The Modernity of Sanskrit by Simona Sawhney

By Simona Sawhney

Sanskrit texts have frequently been mentioned both in the frames of anthropology and non secular reports or with a veneration that has substituted for research. Going past such ways, Simona Sawhney argues that just a literary strategy that resists the closure of interpretation can exhibit the fragility, ambivalence, and stress that mark the canonical texts. this present day we witness, Sawhney contends, the near-total appropriation of Sanskrit literature via Hindu nationalism. The Modernity of Sanskrit demanding situations this appropriation by means of exploring the complicated paintings of Rabindranath Tagore, M. okay. Gandhi, and Mohan Rakesh. Sawhney proposes that Indian nationalist writings approximately vintage Sanskrit grew to become a charged web site for postcolonial reflections on politics and paintings in India. Sawhney claims that even supposing new readings of Sanskrit literature performed a decisive position within the highbrow belief of modernity in India, the distance for such readings has progressively reduced in size in modern occasions, resulting in a stark diminishment of either the political and the literary lives of the texts.

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In other words, she rewrites the narrative of asceticism and desire as it has been authorized from the ascetic perspective. We could therefore say that in Kalidasa’s work, these figures which turn longingly, or pause hesitantly, do not so much enact as mime a conflict between duty and desire. Reframing the “pull” of duty as the pull of modesty, they reframe it now at the service of the erotic impulse. The King and His Beloved In this way romance comes on stage; it is no longer merely one element—a welcome but slight distraction—in the narrative of origin myths, wars, or struggles for succession but must generate on its own some of the suspense, tension, and antagonism of battle.

However, “nature” may not ultimately be the real focus of concern. Indeed, it seems that the most significant aspect of Tagore’s and Dvivedi’s reading is its attachment to a certain “asceticism” as the ideal of culture. Asceticism, understood as the ideal of internalizing prohibition, of internalizing the law as prohibition, functions here as a way of warding off the threat posed by “nature”— that is to say, by the custom/culture consigned to immediate life. Discussing the moment after the burning of Kama in Kumarasambhava, when Parvati becomes an ascetic herself in order to win the love of Siva, Dvivedi writes, Parvati understood that her naturally beautiful figure was of no avail, and started to prepare for penance.

Enraged by her lack of hospitality, he curses her, saying that the object of her contemplation will forget her and will not even recognize her on sight. Sakuntala’s distraught friends plead with the sage to ameliorate the curse, and finally he relents, stipulating that Dusyanta’s ring will enable the recognition of Sakuntala. SMARA • 23 Her friends decide to shield Sakuntala from knowledge of both the curse and its remedy, only advising her to show Dusyanta his ring if he seems unsure of her identity.

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