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Quid Pro Quo With The Gods

Discussion in 'Cheeniya's Senile Ramblings' started by Cheeniya, May 20, 2017.

  1. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    @Iravati
    The only good thing I have ever done was to choose Sanskrit as my second language in school. When I was doing my degree course in Presidency, I continued with Sanskrit as my second language. I had a wonderful Sanskrit professor who knew his subject like the back of his hand. We had two wonderful works in our curriculum.One was Meghasandesa by Kalidasa and the other was Dasakumara Charitra by Dandin. The later was known for its spell binding alliteration. Magasandesa or Megaduta is a phenomenal work of Kalidasa. The story is narrated in the very first stanza thus:

    Where Ramagiri's cool, dark woods extend,
    And those pure streams, where Sita bathed, descend;
    Spoiled of his glories, severed from his wife,
    A banished Yaksha passes his lonely life:
    Doomed, by his lord's stern sentence, to sustain
    Twelve tedious months of solitude and pain.

    The poetry continues with the Yaksha's message to his wife sent through a cloud. The whole work is his direction to the cloud of the route it should take to reach his wife! After the marathon travelogue, the poem concludes thus:

    This said, he ceased: the messenger of air
    Conveyed to Alaka his wild despair.
    The god of wealth, relenting, learnt his state,
    And swift curtailed the limit of his fate;
    Removed the curse, restored him to his wife,
    And blest with ceaseless joy their everlasting life.

    The version I have given is a translation by H. H. Wilson, in 1843.
     
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  2. Iravati

    Iravati Platinum IL'ite

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    Dandin? That sounds very Frenchie, so I had to look up him. What did I find?

    So there's Kāvyādarśa of Dandin followed by Kāvyālaṃkāra by Bhāmaha. I never heard of this guy so I thought I will read a bit about his works on poetics. Then, I realized that there is no point in starting midway. I better acquaint myself with Sanskrit literature first — the great works and writers. Then, I further realized it is opportune to read about the history of Sanskrit. Then I thought, may be before reading about the great works of Sanskrit I should actually read about Vedic works (the oldest literature and then learn how it transitioned into Sanskrit works). I searched for books on 'History of Sanskrit' and came across this book by Arthur A. MacDonell. I have never heard of this bloke. But there is a wikipedia entry listing him as a Sanskrit scholar. That is an overwhelming credential to pick up his book assured that I am reading a book of someone who did a lot of homework.

    "Macdonell edited various Sanskrit texts, wrote a grammar, compiled a dictionary, and published a Vedic grammar, a Vedic Reader, and a work on Vedic mythology; he also wrote a history of Sanskrit."


    (Continued in next post.)
     
  3. Iravati

    Iravati Platinum IL'ite

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    First, thank you so much for the Dandin mention. I don't normally dig up Indian text because I am not familiar with the background. Well, high time that I learn a thing or two about my ethnic, em, culture.

    Second, there were only two reviews of this book on Amazon and one reader rated it as dry. Should I read or not?

    Verdict, this book is anything but dry. I was hooked to it for hours and this book is a must for amateurs like me who only want to graze the epic narratives of Indian literature with historicity and comparative studies.

    (Continued in the next post.)
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
  4. Iravati

    Iravati Platinum IL'ite

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    What can I say about this book? I am only midway, but this is definitely one of the fascinating books I have read in recent times. I intend to continue later from chapter#10 onwards (Epics, Kavya, Lyric poetry, Drama and Fairy tales and fables). I am already pysched up reading the first half of the book.

    I never even knew the san + krit as the completeness or the perfection of a language.

    I was thrilled to read on the evolution of language and literary craft in Vedas and the reason for forging accompanying notes in Brahmanas and Sutras. How Rigveda is different to Atharva veda? How did the interpretation of Vedas morph in a changing political landscape?

    We chatted about Yaksa but there is the grammarian Yaska ..

