In face of the notions of ethnictity and cultural identities much valorized in recent times by societies that often plunge ethnically different communities into conflict situations, this project attempts to explore the encounters between three well-defined literate cultures in the early phases of Indian civilization. The cultures referred to here are Sanskrit from north India, and two southern cultures, Tamil and Kannada, which together constitute a piece of history that is worth remembering today. The interface between Sanskrit (whose texts of the first millenium BC are available) and Tamil BC) and that between Sanskrit and Kannada (whose first extant written texts is of the 7th century AD) provide, however, a contested cultural space wherein one envisages a constant, continuing recoding—a recoding that confers on each other mutual, albeit fluid identities. While examining the classical Tamil and Kannada texts, my emphasis will be n the intricate, subtle civilizational process involved in the encounter (of these early language cultures). The contemporary reader who is more used to seeing conflicts between different cultures would really be hard put to finding any evidence of them in these texts. What these texts record, register does not smack of any deep hostility or resistance to Sanskrit culture, as one is prone to expect when Tamil and Kannada confronted Sanskrit. The encounter very often resulted in quiet and prevalent forms of negotiation, exchange, readjustment, and an excursive poetics of culture as communities came together and lived close proximity.
It is within this broad theoretical framework that the present study engages itself in exploring the three language culture texts for themes, motifs, and metaphors which together constitute a truly philosophic poetry or poetic philosophy—reminding us of Wittgenstein’s wish that “philosophy ought really to be written only as a form of poetry.
TRS Sharma (after his MA in English from the University of Mysore), as Smith-mundt/Fulbright Fellow, got his MA in American literature from the University of Colorado, and a PhD from the University of Alberta, Canad. He has taught English and American literatures as the Universities of Delhi, Alberta, Annaba (Algeria), and Kakatiya. He was also Senior Academic Fellow at the American Studies Research Centre (1987-89), Hyderabad, and Visiting Professor at the University of Delhi (1990-91). He has been a Fellow of the KK Birla Foundation, New Delhi, and at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. His published works include Poetic Style in Robert Frost (Humantities Press, New Jersey and Macmillan India, 1981), Tale of the Glory-Bearer (Penguin Classics, India, 1994), a verse translation of a medieval Kannada classic Yasodhara Carite by Janna, and Toward an Alternative Critical Discourse (Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, 2000), outcome of the work he did on Indian Aesthetics under an IIAS Fellowship. He is Chief Editor of the Sahitya Akademi’s three-volume Ancient India Literature: An Anthology (2000). He has also edited a collection of essays on the Mahabharata for the Sahitya Akademi (2009). He has several articles published in literary periodicals on American, and Indian literatures.
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