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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.

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Pandanus ’09: Nature in Literature, Art, Myth and Ritual.
Volume 3, No. 1 (2009)
To the Memory of Kamil V. Zvelebil

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)
Adalbert J. Gail (Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany)
Oldřich Král (Charles University in Prague)
Dagmar Marková (Oriental Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague)
Chettiarhodi Rajendran (University of Calicut, Kerala, India)
Danuta Stasik (University of Warsaw, Poland)
Lidia Sudyka (Jagiellonian University of Krakow, Poland)
Eva Wilden (EFEO, Paris, France)
Gyula Wojtilla (University of Szeged, Hungary)
Reviewed by Prof. Emanuela Panattoni (University of Pisa)
and Prof. Oldřich Král (Charles University in Prague)
English correction: Dr. Mark Corner, formerly lecturer at Charles University, presently HUB University, Brussels
Institute of South and Central Asian Studies, Seminar of Indian Studies
Philosophical Faculty, Charles University in Prague
Celetná 20, 116 42 Praha 1, Czech Republic
Publisher: Stanislav Juhaňák - TRITON
First edition, Praha (Prague) 2009
ISSN 1802-7997
(Registration number of MK ČR) E 17677

The publication of this journal was financially supported by the Ministry of Education of the Czech Republic as a part of the Research Project No. MSM0021620824, “The Foundations of Modern World in the Mirror of Literature and Philosophy”, a project of the Faculty of Philosophy, Charles University in Prague.

  • Editor’s note
  • In Memoriam Kamil V. Zvelebil
  • Celestial vs. Terrestrial
    • Gyula Wojtilla: Heavenly gardens
    • Bruno Lo Turco: The construction of nature: Rsis and Kavis
  • Landscape
    • V. Arasu: Chronology of the Sangam Corpus – discussed on the basis of landscape and ritual
    • Danuta Stasik: Tulsidas's Forest: The Forest Book of the Ramcaritmanas. Towards the anatomy of socio-cultural/literary landscapes?
    • Sabrina Ciolfi: Conventional landscapes: Identity and romance in contemporary Hindi popular cinema
  • Art and Sculpture
    • Adalbert J. Gail: The Earth and the Lotus. A contribution to Visnu’s iconography in India
    • Cristina Bignami: The tree and women's motif in Hoysala sculpture
    • Lidia Sudyka: Cennapuri – a city of gardens as described in the Sarvadevavilasa and the remnants of the gardens and Garden Houses today
  • News and Discussions
    • Adalbert J. Gail: A New Discovery: Aśoka’s Minor Rock Edict I
  • Program of the 2009 Pandanus Seminar
  • Colour Pictures

Editor’s note

It is a pleasure to present the Indological public with the first set of papers read at the Pandanus International Seminar, which was held in Prague in the beginning of June 2009 and which is the result of broad international co-operation between several European and also Indian Universities (cf. The Pandanus Seminar was held in commemoration of Prof. Kamil V. Zvelebil, the founder of Czech Tamil studies and an internationally respected scholar in Tamil language and literature and Dravidian studies, who passed away in January 2009. These two issues of Pandanus ’09 are dedicated to Prof. K.V. Zvelebil’s memory.

Prof. Kamil V. Zvelebil Prof. K.V. Zvelebil

The papers are arranged topically in agreement with the sections of the Seminar (the Program is attached to the second volume), with only a few exceptions dictated by the need of having the coloured photos in one volume. However, this is only the first set of papers read at the Pandanus Seminar; the remaining papers will be published in the next volume of Pandanus ’10. Besides the Seminar papers, we have also included the review section and one contribution to the discussion on a recent discovery of Aśoka’s Minor Rock Edict I in India.

The Pandanus Seminars are organised as part of the Project ‘The Foundations of Modern World in the Mirror of Literature and Philosophy’ supported by the Ministry of Education of the Czech Republic. The 2009 Pandanus Seminar was co-sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi. The organisers would like to express their gratitude for this support to Dr. Neeru Misra, Director of the I.C.C.R., and to the Indian Embassy in Prague, particularly to the Indian Ambassador H.E. Mr. D.P. Srivastava, and to the First Secretary of the Indian Embassy, Mr. Manish, for their active co-operation.


Heavenly gardens
Gyula Wojtilla, University of Szeged, Hungary

Gardens in early India were conceived as pieces of nature which served as ideal places for religious life, refreshment for the body and mind and for pleasure. They are either a piece of nature or artificial forests embellished with certain artifacts. The superb gardens are imagined as replicas of Nandana, Indra’s celestial garden, or Caitratha, Kubera’s heavenly garden. A close investigation is being made into the semantical field of the key terms denoting various types of gardens such as akrida, arama, upavana, kanana, pramadavana / pramadavana and vata / vatika in Sanskrit kavya literature. Although these terms reveal a great deal of functional differences of gardens, kavya authors frequently use them as synonyms. This latter usage markedly differs from that of the Sanskrit kośakaras. Special attention is paid to the plants and various appurtenances in gardens.

The construction of nature: Rsis and Kavis
Bruno Lo Turco, Sapienza Universita di Roma, Italy

In spite of appearances, Veda and kavya share some crucial features. Amongst these features one notes the importance of cosmopoietic function. In fact the Vedic seers are said to be "creators of beings". Moreover, they are the base of royalty. Nevertheless, it is the Word that possesses the real cosmopoietic power: the seers possess this power only insofar as they manifest the Word, which creates and orders the natural world. The Word's cosmopoietic power transfers ideally from the rsi to the kavi. The figure of kavi was probably deliberately modelled on that of rsi, so that it matched particular socio-political projects: the re-foundation of royal power, the elaboration of a model of universal domination, the universalization of a learned community.

