It is not only pleasure but great honour to write on this remarkable work of the genius of India's people. Thought known or very long time and being a subject for researches of quite a few scholars the Kathasaritsagara still stays as one of the most difficult riddles in the history of early mediaeval literature of the people of India. Somadeva's work itself is a symbol of continuity of literary process in India, as it stems from the rather mysterious Brihat Katha of Gunadhya. Materials concerning Brihat Katha and its later versions are pretty well known. One may refer to find them in famous works of A. B. Keith, M. Winternitz, F. Lacote, S. K. De and many others.
The Kathasaritsagara was translated a number of times in European languages in portions but so far there was only one translation whole work and this is famous translation by C. H. Tawney originally published by Asiatic Society of Bengal and later edited with extensive notes and comments by N. M. Penzer. Both editions are or a long time out of print and became a real bibliographical rarity. Quite a long time necessity of new edition was felt and Messrs Munshiram Manoharlal have to be congratulated and thanked by every indologist and connoisseure of literature for bringing a new edition of C. H. Tawney's translation.
The latest decades have shown very rapid progress in research work almost in every field of Indology. But it has to be stated that certain traditions still are prevailing and some works of ancient and mediaeval authors still do not get attention they deserve, among them one may name the Kathasaritsagara. it goes without saying that works of H. Brokhaus, F. Lacote, N. M. Penzer and some other authors laid necessary foundations for further research, but since then the work which was done in different fields of Indology allows us to reassess importance of Somadeva's work and its meaning not only for indological research but also for contemporaneity. I would like to mark such an interesting undertaking as new publication of The Kathasaritsagara which was started by the Bihar Rashtra Bhasha Parishad, two volumes of which already have come out.
Indisputable is a magnificent contribution of people of India to the world culture and literature and research in this sphere, as well as acquaintance with achievements of Indian culture and literature enrich intellectual life of other peoples as well acquaintance with cultural heritage and contemporary culture and literature of other peoples enriches-intellectual world of an Indian. There is none most reliable media of such mutually beneficial cultural exchange and this media is translation.
There are different approaches to the problem of translation. One may prefer literal translation in which quality of art is hopelessly lost but certain appearance of "Scientific translation" comes in to the picture; another may prefer such method of translation which transfer the very subject and personae dramatis into alien surrounding or the "art's sake". There can be another method of translation, according which plot, style and imagery created by an author in atmosphere of his epoch, language and social environment are being transferred by a translator, belonging to another historical epoch, in atmosphere of his language, making ideas problems, values of life, imagery, style of a certain alien author, near and understandable to compatriots of a translator brings the best results. Though already more than eighty years passed since C. H. Tawney's translation was published it is still alive and quite readable because the translator followed above mentioned method.
Many attempts were done so far to find out historical authencity of some heroes and events in The Kathasaritsagara. But as well deal here with a work of art we are bound to have in view that life was reflected in this work not as in the mirror of history but through poet's imagery. The Kathasaritsagara deals not so much with concrete historical events but with problems and processes of life, not so much with concrete historical personalities but mostly with concrete types of people, specific to the time and country in which Somadeva lived. Kalhana was a historian, Somadeva was an artist. But as he in his remarkable work reflected life of his time we are in all earnest right to look for a real historical landscape in his work. We are very much helped by author himself who inspite of certain literary traditions, already canonized in his time selected the way of "Auchitya", the way of realistic imagery, so eloquently propounded by his predecessor famous poet and theoretician of literature Kshemendra "Auchitya Vichara Charcha" Concept of "Auchitya' the way of realistic imagery, so eloquently propounded by his predecessor famous poet and theoretician of literature Kshemendra "Auchitya Vichara Charcha". Concept of "Auchitya" was really bold attempt to put development of literature on the broad highway of realism. Of course, the narrative itself is centered around stories about Udayana and Naravahanadatta and has definitely airy tale-like mythological character, but within this frame we find wonderful pictures of every day life of the then India. Objection can be made that Somadeva himself said that he was true to his source-original text of Gunadhya's Brihat Brihat Katha. Here no contradiction exists-it is quite possible that he based himself on original text of Brihat Katha and while doing so Somadeva reflected in number of stories life of contemporary society. One of the most important contributions of Somadeva to the literature is that he collected and presented to us in his work more than 350 stories-fairy tales, novels, shortstories, fables anecdotes etc which were current among the people. He gave them brilliant form, with full sense of "Auchitya" and also the appropiate literary dress. In stories of Udayana and Naravahanadatta his style goes up to the heights of best examples of Mahakavya, in "Vetala Panchvinshati and "Panchatantra" his styles is very simple and lucid and in case of anecdotes it becomes some time even primitive. His mastery in style, imagery and plot was prepared by the whole preceding development of literatures of peoples of India, and in certain sense The Kathasaritsagara may be viewed as sum total of preceding development. From the literary point of view The Katha-sarit-sagara is real embodiment of the best achievements of the art of literature in early mediaeval India.
What was said above does not diminish works of Somadeva's predecessors Buddhaswamin and Kshemendra. They had put before themselves quite different aims. Buddhaswamin actually wrote a novel on Naravahanadatta and Kshemendra whole Brhatkathamanjari as it seems to me is underestimated as it was usually treated from point of view of fullness of his narrative. If we shall see Brhatkathamanjari in context of whole creative heritage of Kshemendra then we may come to correct assessment of his work.
Fifteen years will pass and we shall mark ninth centenary of the Kathasaritsagara. I allow myself to express hope that within this period new and new works on The Katha-sarit-sagra will appear, translations of this remarkable work of genius will come out in many other languages. Let the present publication of C. H. Tawney's translation become starting point for this work and let joint efforts of Indian Scholars and their colleagues in other countries contribute to disclosure of secrets of The Kathasaritsagara and to popularize it among the people.
From the Jacket :
Somadeva's Katha Sarit Sagara or Ocean of the Streams of Story is a work of early medieval literature. The work itself is a symbol of continuity of literary process, as it stems from the rather mysterious Brihat Katha of Gunadhya.
The Katha Sarit Sagara deals not so much with concrete historical events but with problems and processes of life, not so much with concrete historical personalities but mostly with concrete types of people, specific to the time in which Somadeva lived. But as he in his remarkable work reflected life of his time, we are in all earnest right to look for a real historical landscape in his work. We are very much helped by author himself who inspite of certain literary traditions, already canonized in his time, selected the way of Auchitya, the way of realistic imagery, so eloquently propounded by his predecessors.
Somadeva collected and presented to us in this work more than 350 stories fairy tales, novels, short stories, fables, anecdotes etc., which were current among the people. He gave them brilliant form with full sense of Auchitya and also the appropriate dress. And from the literary point of view the Katha Sarit Sagara is real embodiment of the best achievements of the art and literature in early medieval India.
About the Author :
Charles Henry Tawney, Born 1837; Son of Rev. Richard Tawney: educated at Rugby and Trinity College, Cambridge: Scholar: Seniro Classic, 1860: Fellow of Trinity College, 1860: for many years Professor and President of the Presidency College, Calcutta, and Registrar of the Calcutta University: officiated thrice as Director of Public Instruction, Bengal: author of several translations from the Sanskrit: C.I.E.: Librarian of the Indian Office: retired 1903.
Your email address will not be published *
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend