[INDOLOGY] Draupadii and polyandry

Joydeep jbagchee at gmail.com
Fri Oct 26 12:16:55 EDT 2018


Dear Artur,



I see several problems with your argument.

>> quite unknown to the earlier strata of the epic.

How are you identifying the “earlier strata” of the epic? If you argue, the
earlier strata are the ones that do not report polyandrous marriage, the
argument is circular.



>>To my mind – a bit of cultural politics, at work. Surrounding inclusions
of new economically important tribal territories in the realm of the
'Aryas'.

Do you have evidence for thinking polyandry is non-Aryan? German
Indologists claimed the Pāṇḍavas were non-Aryan (see *The Nay Science*,
123); Fitzgerald rehashes this theory (ibid., 151). But for the argument to
work, the Pāṇḍavas must be originally non-Aryan, whereas, for the
attempted cultural assimilation to hold, they must be Aryans in the MBh,
but the reason for positing a discrepancy between the text and “historical”
reality is their polyandry, which is non-Aryan, but this was the very point
in contention.... I am sure you appreciate the circularity.



>>The need to show to its fresh members that they do belong – despite some
of their outlandish customs.

If the point was to suggest “that they do belong,” surely it is better to
retain them in the text rather than “whitefacing” them. Indeed, if the
point was to show that, though non-Aryan, on consideration polyandry is
acceptable, there was no need to make the Pāṇḍavas “Aryas.” I think the
problem arises from your vacillation between the MBh’s use of the term and
a racial sense (which you wrongly identify with the “historical” meaning),
and the circumstance that you use the former as evidence for the latter.



>>The need to demonstrate that we, the 'Aryas', also share them - the
example of one of them, of polyandrous union, is certainly to be found in
our great epic. And, considering the status of its participants, it is
given a properly high prestige.

But *what* epic? In what text was this change made? Presumably, it was made
in the exemplar or exemplars destined for dissemination in “tribal
territories,” since the claim was for their appeasement. How, then, do you
explain its occurrence in the manuscripts found today? Do you suppose that
the exemplars in the Aryan territories ceased to be copied and control of
the tradition passed to “tribal territories”?



>>is certainly to be found in our great epic.

Non-Aryan tribes could hardly know of the MBh as “our great epic,” since
this was their first encounter with it. (If it was not, the argument
doesn’t work, since they then know a version exists without polyandry.) The
argument thus requires them both to know and not know of the MBh. Perhaps
you mean the MBh’s fame preceded it such that the tribes could appreciate
the favor done them… But they could only appreciate the favor done them if
they knew that polyandry was not normally accepted among “Aryans.” The
argument is self-defeating.



Moreover, scholars have worked the argument both ways—certain sexual or
social practices were commonplace among the “Aryans”; it is not the
practice that was inserted into the text but its posterior justification.
The only criterion appears to be what the scholar wishes to attribute (or
not see attributed) to his “Aryans”—constructed, of course, entirely from
his fantasy self-image. Winternitz’s comment is apt: “Mr. Dahlmann says
that the custom is ‘un-Aryan’ (p. 90). But who can tell whether the
Pāṇḍavas were Aryans or non-Aryans? Besides, what right have we to describe
everything we do not like as ‘un-Aryan’?” (“Notes on the Mahābhārata,”
756). I recommend revisiting his article and also *The Nay Science*,
chapters 1–2.



Three final points: (1) You appear to be working on a model of donor-donee
cultures, which has its origins in Friedrich Schlegel’s work, and was
clearly not just racial but *racist *in intent. Vast amounts of time and
ingenuity have been expended on figuring out what proportion of Indian
culture can be attributed to “Aryan” influence (Oldenberg, Frauwallner,
etc.). Perhaps we should move beyond it. (2) Cultural interactions are more
complex than our models assume. Even in the most recent “Aryan” aggression
(for which we also happen to have reliable historical data), the situation
was more complex, as this article explains:
https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/02/poland-holocaust-death-camps/552455/.
(3) Ever since Christian Lassen, it has been customary for Indologists to
identify racial explanations with the “real,” “historical” meaning of the
text. In truth, these pseudohistorical explanations clarify nothing. They
only attest to our penchant for privileging racial explanations over other
kinds of explanation (literary, aesthetic, philosophical, psychoanalytic,
etc.). Here also, we should ask why we think we have understood a text when
we have converted it from one set of symbols (its own) into another (our
own). We should ask why race is the fiction that in our time we grant
immediate reality such that when we have identified MBh characters with
tribes or communities, we think we know what *really *happened or the
*real *underlying event that was blown up into “mythic” proportions. (From
this also arises the notion that Indians lack a historical sense; what we
really mean is that they don’t possess history in our specific sense of a
racial narrative.) This also applies to Indian scholars such as Irawati
Karve, for whom the “myth” of the burning of the Khāṇḍava Forest is
“really” about Aryan invasion and land-clearing. Incidentally, Irawati
Karve received her PhD under the infamous Eugen Fischer of the
*Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut
für Anthropologie, menschliche Erblehre und Eugenik *so these connections
of how racial discourse entered South Asian studies can be quite easily
traced.



Regards,

Joydeep
Dr. Joydeep Bagchee
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Academia.edu Homepage <https://fu-berlin.academia.edu/JoydeepBagchee>

The Nay Science
<http://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-nay-science-9780199931361;jsessionid=94DFF6B197750DBE7C7E64A4FB8B28D2?cc=de&lang=en&>
Argument and Design
<http://www.brill.com/products/book/argument-and-design-unity-mahabharata>
Reading the Fifth Veda <http://www.brill.com/reading-fifth-veda>
When the Goddess Was a Woman <http://www.brill.com/when-goddess-was-woman>
Transcultural Encounters between Germany and India
<http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415844697/>
German Indology on OBO Hinduism
<http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780195399318/obo-9780195399318-0147.xml>
___________________
What, then, is Philosophy?
Philosophy is the supremely precious.

