Types of Indology

Dr Y. Vassilkov iiasguest10 at RULLET.LEIDENUNIV.NL
Fri Oct 27 09:04:07 UTC 2000

On Thu, 26 October 2000 Professor Mishra wrote:

>  You have to distinguish between religious fanatics
> and traditional scholars.  That Mahabharata had anything to do with
> mythical Ganesha is religion.  That its writer was Vyasa is
> admiration of scholarship.  To identify who was vyasa or how many vyasas
> existed can be modern.

As it seems to me, for a true traditional (religious) scholar both Ganesha
and Vyasa are real figures in equal measure. To look for any traces of Vyasa
as a historical figure would be a kind of modernistic trend, but still in
the frame of traditional scholarship. For a modern scholar, who is aquainted
with similar images in other epic traditions, like Homer and others, Vyasa
is a legendary or symbolic figure, until the opposite view is proven.

>  Since none of us has been as
> creative as the writers of classical texts, we cannot honestly
> fathom if Ganesha or Kali was involved.  Scriptural writing is
> very different than scientific writing.  The imagination in
> scriptures is fanciful and occasionally extra-human.  That men/women
> were able to write such material makes you think of extra attributes.
> Do try to write a five page poem and post!  Then empirically
> examine the efforts involved..

Yes, you are quite right. I think it will take a lot of effort from me, or
you, to write five pages of modern, written poetry. But it would be quite
different, if anyone of us had lived for years in the milieu, in which
Sanskrit epic poetry existed orally; if you or me, being still young, with
fresh memory, studied for months or years traditional repertoiry of
formulaic endings of the pada-s, popular formulaic expressions with theis
numerous possible variations, some "pure formulas" - and so on, and so on.
After such training you, or me, would be able to improvise oral epic poetry
on traditional subjects for many hours and many days. And acc. to modern
scholarship, the most part of the Mahabharata was created precisely in this
way. It was the text improvised at every performance; the bards could sing
in this way, according to some scholarly calculations,  about 900 shlokas
per day!
    No wonder that in any ancient culture the art of an oral poet, the art
of improvisation was considered a supernatural, "extra human" gift. In a way
poetic inspiration, creative improvisation really has something mysterious
in it. No wonder, that people's admiration of this sacred gift found its
expression in special images of legendary, divinely inspired poets: in the
Mbh they are sUta SaMjaya with his dIvyacakSus, and (in the later Epic
layer) VyAsa with his his Vedic authority.
    That is how I see it, though I am ready to discuss any other point of
view if it is not just a guess, made in passing, but could be supported with
solid arguments.
    Best regards,

Yaroslav Vassilkov

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list