    As in modern semantic theory, Yāska views words as the main carriers of meaning. This view – that words have a primary or preferred ontological status in defining meaning, was fiercely debated in the Indian tradition over many centuries. The two sides of the debate may be called the Nairuktas (based on Yāska's Nirukta, atomists), vs the Vaiyākarans (grammarians following Pāṇini, holists), and the debate continued in various forms for twelve centuries involving different philosophers from the Nyaya, Mimamsa and Buddhist schools. In the prātishākhya texts that precede Yāska, and possibly Sakatayana as well, the gist of the controversy was stated cryptically in sutra form as "saṃhitā pada-prakṛtiḥ". According to the atomist view, the words would be the primary elements (prakṛti) out of which the sentence is constructed, while the holistic view considers the sentence as the primary entity, originally given in its context of utterance, and the words are arrived at only through analysis and abstraction. This debate relates to the atomistic vs holistic interpretation of linguistic fragments – a very similar debate is raging today between traditional semantics and cognitive linguistics, over the view whether words in themselves have semantic interpretations that can be composed to form larger strings. The cognitive linguistics view of semantics is that any definition of a word ultimately constrains it meanings because the actual meaning of a word can only be construed by considering a large number of individual contextual cues.

    Wait ...we have our Indian Cerberus?
    The owl and pigeon are occasionally mentioned as emissaries of Yama, but his regular messengers are two dogs which guard the path trodden by the dead proceeding to the other world. With reference to them the deceased man is thus addressed in one of the funeral hymns.


    This story in Śukasaptati reminds me of the retelling in Tristan and Isolde (same plotline)
    In one story, she has to pass between the legs of a Yaksha, a feat impossible to achieve unless one has told the truth. The wife manages it by having her lover dress up as a lunatic and grab her — as a result, she is able to truthfully swear that no one except her husband and the lunatic has ever touched her in her life.

    There is Yama but then there is also lookalike Yami in Persian literature ...
    This myth, indeed, seems to have been handed down from the Indo-Iranian period, for the later Avestan literature makes mention of Yimeh as a sister of Yima. Even the name of Yama's father goes back to that period, for Yima is the son of Vivanhvant in the Avesta as Yama is of Vivasvat in the Rigveda. The dialogue of Yama and Yamī is, as we have seen, based on a still older myth. These mythological ballads, if I may use the expression, foreshadow the dramatic and epic poetry of a later age.

    There is satire as well in our vedas ...
    With regard to a late hymn, which is entirely secular in style, there is some doubt as to its original purpose. The awakening of the frogs at the beginning of the rainy season is here described with a graphic power which will doubtless be appreciated best by those who have lived in India. The poet compares the din of their croaking with the chants of priests exhilarated by soma, and with the clamour of pupils at school repeating the words of their teacher.


    Resting in silence for a year,
    As Brahmans practising a vow,
    The frogs have lifted up their voice,
    Excited when Parjanya comes.
    When one repeats the utterance of the other
    Like those who learn the lesson of their teacher,
    Then every limb of yours seems to be swelling,


    How was the age and location of these writers determined?
    In the first place, the home of the Vedic tribes is revealed to us by the geographical data which the hymns yield. From these we may conclude with certainty that the Aryan invaders, after having descended into the plains, in all probability through the western passes of the Hindu Kush, had already occupied the north-western corner of India which is now called by the Persian name of Panjāb, or "Land of Five Rivers." A good illustration of the dangers of the argumentum ex silentio is furnished by the fact that salt, the most necessary of minerals, is never once mentioned in the Rigveda. And yet the Northern Panjāb is the very part of India where it most abounds. It occurs in the salt range between the Indus and the Jhelum in such quantities that the Greek companions of Alexander, according to Strabo, asserted the supply to be sufficient for the wants of the whole of India.

    (Continued in the next post.)
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
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  5. Iravati

    Iravati Platinum IL'ite

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    Till yesterday Panini was a bread type and Patanjali was a soap and noodle brand. Little did I know that Panini and Patanjali were also ancient Sanskrit grammarians. Further, we have a stamp issued to honour him in 2004 here.

