It is an undisputable fact that only a total reading can be fruitful. The onus of response indeed rests with the penetrating readers. But a total reading also has certain predicaments of its own particularly when its focal point is a literature of the past. That, too, becomes somewhat more exacting if the readers are asked to negotiate with the varying facets of the epic genre. Indian epic sequence promises a fascinating study because the collective experiences of several epochs spread over two millennia assumed literary form in this solemn genre. The conflicting worldview emanating from different regions and nourished by heterogeneous people melted into the great cauldron of the epic genre, as it were, to give rise to a wonderful art-form.
The present book humbly offers to put forward a sequential reading of the Indian epic genre in order to relive the enlightening experience of the timeless presence of a robust art-form. Like some fellow travelers, I too firmly believe that any literary genre of the by- gone days can be meaningfully studied if it is placed in a contemporary perspective. I took up this study for preparing my dissertation for Ph.D though its focal point was different. After the degree was awarded in 1982 by the Jadavpur University, I have continually tried to update my thoughts. Consequently, I decided to thoroughly revise my earlier notes and publish two independent books with a view to doing full justice to the subject. Of these, the first one entitled 'The Epic Sequence' is now being presented to the readers while the second book entitled 'The Epic Continuum' would come up next. This book is arranged in seven chapters. The first chapter entitled 'The Epic genre: Indian experience' has sought to cover the basic conceptual background of the Indian epics. The rich treasures of ire genre are contained in two great epics; hence, the second chapter entitled 'The Great Epics : General Perspective' has been designed toe xplai n the unique cultural phenomena as envisaeed in the Rilmayalya and the Mahabharata. In the next chapter, described as 'The Court Epics : The Floruit', the wonderful flowering of the epic imagination of AsNlaghosa and Kalidasa has been dealt with. Besides, the works of Sarvasena, Mentha and Pravarasena have also been referred to. The fourth chapter is entitled as 'The Court epics at the cross-road : The intellectual feast' and hence it covers a typical phase of Indian ornate epics. The poems of Bharavi, Bhatti, Kumaradasa and Magha have been mainly analysed here; besides, Bhosa's typical work has also been touched upon. In the fifth chapter, entitled 'The Exhausted epic genre', the phase of gradual fading out of the epics has been dealt with. The poems of Ratnalcara, Abhinanda, Mankha, giharsa and others have been explained for the purpose. The sixth chapter, described as 'The Frontiers Proliferated : Quest for a Poetics of History' has likewise been designed sequentially. As the subgenre of the Historical epics enjoys special prominence in that sequence, it has been separately dealt with. The poems of Padmagupta, Bilhana, Kaihana, Jayanaka and others shed illuminating light on their quest for an adequate poetics of history. In the seventh chapter, entitled 'Epilogue', some general observations have been offered on the implication of Indian epic sequence along with a brief analysis of the impact of the extension of its frontiers to the vernacular Bengali literature. It has been argued that inspire of an imposing trend of westernisation among the colonial elites of nineteenth century Bengal, the poets' deep aspirations for renovating a glories past found aesthetic expression in chiseling out the epic genre. Thereby the continuum of the epic sequence has been artistically revalidated.
My indebednesses are indeed too numerous to enumerate. Such a work as this cannot but emerge out of a sustained study of many an Indian and western scholars. However, I have been always concerned to arrange the epic genre sequentially according, to own scheme and, i n the process, tried my best to relate its inception, floret and withering to the evolution of Indian socio-cultural perspective. Because no critical reading can be complete without awareness about the transformation of the given world into literary text.
During my years of study, I have been constantly encouraged by friends and well-wishers and words cannot adequately express my profound sense of gratitude to all of them. Yet I will fail in my duty if I do not mention the names of my respected teachers who sowed in me the seeds of fascinate love for literature in and Sanskrit poetry in particular during my student-life. I offer my sinceremost obeisance to Shri Kulendra Bhattacharya, Shri LaksmikantaBiswas, Shri Jagannath Roy Choudhury, Dr. Sukhamay Bhattacharya and Late Professor Jogiraj Basu. The words of encouragement from other teachers, viz., Dr. Sisir Chakraborty, Dr. Jaylaksmi Devi, Shrimati Anima Bhattacharya as well as from my loving colleagues, viz., Dr. Apurbananda Mazumder, Dr. Haripada Chakraborty, Dr. Sanjay Roy, Shrimati Nandita Bhattacharya always helped me to sail through several trying moments.
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