Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published online by De Gruyter July 4, 2022

Plumbing the depths: reading Bhavabhūti in seventeenth-century Kerala

Andrew Ollett ORCID logo and Anand Venkatkrishnan

Abstract

Nārāyaṇa, a student of Mēlputtūr Nārāyaṇa Bhaṭṭa, wrote a commentary on Rāma’s Last Act (Uttararāmacaritam) by Bhavabhūti that “must be counted among the more careful and perceptive ever produced for a Sanskrit play” (Pollock). This essay examines the ways in which Nārāyaṇa related local meanings (of words, phrases, sentences, and verses) to the themes of the play as a whole, which Nārāyaṇa called its “deeper meanings.” Nārāyaṇa belongs to a tradition of literary commentary in Kerala that combined a sensitivity to and appreciation for dramatic art with deep scholarly knowledge. His attention to the complex emotions of the play’s characters, and to the development of heart-rending motifs—reliving the past, betrayed intimacy, the involution and intensification of experience—allows readers to appreciate Bhavabhūti’s play as one of the greatest portrayals of the experience of love in world literature.


Corresponding author: Andrew Ollett, Division of the Humanities—SALC, University of Chicago, 1130 East 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637-1511, USA, E-mail:

References

Anujan Achan, P. (ed.) (1925): Bhagavadajjukiyam. Jayantamangalam: The Paliyam MSS Library.Search in Google Scholar

Bhatt, G.H. (ed.) (1960): The Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa: Critically Edited for the First Time. Vol. I. Baroda: Oriental Institute.Search in Google Scholar

Bronner, Yigal and Lawrence McCrea (2012): “To Be or Not to Be Śiśupāla: Which Version of the Key Speech in Māgha’s Great Poem Did He Really Write?” Journal of the American Oriental Society 132.3: 427–455.10.7817/jameroriesoci.132.3.0427Search in Google Scholar

Dwivedī, Rewāprasāda (ed.) (1964): The Vyaktiviveka of Rājānaka Śrī Mahimabhaṭṭa, Edited with a Sanskrit Commentary of Rājānak [sic] Ruyyaka and Hindi Commentary and Notes. (Kashi Sanskrit Series No. 121). Vārāṇasī: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office.Search in Google Scholar

Haberman, David L. (1988): Acting as a Way of Salvation: A Study of Rāgānugā Bhakti Sādhana. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Ingalls, Daniel H. H. (1965): An Anthology of Sanskrit Court Poetry: Vidyākara’s “Subhāṣitaratnakoṣa.” Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Ingalls, Daniel H. H., Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, and M. V. Patwardhan (1990): The Dhvanyāloka of Ānandavardhana with the Locana of Abhinavagupta. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Jalan, Ghanshyam Das (ed.) (1964): Maharṣivēdavyāsapraṇītaṁ Śrīmadbhāgavatamahāpurāṇam. Gorakhpur: Gita Press.Search in Google Scholar

Kane, Margaret Lynn (1983): The Theory of Plot Structure in Sanskrit Drama and Its Application to the Uttararāmacarita. Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University.Search in Google Scholar

Kosambi, D. D. and V. V. Gokhale (eds.) (1957): The Subhāṣitaratnakoṣa Compiled by Vidyākara. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Kunjunni Raja, K. (1961): Nāstikamataparīkṣā. Madras: University of Madras.Search in Google Scholar

Kunjunni Raja, K. (1980): The Contribution of Kerala to Sanskrit Literature. Madras: University of Madras.Search in Google Scholar

Levinson, Stephen (2000): Presumptive Meanings: The Theory of Generalized Conversational Implicature. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.10.7551/mitpress/5526.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

McCrea, Lawrence (2008): The Teleology of Poetics in Medieval Kashmir. Cambridge, Mass.: Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University.Search in Google Scholar

Mahādeva Śāstrī, K.S. (1953): Mālatīmādhava of Bhavabhūti with the commentary Rasamañjarī of Pūrṇasarasvatī. (Trivandrum Sanskrit Series No. 170). Trivandrum: Government Central Press.Search in Google Scholar

Mainkar, T.G. (1971): Studies in Sanskrit Dramatic Criticism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.Search in Google Scholar

Paulose, K.G. (2000): Bhagavadajjukam in Kūṭiyāṭṭam: The Hermit and the Harlot, the Sanskrit Farce in Performance. Delhi: New Bharatiya Book Corp.Search in Google Scholar

Pollock, Sheldon (trans.) (2007): Rāma’s Last Act by Bhavabhūti. New York: New York University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Pollock, Sheldon (2016): A Rasa Reader: Classical Indian Aesthetics. New York: Columbia University Press.10.7312/poll17390Search in Google Scholar

Ratnam Aiyar, T. R. and Kâśînâth Pâṇdurang Parab (eds.) (1903): The Uttara-Râmacharita of Bhavabhûti, with the Commentary of Vîrarâghava. Bombay: Nirnaya-Sagara Press.Search in Google Scholar

Salomon, Richard (2014): “Māgha, Mahābhārata, and Bhāgavata: The Source and Legacy of the Śiśupālavadha,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 134.2: 225-240.10.7817/jameroriesoci.134.2.225Search in Google Scholar

Sankara Rama Sastri, C. (ed.) (1932): Uttararâmacharita. Madras: Sri Balamanorama Press.Search in Google Scholar

Schiffrin, Deborah (1987): Discourse Markers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511611841Search in Google Scholar

Shulman, David (2001): “Bhavabhūti on Cruelty and Compassion.” In The Wisdom of Poets. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 255–292.Search in Google Scholar

Shulman, David (2012): “Creating and Destroying the Universe in Nine Nights.” New York Review of Books, Nov. 24, 2012. Accessed 8 July 2021. https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2012/11/24/creating-and-destroying-universe-twenty-nine-night/.Search in Google Scholar

Tubb, Gary (2014): “The Plays of Bhavabhūti.” In Yigal Bronner, David Shulman, and Gary, Tubb (eds.), Innovations and Turning Points: Toward a History of Kāvya Literature. Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp. 395–414.Search in Google Scholar

Venkatkrishnan, Anand (2015): Mīmāṃsā, Vedānta, and the Bhakti Movement. PhD Thesis, Columbia University.Search in Google Scholar

Wilson, Francis. (ed.) (1975): The Love of Krishna: The Kṛṣṇakarṇāmṛta of Līlāśuka Bilvamaṅgala. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Search in Google Scholar

Wulff, Donna (1984): Drama as a Mode of Religious Realization: The Vidagdhamādhava of Rūpa Gosvāmī. Chico: Scholars Press.Search in Google Scholar

Received: 2021-08-31
Accepted: 2022-01-31
Published Online: 2022-07-04

© 2022 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Scroll Up Arrow