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Compartmentalization and Clustering of Words for Woman and the Role of S in the

Portrayal of Women in Sanskrit Court Poetry

Author(s): Kenneth Langer
Source: Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 101, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 1981), pp.
Published by: American Oriental Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/601758
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This paper attempts to illustrate various effects achieved through a careful choice of words for
woman. The following topics are considered: 1) compartmentalization of words for woman, i.e.,
the use of a distinct set of words for the heroine and another for all other females, 2) the
suggestive value of words for woman, 3) the dynamics of long clusters of epithets, especially as

these words demarcate various stages in the life of a heroine, and 4) the employment of s6 to
further the mood of wonder and reverence in the idealized portrayal of women. Works discussed

are: MeghadCita, Kurnirasamnbhava, Taghuvamnsa, GTtagovtnda, and selected poems from

various traditional anthologies.


while unmarked numbers indicate instances of words

thets for woman which may be considered synonymous,

which designate women other than the wife of Kubera's

it is possible to show that Sanskrit poets carefully com-

banished servant. The entire referential scope3 of each

partmentalized these words in order to help distinguish

the heroine from less important women. In assigning

word is summarized in the far right-hand column.

Thus each word may fall into one of the following five

certain words to the central female and others to all

categories: 1) words which denote the yaksi alone (all

women of less significance, classical poets empha-

words followed only by asterisked numbers), 2) words

sized the unique status of their heroines. Such com-

which refer to the 'aksJ in one or more verses and, in

partmentalization assured that the connotations which

one or more other verses, to groups of women, including the vaksl (represented by asterisked numbers and
numbers enclosed in parentheses), 3) words which on/v

accrue to words through their application to one group

of women, i.e., all women peripheral to the central
female, did not become associated with another

indicate women in general, including the vaksT (words

followed only by numbers set off by parentheses),
4) words denoting both women, including the vaksT,

"group," i.e. the heroine(s).

Let us first consider the Meghaduita. In order to

discover how Kaliddsa emphasized the unique and

and, women excluding the yaksT (words followed by

separate status of the wife of the banished ivaksa, it is

word for woman (listed below) encountered in this

numbers in parentheses and unmarked numbers), and

5) words which consistently refer to women other than
the XaksT (all words followed on/v by unmarked

lyric poem.' To the right of each word appear numbers


necessary to examine the referential scope of each

corresponding to the verses in which the particular

word is found. The enumeration of verses in the edition




used2 ends with verse 66 and then begins again,

dividing the poem into two halves; numbers after "P"

ahgana P: (9), 14, 28/ U: (27) ........... 4

belong to the puirvaniegha, those following "U" to the

abala P:2*/U:33*, (39), 41* ........... 2

uttaramegha. Asterisked numbers refer to instances in

avidhava U:39* ...................... 1

which the i'aksT is designated, numbers enclosed in

asitanayana U:52* ...................... 1

parentheses represent instances of words having as


their referent women in general, including the yaksT,


kalatra P:41 ....................... 5

3 By "referential scope" I shall refer throughout this paper to

' I have not included hahuv'rThi compounds which are purely

the heroine, women in general (including the heroine), and all

adjectival and possess no referential value.

women other than the heroine. I am not distinguishing

2 Kdliddsa, Meghadlfta, ed. with the commentary of Mal-

women peripheral to the heroine in any way other than in

linatha bv M.R. Kale (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1969).

relation to the heroine.


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178 Journal of the American Oriental Society 101.2 (1981)

kalyani U:49* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Although certain designations (5 or 18%') shift their

krnta P:I*/U:15*, 19* ............ . 1

denotation between two referential "sets," there is

kamini P:66/ U: I 1. .............. 5

always an overlapping element. Thus, the words of

gehini U:17* ................ 1

category 2, constituting 7% of the total, designate the

gunavatli U:47 ....................... I

vaksT in certain instances and women in general,


including the 'aksT, in others. Both of these referential

candT U :44* ...................... I

sets, i.e., "Y" and "(Y + W)," include "Y." Category 4



represents words ( 1% of the total) which either denote

tanvi U :22* ...................... 1

women in general, including the yaksT, "(W + Y)," or


women other than the heroine, "W." Again we may

note the common element "W," women in general. The









priya P:7*, 23*/U:24*. .......... 1




m anini U :38* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1



yuvati P:36,641 U:22.. ...... . 5




Meghaduta is without a single instance where the same

word for woman alternatively applies to the vaksT and

women other than the wife of Kubera's banished


Of the instances of words which shift from one

object of denotation to another during the course of

vadhii P: 16,19,50 / U:2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

this lyric poem, we may isolate those occurrences

vanita P:(8),35,61/ U: 1,U: 14 ........... . 4

where such a transformation is effected in a relatively


short space, let us say within five verses. Kaliddsa's

simantini U:(40). ............. . 3

poem was intended for an audience far less critical than



stri P:(29),32 U:5,9 ............... 4

today's, at least in respect to the type of analysis to

which I am subjecting this work. No reader, much less

If we group together all those words of category 1

listener, would be expected to remember that a certain

(words which always refer to the vaksT), category 3

word for woman was employed in reference to the

(words which consistently denote women in general,

vaksT in one verse and to women in general twenty

including the _vaksT), and words of category 5 (words

verses later. In this sense, we may dismiss the second

which regularly apply to women other than the beloved

shift of denotation in the word ahgand which occurs

wife), the sum is 23 or 82% of the 28 word total. ln

after sixty-four verses. Similarly, we need not be

other words, more than four-fifths of the words for

disturbed by the change in the denotation of vaniti

woman employed by Kalidasa in his Meghaduita do not

which leaps twenty-seven verses. It must be granted

alter their referential scope.

that the impact of these shifts is imperceptible to even

Of the mere five words remaining, only abald and

jd'd alternatively designate the vaksT, on the one hand,

the most astute audience.

Nevertheless, a change of certain other words' scope

and women including this figure, on the other. A

of reference indeed occurs within a short space. We

parallel situation is represented by anigand, vanita, and

may consider these shifts operative, since they need not

strT, all of which shift their denotation between women

defy the memory of the reader or listener. Such

inclusive of the v'aksi and women distinct from the

instances deserve an explanation, lest we conclude that

central female figure. The aforementioned data may be

these transformations of a word's denotative scope

represented as follows. Let "Y" stand for the vaksT and

within a noticeably short space are deviants within an

"W" for all other women.

otherwise well-structured system of compartmentaliza-

category + referential .... . total % hased % of words

shall see that Kalidasa is not merely permitting himself

tion. In pausing to consider these few instances, we

scope ...... on all words which do not

a margin of arbitrary usage; rather, the skilled poet can

alter denota-

achieve suggestion through the use of a word in one


context shortly after that same word has been em-

ployed in another. The denotative power of the word in




the former instance may be transformed to a connota-

2. Y or (Y + W) . . ....... ..... 07%






4. (W + Y) or W .... . 11%




tive level in the latter, thus enhancing the word's



In verse 33 of the uttaramegha, Kaliddsa employs the

word abald in reference to the laks7; she is so weak and

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LANGER: Compartmentalization and Clustering of Words for Women 179

distressed from separation that even the cloudmessenger will shed tears in the form of raindrops:

tative scope from women in general (pCirva. 9) to the

mugdhasiddhdtganis of vs. 14 is more easily explained. In the latter compound ahgan& is serving its

sd samnyastdhharanam abala pe~alam dhdrayant

well-known function as a "female-marker." As such

sayyotsafige nihitam asakrd duhkhaduhkhena gatram/

afigand need hardly be considered a proper designation

tvam apy asram navajalamayam mocayisyaty avagyam

for woman.

prayah sarvo bhavati karundvrttir ardrantaratmad/

Thus the connotative power which naturally ac-

cumulates in a word through usage may be operative in

The use of the same word in the generalization of verse

a subsequent use of the same word.4 This process helps

39 (padas c and d) to denote all women of such a weary

explain the repeated use of the same word in reference

emotional state serves to link the vaksT with the larger

to different people. Nevertheless, the majority of words

class of disjointed females. This is especially important,

indeed reflects rigid compartmentalization which, un-

since it is said that the apostrophized cloud is wont to

fortunately, cannot be proven to have been consciously

intended by Kalidasa. We shall witness the same

urge travellers back home, thus indirectly relieving the

suffering of women in general. Verse 39:

tendency of words in the other works to be discussed in

this paper. As I have shown elsewhere,5 every word for

viddhi maim ambuvaham...;
yo vrndani tvarayati pathi Wramyatam prositanam
mandrasnigdhair dhvanibhir abalavenimoksotsukani//

woman indeed falls within a more or less defined scope

in regard to the semantic weight it bears and the

referents it designates. That a skilled poet, aware of
these subtle nuances, should employ certain words for

The association of the iaksT with this class of women,

the beloved wife of the central figure and other desig-

effected by the use of the same word applied to both

nations for the remaining women in the poem (women

referents within a short space, suggests that the poor

usually characterized by different moods and situa-

woman of Alaka deserves the same relief. Kalidasa

tions than the vaksT) seems only natural. For example,

leaves no doubt as to his intention when he again shifts

certain words lend themselves to the designation of

the denotative scope of ahald back to the vaksT- in

women in separation, others to the erotic; certain

epithets are more readily employed in reference to

verse 4 1.

