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Into the Twilight of Sanskrit Court Poetry

Into the Twilight of Sanskrit Court Poetry: The Sena Salon of Bengal and Beyond

Jesse Ross Knutson
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 228
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  • Book Info
    Into the Twilight of Sanskrit Court Poetry
    Book Description:

    At the turn of the twelfth-century into the thirteenth, at the court of King Laksmanasena of Bengal, Sanskrit poetry showed profound and sudden changes: a new social scope made its definitive entrance into high literature. Courtly and pastoral, rural and urban, cosmopolitan and vernacular confronted each other in a commingling of high and low styles. A literary salon in what is now Bangladesh, at the eastern extreme of the nexus of regional courtly cultures that defined the age, seems to have implicitly reformulated its entire literary system in the context of the imminent breakdown of the old courtly world, as Turkish power expanded and redefined the landscape. Through close readings of a little-known corpus of texts from eastern India, this ambitious book demonstrates how a local and rural sensibility came to infuse the cosmopolitan language of Sanskrit, creating a regional literary idiom that would define the emergence of the Bengali language and its literary traditions.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95779-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    AT THE TURN OF THE twelfth century into the thirteenth, at the court of King Lakṣmaṇasena of Bengal, Sanskrit poetry showed profound and sudden changes: a new social scope made its definitive entrance into high literature. Courtly and pastoral, rural and urban, cosmopolitan and vernacular components confronted each other in a commingling of high and low styles. This was not the work of an obscure avant-garde. Some of this literature enjoyed vast popularity, as manuscript diffusion, traditions of literary imitation, and visual art attest.

    This movement was at once mainstream and liminal. The poet Govardhana, from whoseĀryāsaptaśatī(Collection of...

  5. ONE The Political Poetic of the Sena Court
    (pp. 17-46)

    WHAT WAS SAID ABOUT LIFE in Sanskrit verse constituted a central fact of life; it referenced itself to lived reality even as it made itself a lived reality. Sanskritkāvya,in anthology and epigraphy as well as in hosts of individual masterpieces, articulated as it was articulated by the ruling dynasties of ancient and early medieval South Asia. Rarely though does a detailed discussion of poetry make its way into a historical monograph. Yet nothing could be more historical and more material than a kingdom’s moral landscape: etched into minds by poets, copied onto paper or leaf by scribes, scraped...

    (pp. 47-71)

    POETRY AT THE SENA COURT was both similar and different, continuous and discontinuous with earlier modes of literary practice. Govardhana—perhaps more than any other poet of this salon—displays discontinuity in the greatest relief. He also crafts a dazzling new metapoetic frame for it. He poetically jostles contradictions and attempts to reconceive the literary system of which he was a part. He stands alone and places himself apart; yet, ironically, he emblematizes the central Sena dynamic of consolidation more than any other poet.

    In the introductory section of hisĀryāsaptaśatī,(Collection of Seven Hundred Verses in Āryā meter), Ācārya...

  7. THREE The Vernacular Cosmopolitan: JAYADEVA’S GĪTAGOVINDA
    (pp. 72-88)

    JAYADEVA’SGĪTAGOVINDA, GOVINDA[I.E., KṚṢṆA]IN SONG, is an exceptional work of Sanskrit literature, in the dual sense of being uniquely celebrated and simply unique. The poem is a new genre unto itself, and for its time, almost unique in being so; it emerges in the medieval period twofold sui generis.¹ The emergence of thecampū(mixed verse and prose) genre in the medieval south offers only a dim parallel, for its features can be found inchoate in ancient inscriptions.² In all but the earliest periods of Sanskrit literature, new genres rarely ever emerged with such suddenness. The marvel that...

    (pp. 89-114)

    THEŚRĪKṚṢṆAKĪRTTANALIES IN ONE sense on the fringes of the literary. The work’s simple and repetitive songs betray its context of oral village performance, as does its extreme frankness about sexuality. Its language is local and colloquial, clearly related to the spoken dialect of the region where the lone manuscript was lost and then rediscovered, its artistry is rustic. The aesthetic sensibility it presumes is partly outside the sphere of elite literature. This is how we can begin to explain the fact its first English translator points out: “Since its discovery in 1910,SKKhas received almost simultaneously the...

    (pp. 115-124)

    I HAVE ATTEMPTED TO TRACE the topography of a literary territory. The outline was not totally unknown, although we may have modified its boundaries slightly by suggesting the Sena salon outlived itself to some extent in the medieval world of Baḍu Caṇḍīdās, or by finding previously ignored poets buried in the pages of theSaduktikarṇāmṛta.The task has been not to totally redefine a territory, but rather to reorient ourselves in relation to an existing one, to adjust our estimation of its depth, to become accustomed to patterns in its contours which had previously escaped. We have focused our interpretive...

  10. APPENDIX A. The Complete Verses Attributed to the Sena Kings
    (pp. 125-132)
  11. APPENDIX B. The Complete Verses Attributed to Govardhana (Not Found in the Āryāsaptaśatī)
    (pp. 133-136)
  12. APPENDIX C. The Complete Verses Attributed to Jayadeva (Not Found in the Gītagovinda)
    (pp. 137-146)
  13. APPENDIX D. Gītagovinda-Śrikṛṣṇakīrttana Correspondences
    (pp. 147-154)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 155-194)
    (pp. 195-206)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 207-210)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 211-212)