from Jaina Citra Kalpadruma, plate 36


week 1

Literary Beginnings [Discussion]

We will find our orientation in South Asian literary traditions by looking at what participants in these traditions themselves understood “literature” to be, including its origins, its defining characteristics, and its parameters.

Note that the discussion question is due before class on Thursday rather than Tuesday.


  • for Tuesday (9/28): Nothing!
  • for Thursday (9/30):
    • Selections from Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇam (trans. Goldman) [Canvas]
    • Selections from Rājaśēkhara’s Investigation of Literature (Kāvyamīmāṁsā) of Rājaśēkhara (trans. Pollock) [Canvas]
    • Selections from Nakkīraṉār’s urai (commentary) on Iṟaiyaṉār Akapporuḷ (trans. Buck and Paramasivan) [Canvas]


week 2

Early Tamil Poetry [Discussion]

Selections from the Short Collection (Kuṟuntokai) and Four Hundred Outer Poems (Puṟanāṉūṟu)

We turn to some of the earliest poetry available from South Asia: the poems collected into anthologies and attributed to the Tamil “academy” (caṅkam) of the ancient past.


  • for Tuesday (10/5): The ten poems from the Kuṟuntokai in the selections packet. You will notice that these poems (translated by A. K. Ramanujan, George Hart, and Martha Selby) are followed by a page from Eva Wilden’s critical edition and translation, which contains the Tamil text and a word-by-word gloss. Please feel free to ignore these pages, although we will discuss them in class. Alternatively, feel free to touch on the differences in the translation in your reactions.
  • for Thursday (10/7): The eight poems from the Puṟanāṉūṟu in the selections packet.


week 3

Prakrit Poetry [Discussion]

The Seven Centuries (Sattasaī) by Hāla

We move north, into the Deccan, where we read single-verse poems in Prakrit, collected into an anthology by Hāla.


  • for Tuesday (10/12):
    • selections from Hāla, Seven Centuries (I have selected 47 poems that were translated by Peter Khoroche and Herman Tieken)
  • for Thursday (10/14): We will continue our discussion of Seven Centuries.


week 4

Buddhist and Jain Stories [Discussion]

Stories of the Buddha’s Past Lives (Jātakamālā) by Haribhaṭṭa and Kuvalayamālā (Kuvalayamālā) by Uddyōtana

We will look at one collection of stories, in Sanskrit, about the Buddha’s past lives (or jātakas), by Haribhaṭṭa, as well as a much longer story (arguably a “novel”) by the Jain monk Uddyōtana, which has many other sub-stories. Uddyōtana’s work is composed in Prakrit. Both sets of selections are overt about teaching religious lessons through the stories.



  • Khoroche’s “Introduction” to his translation of Haribhaṭṭa [Canvas]
  • Chojnacki’s “Introduction” to her translation of Uddyōtana [Canvas]
week 5

Sanskrit Poetry (Small) [Discussion]

Selected poems by Bhartr̥hari, Amaru, Bāṇa, Dharmakīrti, Vidyā, and “Bilhaṇa”

Note that I will be adding to this packet very soon. Please check back.

This week will be a “greatest hits” of single-verse poems in Sanskrit, most probably composed in the sixth to eighth centuries CE.


  • for Tuesday (10/19): Owen and Pollock, “Lyric, Like and Unlike” [Canvas] and the selections on Canvas. [The packet contains translations of the poets Bāṇa, Dharmakīrti, Bhartr̥hari, Amaru, “Bilhaṇa,” and Vidyā, by Daniel H. H. Ingalls, Barbara Stoler Miller, John Brough, and myself.]
  • for Thursday (10/21): We will continue reading the selections from Tuesday.


week 6

The Tamil Epic [Discussion]

The Tale of an Anklet (Cilappatikāram) by Ilaṅkō Aṭikaḷ

We will be reading most of the text (excluding the final Book of Vañci) in R. Parthasarathy’s 1993 translation. Please note that Parthasarathy’s introduction and glossary are available as well; his long postscript is also a recommended reading for this week.



week 7

The Stage-Play (Nāṭakam) [Discussion]

Rāma’s Last Act (Uttararāmacaritam) by Bhavabhūti

We will read Bhavabhūti’s play in its entirety. Please consult the slides prior to reading the text. The suggested readings below will also help to contextualize the play.


  • for Tuesday (11/9): Bhavabhūti, Rāma’s Last Act, Acts I, II, and III (Pollock trans. pp. 64–231)
  • for Thursday (11/11): Acts IV, V, VI, and VII (Pollock trans. pp. 233–389)


week 8

Sanskrit [and Javanese] Poetry (Large) [Discussion]

Selections from The Dynasty of Raghu (Raghuvaṁśaḥ) by Kālidāsa and Death by a Flower (Sumanasāntaka) by Mpu Mōnaguṇa

This week we look at a genre called the “great poem” (mahākāvyam), with specimens in both Sanskrit and Javanese.


  • for Tuesday (11/16): Kālidāsa, The Dynasty of Raghu, cantos 5–8 (Haksar trans. pp. 75–145)
  • for Thursday (11/18): Mpu Mōnaguṇa, Death by a Flower, 102.2–110.2 (pp. 276–289), 127.1–130.3 (pp. 318–323), 164.1–170.17 (pp. 406–423) (Worsley and Supomo translation)


week 9

The Sanskrit Novel [Discussion]

What Ten Young Men Did (Daśakumāracaritam) by Daṇḍin

Note that the notes and glossary of Isabelle Onians’ translation are also available.