In verse 9 ( parvamegha), the i'aksa, in addressing the

individual women, others to women in general. I

cloud, refers to his wife as bhrdtr/jdyd. This is spoken to

believe that it is relatively unimportant to know exactly

impress upon the cloud its kin relationship to the

the extent to which a poet like Kalidasa arranged the

suffering woman, thus evoking its sympathy. In vs. 8,

words for woman, or any other set of words, with a

the preceding verse, the 'aksa generalizes that no man,

conscious effort to achieve the kind of symmetry that

excepting one in his constrained position, would refuse

we have noted. In a sense, it is only a matter of

to answer the call of the monsoon and return to his

perspective whether we see the locus of this distinction

wife, jrdv. Of course, nobody, man or cloud, could

deny the truth of this statement. Again, the vaksa is

in the words themselves or in the poet's manipulation

of these words. Suffice it to say that the words for

playing on the cloud's sense of compassion toward

woman lend themselves to the type of rompartnientali-

women in general, only to direct this feeling of obliga-

zation we have been discussing; by means of repeated

use within a confined scope of reference (which includes a margin of variation), words for woman accrue

tion to his own wife one verse later.

The remaining words in our poem which alter their

scope of denotation within five verses and which thus

connotative power which enhances them, thereby en-

demand explanation are strT and anigana. The former

riching the poetry itself.

word is applied to all women in a generalization in

Before turning to the Kumdrasambhava, it is worth

pCdrva. 29 and then, three verses later, to a specific

noting that all of the less frequently appearing words

community of ladies to be encountered by the cloud.

for woman which occur in the Meghadata are clustered

Both contexts are erotic, the former describing the

general coquettish gestures of the fairer sex (stri), the

latter portraying the beautiful women along the gipra

river, weary from love-making. It is not unlikely that

Kalidasa purposefully employed the same word in the

latter instance in order to evoke the coquettish connotations of the former verse. Anigand's shift of deno-

4 For another possible explanation motivating the repeated

use of a single word, see Schubring, "Jinasena. Mallindtha.

Kalidasa," ZDLMG 105 (1955).

For a detailed study of Sanskrit words for woman, see

Langer, "Women and Love in Sanskrit Court Poetry: A

Semantic Approach," Diss., Harvard University, 1978.

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180 Journal of the American Oriental Societv 101.2 (1981)

between the closing verses of uttaramegha 39-55. The






use of such words, especially in the vocative, helps

produce the climactic effect which ends the work. We

abhisarika ......... . VI.43.. . ; 3

shall encounter the same stylistic phenomenon in other

anigana ........... . 1.14, 111.33. 3

poems to be considered.





animittakopana . . . . . . VIII.51 * . . . . . . . . . 1

II. The Kuntrasambhava invites the same type of

analysis. Let us first list all words for woman which

utpaldksi ......... . 1.40*, V.35* 1

kanya ........... . . 1.18, 1.21*, 1.50*, 11.17*,

appear in this work, isolate the individual instances in

111.53*, V.56, VI.31*,

which each word is found, and determine the entire

Vl.63*, (VI.79), (VI.85),

scope of denotation for each word. We shall discover

VII.94*, VIII.73 . . . 1,2,3

that the distinction between ParvatT and all other

kalydnT ........... . VII.87* .1

women is emphasized by compartmentalization of


words; furthermore, the dynamic clustering of epithets



and of the pronoun sa appears to demarcate distinct


stages within the life of the heroine.


Words for woman in the Kumdrasambhava6 are listed










jaya . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111.37, VII.88* . . . . . 1,3

below. The numbers which follow each word refer to


the individual verses in which the given word appears.







Asterisked numbers represent instances where the

dara ............. . (VI. 13), Vl.63 2,3

word in question denotes the heroine, ParvatT. Num-

narn ............ . . 1.37, VII.9, 13,

bers enclosed in parentheses indicate instances of



words which apply to women in general, including the

nitambini . . . . . . . . . . (111.7) . . . . . . . . . . . 2

heroine. Unmarked numbers correspond to instances

pativrata . . . . . . . . . . . VI.86, VII.12 . . . . . . 3

in which words designate women distinctly other than

patni ........... . . 1.19,21*, 111.7, IV.40


(V11.12) .1,2,3

The column of numbers to the far right summarizes

each particular word's entire scope of denotation. To
category 1 are alloted instances which refer to Parvati

parigraha . . . . . . . . . . VI.34 . . . . . . . . . . . 3



alone. The group designated by number 2 is intended

category 1, 2, 3. or a combination thereof. For ex-

87*, 88*, 90* 1,3

bala ............ . . 1.39*, V.55*, 84*,

Occurrences denoting women other than ParvatT are

assigned to category 3. Each word may be qualified by


VIII.13*, 25*, 82*, 84*,

for those instances which use a word for woman in

reference to women in general, including ParvatY.


priya ........... . . 111.36, 38, IV.1,



bharya . . . . . . . . . . . . VII.92 . . . . . . . . . . . 3



ample, ahhisdrikii is a word only applied to women

manasvini .111.32, V.6*, 42* 1,3

distinct from Parvati in the Kurmdrasamhhava. There-

manini .111.53*, VIII.52* . . . 1

fore, "3" appears to the far right of this word on the list
below. Kan vd, on the other hand, alternatively denotes

Parvati, women in general, including the heroine, and

a group of women from which Parvati is excluded.

Consequently, the numbers 1, 2, and 3 all appear to the






yuvati . . . . . . . . . . . . . (VIII.17) . . . . . . . . . 2

yosit .11.64, 111.16, VI.39 3

vadho ............ . 1.20, 21, 50*, 11.41,

far right of this word. In the list to follow, I have

111.39, IVi, 46, (V.67),

isolated the more unusual epithets denoting aspects of

VI.82*, 89*, VII.73*,

traditional feminine beauty and have placed these

78*, 82*, 83*, 84*, 90*,

words after the others; such a division will enable the

VIII.8*, (12), 16*, 25 1,2,3

reader to observe quickly the way in which the less

vanita ............ . 1.10, VIII.28* .1..3.. . 1.3

vilasini .VII....... . V11.69, VIII.76* . . . . 1,3

familiar words are clustered in certain passages.

6 Kdliddsa, Kumarasambhava, ed. with the commentary of
Mallindtha by M.R. Kale (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1967).



sati ............ . . 1.21*, IVA, V.1*,

V11.27 ........... 1.3

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LANGER: Compartmentalization and Clustering of Words for Women 181

sahadharmacdrifin .... . VIII.29.. .3

sddhvi ........... . VI. 1 3

stri .............. 11.7, 111.9, (74), IV.5,

(VI.12), 45, VII.6, (22) 2,3

the female protagonist. Another three words designate

PdrvatT, women inclusive of the heroine, and other
women in the course of the poem. Let us assign III to

these words and summarize the aforementioned data

sutanu . . . . . . . . . . . . VIII.52* . . . . . . . . . I

in a table. Let "P" stand for ParvatT and "W" for

sundari ........... . 1.7, 111.5, 26, VII.56 . 3

women other than PdrvatL.

subhru ........... . V.43* . . I

less standard words

I. Total % of words denoting the following referents

(words which do not alter their scope of reference)

avanataigi ........ . V.86* .

avastunirbandhapard . . . V.66* . .1
avikalpasundari ..... . VIII.68* . .1
ayataks! . . . . . . . . . . . 1.46* . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
udaradaran . .V.36* . .. . .1

kutilakegi ........ VIII.45* . .1

candrabimbanihitdksT . VIII.74* . . . . . . . . . 1

cdrumukhl ........ VIII.73* . .1

tapodhand . .V.40* . .. ..1

dlrghanayan .VIII.55* . . . . 1
netrakaumudi . . . . . . . V.71 * . . . . . . . . . . . I

pfvororu .... VIII.36* . .1


II. % of words denoting referents having the common element "W"

(W + P) and W ...........3%

I1l. % of words denoting various referents

P and W ..4

P and (P + W) and W } 14%

pundarikamukhi . . . . . . VIII.58* . . . . . . . . . . 1

mitakatha . . . . . . . . . . VIII.34*. .1

Group III indicates a set of words which, during the

samnatagatr . ... . . V.39* . .1

samnatafig . . . . . . . . . 1.34*. .1
sarasangayast! . . . . . . . V.85* . .1
suke..6* ..1. . ... . .

course of the poem, refer to wholly different referents.




sumadhyama . . . . . . . . V.20* . .1
suvibhaktagatri . . . . . . VII. 18* . . . . . . . . ..



We recall that this phenomenon was not encountered

in the same author's Meghadata. The 14% of all words

in this grouping show such radical polarization in their
denotative scope as to merit our attention. They are:

kanyd, jdyd, patnT, priyd, manasvinr, vadhui, vanitd,

vildsin7, and satT. It is indeed noteworthy that this list
contains three words for "wife," a word for "maiden"

excluding Parvatli-add all words followed by the

or "daughter," one word for "proud woman" or

"woman of strong will," and one designation which
translates "good woman." In short, six of the mere nine
words employed by Kalidasa to designate wholly different referents are technical terms denoting a specific
marital status or personality trait. (Vildsin7, a word

arabic numbers 1, 2, or 3-the total is fifty-four words

which fairly consistently denotes coquettish women,

or 83% of the sixty-five word list. That is to say, 83% of

all words for woman employed by Kalidasa in his
Kumdrasambhava do not alter their scope of denota-

might well be included.) It is not surprising that the

more clearly defined words for woman are those which
overstep the boundaries of the type of compartmentalization under discussion. A word's primary function is,
of course, denotative. Words which have the capacity
to denote a specific family relationship such as wife or

stimitayataksT ..... . VII.22* . .

