On Brewing Love Potions and Crafting Answers

Two Literary Techniques in an Early Modern Maṇipravāḷam Poem





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.


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How to Cite

Goren-Arzony, Sivan. 2022. “On Brewing Love Potions and Crafting Answers: Two Literary Techniques in an Early Modern Maṇipravāḷam Poem”. Cracow Indological Studies 24 (1):85–109. https://doi.org/10.12797/CIS.24.2022.01.05.

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