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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 ’12: Nature in Literature, Art, Myth and Ritual.
Volume 6, No. 1 (2012)
To the Memory of Dušan Zbavitel

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)
Daniele Feller (University of Lausanne, Switzerland)
Adalbert J. Gail (Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany)
Oldřich Král (Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic)
Dagmar Marková (Oriental Institute, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic)
Cinzia Pieruccini (University of Milano, Italy)
Tiziana Pontillo (University of Cagliari, Italy)
Chettiarthodi Rajendran (University of Calicut, Kerala, India)
Danuta Stasik (University of Warsaw, Poland)
Lidia Sudyka (Jagiellonian University of Krakow, Poland)
Anna Trynkowska (University of Warsaw, Poland)
Eva Wilden (EFEO, Paris, France)
Gyula Wojtilla (University of Szeged, Hungary)
Reviewed by Prof. Oldřich Král (Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic)
and Prof. Daniela Rossella (University of Potenza, Italy)

English correction: Dr. Mark Corner, 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) 2012
ISSN 1802-7997
(Registration number of MK ČR) E 17677


  • In memoriam Dušan Zbavitel
  • Svetislav Kostić: Trees in Hindi folklore
  • Jaroslav Vacek: ‘Ghost’ – pēy – in Old Tamil Sangam literature, select characteristics
  • Jiří Jákl: Swarming ants and their kin in the Old Javanese kakawin literature
  • Michaela Budiman: The influence of Christianity on the form and understanding of funeral rituals of the Toraja ethnic group of Sulawesi, Indonesia
  • Petr Holman: Březina’s stones and gemstones

  • Adalbert J. Gail: Cornucopia non est nidhiśr̥ṅga

Reviews and Reports
  • Fontein, J., 2012, Entering the Dharmadhātu. A Study of the Gandavyūha Reliefs of Borobudur – Reviewed by Adalbert J. Gail
  • D. Marková: The year 2009 was plentiful in the Publishing house Ex Oriente, Praha
  • Hons, Pavel; Marková, Dagmar, 2012. Když němí promluví… Antologie hindské a tamilské dalitské literatury (When the Dumb Speak… An Anthology of Hindi and Tamil Dalit Literature) – Annotated by Jan Kučera

In memoriam of Dušan Zbavitel
MAY 7, 1925 (Košice) – AUGUST 7, 2012 (Prague)

Dušan Zbavitel, an internationally renowned Czech Indologist in the field of Sanskrit and Bengali studies, passed away on August 7, 2012. Both his date of birth and death coincide with those of the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, whose work became Zbavitel’s life-long interest.

Zbavitel graduated from the Faculty of Arts, Charles University, in Indology and Comparative Indo-European Philology under the guidance of Prof. Vincenc Lesný in 1949. The topic of his thesis was Verbal Aspect in the Gathas of Avesta. Until 1951 he worked at the Faculty as an assistant to Prof. Lesný and, in the course of the following 3 years, as a post-graduate scholarship holder. In 1950, modem Indian languages were introduced at the University as regular degree subjects. Zbavitel became the main and practically the only teacher of Ben­gali until 1958, although in 1954 he joined the Oriental Institute and lectured at the University only part-time.

For the purpose of teaching at the University he wrote his first textbook of Bengali with Czech as a medium in 1953 and another one in 1971. The second textbook fol­lowed the method and the system of the grammatical explanations of the first one, but was considerably enlarged and updated. Its German version appeared in 1970 (second edition in 1996). It is the first German textbook of Bengali and it has been used at German universities up to now.

Speaking about Zbavitel’s teaching activities, it is necessary to stress once again that although with his joining the Oriental Institute he ceased to be an inter­nal University teacher, he has never ceased teaching Bengali and Sanskrit either as a part-time lecturer at the Faculty or at the Prague School of Languages. Even after his retirement in 1985 he continued teaching Sanskrit at the Language School and, after 1989, again at the Faculty of Arts. For those who knew Dušan Zbavitel personally it is needless to say that he was the most-loved teacher of his students and pupils. But it is perhaps necessary to point out that his teaching activities helped to bridge over the gap in Indian studies caused by the expulsion of Sanskrit and Bengali from the University in the eighties under the Communist regime.

But let us return to the fifties and sixties. Curiously enough, studies in Bengali, together with other languages of the so-called developing countries, enjoyed offi­cial support at that time, which smoothened the start of Zbavitel’s research career.

Following Vincenc Lesný’s example, he first concentrated mainly on the personali­ty of Rabindranath Tagore. Besides a number of translations and popular articles he published a series of 6 articles in Archív Orientální in 1956–59 analysing the poet’s work and his role in the cultural development of Bengal and India. Based on those articles, Zbavitel’s doctoral thesis and the monograph Rabíndranáth Thákur: vývoj básníka (R.T.: The Evolution of a Poet, 1961) were published in the year of the poet’s centenary.