If we add the total number of words which consis-

tently denote the same referent, i.e., either Parvati,

women in general (including the heroine), or women

tion. For the purpose of the following discussion, let us

assign roman numeral I to this set of words.

Another two words, dara and strT (3% of all designations), divide their scope of reference between women

in general, encompassing ParvatT, and women other

daughter, or a defined quality such as obstinacy, will

do so when the context demands this information.

than Parvatt. We may group these words together

Vanitd and vildsin7 are the only two "proper" words for

under the heading II.

woman. In the case of the former designation, the shift

Nine other words, totalling 14%, shift their denota-

from denoting women other than Parvatli to Parvati

tion between distinct objects. Of these, six words

herself occurs after seven cantos, nearly the entire

alternatively apply to Parvati and women other than

poem. The same change of referents occurs from VI I.69

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182 Journal of the American Oriental Society 101.2 (1981)

to VIII.76 in the case of vilisini. Again, the space inter-

10. sa/ asyah 18. sa 25. tam

vening between these variant uses of the word is large;

1 1. taya 19. ya/ taya 26. sa (krpavatT)

12. ya/ sa 20. gucismita 27. sa

no reader or listener could be expected to remember the

transformation of denotation. In this sense it is not



13. taya 21. tadlyam 28. taya priyam-

I do not want to suggest, however, that it was

Kalidasa's intention to create a system of compartmen-

talization that resisted such referential shifting at all

costs. As was the case with certain words examined in
the Meghaduita, here too the desire to achieve suggestive import could very well have motivated a change of
denotation. It is necessary to cite only one example for
clarification. In VII.94, Kalidasa employs kanyd to

vadam/ tam

14. sa 22. tasyah 29. sa

The use of the personal pronoun sa, together with its

oblique, stem, and correlative forms, is outstanding

in this passage which poignantly marks a transition of
Parvati's personal character as well as of the whole

denote Siva's new bride. In fact, this word is so

poem. We should also note the large number of verses

regularly applied to Parvatt that the reader undoubt-

in which there is absolutely no word which designates

this woman being portrayed in her harsh ascetic behav-

edly associates kanyd with the mountain-daughter.

When we encounter this word in VIII.73, its referent is
less specific.

esa carumukhi yogataraya yujyate taralabimbaya gaiT/

sadhvasad upagataprakampaya kanyayeva navadTksya
varah/ /

ior. PdrvatT is never named-I exclude verse 28 where

the heroine's name Aparna is explained etiologicallyand only occasionally alluded to by epithets.
The use of sucismitd and sumadhyama can be
understood for their suggestive value. Consider the
verse in which these two words appear, V. 20:

Siva's comparison of the moon and star to a bride-

iucau caturnam jvalatam havirbhujam iucismita

groom and bride not only brings poetic light to a

madhyagata sumadhyama/

traditionally auspicious lunar conjunction; by employing the word kanya, repeatedly used to denote Parvati,
Kalidasa strengthens the association of the macro-

savitaram aiksata/ /

cosmic phenomenon above with the microcosmic event

of Siva's union with his bride below.

The compartmentalization of words for woman is

not the only factor distinguishing Kalidasa's method of

naming women. A close examination of the long

passage in canto V depicting ParvatT as a forest ascetic
is illustrative of another device, i.e., the replacement of
all words for woman, from the most common designations to the most highly original epithets, in favor of
the personal pronoun sa. In verse 6 of the fifth canto,
the last verse before ParvatT repairs to the woods, this
obstinate woman is called manasvinT. After receiving
parental permission (vs. 7), Parvati, designated Gauri,
leaves her family in order to pursue her ascetic goals.
Beginning with vs. 8 we witness the beautiful mountaindaughter cloaked in a garment of bark practicing
severe austerities. This verse through verse 50 marks

vijitya netrapratighatinTmr prabham ananyadrstih

The alliteration of iucismitd with iucau and sumadhyamd with madhyagatd emphasizes the identity of
Parvati with the summer heat and the fire of asceticism, thus suggesting that this woman is not holding
back in her austere pursuits. At the same time, however, the semantic contrast of a "woman of beautiful

smiles" practicing such severe self-mortification re-

minds the reader of the incongruity of her behavior,

thus dramatizing the portrayal. The alliteration of

k!rpdvatT with cakravakayoh in vs. 26 may be interpreted similarly:

ninaya satyantahimotkiranilah sahasyaratrar udavasatatpara/
parasparakrandini cakravakayoh puro viyukte
mithune krpavati//

one of the most poetic passages of the Kumdrasam-

Here k!-pavatT functions more to describe PdrvatT's

bhava, if not of all Sanskrit poetry. Consider the

designations used to denote the central figure PdrvatT,

behavior than to designate her. Like gucismita and

beginning with verse 8.

8. sa 15. tasyam 23. sa

9. tad- 16. tam 24. tasyah

sumadhyamd, the word k!rpdvatr emphasizes GaurT's

association with her environment. The alliteration of
the "k," "r/r," and "v" sounds, as well as the assonance
of long "a," strengthens the bond between the heroine
"k!rpavatf" and the lonely "cakravdka" birds. The

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LANGER: Compartmentalization and Clustering of Words for Women 183

sound correspondences between these two words sug-

tions uttered by Diva in the passage under considera-

gest an intimate relationship between Parvati and these

tion are generally complimentary, reminding ParvatT

birds, leaving no doubt that the yoginT's pity is sincere.

of her delicate frame. Thus the "brahman" emphasizes

It is not unlikely that the bond between these living

the incongruity of such a person practicing asceticism

beings, strengthened by alliteration, foreshadows fu-

and strengthens his argument against these pursuits.

ture events; Parvati, like the lonely birds, will soon be

The assemblage of epithets in V. 35 ff. serves another

united with her beloved. Thus the occasional use of

purpose; it contrasts the passage in question with the

epithets to denote ParvatT suggests important bonds;

former one. With the intrusion of another person,

these words are not merely referential.

The clear majority of epithets designating the

Diva, the mood changes. Parvatd, who became "name-

less" during her solitary experience in the forest, is

mountain-daughter in the passage from Kum. V. 8-29

renamed and, if you will, reborn. The cluster of

are forms of the personal pronoun sa. This sharply

vocatives beginning with V. 35 reestablishes the hero-

contrasts with the next section which is characterized

ine's identity through designations which were not

by the presence of Siva. The disguised trident-bearing

employed to denote her in the first half of the poem.

god appears in vs. 30. Immediately in vs. 31, when

ParvatT's test of asceticism is over; the arrival of Siva

Parvati goes forward to greet her future husband, the

marks the completion of transformation from woman

former mood is broken and the mountain-daughter is

to goddess. This journey and testing of a hero in the

designated by her proper name, ParvatT. The next

"other world" has parallels in mythology of every land.

It is the rite de passage of the newly born hero. I

verse, 32, refers to the female ascetic as Uma. The

naming of Parvati in these two verses bridges the

suggest that the extreme lack of words for woman

former passage, portraying the yoginT's solitary as-

between verses 8 and 29 reflects stylistically the undoing of the matrix of Parvat-'s personality. Through
severe penance, the mountain-daughter has succeeded
in effecting a temporary loss of character, at least in
regard to traditional feminine roles. Her lack of ego is
well-mirrored by the dominant use of pronominal
forms which, unlike the majority of Sanskrit words for
woman, carry no semantic weight. Parvati has ceased
to be a member of her sex, in so far as tradition's
definition is concerned. It would be incongruous to call
the forest dwelling PdrvatT a nitambinT or abald. She
has, in fact, withdrawn from the stereotyped behavioral patterns associated with these words. Seen from a
different perspective, the use of the pronoun sd may be
considered the ultimate referential; it is she and she

ceticism, with the next, describing the conversation

between Parvati and Siva. In the discussion which ensues, the mountain-daughter is addressed with fourteen

epithets (and twice named). The designations, if not

newly invented, are particularly uncommon words for

35. utpalaksi
36. Parvati udaradargana
38. bhavinT
39. samnatagatri
40. tapodhana

42. manasvini, kriodari

43. subhrO
50. Gauri

(break-Parvati's confidante reveals

the motives of the YoginT)

66. avastunirbandhapard

71. netrakaumudi
72. balamrgaksi
(break-Parvati's personal defense

against Siva's accusations)

86. avanatahgi
The piling of epithets is common to Sanskrit court

poetry. There is hardly a poem in which a man, having

discourse with his beloved, does not repeatedly interject more or less original vocative compounds. These

epithets usually flatter, but sometimes condemn, the

woman addressed in an effort to dissuade her from

suffering caused by jealous anger (mdna). The designa-

alone being portrayed (not just any nitambinT or

abald). The heroine has transcended all categories
which would unite her with other women of her

Verses 31 and 32 mark the transition from the

description of Parvati alone in the forest to Parvati

defending her asceticism in the face of Siva. The
heroine is designated by the name ParvatT and Uma. In

addition to stylistically framing the preceding passage

and changing the mood in preparation for the next
scene, the use of these names may reflect the beginning

of Parvati's reincorporation into society. Similarly, the

heroine is addressed by the name Gauri in verse 50,
culminating the first passage in which the tridentbearer is questioning ParvatT's motives for practicing
asceticism. The initial stage of testing is over; the
vocative may thus reflect a second step in the journey

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184 Journal of the American Oriental Societv 101.2 (1981)

back to society into the new role of giva's honored

generally designated by the word vadhl. This word

wife. The naming of PdrvatT foreshadows and perhaps

establishes Parvatl's new status as wife. Nevertheless, it

even prepares the mountain-daughter for a married

is not until the honeymoon of this divine couple that

life, rooted in family law and lore; it establishes her

the mountain-daughter's personality is allowed to

in the world of given names, the world of tradition

flourish in her new role. The cluster of epithets which

and continuity. That proper designations are employed

are attached to ParvatT, a confirmed vadha, function in

immediately before PdrvatT's exit from society (when

a manner not unlike the vocatives which followed the

she leaves her parents' house in verse 7) and at the end

portrayal of the ascetic designated by sa. The concen-

of giva's first series of interrogations, helps to frame

tration of ornate epithets is a reflex of a rite of

the important passage of canto five and demarcate

renaming. It also contributes to the climactic tenor of

Parvatd's exit and gradual reentry into the societal

the final canto in much the same way we witnessed in

realm. (Note that the names Parvati and Uma in vss. 31

the Meghadita. Finally, the clustering of these voca-

and 32 fall in the middle of the forest drama, further

tives, together with the many original epithets of canto

accentuating the liminal stages and poetic symmetry.)

