The Metaphor of Boundary Crossing in Classical Sanskrit Literature




kāvya, mahākāvya, sargabandha, metaphor, boundary, maryādā, ocean


The paper deals with the metaphor the non-physical boundaries are physical boundaries in Classical Sanskrit literature (kāvya), especially in the mahākāvya (sargabandha) or the court epic genre. Several selected instances of the usage of this metaphor are analysed here in detail in their various contexts. In the stanzas discussed in the paper, the metaphor is skillfully elaborated by the authors: a man staying within/breaking/crossing the boundaries of law and/or propriety (maryādā) is most frequently metaphorically conceptualized as the ocean, normally staying within the boundaries of its shoreline (maryādā/velā) but violently overflowing them during universal destruction (pralaya).

PlumX Metrics of this article


Primary sources:

AŚ = Durgâprasâd and Kâśînâth Pâṇḍurang Parab (eds). 1929 (2nd ed.). The Amaruśataka of Amaruka, with the commentary of Arjunavarmadeva. Bombay: Nirṇaya Sâgar Press.

Devadhar, C. R. (ed. and trans.). 2005. Raghuvaṁśa of Kālidāsa. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Dundas, P. (ed. and trans.). 2017. Magha: The Killing of Shishupala. Murty Classical Library of India, Vol. 11. Cambridge–Massachusetts–London: Harvard University Press.

Hultzsch, E. (trans.). 1926. Māgha’s Śiśupālavadha. Nach den Kommentaren des Vallabhadēva und des Mallināthasūri. Leipzig: Verlag der Asia Major.

Ingalls, D. H. H. (trans.). 1965. An Anthology of Sanskrit Court Poetry: Vidyākara’s “Subhāṣitaratnakoṣa”. Harvard Oriental Series, Vol. 44. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Johnston, E. H. (trans.). 1932. The Saundarananda or Nanda the Fair, translated from the original Sanskrit of Aśvaghoṣa. Panjab University Oriental Publications, No. 14. London: Oxford University Press.

Rajendran, C. (ed. and trans.). 2018. Śiśupālavadha of Mahākavi Māgha. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi.

RV-K = Kâśînâth Pâṇḍurang Parab (ed.). 1904 (5th rev. ed.). The Raghuvamśa of Kâlidâsa, with the commentary (the Sanjîvinî) of Mallinâth. Bombay: Nirnaya-sagara Press.

S = E. H. Johnston (ed.). 1928. The Saundarananda of Aśvaghoṣa. Panjab University Oriental Publications. London: Oxford University Press.

SRK = Kosambi, D. D. and V. V. Gokhale (eds). 1957. The Subhāṣitaratnakoṣa compiled by Vidyākara. Harvard Oriental Series, Vol. 42. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

ŚV = Durgâprasâda and Śivadatta (eds). 1923 (8th ed.). The Śiśupâlavadha of Mâgha, with the commentary (Sarvankashâ) of Mallinâtha. Rev. by T. Śrinivâsa Venkatrâma Śarmâ. Bombay: Nirnaya-sagar Press.

Secondary sources:

De, S. K. 1923. Studies in the History of Sanskrit Poetics I, Chronology and Sources. London: Luzac & Co.

Kane, P. V. 1923. A History of Sanskrit Poetics. Bombay: Nirnaya-sagar Press.

Kövecses, Z. 2002. Metaphor: A Practical Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.

—. 2007a. Metaphor and Emotion. Language, Culture, and Body in Human Feeling. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (first published: 2000).

—. 2007b. Metaphor in Culture. Universality and Variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (first published: 2005).

Lakoff, G. and M. Johnson. 2003. Metaphors We Live By, with a new afterword. Chicago–London: The University of Chicago Press (originally published: Chicago 1980).

Lakoff, G. and M. Turner. 1989. More than Cool Reason. A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor. Chicago–London: The University of Chicago Press. DOI:

Monier-Williams, M. 2002. A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Etymologically and Philologically Arranged with special reference to Cognate Indo-European Languages. Corrected edition. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass (first edition: Oxford University Press 1889).

Trynkowska, A. 2013. Political Metaphors in the mahākāvya: The Conceptual Metaphor the state is the human body in Māgha’s Śiśupālavadha. In: Cracow Indological Studies, 15: 23–36.

Warder, A. K. 1983. Indian Kāvya Literature. Vol. IV, The Ways of Originality (Bāṇa to Dāmodaragupta). Delhi–Varanasi–Patna: Motilal Banarsidass.

—. 1990a. Indian Kāvya Literature. Vol. II, The Origins and Formation of Classical Kāvya. Second rev. edition. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass (first edition: Delhi–Varanasi–Patna 1974).

—. 1990b. Indian Kāvya Literature. Vol. III, The Early Medieval Period (Śūdraka to Viśākhadatta). Second rev. edition. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass (first edition: 1977).

—. 2004. Indian Kāvya Literature. Vol. VII, The Wheel of Time. Part I. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.




How to Cite

Trynkowska, Anna. 2019. “The Metaphor of Boundary Crossing in Classical Sanskrit Literature”. Cracow Indological Studies 21 (2):225-37.