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Into the Twilight of Sanskrit Court Poetry

The Sena Salon of Bengal and Beyond

Jesse Ross Knutson

Publication Year: 2014

At the turn of the twelfth-century into the thirteenth, at the court of King Laksmanasena of Bengal, Sanskrit poetry showed profound and sudden changes: a new social scope made its definitive entrance into high literature.  Courtly and pastoral, rural and urban, cosmopolitan and vernacular, confronted each other in a commingling of high and low styles. A literary salon in what is now Bangladesh, at the eastern extreme of the nexus of regional courtly cultures that defined the age, seems to have implicitly reformulated its entire literary system in the context of the imminent breakdown of the old courtly world, as Turkish power expanded and redefined the landscape.  Through close readings of a little known corpus of texts from eastern India, this ambitious book demonstrates how a local and rural sensibility came to infuse the cosmopolitan language of Sanskrit, creating a regional literary idiom founded on a cosmopolitan-local dialectic that would define the emergence of the Bengali language and its literary traditions; in intimate relationship to both courtly Sanskrit and some kind of uncanny otherness.

Published by: University of California Press


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Title Page, Further Reading, Copyright, Dedication

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Table of Contents

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pp. ix-x

For endless love and support I thank Nandini Chandra, and my teacher, dear friend, confidante, and surrogate mother, Minati Kar. Yigal Bronner read my dissertation with such dedication and profound engagement with every word that the present book really owes its birth to...

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pp. 1-16

At the turn of the twelfth century into the thirteenth, at the court of King Lakṣmaṇasena of Bengal, Sanskrit poetry showed profound and sudden changes: a new social scope made its definitive entrance into high literature. Courtly and pastoral, rural and urban, cosmopolitan and vernacular...

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1. The Political Poetic of the Sena Court

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pp. 17-46

What was said about life in Sanskrit verse constituted a central fact of life; it referenced itself to lived reality even as it made itself a lived reality. Sanskrit kāvya, in anthology and epigraphy as well as in hosts of individual masterpieces, articulated as it was articulated by the ruling dynasties of...

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2. Poetic Antigravity: Govardhana’s Āryāsaptaśatī

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pp. 47-71

Poetry at the sena court was both similar and different, continuous and discontinuous with earlier modes of literary practice. Govardhana— perhaps more than any other poet of this salon—displays discontinuity in the greatest relief. He also craft s a dazzling new metapoetic frame for it. He...

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3. The Vernacular Cosmopolitan: Jayadeva’s Gītagovinda

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pp. 72-88

Jayadeva's Gītagovinda, Govinda [i.e., KṚṢṆA] in song, is an exceptional work of Sanskrit literature, in the dual sense of being uniquely celebrated and simply unique. The poem is a new genre unto itself, and for its time, almost unique in being so; it emerges in the medieval period twofold...

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4. Vulgar Kāvya: Badu Candīdās's Śrīkrsnakīrttana

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pp. 89 -114

The Śrīkṛşṇakīrttana lies in one sense on the fringes of the literary. The work’s simple and repetitive songs betray its context of oral village performance, as does its extreme frankness about sexuality. Its language is local and colloquial, clearly related to the spoken dialect of the region where...

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Conclusion: The Tropography of the Sena World

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pp. 115-124

I have attempted to trace the topography of a literary territory. The outline was not totally unknown, although we may have modified its boundaries slightly by suggesting the Sena salon outlived itself to some extent in the medieval world of Baḍu Caṇḍīdās, or by finding previously ignored...

Appendix A. The Complete Verses Attributed to the Sena Kings

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pp. 125-132

Appendix B. The Complete Verses Attributed to Govardhana (Not Found in the Āryāsaptaśatī)

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pp. 133-136

Appendix C. The Complete Verses Attributed to Jayadeva (Not found in the Gītagovinda)

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pp. 137-146

Appendix D. Gītagovinda-Śrīkrsnakīrttana Correspondences

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pp. 147-154


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pp. 155-194


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pp. 195-206


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pp. 207-210

Series Page

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E-ISBN-13: 9780520957794
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520282056

Page Count: 217
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 871860617
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Into the Twilight of Sanskrit Court Poetry

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Sanskrit poetry -- History and criticism.
  • Poetics -- History -- To 1500.
  • Bengal (India) -- Intellectual life.
  • Bengal (India) -- Court and courtiers.
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