    Panini_stamp.JPG

    G. G. Joseph, a renowned mathematician argues in ‘The Crest of the Peacock’ that the algebraic nature of Indian mathematics arises as a consequence of the structure of the Sanskrit language. In particular, he suggests that algebraic reasoning, the Indian way of representing numbers by words, and ultimately the development of modern number systems in India, are linked through the structure of language.

    I don't know how far-fetched that algebraic invention is, but still such scholarship on the Sanskrit grammatology is interesting. I will catch up with Persis Khambatta soon. Thank you for that Dandin reference.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
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  6. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    @Iravati
    I don't intend giving point by point response to your posts because I can't! i am indeed happy that you have taken so much of interest in our ancient literature. I am amazed that people from all parts of India till a few hundred years back were so thorough with Sanskrit that they translated ancient Sanskrit literature into their own language. For example, the Tamil version of Ramayana was written by Kambar in the 12th Century. The versions of English scholars are just two centuries old. I have a great fascination for this language right from my college days. It is a pity that lot of lobbying is going on particularly in Tamilnadu for the removal of this language from the school curriculum. They revere Kambar's Ramayanam but not Valmiki Ramayanam!
     
  7. Iravati

    Iravati Platinum IL'ite

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    As far as I understand, few ancient works were translated into English from original Sanskrit text, whereas, other lost works in original Sanskrit had to be converted into English from preserved regional translations (for example, Tamil). What fascinates me is how these scholars juggling in translations strove to retain fidelity within intermediary languages which is indeed critical for such literary lineage. Sanskrit -> Tamil [intermediary] -> English.

    Kambar not only shouldered the responsibility to translate a great work in Sanskrit to one of the regional languages but aware that his work could in turn be translated into some other language, he was beholden to translate with precision in that relay system. Reminds me of the translations of the UN speakers here which explains why and how UN prefers only one intermediary language in that relay system. Moreover, speech translations are more challenging than textual translations esp. if it is error-prone on-the-fly simultaneous interpretation. In these simultaneous interpretations, one must translate accurately in a spark of a moment. Sounds scary but fun! I am just checking out general translation mistakes here. On the Internet, I could not find any instances where one country invaded another because a translator at UN botched up the translation.
     
  8. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    @Iravati
    To tell you the truth, Kambar's Tamil translation is just about half the size of the Sanskrit original. It is not a literal translation and is more of a digest. It is considered as holy as the Sanskrit version and is daily recited by the devout believers.
    Your mention of translation business in US reminds me of the famous movie Romanoff and Juliet. It's a great movie starring Peter Ustinov in the title role. You must see him in this movie and in Quo Vadis. Romanoff who is the leader of a tiny country called Concordia whose vote is required in passing a dead-locked resolution in UN.
    Sorry for digressing but I am sure you'll endeavor to watch it.
    Sri
     
  9. Malathijagan

    Malathijagan Silver IL'ite

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    Hello Cheeniya sir!
    After a long time, I am reading a post of yours! I noticed that you have started writing on a serious note! I will have to look for some other threads to see if I get to read some latest thread that mayretain your original humour.
    As regards this thread, what you have said is very true. It is very difficult to lead an honest life in the present world, though it is not impossible. But there is a price we may have to pay for honesty- isolation and ridicule. But ultimately truth will triumph. The wait would be long. The journey would be arduous but we would never be alone.... There is that creator of all of us who stands by us all through our journey of life.We need not bribe Him. If at all, let honesty and love for fellow beings
    be the brbe!
    Hope you are doing good sir.
    Will try to visit indusladies more often.
    Love,
    Malathi
     
  10. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    @Malathijagan
    Hello Malathi, what a surprise and joy it is to see you after a long time! We are contemporaneous in this community! I have not started writing seriously. It is just that readers take me seriously. My ramblings continue to be as mindless and light as ever!
    Very true not only of humans but gods as well. When Rama fights Ravana, he sees him stricken and lying on the floor helplessly. Rama tells him to go home and come afresh on the following day. But as Krishna, he indulges in all kinds of maneuvers to ensure Pandavas' victory. Everyone likes to live a honest life but it is getting tougher day by day.
    Hope to see more of you in the days to come
    Sri
     

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