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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 Five. The Basic Models of the Indian Narrative Paradigm towards the Appreciation of the Davidic Episode


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The Basic Models of the Indian Narrative Paradigm towards the Appreciation of the Davidic Episode

The basic Indian narrative paradigms, Vedic (cryptic), Purāṇic (mythic) and Itihāsic (epic), as proposed by this study, are perfectly in congruence with the narrative fabric of the Davidic Episode. Modern biblical scholarship has already made some reference to this kind of unique narrative artistry which led to a major shift in the literary activity of the ancient Near East. Such narrative activity is seen by some scholars as the ushering in of a new decisive period of the Hebrew narrative which is different from the older Near Eastern literatures. This new shift is characterised by two things: prose historiography or historicised prose and poetic epic.

Thus the great historical narratives like the David story cannot be compared directly to earlier historiography such as the Babylonian Chronicles or Hittite “Apology of Hattušiliš.” Rather, I believe that biblical historiography can best be understood as the result of a confluence of the techniques and themes of prose historiography with those of poetic epic. The assimilation of historiography and epic towards each other was already under way in Mesopotamia in the second millennium BC, and this process accelerated and was redirected in the Hebrew tradition (Damrosch 1991:3).

The new shift which came about in the narrative artistry prepared the way for new narrative paradigms. Literary ‘turns’ in the narrative formation...

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