I and V, succeeds in nicely framing the Kumdra-

Thus Parvati's changing relationship to society in this


chapter of the Kumarasambhava is mirrored by the

Turning to the first canto, let us examine the words

designations applied to this heroine. The most striking

employed in reference to young Pdrvatt. We may

shift is that from the forms of the personal pronoun sa,

isolate the designations beginning with verse 22, which

denoting the voginT, to the highly ornamental epithets,

describes the birth of the heroine, and ending with

reflecting the phases of reincorporation. The actual

verse 49, where it is said that the beautiful young

transitions of these turning points are, then, marked by

ParvatT is God's most perfect accomplishment, em-

the use of the proper names Parvati, Uma, and Gauri.

bodying all the various excellences of the created

During the marriage of Parvatd to giva, the new

bride is invested with the modest but significant designation vadhii. It is not until the honeymoon, however,
that we encounter the next and last cluster of vocatives

addressed to the goddess. Consider Kum. VIII. 34 ff.

34. mitakathe 58. pundarlikamukhi

36. pivoru 68. avikalpasundari

45. kutilakegi 71. candi

48. valguvadini 73. cdrumukhi

51. animittakopane 74. candrabimbanihitaksi

52. sutanu, manini 76. vilasini

55. dirghanayane

22. sa . . . bhavya 36. tad23. tat- 37. aninditayah

24. taya duhitra 38. tasyah/ tan25. sa 39. sa . . . bala

26. tam "Parvati 40. utpalaksyah

.. "Uma"
27. tasminn apatye 41. tadTyau

28. taya 42. tasyah





30. tam 44. tasyah

31. sa 45. tasyam

32. tasyah 46. ayataksi/ tayd/


The majority of these epithets alliterate with words

used by Diva in his vivid portrayal of the beautiful

sunset. Through these word-plays, the identification of

Parvatd and the twilight is suggested. In this way, Diva

33. tat- 47. tasyah

34. sa. . . samna- 48. parvatarajaputryah

35. tadiye 49. sa

minimizes the insult as he turns away from his new

bride and devotes himself to his samdhyd rituals. The

alliterative function of words in this passage has been
discussed elsewhere.7
In addition to the alliterative value of many of these

The passage which depicts Pdrvati's birth and growth

to young womanhood, important in underlining her

divine beauty, is dominated by mere pronominal forms

of sa.8 Only on rare occasions is Parvati named or even

words, their clustering may serve to reflect Parvati's

reincorporation into society following the rite of mar-

riage. During the nuptial ceremony, the new bride is

8 1.22: sa bhodharanam adhipena tasyam samadhimatyam
udapadi bhavya/

7 Langer, "Some Suggestive Uses of Alliteration in Sanskrit

Court Poetry," JAOS 98.4 (1978), 442.

samyakprayogad apariksatayam nitavivotsahagunena sampat! /

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LANGER: Compartmentalization and Clustering of Words for Women 185

designated by a substantive.9 With access to more than

two dozen words for woman, it is indeed curious that

Before turning to the Raghuvamsra, it is important to

distinguish between the semantic effect of the repeated

Kalidasa almost entirely resorts to the aforementioned

use of sa and any conscious or semi-conscious intent of

pronominal forms in this central passage. The words

the poet. There is little proof that Kaliddsa attempted

kanyd (vs. 50) and sutd (vs. 52) are introduced only

to enhance the thematics of his poetry through a

after the formal description ends and the narrative

planned use of pronominal clusters.


In the sections discussed, the concentration of sd

Regardless of Kalidasa's motivations, the heavy use

of pronominal forms again seems to reflect the liminal

forms is stylistically logical and need not have further

period where personality is not yet defined. The female

implications. Rites of passage of a heroine usually treat

of that woman alone. In the event occurring in Kum. V.

heroine is undergoing a rite of passage, in fact several.

8-29, PdrvatT is the only female, in fact, the only person

She is not yet a nitambinT or pramadd, for example.

under discussion. The use of pronominal forms is

But ParvatT is indeed a kanyd. Both physical and

reasonable since there can be no confusion to whom

mental personality growth are assumed in a kany vi.

such words refer. Nevertheless, this explanation is

Kalidasa's reluctance to use this and other words which

troublesome; although it offers a justification for the

would not have been incongruous may have been

pronominal forms, it does not help us understand why

motivated by a desire to prevent the reader from

a skilled poet does not denote the heroine with more

superimposing the qualities of more ordinary kanyds-

picturesque epithets in the descriptive passage.

characteristics evoked by the very word-onto the

The clusters of feminine pronouns can be explained

extraordinary young ParvatL.'0

as a stylistic method intended to promote the conti-

It should be observed that Kdliddsa refrains from the use of a

technique was not unobserved by the alamkdras'dstra

writers. As an example, we may cite Bhojadeva who, in

nuity between verses in a well-defined passage. Such a

particular word for baby or girl in the verse which proclaims

the mountain-daughter's birth. In this event, of no small

the third chapter of his ?rhgdraprakdKsa enunciates

significance, Pdrvati is denoted by the pronoun sd which

two methods by which the continuity of one or more

appears in the beginning of the first plida and agrees with

bhav'rJ which ends pada b; by standing far apart from

sentences might be preserved: union (or linking)

through case endings (vibhaktivojitam) and union

hhaij l, which ultimately binds pJdas a and b, vs alone is

through pronouns (sarvandmayojitam).1l W. Schrub-

permitted to echo in the reader's ear. Mallindtha glosses

name. In fact, the naming of PdrvatT does not occur until

ring's study of the Meghadita also testifies to the

ability of Sanskrit poets to interlace verses and promote poetic continuity through the repeated use of

verse 26. In verse 29 the mountain-daughter first appears as a

words. 12

hhah'vi with the substantive kal'dnT; this is not vet her proper

playful child. Here, too, Kalidasa employs the designation sa-

Turning from the purely stylistic realm, there are

in the emphatic first position of the verse. Verse 25 portrays

certain reasons which may have influenced Kalidasa to

the splendid growth of this girl by comparison to the newly

shy away from the use of "standard" words for woman

waxing moon. Of course, the use of sa- in this verse also serves

in a passage such as Kum. V. 8-29. Words like pramadd

to associate Parvat! with cdndrainasf /ekha- grammatically

would have been more or less inappropriate in refer-


ence to a yogini of serious intent. The connotations of

nitambinT or bdld, for example, would give a wrong

9 These instances are logically explained. In vs. 37. aninditais employed to distinguish PdrvatT from the other women
(ndr!). BdId of vs. 39 promotes the alliterative effect of pdda b:

"valitrayam caru babhara bala"; Parvati is thus identified with

verse of the section, vs. 24, is the heroine called Umd.

her "vali-bearing" function. The epithets of vss. 40 and 46, the

Similarly, from VIII. 2-15, describing the amorous interplay

name Umd in vs. 43, and the designation ParvatardjaputrT of

between the newlyweds, Pdrvati is predominantly designated

vs. 48 all serve to strengthen the comparisons which are set

forth in these respective verses.

by forms of sj.

'' Additional passages in the Kumdrasambhava which exhibit concentrations of pronominal forms need not be discussed. See VII. 5 ff. which treats the wedding preparations.
Within this passage, covering 23 verses, PdrvatF is referred to

by forms of the feminine pronoun 24 times and once designated by a word for woman, bal/ (vs. 8). Only in the closing

" Bhojadeva, SrnhgraprakaXa, Rev. and ed. by G.R.

Josyer (Mysore, 1955), p. 119 ff. It is noteworthy that Bhoja
cites passages from the Kumn. in order to illustrate his two

categories. I am indebted to my colleague Gary Tubb for

bringing my attention to this reference.

