Political Metaphors in the Mahākāvya: The Conceptual Metaphor the state is the human body in Māgha’s Śiśupālavadha





metaphor, the state, the human body, Māgha, Śiśupālavadha


Politics is one of the subjects most frequently dealt with in Classical Sanskrit literature (kāvya), which, naturally, reflects, in its own specific manner, the most important aspects of the reality of life in its predominantly courtly milieu. In Sanskrit court epic poems (mahākāvya, sargabandha), stanzas concerning politics figure prominently especially in descriptions of rulers and their activities (rituals, military campaigns, etc.), as well as in speeches of characters taking part in the scenes of councils (mantra) and the dispatch or reception of envoys (dūta), which are all typical elements of the genre. The present paper employs the methods of cognitive linguistics, which have proven to be highly applicable in literary criticism, including the analysis of Vedic texts and Aśvaghoṣa’s Saundarananda, as well as in research into politics and social issues, to examine in detail the conceptual metaphor the state is the human body in the relevant passages of Māgha’s Śiśupālavadha.

PlumX Metrics of this article


Buitenen, van J. A. B. (trans.). 1975. The Mahābhārata. 2. The Book of the Assembly Hall. 3. The Book of the Forest. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Covill, L. 2009. A Metaphorical Study of Saundarananda. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Filliozat, J. 1964. The Classical Doctrine of Indian Medicine. Its origins and its Greek parallels. First English edition. Trans. from the original in French by D. R. Chanana. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal.

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

Jolly, J. 1951. Indian Medicine. Trans. from German and supplemented with notes by C. G. Kashikar. With a foreword by J. Filliozat. Poona.

Jurewicz, J. 2010. Fire and Cognition in the R̥gveda. Warszawa: Dom Wydawniczy Elipsa.

Kangle, R. P. (ed.). 2010. (2nd ed. reprint). The Kauṭilīya Arthaśāstra. Part I. Sanskrit Text with a Glossary. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

—. (trans.). 2000a. (2nd ed. Reprint). The Kauṭilīya Arthaśāstra. Part II. An English Translation with Critical and Explanatory Notes. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

—. 2000b. (1st ed. reprint). The Kauṭilīya Arthaśāstra. Part III. A Study. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

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

—. 2007a. (1st ed. 2000). Metaphor and Emotion. Language, Culture and Body in Human Feeling. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

—. 2007b. (1st ed. 2005). Metaphor in Culture. Universality and Variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lakoff, G. and M. Johnson. 2003. (1st ed.: Chicago 1980). Metaphors We Live by. With a new afterword. Chicago–London: The University of Chicago Press.

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

MBh = The Mahābhārata. For the first time critically ed. by Vishnu S. Sukthankar and S. K. Belvalkar. The Sabhāparvan. For the first time critically ed. by F. Edgerton. 1944. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.

Monier-Williams, M. 2002. (1st ed.: Oxford University Press 1889). A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Etymologically and Philologically Arranged with special reference to Cognate Indo-European Languages. Corrected edition. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Peterson, I. V. 2003. Design and Rhetoric in a Sanskrit Court Epic. The Kirātārjunīya of Bhāravi. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Radden, G. and Z. Kövecses. 1999. Towards a Theory of Metonymy. In: K.-U. Panther and G. Radden (eds). Metonymy in Language and Thought. Amsterdam–Philadelphia: John Benjamins: 17–59.

Rusanov, M. A. 2002. Poètika srednevekovoj maxakav‘i. Orientalia: Trudy Instituta vostočnyx kul‘tur 1. Moskva: Rossijskij gosudarstvennyj gumanitarnyj universitet.

Smith, D. 1985. Ratnākara’s Haravijaya. An Introduction to the Sanskrit Court Epic. Oxford University South Asian Studies Series. Delhi–Bombay–Calcutta–Madras: Oxford University Press.

Sudyka, L. 2004. Od Ramajany do dydaktyki, czyli zagadki „Poematu Bhattiego” [From the Rāmāyaṇa to Didactics, or, The Riddles of the Bhaṭṭikāvya]. Kraków: Księgarnia Akademicka.

ŚV = Māgha. 1923. Śiśupālavadha; The Śiśupâlavadha of Mâgha. With the commentary (Sarvankashâ) of Mallinâtha. Ed. by Durgâprasâda and Śivadatta. Eighth edition. Rev. by T. Śrinivâsa Venkatrâma Śarmâ. Bombay: “Nirnaya-sagar” Press.

Trynkowska, A. (forthcoming). A Hot, Raging Fire or a Calm, Cool Pool? A Reading of Amaruśataka 2. In: R. Goldman, N. Lidova and C. Rajendran (eds). The Proceedings of the 15th World Sanskrit Conference (Poetry, Drama and Aesthetics Section). New Delhi: Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan.

Turner, M. 1996. The Literary Mind. The Origins of Thought and Language. New York–Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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

—. 1990. (2nd rev. ed. 1st ed. 1977). Indian Kāvya Literature. Vol. III. The Early Medieval Period (Śūdraka to Viśākhadatta). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Wujastyk, D. 2001. (Rev. ed. 1st ed. 1998). The Roots of Āyurveda. Selections from Sanskrit Medical Writings. Penguin Classics. New Delhi: Penguin Books India.




How to Cite

Trynkowska, Anna. 2013. “Political Metaphors in the Mahākāvya: The Conceptual Metaphor the State Is the Human Body in Māgha’s Śiśupālavadha”. Cracow Indological Studies 15 (December):23-36. https://doi.org/10.12797/CIS.15.2013.15.03.