Tagore, as stated above, has always remained at the centre of Zbavitel’s interest. His numerous translations have made our readers acquainted with all the major works of the poet. Zbavitel’s efforts were sometimes limited by the rigid ruling ideology which did not allow anything too ‘spiritual’ or ‘idealistic’ to be published. Thus, for instance, the famous collection of Tagore’s spiritual poetry Gitanjali was allowed to appear only in a limited number of examples for bibliophiles. For his contribution to Tagorean studies and promoting his works in Europe, Zbavitel was awarded, as the first foreigner, the title Rabīndratattvācārya by the Tagore Institute, Calcutta, in 1987.

Another broad field of Zbavitel’s interest is Bengali folk culture. As early as in 1956 his translations of Bengali love ballads appeared, revealing to Czech readers a sphere of beauty unknown to them till then and making some of them (including the author of this article) follow the path of Bengali studies. As a UNESCO scholarship holder, Zbavitel spent a year in East Bengal making field-research in the district of Mymensingh, the birthplace of the Bengali folk ballads, and after a careful literary analysis he published a monograph entitled Bengali Folk-Ballads from Mymensingh and the Problem of their Authenticity at Calcutta University, 1963. Two years earlier an article on a still-living specimen of Bengali folk literature had appeared in Archív Orientální (The Development of the Baromasi in the Bengali Literature, ArOr, vol. 29 (1961), pp. 582-619). The Folklore society of India granted D. Zbavitel the title Lokaratna in 1981.

Together with the above-mentioned books, Zbavitel’s translations of Bengali poetry as well as prose practically cover all the worthwhile works of Bengali lite­rature including its Eastern part. As long as it was possible for him to follow the cultural life in Bengal, he systematically acquainted our readers with it, whether in the form of books or shorter translations and reviews in periodicals, on the radio, on TV or theatre stages. Thus, thanks to Lesný, Zbavitel and their pupils, the general public in our country has a whole library of Bengali books in Czech at their disposal and it is perhaps not exaggerated to say that it is one of the biggest and best selected Bengali libraries outside Bengal.

Together with other Czech Orientalists Zbavitel participated in the joint research in the beginnings of modern literatures of Asia and Africa, the output of which was a collective work Contributions to the Rise and Development of Modern Literatu­res in Asia (1968). D. Zbavitel was also one of the contributors to the project of prominent world Indo­logists, headed by Jan Gonda, of publishing a history of Indian literature. He is the author of the comprehensive Bengali Literature, published by O. Harrassowitz in 1976. For this he was awarded the West Bengal Government prize Rabīndra pu­raskār in 1977.

Beside his research in Bengali literature, D. Zbavitel also devoted his attention to Bengali language, namely to the verb. In 1970, his monograph appeared entitled Non-finite Verbal Forms in Bengali, published by the Academy of Sciences.

Popularizing Indian studies has always been an integral part of Zbavitel’s work. Beside the books mentioned above, he published three travelogues inspired by his stays in Bengal, two of them with other Czech Indologists, and a book on the history of the birth of Bangladesh. Later he turned his attention back to ancient India. The most praiseworthy among his translations from the classical literature are Somade­va’s monumental Kathāsaritsāgara, which received the prize of the Czech Tran­slators’ Association in 1985, Arthaśāstra (2001), Upaniṣads (2004), Jātakas (2007), and Mānavadharmaśāstra (2009). The comprehensive volume on Ancient India (Starověká Indie, 1985) and highly informative Hinduism and its Pathways to Perfection (Hinduismus a jeho cesty k dokonalosti, 1993) proved to be exactly what our reading public had been longing for in vain in the preceding decades. Both books were sold out immediately. He also translated many volumes popularising India and Indian studies from English and German.

Listing the enormous output of Zbavitel’s work in the field of research as well as popularization, we may have created an impression that his entire career went on as smoothly as it had begun. However, the opposite is true. After almost twenty years of work at the Oriental Institute, mostly as head of the Indian section, he was compelled to leave the Institute for political reasons in 1971. It meant not only a stop to his research in this country but also a ban on his publications, not quite consistent, weakening from time to time and removed in the end, but unple­asant enough to make his work difficult and his life bitter.

We should be thankful to D. Zbavitel for not letting that bitterness turn him away from Indian studies and for going on, despite all obstacles, to promote Indian culture as a free-lance translator and later again as a teacher. For his immense help in educating new generations of Indologists, not only with his brilliant lectures, but also by presenting the Institute of Indian Studies a rare gift of several hundred valuable books, and for his internationally appreciated lifelong work, the Rector of Charles University awarded Dušan Zbavitel the gold medal of the University in May 1995. The Czech government honoured him with the National Award for Translation in 2004 and the government of India with Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in 2006.