12 Schubring, "Jinasena, Mallinatha, Kdlidasa," ZDMG 105


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186 Journal of the American Oriental Society 101.2 (1981)

impression, serving to associate our heroine with the

beyond their face value, reflecting and augmenting

class of women in general; thus, the individuality of

various liminal stages in the life of the heroine.'4 That

PdrvatT may have been threatened. Similarly, it is she

this view was shared by later Sanskrit poets is evi-

and she alone being denoted. The use of sd serves as

denced by their very special use of sa in individual

a referential par excellence.

verses extolling women as distant and unreachable

Furthermore, it is clear that the majority of words

beings, God's most perfect creation. We shall look at

for woman had become well associated with the poetic

some of these poems following a discussion of the

passages of epic and lyric style by the time of Kdliddsa.

Raghuvamsra and GItagovinda."5

Words for woman were well standardized and inseparable from the ornamental kdvya style as early as the

beginning of classical poetry. It required a wholly

14 1 do not want to suggest that every liminal period in the

different designative system to mark passages which

life of a heroine or, for that matter, hero, in the works of

deserved special attention, owing to their portrayals of

Kdliddsa or other poets, exhibits a dominance of pronominal

distinct turning points in the psychological or social

forms. In fact, it is not without hesitation that I distinguish

drama. By discarding all standard words for woman

certain stages in the lives of heroines as rites of passage, since

and "reverting" to the well-known sd, Kalidasa (un-

the proper subjects of a karma are, according to alatakdrasds-

knowingly?) uplifted his poetry from the flowery lyric

trakdras like Dandin, practically one rite of passage after

style and mood, endowing it with a quality of poi-

another: birth, marriage, war, victory, etc. Perhaps it is more

gnancy and transcendence. Kalidasa's avoidance of

precise to speak of major and minor rites of passage, at least

words such as pramadd to denote Parvati the ascetic

in regard to our heroine. The transformation of PFrvati in the

helped create a passage which not only marks the

penance-forest surely qualifies as a major turning point in the

turning point of the poem, but which, like Parvati

life of the mountain-daughter as well as in the poem itself. If

herself, transcends all worldly style. Of course

one is to insist that Sanskrit poetry is merely a string of rites

Kumrrasawhhava V. 8ff. is poetry, and poetry at its

of passage, all of equal weight, then it is still valid to remark

best. Nevertheless, by temporarily abandoning a desig-

that the use of pronominal forms may reflect the mood of

native system integral to kdvva, i.e., all of the more

certain of these transitions.

common words for woman, for another designative

15 Anandavardhana was the first to recognize the suggestive

"system," i.e., the pronominal forms of si, Kumdra-

value of individual letters, words, etc., including pronouns.

saublhax'a V. 8ff. acquires a refreshing quality, a

Following kdrika 3.4. he quotes the following verse, intended

distinct tone which may otherwise have been difficult

to exemplify the situation of a word bearing suggestive

to attain.

import: "utkampini bhayapariskhalitdrs~nukanta te locane

One need hardly search beyond the stylistic realm in

pratidi~am vidhure ksipantT krurena ddrunatayd sahasaiva

order to justify the concentration of pronominal forms.

dagdhd dhrmrndhitena dahanena na vTksitdsi Without

But, of course, no literature stops with the conscious or

elaborating, Anandavardhana says that the word we ("those"

even unconscious motivations of its author. Sanskrit

eyes) is clearly suggestive to the sensitive reader. Abhinava-

poetry is no exception. Regardless of the reasons lying

gupta elaborates in the opening of his commnentary on this

behind KUlidasa's decision to designate ParvatT in the

verse: "te locane iti tacchabdas tallocanagatasvasamvedyav-

passages discussed by forms of si, it can hardly be

yapadesyanai-ntagunasmaranak~-iradvotako rasasva asqdhhra-

doubted that the effect of these simple words reaches

nanimittatam prdptah. (The word 'those' in the phrase 'those

eyes' has become a unique cause of poetic sentiment, suggesting a form of remembrance of the indescribable and infinite

13 Is it possible that the passages discussed, treating major

rites of passage, represent the oldest sections of the stories of

[Pdrvati, IndumatT, et. al. They are perhaps the most authori-

qualities of those eves which are known only to the speaker)."

Mammata (KP 7, p. 307 of BORI ed.) was undoubtedly
influenced by these passages. Without speaking of their

tative sections inherited by Kalidasa and therefore resistant to

suggestive value, he admits that the pronoun tot may be

change. This explanation is troublesome, since Sanskrit poets

employed without the correlative Volfi under 3 conditions:

of the early oral tradition, as evidenced by the language of the

I) when the thing referred to has already been mentioned and

epics, were inclined to employ the vast majority of words for

is under discussion (prakranta), 2) when the thing referred to is

woman that are encountered by the reader of kave a. It

well-known (prasidldha), and 3) when the thing referred to is

remains to be shown that the epic poets, too, employed the

remembered (Wnuhhlata). Mahinmabhatta enters into a similar

pronoun sa more frequently in the type of passage we are

discussion in V'i akti'i eka 2, p. 199 (Revaprasad Dvivedi's ed.


with Hindi comm.).

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LANGER: Compartmentalization and Clustering of Words for Wotnen 187

III. Since the Raghuvapmsa"6 offers not one but several

important female heroines, it is best to limit our

legs, Sunanda suggests that the tree-lined gardens of

this king's estate would make a suitable home for the

discussion to distinct passages which exhibit significant

heroine. Thus, through a deliberate choice of voca-

clusters of words for woman.

tives, the attendant shows great skill of salesmanship.

In VI. 25ff. we witness the first series of epithets

Another word in the list above may be mentioned in its

designating a central woman. The passage describes

the svayamvara of Indumati. Among the words used to

dvartamanoqjiandbhi, is compared to a river which

capacity to enhance a simile. In vs. 52, IndumatT, the

denote the young bride are: rambhorui (vs. 35),

naturally avoids a mountain in its desire to reach the

ivartamanofflandbhi (vs. 52), cakoraksT (vs. 59),


ardlakes'T (vs. 81), and karabhopamora (vs. 83). Certain

The tragic incident of Indumati's bizarre death

of these epithets"7 are of particular interest; they do not

occurs in canto VIII. Aja, shocked and at first utterly

simply reincorporate Indumati into her new role in

speechless, falls to the ground where his beloved

society-the svayamvara surely marks the first stage of

IndumatT lies. In referring to this woman, Kalidasa

a rite of passage but rather serve to integrate the

twice employs the nominative sa, once the instrumental

heroine into specific environments should she marry

of the same pronoun, tayd, and, on another occasion,

one or another of her suitors. Sunanda, Indumati's

the word arigand. This last choice was obviously moti-

attendant, is guiding the bride through the row of kings

vated by a desire to create a word-play on ahga,

desiring her hand in marriage. It is Sunandd's job to

the lap of her husband on which she is lain. The

praise each king for his virtues and wealth. In reality,

repeated use of the pronoun sj is a necessary element

the attendant does more. In extolling the beauty of the

in view of the fact that this woman can no longer be

tree-lined gardens of the king of Avanti, for example,

aptly labelled a nitambinT, etc. The employment of the

Sunanda interjects the vocative rambhoru, woman

noncommittal sa may reflect Indumati's liminal state

of (smooth and tapering) legs like the (trunk of) the

plantain tree. In reminding Indumati of her tree-like

as she crosses into the other world, defying all traditional terms of categorization. Beginning with verse 49,
however, we witness a long series of rare and original
vocatives (non-vocatives are noted).

Thus, Anandavardhana and Abhinavagupta may be said to

recognize the suggestive value of pronominal forms referring
to something remembered. Neither critic exemplifies the
suggestive use of a pronoun which refers to a thing previously

established (prakranta) or well-known (prasiddha). Although

the use of sd in the muktakds or independent verses, to be

49. gucismitd 63. sugdtri

50. dayitd 64. kinnarakanth1

53. karabhorii 67. grhinT

54. priyd (non-voc.)

57. vamori 68. madiraksT

discussed later, belongs to Mammata's third category, i.e., the

use of the pronoun in reference to something remembered, the

As in previous clusters, these colorful epithets bear

pronouns which denote Parvati in the passages of the

suggestive weight. Through alliteration, the vocative

Kumdrasatnhhava analyzed above belong to Mammata's first

sucismite emphasizes the everlasting bond between

grouping. ParvatT is named and the pronomial forms which

Indumati and Aja, who speaks of himself with the

follow refer back to this character about whom a discussion is

words asmi iathah. The epithet karabhora alliterat-

undertaken (prakranta). I see no reason why the discussion of

ing with words which describe the gentle breezes,

Anandavardhana and Abhinavagupta cannot extend to in-

suggests that the deceased woman is still a part of the

clude this use of the pronoun, i.e., reference to something

dynamic, living environment.'8 Priye, alliterating with

pratibhodena, implies the ease with which IndumatT

previously established (prakranta). In fact, the long cluster of

pronominal forms allows the effect of the original mention of

is expected to revive herself. The vocative vamoru

Parvati to recede and produces the feeling of continual

reminds Indumati of her delicate body, suggesting the

remembrance. Furthermore, there is no reason why the

inappropriateness of the funeral pyre. It is hardly

pronoun tat in reference to well-known things (prasiddhartha)

necessary to elaborate. The majority of voca-

cannot also bear suggestion.

tives serve to reassociate or reintegrate Indumati into

16 Kalidasa, Raghuvamsa, ed. with the commentary of Mal-

the world where she belongs. These epithets, as a

linatha by Gopal Raghunath Nandargikar (Poona: Arya-

18 Raghu. V111.53: "kusumotkhacitan vallmataR calayan

Bhusana Press, 1897).

