The first nine articles look for parallels and comparisons between Sanskrit epic texts and Vedic or Upanisadic texts, or even the Greek epic tradition, or between different layers and passages of the Sanskrit epics. They explore individual expressions and concepts, particular themes, text passages in context, text history or literary history.
The next group of five articles look for parallels and comparisons in different Puranic and epic texts, within the framework of an interrelated tradition of Puranic texts, again sometimes even reaching beyond the boundaries of the Indian tradition.
The last six ariticles discuss parallels between the Puranic and Tantric texts, between Hindu and Buddhist text, between Hindu and Jaina texts, and Finally between Sanskrit literary themes and modern themes in vernacular languages.
The twenty articles published in this volume approach the topic from different viewpoints of their authors.
Muneo Tokunaga has looked for all occurrences of the term itihasa in the Mahabharata and has found that single itihasas are in the great majority of cases intro-duced as examples corroborating some moral or legal injunction or philosophical or religious instruction. He sees the origin of itihasas in the arthavadas of the Brahma-gas, and traces the formula of introduction atrapi udaharanti back to the Grhya-sutras, and forward to the Nyaya concept of udaharana. Thus he has explained the function of the itihasas in a surprisingly new light, although in a philologically and statistically on well grounded way that one wonders why nobody had brought the facts together in such way before. We can add that this function of itihasas as udaharana could be compared with that of the paradeigmata and exempla in the works of ancient orators and Christian preachers and poets.
The 4th DICSEP conference hosted papers that explored the subject of Parallels and Comparisons, a title both specific and broad, one beautifully encapsulating the methodologies that have preoccupied Western Indology since it began as an intellectual discipline. All previous DICSEP conferences have underscored this preoccu-pation and all areas of Indian literary studies are characterized, explicitly or not, by a search for parallels and the implications that follow from the discovery of such. However parallels might be understood in a theoretical sense they are not simply an analytical problem; they are the foundations of a methodology that has become an unstated generic feature of Indological analysis. By this I mean that textual, literary and thematic analysis seem dominated by the search for parallel texts in every possible dimension of the word. Scholars are seemingly in a constant search for parallels, which when they are found are subject to intense scrutiny for similarity, identity, difference and contradiction.
Parallels obviously invite comparisons, the second leitmotiv for the conference. They need not necessarily give rise tee this in themselves as the sustained repetition of a theme in a particular text or genre can simply be accepted as a sign of emphasis or it can signal that it is a generic condition of that particular text. Yet in Indological research and in the present volume parallels are habitually compared, as much for themselves in relation tee other related parallel passages, as for an exploration of the immediate contexts in which they occur. Scholars naturally gravitate tee similarities because the very nature of repetition implied by similarities gives weight to the view that the ideas being communicated in passages of similar content carry important cultural significance, much more so than if they simply occur once. Passages of close. but not exact, literal repetition may even be more enticing as they imply deliberate selection and placement in a new text. In such cases contextual study can be extremely valuable in understanding the motives of indigenous interpreters in taking up such passages and mark them out as being of heightened cultural significance.
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