Monday, November 02, 2015

Danielle Feller on Indian epics

Just started browsing The Sanskrit epics' representation of Vedic myths available free on line. Seems quite readable; some of the chapters appeared in journals earlier, sometimes under tha name Danielle Feller Jatavallabhula. A review of the book by Vishwa Adluri :  It belongs on the reading list of any student and scholar who wishes to understand the epic’s “inner coherence.”

From the introduction to the book:
"Commenting on the MBh's claim to be a Veda, FITZGERALD (1991:159-160) remarks:
"As […] a new ‘Veda’, it was obvious that the Great Bhårata was a Veda only metaphorically. The Great Bhårata was a very different sort of text from the Veda in many more ways than the two were substantively similar. But the Great Bhårata was intended to function in Indian culture in the same imposing and authoritative way the ancient Vedas had, and the formulators of this Great Bhårata developed their metaphor with some care." Furthermore, BROCKINGTON (1998:5, note 11) notes that: "it may well be that the emphasis on the epic as a fifth Veda and comparisons with them in reality testifies to a break between the Vedas and the Mahåbhårata". In his review article, HILTEBEITEL (2000:163) comments on this as follows: "The notion of ‘a break’ between Veda and epic is thus worth pursuing. One might consider a break that would allow for a reclamation of Veda by poets for whom it remained of utmost importance, poets who knew their Veda well, who could now compose something new while making use of all kinds of Vedic allusions". Continuing Hiltebeitel's line of thinking, the basic assumption of this study, since it deals with the Epics' representation of Vedic mythological material, is that the epic authors knew (and understood) the Vedas. I believe that the references to the Veda involve much more than mere lip-service, and that a great part of the epic redactors' effort went into reworking the Vedic material to fit it into the Epics, at least as far as the Mahåbhårata is concerned. The representation of Vedic mythological narratives on the one hand, and the representation of the Mahåbhårata war as a sacrifice on the other, are part of this effort."

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