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

Series:

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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Conclusion

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“In order to change the course of affairs your servant Joab did this. But my lord has wisdom like the wisdom of the angel of God to know all things that are on the earth.”

—(2 Sam 14:20)

As this study reaches its culmination, after taking the Biblical Narrative through the avenues of the ancient Indian poetics, it is befitting to take the plot of ‘the woman of Tekoa’ (2 Sam 14:1–23), in which a story of the story is narrated, as a good analogy to draw some conclusions. This story tells much about the poetics of biblical narration. ‘In order to change the course of affairs’ she tells the story and the way ‘the course of affairs’ changes in and through the story is the subject matter of Kāvya Śāstra. To have an analogous look at some of the characters and concepts, let us hear what the story tells:

1) Now Joab son of Zeruiah perceived that the king’s mind was on Absalom.

2) Joab sent to Tekoa and brought from there a wise woman. He said to her, “Pretend to be a mourner; put on mourning garments, do not anoint yourself with oil, but behave like a woman who has been mourning many days for the dead.

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