17 Raghu. VI. 25ff. also denotes Indumati with words which

do not bear suggestive import, e.g., kanjd and kunn-rT.

bhrhgarucas tavalakan/ karabhoru karoti marutas tvadupdvartana~anki me manahI{"

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188 Journal of the American Oriental Society 101.2 (1981)

whole, contrast sharply with the pronominal forms

65. priya 90. Sita

which begin the passage. The sudden shift from mere

66. priya/ tat- 97. priyd

personal pronouns to the colorful words which follow

reinforces the mood of excitement and sudden change.

The piling of epithets is typical in climactic passages of
highly emotional content.

kurpanakha, Ravana's sister, attempts to seduce

both Rama and his brother Laksmana in XII. 32-38.

This otherworldly woman is introduced in verse 32

with the designation Ravanavaraja, Ravana's sister.

Two verses later, the hero calls the raksasT "bdld,"

clearly emphasizing her naivete. Only in verse 38 is the
"monstress" designated by her name, Surpanakha. This

is appropriate since it is then that the seductress,

frustrated in her attempts, assumes her natural form as

surpanakha, woman with nails like a winnowing

basket! In another four of the verses between XII. 32-

38, Ravana's sister is denoted by forms of the pronoun

sa. I call the reader's attention to Siirpanakha's designations since they contrast vividly with those denoting
the heroine STta. Rama's wife is never alluded to by
pronominal forms and thrice called by the name Sita
or the epithet MaithiIt. (In verse 34 Rama informs

Siirpanakha of his marital status with the words

kalatravin aham.) The battle between the Iksvdku
heroes and the raksasas rages from verse 38-52. The

poem again focuses its attention on Slta, beginning

with verse 53, in which the heroine is abducted and

carried away to Ravana's kingdom in Sri Lafika.

Kalidasa continues to denote Sita by her new name,
patronymics, and designations deriving from her

homeland and its capital. Unlike Sirpanakha, Sita is a

highborn, rooted member of society. The designations
which refer to this heroine help establish this fact.
53. SRta 61. Janaki
54. Sita 62. (tasyai/ tad-)
55. Maithili 63. Sita

59. VaidehT 64. VaidehT

60. (tasyah)

It is only after Rama has learned of his beloved's

whereabouts that she is denoted by another word,

priyd. The tone of the canto changes as soon as Rama

gains this information in battle and there is little doubt
that Slta will be restored to her proper place. It is no

longer so important to preserve Sita's identity in the

other world through designations which remind us of
her lineage. Rather, the verses which now speak of Sita
anticipate the reunion of the heroic couple. The mood
is that of loving feeling, reflected in the repeated use of

74. STta 104. priya

75. (sn)

Kalidasa smooths the transition between canto XII

and XIII with the vocative vaidehi (vs. 2). With this
name and the word jayd (vs. 1), the stage is set for the
journey of the reunited couple back home. During the
period when Rama and Sita cross the vast ocean, the
hero refrains from the use of vocatives. We have
already noted that the use of epithets often emphasizes
the reincorporation of a heroine into society. The
crossing of the ocean is only the first stage of Sitd's
journey home. The couple has not yet reached the
Indian sub-continent and it would be premature to
begin this subtle process of reincorporation. There is
perhaps another reason why Rama withholds vocatives
with which he will soon address Sita. In portraying the
ocean, Rama primarily describes its cosmic (otherworldy!) aspect. For example, the sea is compared to
Visnu in measure and said to be the place where the
mountains took shelter from Indra. It would have been
inappropriate for Rama to have compared Sita to such
a body of water, even through the "suggestive" device
of alliteration. Nevertheless, as soon as the first traces
of land become noticeable, Rama seizes the opportunity to reassociate his beloved with India through the
utterance of well-chosen vocative epithets. In verse 18,
Rama points back to the ocean which recedes into the
distance behind them. PMdas a and b read: "kurusva
tavat karabhoru pascan marge mrgapreksini drstipatam." Thus, Rama addresses Sita as "she whose legs
are (lovely like the smooth and tapering) trunk of an
elephant" as the couple approaches the forest, abode of
elephants. In so doing, the hero leaves little doubt that
his wife has entered her proper homeland. The alliteration of karabhoru and the verb kurusva intensifies the
comparison. The second epithet of this verse,
mrgapreksini, alliterating with mdrge, serves the same
purpose. Verse 20, without the use of a vocative,
portrays the breeze, here cool from contact with the
Ganges. Not only does the word trimargagd alliterate

with mrgapreksini of verse 18, but Kalidasa has

succeeded in having Sita enjoy the benefits of the holy

celestial Ganges and, by implication, the terrestrial

Ganges of northern India. In verse 24 Rama directs
Slta's attention to the vines which silently pointed the

way to Rama through lowered leaves. The vocative

bhTru, interjected by Rama, can easily suggest the same
quiet timidity formerly exhibited by other members of
Sita's society, i.e., the vines and, in the next verse, the

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LANGER: Compartmentalization and Clustering of Words for Women 189

deer which were also instrumental in showing the hero

IV. Let us now examine the Gltagovinda, a work

the path to Lanka. The words banduragdtri and

anavadydtiigi offer striking examples of vocatives

central to Vaisnava theology. Parallels extend beyond

the realm of stylistics; the manipulation of words for

which bind the heroine to the landscape. They have

woman is here, as before, instrumental in isolating and

been discussed elsewhere. Thus the shift from those

extolling the heroine. We may note that the use of

names, patronymics, and epithets such as MaithilT to

words for woman, especially in contrast to sd,

the colorful words which here refer to Sita is logical.

helps to demarcate progressive stages in the lives

Where Sita lay captive in the other world, it was

of earthly and divine females. Only when we perceive

necessary to preserve her identity through the former

these similarities can we fully recognize and appreciate

type of designation. These names, in recalling her

the "religious" flavor of Sanskrit verses which depict

respectable birth and home, evoked our sympathy; the

devotional love within a human context.

majority of epithets in the passage where Rama and

Below is a complete list of words for woman em-

STt5 journey home function to reincorporate the hero-

ployed by Jayadeva.'9 As with the treatment of the

ine back into society in specific and gradual stages. The

texts of Kalidasa, asterisked instances denote the fe-

contrast of these epithets with the designations of the

male heroine, Radha. Instances enclosed in paren-

former passage may demarcate a new stage in the poem

theses refer to women in general, including the female

and life of STta. These words, focusing on the heroine's

protagonist, while unmarked occurrences designate

physical beauty, might even reflect a return to the

women other than Krsna's favored gopT.

traditional woman's role as wife, a return to social and

psychological normalcy.

To the far right of each word is a number or several

numbers summarizing the entire denotative scope of

It is interesting to note that Rama, immediately after

that word. Thus, the numbers 1, 2, and 3 signify the

learning of his subjects' disapproval of STta,

following referential possibilities: Radha, women in

suspected of infidelity during her captivity, refers to his

general (including Radha), and women excluding

beloved as Vaideht. XIV. 33 reads:

kalatranindagurund kilaivam abhyahatam kirtivipar-

Rddha, respectively. For example, abhisdrikd, followed by "2," always denotes women in general,
inclusive of Rddha. On the other hand, kdmin7, marked


by "1" and "3," shifts its denotation between Rddha

ayoghanenaya ivabhitaptam vaidehibandhor hrdayam

and women other than the heroine. Words for woman

vidadre, /

in the GTtagovinda are separated into two lists. The first

Janakdtmaj- in verse 43, Vaidehasutd in verse 47,

VaidehT in verse 72, Vaidehasutad in verse 84, and

comprises more or less regular words for woman, the

second, somewhat original epithets. This division enables the reader to note at a glance that the rarer words
are generally clustered in a few distinct passages and

similar epithets running through canto XV. 74, after

that they rather consistently apply to Radha alone.

This is followed by Vaidehasutdm in verse 39,

which follows the realization of Sita's chastity. It may

be argued that these designations also confirm the fact

that Sitd is of good family and background, thus

serving to win the audience's sympathy for the misjudged heroine. We have suggested that this same

regular words

abhisdrika .......... (XI. 12) ....... . 2



kanta ......... .... V. 16* ........... I

technique is operative in XII. 53 ff. which treats of Sitd

kaminil ........ .... VII.6, 11, XII.2* ... . 1,3

in captivity. It deserves to be mentioned that Rdma's

tanvT ............. 111.7*, 13*, X.5*, 12*,

wife is fairly consistently denoted by the names STtd,



VaidehT, etc. For this reason, it may be meaningless to

isolate the dramatic passages of Sitd's captivity and the

narf .. . . . . . . . .. . . . 1.37 . . .. . .. .. . . . 3

period when she is accused of infidelity, arguing that

nitambinT ...... 1.... .41, (11.4), V.8* ... . 1,2,3

the reader's sympathy is here demanded. It is indeed

priya ............. I I 1. 1 *, X. 2-9*,

true that Sita is one of the rare heroines of Sanskrit

tarun! ......... .... X.12*, (XI.4) ...... 1,2

XII. 1* ....... .... I

literature who rather successfully evades the traditional

words for woman such as pramadd. Perhaps STtd's

reputation in Sanskrit literature as the ideal or "good"

'9 Jayadeva, Love Song of the Dark Lord: Jav adeva v

woman in general is largely due to (or reflected in) the

GTiagovinda, ed. and trans. by Barbara S. Miller (New York:

fact that she is so often called by name, patronymic, etc.

Columbia University Press, 1977).

