“Intratextuality in Sanskrit words” by Shankar Rajaraman

In this talk, I delve into selected portions from three Sanskrit works belonging to the genres of Kāvya (the Rāghavendravijaya by Narayanacharya), Śāstra (the Abhinavabhāratī commentary, by Abhinavagupta, on Bharata’s Nāṭyaśāstra), and Purāṇa (the Bhāgavata, ascribed to Vyasa) to emphasize the importance of intratextuality in not just understanding but also, if necessary, reconstructing written texts. In the case of Rāghavendravijaya, I demonstrate that a specific verse, as handed down to us through tradition, is partially faulty in its reading. I also present a reconstructed version of the verse – the verse that the author had in his mind. Since available manuscripts of the work present the faulty version and since commentators have failed to realize that the verse they are commenting upon is faulty, I have had to rely completely on a deep reading of the text to come up with the reconstruction. In the case of Abhinavabhāratī, I concentrate on the meaning of a particularly difficult-to-understand phrase “dalasthānīyāḥ vibhāvāḥ” and show how it is important to pay attention to a metaphor used by Bharata in order make sense of this phrase. I opine that the phrase has been difficult to understand and therefore wrongly translated by previous scholars because the metaphor that relates to this phrase is textually distanced. Finally, as regards Bhāgavata, I hypothesize that the detailed discussion on Kapila’s Sāṃkhyadarśana that occurs in the beginning of this work provides a philosophical base for interpreting the apparently “mythological” narratives that are described elsewhere in the work. I test my hypothesis by analyzing two episodes from Bhāgavata – Krishna’s lifting of the Govardhana Mountain and the story of Jarasandha.

Abstract Excerpt from “The Reading Glass” fortnightly session of CSP on 11.01.2019 by Shankar Rajaraman