Chronology of the Sangam Corpus
Arasu Veerasami, University of Madras, Chennai, India

This is an attempt to re-order the Sangam corpus of eighteen texts based on textual readings informed by the concept of ritual as performed in the different landscapes. Prof. Vaiyapuripillai and others have classified the texts and dated them based on content and stylistic aspects. His school has established the need to read the Sangam texts in the context of the chronology each of them belongs to. This article attempts to reiterate that methodology by establishing the interconnections between rituals found in the texts and the socio-historical changes that were taking place in the Tamil country in that period. By establishing the dates of the texts within the corpus, this paper attempts to undo the prevalent reading of these texts as belonging to one homogenous context cutting through centuries.

Tulsidas’s forest: The Forest Book of the Ramcaritmanas. Towards the anatomy of socio-cultural/literary landscapes?
Danuta Stasik, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland

As in the case of its great predecessor, the Ramayana of Valmiki, the very title of the Forest Book (Aranyakanda) of the 16th-century Ramcaritmanas by Tulsidas (1532–1623) seems to suggest that it provides its reader with descriptions of flora and fauna, landscapes and natural phenomena typical of wilderness. However, the actual situation stands in sharp contrast with this presupposition – this book contains only a few descriptions of nature per se, although relatively rich ‘natural’ terminology can be easily found scattered all over it.

The main aim of this article is to investigate these passages in which Tulsidas uses the descriptions and terms relating to forest and other natural phenomena, as well as to consider what purpose they serve.

Conventional landscapes: Identity and romance in contemporary Hindi popular cinema
Sabrina Ciolfi, University of Turin, Italy

Landscapes obviously play a very important role in cinematic representation. In Hindi popular cinema the choice of a landscape – as background, or as part of the scene itself – is meant to convey some definite conventional meanings. As in classical drama and literature, for example, so also in cinema paradisiacal natural settings are the traditional locations of romantic love. Contemporary Bollywood films seem to have extended and refined the selection of landscapes to depict new themes and more complex feelings. This paper proposes to identify the conscious use of some of these landscapes, in connection with the themes of romance and cultural identity in a more globalized scenario.

The Earth and the Lotus - A contribution to Visnu’s iconography in India
Adalbert J. Gail, Free University of Berlin, Germany

A globular object held by Visnu in his lower right hand has troubled scholars for decades. No text, neither a narrative nor an iconographic one, provides any information about that attribute. This situation generated a wide range of suggestions: bijapuraka (citrus fruit), bilva (bel fruit), citraphala (bright or spotted fruit), seed of lotus, boss, vibhuti (ball of ashes). From the 7th century onwards this object is replaced by a lotus in India.

In Khmer tradition this object, attested by inscriptions, was unanimously taken to be the earth (mahi, dharani). In Cambodia it was never replaced by a lotus.

So the question came up: is there any intrinsic affinity between the round object, considered to be the earth, and a lotus? Indeed many puranic accounts of the creation of the universe identify the earth with a lotus. Not any lotus, but that one on which Brahma was seated when rising from Visnu’s navel. This Vaisnava-flavoured doctrine replaces – in the period after Kalidasa – an independent creator, Brahma Svayambhu, with a dependent creator, Brahma Padmasambhava, acting on behalf of Visnu.

Brahma’s lotus is the highest form of the earth (Matsyapurana 169.3). The round object in Visnu’s hand represents, both in India and Cambodia, the earth.

The ‘tree and woman’ motif in Hoysala sculpture
Cristina Bignami, University of Turin, Italy

This research focuses on the figure of the ‘woman and tree’, derived from the old pan-Indian substrate of the yaksi, as elaborated and developed in the architectural complex of Cenna Keśava, Belur, Karnataka. In this temple are the so-called madanikas; they are stelae about 1.5m high each, representing a female figure in a finely engraved arboreal frame, and located in a very prominent position. The evolution of the theme contributes towards making these madanikas rather different from the classical Buddhist and Hindu model of the “woman and tree”, and this could slightly shift their meaning, or show unexpected connections. In fact, they are not portrayed in the canonical standing posture, but while performing some action: dancing, combing their hair or hunting.

This study will focus especially on the representation, among these madanikas, of the figure of the huntress as a key element which appears to be still open to various possible interpretations.

Cennapuri – a city of gardens as described in the Sarvadevavilasa and the remnants of the gardens and Garden Houses today
Lidia Sudyka, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland

The description of a garden in kavya literature usually goes hand in hand with the subject of love. This is not the case with the Sarvadevavilasa, however. This late eighteenth century Sanskrit work, although introduced as a campu, has its own specific features. In a very realistic manner it depicts life in Madras (Cennapuri) in the time of the East India Company at the turn of the century. It seems that the gardens which belonged to the local nobles were the centres of intellectual life of the city. There is no remark about the gardens owned by Englishmen but as is well known the Company directors as well as the Company itself possessed some of them. In the 19th century the idea of raising garden houses set on huge pieces of land became popular. It is still possible to find the old garden houses, even if some of them are well-hidden or dilapidated and the gardens reduced, in Chennai today.

News and Discussions

A New Discovery: Aśoka’s Minor Rock Edict I
Adalbert J. Gail, Free University Berlin, Germany

On 12th of January 2009, some 60 km from Varanasi, in a rocky, calm and quiet environment, a new version of Aśoka’s first edict, dating from ten years after his coronation, was discovered. This important event was reported to the public three days later, and Jnana-Pravaha, Centre for Cultural Studies & Research Varanasi, succeeded in organising a scientific publication in the middle of February.

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