Dialogue in Early South Asian Religions
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Dialogue in Early South Asian Religions

Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain Traditions

Brian Black, Laurie Patton, Brian Black, Laurie Patton

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eBook - ePub

Dialogue in Early South Asian Religions

Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain Traditions

Brian Black, Laurie Patton, Brian Black, Laurie Patton

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About This Book

Dialogue between characters is an important feature of South Asian religious literature: entire narratives are often presented as a dialogue between two or more individuals, or the narrative or discourse is presented as a series of embedded conversations from different times and places. Including some of the most established scholars of South Asian religious texts, this book examines the use of dialogue in early South Asian texts with an interdisciplinary approach that crosses traditional boundaries between religious traditions. The contributors shed new light on the cultural ideas and practices within religious traditions, as well as presenting an understanding of a range of dynamics - from hostile and competitive to engaged and collaborative. This book is the first to explore the literary dimensions of dialogue in South Asian religious sources, helping to reframe the study of other literary traditions around the world.

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Information

Publisher
Routledge
Year
2016
ISBN
9781317151418
PART I
Dialogues Inside and Outside the Texts

Chapter 1
The Frogs Have Raised Their Voice:
Images
g Veda 7.103 as a Poetic Contemplation of Dialogue

Laurie Patton

First Thoughts

What does it mean to think about frogs in conversation with each other? Other chapters in this volume will address specific examples of actual dialogues in early and medieval India and contemplate their force. Are such dialogues the dramatic enforcers of doctrine? Are they ways of making us sit up and listen better to narratives? Are they modes of establishing religious authority? This chapter will begin at a slightly more microscopic level, and look at concrete imagery for dialogue in a single Vedic hymn about frogs that has puzzled, amused, and vexed Vedic interpreters both Western and Indian.
In ancient India,
Images
g Veda
(RV) 7.103 compares the croaking of frogs to brahmins, lowing cows, and fathers and sons learning together. Later commentators, both Indian and Western, write that the hymn is designed to produce rain. The animal imagery has been the major focus of its scholarly analysis, and relatedly the vexing question of how animals, in this particular case, frogs ‘mean’ something in the hymn. Is the hymn (sūkta), and the presence of frogs, a satire? Is it another form of humour? Is it ‘magico-religious?’ Is it a serious invocation of natural images which are a particularly effective form of metonymic thought?
In what follows, I argue that
Images
g Veda
7.103 might productively be read holistically as a poetic commentary on the nature of Vedic dialogue and the development of voice. Its imagery is rich with multiple examples of conversations between characters. Even if those conversations are not enacted, references to them act as powerful constructions, which create links between the dialogical process of the sacrifice and that of the natural world. These connections could be read as a concrete, condensed, poetic means of drawing attention to the fact of dialogue in its own right.
What might I mean by a commentary on dialogue? Some comparative points might be helpful here. Many other more well-known hymns of the
Images
g Veda
are understood by later texts and commentators to be in the actual form of dialogue, such as the conversation between Agastya and Lopāmudrā; Saramā and the Pa
Images
is; or Indra and Agni. While I will discuss the various approaches to the dialogical hymns below, the details of their structure all involve speaking parts.
In the Agastya and Lopāmudrā hymn (RV 10.79), commentators suggest that the verses are spoken in turn between Agastya and his wife, Lopāmudrā. They are understood as a dialogue about the nature of reproduction vs. asceticism, with Lopāmudrā arguing for progeny and Agastya arguing for asceticism. In a concluding verse (the speaker of which is a matter of disagreement among commentators), the argument is ‘sealed’ with a statement that one can do both things – literally, ‘have it both ways’.
The dialogue between Saramā and the Pa
Images
is (RV 10.108) occurs in the midst of a narrative told extensively in later texts. The Pa
Images
is are demons who have stolen the A
Images
giras’ cows and have hidden them in caves. The gods and sages, in an attempt to get the cows back, ask the dog Saramā to pursue the cows, and she confronts the Pa
Images
is at the cows’ hiding place. The dialogue in RV 10.108 is a conversation between the dog and the demons, with the dog Saramā trying to dispel the demons and the demons trying to dissuade and then tempt Saramā with their words.
The many dialogical hymns concerning Indra involve different themes. In one (RV 10.124), Indra attempts to win Agni back from where he is hiding inside his father, an Asura, or enemy of the gods. In another (RV 10.28), Indra scolds his son, the sacrificer, for being too arrogant and hasty in his offerings. In one of the most complex hymns of the
Images
g Veda
(10.86), Indra and his wife engage in sexual banter with the monkey V
Images
Images
ākapi and his wife – banter which also contains discussions of appropriate offerings for Indra and his relative prowess in the sacrificial arena.
In contrast to these hymns, the commentators give no ‘assigned parts’ to the frog hymn of RV 7.103 as they do in t...

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