The VirAdha Episode

Artur Karp karp at UW.EDU.PL
Mon Nov 21 19:07:30 UTC 2011

Dear Prof. Goldman,

Your call for - let me call it so - interpretative caution is more
than justified.

But there are, however, several buts here. As I understand, the role
of such discussion lists as the one in which we participate consists
in just what their name suggest - in presenting tentative ideas, and,
hopefully, their further discussion.

When I began the thread on Viradha and the black anti-rakshas PR, I
ended the last sentence with a question mark. A clear signal that I am
ready to accept any well reasoned argument contra.

Now, I am not personally convinced that we should dismiss out of hand
as not-so-important mentions of cultural terms, such as antaka, just
because they seem to belong to the inventory of epic formulas and, as
you put it, are  "a standard and even cliched simile in the epic for a
fearsome warrior or adversary". It is exactly here, where I would also
call for caution. And, as an avid reader of the original text, would
advise to look closely at the context in which the given term is used.
Viradha episode is located in the context of Meeting, Meeting the
Other, and that is exactly what makes it so interesting, even

Risking that I wouldn't deserve a cigar, I heartily disagree with your
dismissive "Perhaps sometimes numbers are just that, numbers.". But
no, let me correct myself. There are two key words in this sentence:
"perhaps" and "sometimes". I take it then that you believe that in
some instances numbers might not be "just that, numbers"? To my mind,
since the Viradha episode is exceptional, several numbers inserted
there by Valmiki require close attention, quite possibly much closer
than the numbers mentioned in the episodes of War.

You end your message on a realistically pessimistic note.  "If we are
to read each of these numbers as coded references to metaphysical or
cosmological concepts there would never be an end of it."

Do you believe there should "be an end to it"?

With highest regards,

Artur Karp

Senior Lecturer in Sanskrit, Pali, Indian History (ret.)
South Asian Studies Deptt.
University of Warsaw

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