pots, brahmin names, and potters

Georg von Simson g.v.simson at EAST.UIO.NO
Mon Dec 21 10:03:35 UTC 1998

Artur Karp wrote (I quote only part of his message):

>I wish I could hear the word "bhArgava" as it was pronounced in the
>original context. Wouldn't it have ironical undertones? Similar to those
>that usually accompany some of the above high-falutin 'courtly titles'? Or
>like these produced by the narrator's sudden shift from the simple
>kumbhakArasya zAlAyAM (potter's compound) to pompous bhArgavavezma
>(BhRguid's abode)? And then on to funny bhArgavakarmazAlAM (BhRguid's
>It's clear that heroic epithets cannot be always treated literally. Their
>character points oftentimes to a conscious use of irony - especially if
>they are found out of heroic context. Whenever such accents are lost in the
>process of translation, we as the readers cannot see the narrator giving us
>the wink - as if telling us: "look, these are pretensions, appearances,
>disguises - but this here is reality".
I doubt very much that this is a valid method of interpreting the text of
the Mahabharata. Irony is a rhetorical device, and we may expect to find it
sometimes in the dialogues, which are often of a polemical character. But
does the narrator himself ever use irony in the narrative parts of the
story? Please give convincing examples! Heroic epithets out of context can
be explained as a feature of the formulaic style of (originally) oral
composition and not as examples of irony, I would say.

Best regards,

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