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Making It Nice: Kāvya in the Second Century

  • Andrew OllettEmail author
Article

Abstract

Around the second century of our era, kāvya steps out from the shadows. What was kāvya at this early moment? What ties together the kāvya produced within the Kuṣāṇa empire in North India, in Sanskrit, with that produced within the Sātavāhana empire of the South, in Prakrit? What ties the Buddhist kāvya of Mātṛceṭa, Aśvaghoṣa, and Kumāralāta to the Jain kāvya of Pālitta and the secular kāvya found in the Seven Centuries? One answer involves the idea of ornamentation (alaṃkāra): the features that, when worked into a text, transform it into an aesthetic object, not simply the “figures” of sound and sense with which this word would later be associated. In the Prakrit texts associated with the Sātavāhana court, ornamentation is essential—the Seven Centuries proclaims that all of its verses have it—but it was just as essential for it to be inconspicuous. The paradox of “artless artifice” was central to the aesthetic of these texts. In the Sanskrit texts of the North, the reverse was the case: massive effort was expended in making the artless appear artful, in casting the teachings and stories of Buddhism as kāvya. I will offer a few speculations about why the North and South took these different “paths,” and conclude by connecting them with the later discussion in Sanskrit poetics about the two “paths” of kāvya.

Keywords

Kāvya Literary history Hāla Sātavāhana Kaniṣka Aśvaghoṣa Mātṛceṭa 

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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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