Although we have failed to enumerate all prizes granted to D. Zbavitel we should not neglect mentioning the deep reverence and admiration the Bengalis had for the great promoter of their culture, for their ‘Dušanbabu’, as they affectionately called him. To be loved by hundreds in our little country and by many more in Bengal was perhaps D. Zbavitel’s greatest award granted to him steadily and without interruption, irrespective of the ups and downs of his life of an Indologist in this country.

Hana Preinhaelterová



Trees in Hindi Folklore
Svetislav Kostić, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic

The aim of this paper is to show the continuity of Indian mythology, which appears today in Hindi oral tradition, i.e. in folklore and mythological and religious concepts expressed through tales. These give basic information about reasons for the holiness of trees and about their origin. According to the Hindi folk tradition, the life of trees as mythical beings is connected with celestial and terrestrial beings of the imaginary (mythical) forest. Similar topics and motives also occur in ancient literature sources, viz. the Vedas, Purāṇas and Epics, but our aim is not to trace the development of myth. Here we are dealing with the semiotics of trees in today’s Hindi vernacular narratives.

‘Ghost’ – pēy – in Old Tamil Sangam literature, select characteristics
Jaroslav Vacek, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic

The paper discusses several textual occurrences of ghost or pēy, as one representative of what may be called ‘meta-nature’. The term appears in two metrically conditioned variants pēy / pēey – total number of occurrences pēy (7x, including pēyoṭu 1x) / pēey (14x). The selected texts show a few typical properties and functions of the entity designated by this term, though there are only a few concrete ‘descriptions’, which perhaps truly reflects the reality of ‘ghosts’. The basic word is also combined with makaḷ/ir/ or (5x + 9x) with peṇṭir (1x) to mean the ‘female ghost’. Though the frequency of occurrence of these terms in the texts is relatively small, it was obviously an important ‘metaphysical’ concept, a special feature of the ancient tribal image of the world.

Swarming ants and their kin in the Old Javanese kakawin literature
Jiří Jákl, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

The paper discusses insect imagery pertaining to two kinds of ants, the laru-laru and the kararangga, in the Old Javanese kakawin court poetry. Laru-laru denotes a winged form of male ants, airborne for a short mating period when males aggregate in huge, cloud-like swarms. Kararangga designates several species of red tree ants. A common literary image of swarming ants, flying headlong into the flames of fire or lamp, is attested in several kakawin, while the image of fighting kararangga red tree ants seems to be exclusive to one passage of the anonymous, possibly 13th century, Bhomāntaka. Swarming laru-laru ants, dying in the flames of fire, reminded poets of desperate amok attacks, a strategy regularly ascribed to diverse forms of demonic rākṣasas and warriors fighting for them. Both images are found predominantly in the war passages, and I argue that Javanese and Balinese poets used this ant imagery in an allegorical way in order to ridicule political enemies of their patrons.

The Influence of Christianity on the form and understanding of funeral rituals in the Toraja ethnic group of Sulawesi, Indonesia
Michaela Budiman, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic

The present article discusses the influence of Christianity on the most important Toraja rituals - funerals. First, I shall present the basic information on the autochthonous religion Aluk Todolo. I shall also mention when, how and under what circumstances Christianity was introduced among the Toraja, and how the newly-accepted religion influenced the current form of Toraja culture. Finally, I shall briefly present the actual funerals and focus on the shift in the traditional understanding of these rituals.

Březina’s stones and gemstones
Petr Holman, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic

The highly valued poetry, philosophical essays and extensive collected letters (just published in 2004 for the first time as a whole) of the leading personality of Czech Symbolism Otokar Březina (* 1868 in Počátky – † 1929 in Jaroměřice nad Rokytnou) are very well-known to the literary and cultural world. Much less well known is the poet’s use of many terms, metaphors and names from the field of natural sciences which form an organic part of his work. The main aim of this article is to outline the symbolism, practical usage and meaning of some of those names in Březina’s art and life.

Cornucopia non est nidhiśr̥ṅga
Adalbert J. Gail, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Sanskrit nidhiśr̥ṅga is no equivalent of Latin cornucopia and does not denote a horn of plenty. The relevant passage of the Viṣṇudharmottara-Purāṇa (Vdh) speaks about objects that should and should not be painted in the houses of (normal) men. Nidhiśr̥ṅgān grammatically refers to vr̥ṣān, and it means: (painted) bulls which have treasures (such as padma, śaṅkha etc.) on their horns. In contrast to a fitting term in Indian languages the object in question, cornucopia, travelled from the Mediterranean World to Iran and India, where it found a proper place in the hands of Lakṣmī, goddess of prosperity.

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