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190 Journal of the American Oriental Society 101.2 (1981)

mugdhd (-aksi) ...... V.17*, X.12*, XI.2-9*. 1

the GTtagovinda, like Kalidasa, generally denotes his

mrgaksT/ mrgadrg ...... . VI.10*, XI.l*, 33* 1

heroine with a different set of words than he applies to

yuvati ............. (1.27-34), 1.43, (11.5),

all other women.

11.10, IV.9*, VII.13-20,



vadhfi ............. (1.38-45), 1.39, 11.18*,

Only one word, tarunT, alternatively designates

Radhd (X.12) and women in general (XI.4). It should

be noted that the instance in canto XI is suffixed by

111.3, (VIII.8) . . 1,2,3

-Jana. Sudrg is the only word which refers to both

strI . ............. (X II. 10) ... ....... 2

women including and women excluding Rddha, of

sudrg ........ ..... VII.28, (XI.II) ..... 2,3

course at different times. Thus 2 of the 40 words used

sundari ............ (1.46), 11.19, 111.1, 9* 1,2,3

by Jayadeva alternate their scope of denotation in such

a way as to always include a common element, i.e.,

ornamental words of less frequent use

Radha or women other than the heroine.

alasap-najaghana . . . . . XI.20* . . . . . . . . . . . I

KdminT is the only word which fluctuates between

karabhor-9 .......... XI.5* . . . . . . . . . . . I

the referents Radha and women excluding the central

kalahantarita ....... . IX. 1* .1......... . I

female figure. NitambinT, vadhi, yuvati and sundarT

kucakalasataralahara . . . XI. 15* .......... . I

form a sub-classification in that these 4 words desig-

kundabhadanti ...... . X. 13* .1......... . I

nate all three referential sets during the course of the

kusumasukumaradeha . . XI. 16* . . . . . . . . . . . I

poem. Thus the total number of words which alternate

kuvalayadrg ........ . (VII.40) ........ .. 2

their scope of denotation between dissimilar objects is

krtatanka ........ . . X. 1o* .......... . I

5 or 12.5%. The only word which vacillates within the

kriatanu .1........ . . IV. 11 * .......... . I

same canto is vadhi7, the common word for wife (1.39).

There is, then, a curious parallel with the Kumdrasarn-


bharabhara . . . . . . . XI.3* . . . . . . . . . . . I

bhava where an overt change in the scope of denota-

candT . . . . . . . . . . . . . XI.7* . . . . . . . . . . . I

tion was primarily confined to words for wife and

da~anaruciruciragikhara XI. 19* ........ .. 1

other designations of a specific semantic scope.

pankajanayana ...... . V. 13* ........ .. 1

The majority of standard words for woman, as well

bhavini . . . . . . . . . . . . X11.6* . . . . . . . . . . . I

as the newly invented epithets denoting Radha, are

madanarasasarasabhava XI. 18*. . I

clustered in 5 distinct passages in which either Rddha's

ratirabhasahasitavadana XI. 14* .

friend or Krsna himself is addressing the heroine,

ramaniyavadand . . . . . . VII.22 . . . . . . . . . . . 3
rasavalitalalitag-ta . . . . XI. 17* . . . ..1..... . I

urging her to abandon her jealous love-anger. If we

eliminate these clusters, i.e., 111.7-13, V. 2-19, X. 1-14,

rama. ........... (1.44) ........ .. 2

XI. 1-21, and XII. 2-7, there remain only 8 words

varatanu .......... . IV.19*, VI.ll * .1... . I

denoting Radha in the poem. They are: vadha (II. 18),

vallabha . . . . . . . . . . . VI I. 30 . . . . . . . . . . . 3

yuvati (IV.9), k ratanu (IV.ll), varatanu (IV.19, VI.

WaiimukhT . . . . . . . . . . XII.7* . . . . . . . . . . . I
sudat . . . . . . . . . . . . . X. 3* . . . . . . . . . . . . I

11,) mrgaksT (VI.10), mrgadrK (XI.33), kalahdntaritd

(IX.l), and priyd (XII.l). A wealth of vocabulary

sumukhT .... . . . V. 19*, X. I*, 12* . . I

appears in the passages of appeasement alone, common to Sanskrit poetry.

(Words in XI. 14-21 are bahuvrThi compounds in

That aspect of the GTtagovinda which, more than

grammatical agreement with the vocative of Radha

any other, distinguishes it from "secular" poetic style is

which appears in the refrain to these verses.)

its refrain. And it is precisely in these repeated verses,

The data reveal that 25 of the 40 words and epithets

the strength of which derives from their incantatory

denoting woman in the GTtagovinda apply solely to

nature, that we witness a designative system which is

Radha. Another 5 designations refer merely to women

in general, including the favored cowherdess. Three

most unlike that of the ornamental flourish characteristic of kavya. Here is the list of words which denote

other words always denote women other than Radha.

Radha in refrain passages.20

Thus, the combined number of words which consistently apply to the same referent, i.e., words categorized in group 1, 2, or 3, is 33 or 82.5% of all

designations. It is already apparent that the author of

20 I have omitted forms of the first personal pronoun by

which Rqdhq occasionally refers to herself.

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LANGER: Compartmentalization and Clustering of Words for Women 191

1. 27-34 sakhi

reads: "nijagdda sa yadunandane kridati hrdayanandane." In verse 20, which formally concludes the

111. 3-10 sa
IV. 2-9 sa

narrative of the poem, we are presented with Radha's

IV. 11-18 Rqdhika

final commands to Krsna. Despite her authoritative

V. 2-6 sakhi

imperatives demanding various erotic pleasures, Radha

VI. 2-9 Radhq

is not designated by her name, a word for woman, or a

IX. 2-9 mdnini

pronoun. The verse ends with the impersonal "iti

X. 2-9 priyd

nigaditah pritah pitambaro 'pi tathakarot." Again, we

XI. 2-9 mugdhd


may note a skillful poet's juxtaposition of simple and

complex designations. It is, of course, Krsna who

XI. 14-21 Rqdhd

must, in the end, be extolled with a climactic cluster of

XI. 24-31 sa

epithets. Thus we encounter the following words de-

XIII. 2-9 Rqdhikd

noting the dark blue hero: yadunandana (vs. 12), prii'a

(vs. 13), iubhavesa (vs. 14), kamal/nana (vs. 16),

12-19 sa

manada (vs. 17), subh&asaya (vs. 18), pTtambara (vs. 20),

With the exception of the vocatives mdnini, priye, and

and finally Krsna (vs. 21).

mugdhe, all centered in cantos IX-XI, designations

Jayadeva has, then, succeeded in governing the

employed in reference to Radha alternate between the

dynamics of the psychological interplay between the

words sakhT, Radha, Radhika, and sa.

two symbolic characters throughout his poem; he has

In a manner similar to that which we have encoun-

skillfully shifted the emphasis back and forth between

tered in other texts, sd offers a striking contrast

Radha and Krsna. This has been accomplished pri-

to-and even culminates in-a long list of standard

marily by the staging of the scenes as we turn from one

and original words for woman. In XI. 14-20 Radha's

chapter to the next. Nevertheless, stylistic and semantic

friend addresses the hesitant cowherdess with a mass of

techniques also contribute to this end. For it is largely

vocative epithets, all of which stand in apposition to

how the poet refers to Radha and Krsna that both

the name Radha: ratirabhasahasitavadane, kucakala-

polarizes and unifies the two protagonists.

sataralahdre, kusumasukumaradehe, rasavalitalalita-

glte, madanarasasarasabhdve, daianarueirucirasikhare

V. We have seen that long clusters of the feminine

and alasapTnajaghane. In the refrain which follows this

personal pronoun, especially in the poems of Kalidasa,

unusual cluster (vss. 24-31), Radha is denoted by the

simple feminine pronoun:

which they occur. As mentioned, the motivations lying

often mirror the thematic content of the passages in

behind the use of s& clusters may well be stylistic.

harim ekarasam ciram abhilasitavilasam/

sd dadarga guruharsavasamvadavadanam anarganivasam/ /

Nevertheless, tradition itself supports the view that a

concentration of pronominal forms reached into the
semantic arena, affecting the contents as well as the

style (cf. note 15 above). The use of sa in a class of

verses from traditional anthologies leaves little doubt

Jayadeva has employed the entire range of epithets,

including Radha's proper name and the pronoun sain short, his complete designative system for Radha-

within vss. 1-31 of canto XI. This passage marks the

climax, or at least the beginning of the climax, of the
poem. It is in this canto that Radha is at last successfully urged into final confrontation and reconciliation
with Krsna. Here the tension of forces between the
hero and heroine, between God and soul, is, of course,
symbolized by the sexual tension that finds fulfillment
in the twelfth and final canto.

that the feminine pronoun is intended to promote the

image of idealized women. Nor is it unthinkable that
the effect of s&, to be illustrated below, was established
in part through the well-known passages of Kalidasa
which we have discussed.