Plotinus, Enneads I.III.5


On Thu, Oct 25, 2018 at 1:48 PM Artur Karp via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> Dear All,
>
> A, perhaps, simplistic explanation for the unexpected textual appearance
> of Draupadi’s polyandrous marriage - quite unknown to the earlier strata of
> the epic.
>
>
>
> To my mind – a bit of cultural politics, at work. Surrounding inclusions
> of new economically important tribal territories in the realm of the
> 'Aryas'.
>
>
>
> The need to show to its fresh members that they do belong – despite some
> of their outlandish customs. The need to demonstrate that we, the 'Aryas',
> also share them - the example of one of them, of polyandrous union, is
> certainly to be found in our great epic. And, considering the status of its
> participants, it is given a properly high prestige.
>
>
> Regards, etc.,
>
>
> Artur Karp (ret.)
>
> Chair of South Asian Studies,
>
> University of Warsaw
>
> Poland
>
>
>
> 2018-10-25 13:51 GMT+02:00 Simon Brodbeck via INDOLOGY <
> indology at list.indology.info>:
>
>> Dear Professor Houben,
>>
>>
>>
>> In this connection there is a book by Sarva Daman Singh entitled *Polyandry
>> in Ancient India* (Motilal Banarsidass, 1978). There are also some
>> enthological comments on the last few pages of A. N. Jani’s paper
>> (“Socio-Moral Implications of Draupadi’s Marriage to Five Husbands”) in
>> Bimal Krishna Matilal, ed., *Moral Dilemmas in the Mahabharata* (Indian
>> Institute of Advanced Study / Motilal Banarsidass, 1989).
>>
>>
>>
>> After the Pandavas have already decided they will all marry Draupadi, the
>> link from this particular polyandric marriage to other such marriages is
>> apparently made by Yudhishthira, in amongst a battery of other explanations
>> for it, when he addresses Drupada at Mbh 1.187.28cd: *pUrveSAm
>> AnupUrvyeNa yAtaM vartmAnuyAmahe* (“We follow one after the other the
>> path that was travelled by the Ancient”, trans. van Buitenen). In
>> context this is a general comment on what one can do given the subtlety of *
>> dharma*: the previous line reads *sUkSmo dharmo mahArAja nAsya vidmo
>> vayaM gatim* (“The law is subtle, great king, and we do not know its
>> course”). But the comment can be taken to imply polyandric precedents.
>> Drupada seems to deny that there are precedents (or at least respectable
>> ones) when he says to Vyasa: *na cApy AcaritaH pUrvair ayaM dharmo
>> mahAtmabhiH* (“Nor has this Law been practiced by the Ancient of great
>> spirits”, Mbh 1.188.8ab). But Yudhishthira then gives the example (*zrUyate
>> hi purANe 'pi*) of Jatila Gautami who “lay with the Seven Seers” (Mbh
>> 1.188.14). Jatila as Draupadi’s precursor in this regard is mentioned also
>> by the women of Hastinapura at Mbh 12.39.5. But this precursor is evidently
>> in the realm of distant mythology, not the realm of contemporaneous
>> practice.
>>
>>
>>
>> Simon Brodbeck
>>
>> Cardiff University
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> *From:* INDOLOGY [mailto:indology-bounces at list.indology.info] *On Behalf
>> Of *Jan E.M. Houben via INDOLOGY
>> *Sent:* 24 October 2018 21:59
>> *To:* Indology <indology at list.indology.info>
>> *Subject:* [INDOLOGY] Draupadii and polyandry
>>
>>
>>
>> Dear All,
>>
>> According to the Vedic Index of A.A. Macdonell and A.B. Keith, vol. I p.
>> 479, "polyandry is not Vedic" (with obligatory references to extremely
>> sporadic exceptions such as in the RV "wedding hymn"). Then in the
>> Mahabharata there is suddenly the major character of Draupadii/Krsnaa
>> marrying all five Pandava brothers. I am aware of the two volumes of Alf
>> Hiltebeitel which are an excellent ethnographic study of the Draupadii cult
>> in South India. However, what are currently the most important philological
>> studies of the background of this character and of polyandry itself in late
>> Vedic, post Vedic and epic/Puranic texts? Apart from purely/mainly
>> structuralist approaches (Biardeau), I would be interested in explorations
>> of whether the problematic presence of polyandry in the Mahabharata and
>> elsewhere may imply a reference to contemporaneous (Mahabharata time)
>> practices (just as the reference to Nagas burnt in the Khandava forest was
>> taken as more than just an element needed in the narrative: it would also
>> have been a reference to forest tribes and conflicting modes of resource
>> use acc. to Irawati Karve and to Gadgil & Guha).
>>
>> With best regards,
>>
>> Jan Houben
>>
>> --
>>
>> *Jan E.M. Houben*
>>
>> Directeur d'Études, Professor of South Asian History and Philology
>>
>> *Sources et histoire de la tradition sanskrite*
>>
>> École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE, PSL - Université Paris)
>>
>> *Sciences historiques et philologiques *
>>
>> 54, rue Saint-Jacques, CS 20525 – 75005 Paris
>>
>> *johannes.houben at ephe.sorbonne.fr <johannes.houben at ephe.sorbonne.fr>*
>>
>> *johannes.houben at ephe.psl.eu <johannes.houben at ephe.psl.eu>*
>>
>> *https://ephe-sorbonne.academia.edu/JanEMHouben
>> <https://ephe-sorbonne.academia.edu/JanEMHouben>*
>>
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