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Indian Poetics (Kāvya Śāstra) and Narratology Towards the Appreciation of Biblical Narrative


G. Ayyaneth

Though the biblical and the Indian literary traditions had independent origin and growth in terms of spatial and cultural milieux, there are literary landscapes of confluence where the literary fabrics of their collective wisdom are interwoven. Both narrative traditions have rich oral and folk prehistoric traditions in their records and this attribute provides a substratum where their narrative patterns and paradigms can find a common ground. A Hebraic reading of the Bible does not exhaust the meaning of the biblical texts; on the other hand, an Indian reading of the Bible could bring more flesh and blood to the living text. Ancient Indian Kāvya Śāstra (Poetics) and its modern rendering narratology being multifarious and mutually integrative will be able to supply a variety of poetical tools and devices with which the great and vast miscellany of biblical narrative can be approached and appreciated. Indian religious tradition is more narrative/story rather than doctrinal or dogmatic. This demands an Indian reading of the Bible endowed with a narratological and synchronic approach to disentangle the biblical narrative from the burden of dogmas and doctrines and to re-launch its primordial narrative/story culture. The application of the canons of Indian Kāvya Śāstra with its narratological elucidations to the biblical narrative has categorically proved that it can open up a new horizon to an Indian reading of the Bible. Various such narrative approaches, heuristic devices and models thus evolved have been applied to selected narratives in the Davidic Episode of the Books of Samuel.

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Chapter Two. Locating Ancient Indian Kāvya Śāstra and Modern Western Narratology


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Locating Ancient Indian Kāvya Śāstra and Modern Western Narratology

Since the West has already widened its scope of Narratology, a short appraisal of it will serve as a good overture to an attempt to open up a discussion on Indian Narratology and poetics and consequently on the viability of applying them to the biblical narrative. The classical age of Indian Kāvya Śāstra has a long history of evolution which developed a stupendous system of narratological approach to literature. As a result, different theories of poetics came into being which should not be considered as isolated literary enterprises. One school or poetical purport or literary tradition paved the way for the succeeding ones. They were mutually contributing and enriching. In this way we have to look at the ancient classical age of Indian poetics.

Locating Ancient Indian Kāvya Śāstra

The Classical Age of Indian Kāvya Śāstra

Indian poetics or literary criticism, which flourished in classical Sanskrit, has a long and multifarious tradition. It is marked by an uninterrupted growth and diversification of about two thousand years, i.e. from the 3rd century BCE to the 17th century CE. The name Kāvya Śāstra first appears in the famous work of Bhojadeva, ← 33 | 34 → the Saraswathikandabharanam, around the 11th century CE.1 Already at the time of the Rāmāyaṇa, there was some reference to it as Kriyākalpa.2 The earlier...

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