified bull Buh Hairhan, ferocious and haunted places, Ovoo of the Lamas’ Red Hill, and finally Woman-Fish, daughter of the Lord of Waters). The reader can share the experience of the adventure of discovering and understanding the dynamism of the world of nature myths, of which even the author herself has become an integral part. She then offers a psychological interpretation of the changes in her own manner of perception of the landscape, while also pointing out the specifics of the process of contact between two different cultures.

Nature in Poems by Nishiwaki Junzaburo
Zdenka Švarcová, Charles University, Prague

Discussions about poetry are equally dangerous
as discussions about the Almighty.
Nishiwaki Junzaburo

Complementary to a general method of interpreting a work of art, there is always a special method dictated by a certain text, painting, musical composition etc. from within. While the former way represents a background for the interpretation, the latter enables an interpreter to identify, classify and evaluate particular components of the work in question in order to explain them in a broad existential context. The general method is presented here by six sets of the general criteria (Tables 1, 2, 3) indicating the significance and the stimuli of making sense of flowers in human life. A special method is represented here by identifying, classifying and evaluating relevant sequences of poems by the Japanese poet Nishiwaki Junzaburo (The Eyes, Impermanence) in compliance with relevant items of the general criteria.

Flora in the Work of Otokar Březina
Petr Holman, Charles University, Prague

Like the previous articles published in this series, this piece also deals with the question of nature’s placement in the poetic ouvre of Otokar Březina (1868–1929). Special attention is given to the various plants some of which have become significant and irreplaceable motifs, even constants in Březina’s work: domestic dry rot fungus (Serpula lacrymans), lichens (Lichenes), moss (Bryopsida), grass (Poales), spring bentgrass (Carex caryoptyllea LATOUR), red clover (Trifolium pretense) and white clover (Trifolium repens L.), ferns (Polypodiopsida), common reed (Phragmites communis TRIN), barley (Hordeum), rice (Oryza sativa L.), poppy (Papaver), strawberries (Fragaria), caraway (Carum carvi), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), perennial wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), saffron (Crocus sativus L.). The paper deals particularly with the question of how and in which general context these plants appear.

back to publications list | buy Pandanus online

Pandanus Publications
back to publications list | buy Pandanus online
(c) 1998-2016 Seminar of Indian Studies, Institute of South and Central Asia, Faculty of Arts, Charles University.