The following verses exemplify a large number of

poems in which women are virtually worshipped,
sometimes even turned into the objects of meditation
or spoken of as the rewards of long ascetic practice in

former lives. This type of idealization is often reminiscent of many poems of the medieval troubadours and

It is, however, the pronoun sa which, in the end,

Minnesdnger. The manner in which the women are

denotes Radha. The refrain of canto XI1, verses 12-19,

"worshipped" may also recall the devotional acts of

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192 Journal of the American Oriental Society 101.2 (1981)

certain Indian bhakti sects.2 Let us first consider

subject, a grammatically acceptable feature which need

Amarugataka 102, where the use of sa functions as a

not bear semantic import, the use of vayam, as well as


sort of religious mantra echoing throughout the verse.

apatavo, accentuate the singular beauty of the woman

designated by sa (vayam is perhaps best compared to

prasade sd diii di~i ca sa prsthatah sd purah sd

our editorial "we," which is not without suggestive

paryahke sd pathi pathi ca sa tadviyogdturasya/


harmho cetah prakrtir apard ndsti me kdpi sd sd

sa sa sa sa jagati sakale ko 'yam advaitavadah//

To be sure, this pronoun functions as a referential; it is

she and she alone whom the poet is extolling. But

the literary effect of sa transcends this usage. Sa is a

designation which is non-restrictive, neither defining

nor confining its referent. In this poem, as well as in
those to follow, the use of this pronoun conveys the

image of a woman who is so idealized that she defies

description and therefore naming. Words such as
nitambini would not have created this mood. One is
reminded of the old philosophical descriptions of the
Absolute or God in which these ineffable entities were
denoted by mere pronouns such as tat, e.g., Katha
Upanisad 4. 3 ff.

Amaru. 34 offers another example of a verse in

which sa helps create the picture of a woman who is at

the same time both mysterious and distant.

sa bala vayam apragalbhamanasah sa stri vayam

katarah sa pinonnatimat payodharayugam. dhatte

The pronoun sa may serve to exalt a mere feature of

a woman's body. In ?rigdraiataka 15,24 it is the

beloved's romavali, the streak of hair above the navel,
which becomes the excitant of man's desire. The sd,

which grammatically belongs with romavali, is not

only separated from the noun by kena, but closes the

verse and thus echoes in the reader's ear. The fourth

pdda reads: "madhyasthapi karoti tapam adhikam
romavalih kena sa."

The emphatic final position of a verse is occupied by

sa in the 16th and 17th poems of the same anthology.
The women to which these pronouns refer are eulogized in an irrefutable fashion:
mukhena candrakantena mahn-ilaih Riroruhaih/

panibhydmr padmardgdbhydm reje ratnamayliva sd/ '

(SS. 16)
gurund stanabhdrena mukhacandrena bhasvatd/

sanais carabhyam, padabhyam. reje grahamayiva sa, /

(SS. 17)

The portrayal of Malati as an exalted, perfect creation is evident in Subhasitaratnakosa 446.25 The hero-

sakheda vayam/

sakranta jaghanasthalena guruna gantum. na ?aktd

ine is denoted by sa which opens the verse. Note the

vayam dosair anyajandirayair apatavo jatah sma ity

frequent repetition of "a" throughout the verse, espe-

adbhutam/ /

cially in the words va, ending padas a and b, and

vedhah, closing pada d. Here the sound of the refer-

Arjunavarmadeva, in commenting on this verse, explains that the repeated use of sa reflects the woman's

ential sa is as important as its lack of semantic import.

ineffable character (anirvacanTyatd-dyotakah); through

her power of being, the "bad" qualities of woman-

(opening the verse), and vedhah, the creator (closing

Observe the extreme opposition of sa, the created

the verse):

hood23 are incorporated by the enamoured poet.

Although the plural vavam is employed for a singular

sa ramanlyakanidher adhidevita va

saundaryasarasam udayaniketanam vd/

2' For example, of the 9 acts of devotion known to the

tasyah sakhe niyatam indusudhamrna1a-

jyotsnadi karanam abhun madanaR ca vedhah/ /

Vaisnava movement, i.e., arcana, vandana, sravana, sevana,

smarana, kTrtana, gunasravana, itma-nivedana, and ddsva,

The separated and lovesick narrator of SRK. 480

few are unknown to the man of passionate love as portrayed

confides in the reader by sharing his mantra. The

in Sanskrit love poetry. See Bhigavat Purdna 7.5.25, etc.

incantation itself denotes this beloved with sa alone:

Regarding the above list, mantra'apa is a frequent member

and often replaces ?raaana.

22 Amaru, Amaru?atakam, ed. with the commentary of

Arjunavarmadeva by Pt. Durgaprasad and Kasinath Pandurang Parab (Bombay: Nirnayasagara Press, 1922).

23 These qualities are, of course virtues; viparTtalaksand is


24 Bhartrhari, Subhhsitatrisati, ed. with the commentary of

Rdmacandrabudhendra by Vasudev Laxman Sastri Pansikar

(Bombay: Nirnayasagara Press, 1922).

25 Vidyakara, Subhasitaratnakosa, HOS 42, ed. by D.D.

Kosambi and V.V. Gokhale (Cambridge: Harvard U. Press,
1957). The verse is from MalatTmadhav'a 1.21.

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LANGER: Compartmentalization and Clustering of Words for Women 193

sd sundariti taruniti tanfidariti mugdheti mugdhavadaneti muhurmuhur me/

kUntam ayam virahinTm anurantukamah kamaturo

japati mantram ivantaratm5/

This verse should be compared to SRK. 793 where a

similarly unbashful meditation upon the erotic qualities of a man's beloved contains no word for woman
but merely oblique forms of the personal pronoun and
the compound stem "tat." Only after pronouncing the
chant does the poet employ the word enTdri, fawn-eyed.
te jafighe jaghanam ca tat tad udaram tau ca stanau tat
smitam sfiktih sa ca tad Tksanotpalayugam dhammillabharah sa ca/

15vanyamrtabinduvarsi vadanam tac caivam enidrgas

tasyas tad vayam ekam evam asakrd dhyayanta
evasmahel /

Finally, let us consider Amarusataka 29:

sa patyuh prathame 'paradhasamaye sakhyopadegam

vina no janati savibhramangavalanavakroktisamsuicanam/

svacchair acchakapolamuilagalitaih paryastanetrotpala

bala kevalam eva roditi luthallolodakair agrubhih//

This poem portrays an innocent young woman who is

miserable on account of her husband's first show of
infidelity. The verse is particularly interesting in the
light of Arjunavarmadeva's final observations. Arjunavarmadeva does not actually discuss the suggestive
meaning of sd. Nevertheless, this 13th century commentator states that it would be inappropriate for
anybody but a messenger, impassioned lover, etc., to
use this word. He writes: "seti padam ca dtitdfitaprabhrtikasya rativasanalinigitantahkaranasya va
vaktur yujyate, na tu tatasthasya. tasmft kantasya
prathame 'paradhasamaye iti patho yuktah. athfinurakta eva naktfstu. maivam. patyur ity anupapannatvft." (It is appropriate that the word sa be
used by a speaker who is either a female or male
messenger, etc., or by someone whose heart is embraced by the feeling of love, but [the use of sa is not be

be made] by an indifferent speaker. Therefore, the

reading 'at the time of the beloved's first offense' is
preferable to the present reading which contains the
word sa. CJf the reading "pranesapranayaparadhasamaye" in Vemabhuipala's SrhgdradTpika.] If one
argues: 'Let us assume that the speaker is in fact
impassioned.' To this we say 'no,' since the word
'husband' would then be out of place.)." By the last
sentence, Arjunavarmadeva means to say that we
cannot accept the objector's solution and consider the

speaker emotionally attached to the woman portrayed,

since there is mention of a husband. In other words, it
would be inappropriate for a narrator to directly
express or suggest his love for a woman being portrayed in such a conjugal setting. Thus, in prohibiting
the use of sa here and in all other instances where an

impersonal narrator is speaking, Arjunavarmadeva is

clearly recognizing the full suggestive impact of this
feminine pronoun.

It is unnecessary to continue citing examples of this

sort. As a last remark I would like to suggest that the
use of sa which we have discussed, not to mention the
host of stereotyped words for woman which otherwise
denotes females in Sanskrit poetry, may be understood
in the framework of Sanskrit poetic theory. Some of
the most influential alamkiraiastrakdras proclaimed
that the success of poetry depends upon the transformation of the individual or the particular into the

universal. This concern is evidenced by the terminology. For example Bhatta Ndyaka's second function

of a word is its bhdvakatva, power of generalization,

which reduces the x'ibhdvas and sthdyi-bhjvas to general properties. Accordingly, the vibhdvas that are
specific women become reduced or transformed to
general women (symbolizing nothing less than "womanhood") before they can be instrumental in producing
rasas. It is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss
each particular theorist's view regarding the precise
locus of transformation from the particular to the
general or how this process actually occurs. Suffice it
to say that the wealth of Sanskrit words for woman
which usually denote general, stereo-typed traditional
feminine qualities or physical features, and particularly
the use of the personal (yet impersonal!) pronoun sd,
facilitates this process of generalization and thus ensures poetic appreciation. For Abhinavagupta and
others, poetry must evoke vdsanas, latent impressions
that linger on from former births; these, when brought

to consciousness, enable identification with poetic and

dramatic characters. This process, when stripped of its
mystical garb, might well be exemplified by a verse in
the Subhisitaratnakosa:
A word of general application
when I hear it,

comes to settle on a special object.

They say "woman,"

and straightaway my mind

runs to that very one whose eyes have charmed me.26

26 Translated by D.H.H. Ingalls, An Anthology of Sanskrit

Court Poetry: Vidhyakara's Subhdsitaratnakosa, HOS 44,

(Cambridge: Harvard U. Press, 1965) p. 191.

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