On Brewing Love Potions and Crafting Answers
Two Literary Techniques in an Early Modern Maṇipravāḷam Poem
Keywords:Maṇipravāḷam, Kerala, Naiṣadhacaritam, Bhāṣānaiṣadhacampu, Maḻamaṅgalakkavi
This paper studies Naiṣadha in Our Language (Bhāṣānaiṣadhacampu), a 16th-century Maṇipravāḷam retelling of the Nala and Damayantī tale from Kerala. It focuses on two main aspects of this text, both illustrated by different expressive modes: one ‘high,’ pulling towards the polished, dense literature of the Sanskrit style, and the other ‘low,’ pulling towards the performative, the local, and the colloquial. The first is exemplified by reading several verses where Damayantī is struggling to formulate an answer to Nala. Here, I discuss a heightened interest in the depiction of the individual, encapsulated in his or her relationship with and separation from other individuals. The second is illustrated by long prose sections describing men on their way to the wedding. Here, I discuss several allusions to Kerala’s contemporary society and literature, and the expressive possibilities of Maṇipravāḷam prose. The association with Śrīharṣa’s canonical Sanskrit Naiṣadhacaritam serves as a roadmap to some of the intriguing literary selections of this text.
Bhāṣānaiṣadhacampu. 1967 (1934). Pattathil Padmanabha Menon (ed.). Kottayam: India Press.
Līlātilakam. 1969 (1955). Ilamkulam Kunjan Pillai (ed.). Kottayam: India Press.
Naiṣadhamahākāvya of Śrīharṣa, with Commentary by Mallinātha. 1954. Haridas Sanskrit Granthamālā, vol. 205. Varanasi: Chowkambha.
Ariav, T. (Forthcoming). Intimately Cosmopolitan: Genealogical Poets and Orchestrated Selves in 17–18th Sanskrit Literature from South India. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago.
Bronner, Y. 2010. Extreme Poetry: The South Asian Movement of Simultaneous Narration. New York: Columbia University Press, https://doi.org/10.7312/bron15160.
Bronner, Y. and C. Hallisey (eds), trans. D. Shulman. 2022. Sensitive Reading: The Pleasures of South Asian Literature in Translation. Oakland: University of California Press, https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.114.
Davis, D. R. 2014. Satire as Apology: The Puruṣārtthakkūttǔ of Kerala. In: K. Veluthat and D. R. Davis (eds). Irreverent History: Essays for M. G. S. Narayanan. Delhi: Primus Books: 93–109.
Freeman, R. 2003. Genre and Society: The Literary Culture of Premodern Kerala. In: S. Pollock (ed.). Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia. Berkley–Los Angeles: University of California Press: 437–500.
—. 2011. The Performative Context of Nala in Late Medieval Kerala. In: S. S. Wadley (ed.). Damayanti and Nala: The Many Lives of a Story. New Delhi: Chronicle Books: 187–241.
Goren-Arzony, S. 2019a. An Actor in Red and White: The Cākyār Community and the Early Maṇiprāvaḷam Corpus. In: D. Shulman and H. Oberlin (eds). Two Masterpieces of Kūṭiyāṭṭam: Mantrāṅkam and Aṅgulīyāṅkam.
Delhi: Oxford University Press: 306–325, https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780199483594.003.0017.
—. 2019b. Eighteen Poets and a Half: A Literary Renaissance in Medieval Kerala. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Hawley Shapiro, N. and S. S. Pillai (eds). 2021. Many Mahābhāratas. New York: Suny Press.
Kunjunni Raja, K. 1958. The Contribution of Kerala to Sanskrit Literature. Madras: University of Madras.
Nair, R. K. 1971. Early Maṇipravalam: A Study. Trivandrum: Anjali.
Ollett, A. 2022. Images of Language Mixture in Early Kannada Literature. In: P. Chenna Reddy (ed.). Nagabharana: Recent Trends in Jainism Studies. Delhi: BlueRose Publishers.
Patel, D. M. 2014. Text to Tradition: The Naiṣadhīyacarita and Literary Community in South Asia. New York: Columbia University Press, https://doi.org/10.7312/pate16680.
—. 2022. The Curious Case of Sanskrit Literary Translingualism. In: S. G. Kellman and N. Lvovich (eds). The Routledge Handbook of Literary Translingualism. New York–London: Routledge–The Routledge Handbook of Literary Translingualism: 71–82.
Pollock, S. I. 2006. The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India. Berkeley: University of California Press, https://doi.org/10.1525/9780520932029.
Shulman, D. 1994. On Being Human in the Sanskrit Epic: The Riddle of Nala. In: Journal of Indian Philosophy, 22(1): 1–29, https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01066357.
—. 2019. Prabandha: Mode, Tone, Theme. Published electronically in NEEM: The New Ecology of Expressive Modes in Early-Modern South India, https://neemerc.huji.ac.il/publications/prabandha-mode-tone-theme, accessed on 9.02.2022.
Veluthat, K. 2013. Of Ubiquitous Heroines and Elusive Heroes: The Cultural Milieu of Maṇipravālam Poetry from Medieval Kerala. Published Lecture. New Delhi: Indian Council of Historical Research.
Wadley, S. S. (ed.). 2011. Damayanti and Nala: The Many Lives of a Story. New Delhi: Chronicle Books.
How to Cite
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
HORIZON EUROPE European Research Council
Grant numbers No. 786083–NEEM