ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Reclaiming Lost Territory

The dominant figures in the study of Sanskrit language and literature are non-Indians. Yet their research is marked by the patience and dedication of meticulous scholars, and they interrogate classical theorists in a confi dent manner that we find missing in Indian approaches to ancient criticism. Admirable though these traits are, this article observes that their work sometimes lacks the judicious touch of a nuanced understanding that some Indian scholars have. So it is time that we assimilated the systematic and thorough scholarship of western scholars to reclaim our cultural heritage and intellectual territory.

Anybody who ventures into the study of Sanskrit aesthetic the0ries today is bound to be struck by the number of non-Indian scholars in the field. The dominant figures in the study of Sanskrit language and literature are mostly of foreign origin – Sheldon Pollock, Paula Richman, Wendy Doniger, David Schulman, to name a few. The most definitive translation of Dhvanyaloka is by Daniel Ingalls and M V Patwardhan. The best translation of the Abhinavabharati has been done by Raniero Gnoli. The Clay Sanskrit Library in association with New York University Press has brought out scholarly translations of most of the ancient Sanskrit classics, including the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

When N R Narayana Murthy of Infosys wished to contribute to the preservation of our non-Sanskrit literary heritage he did so by donating generously to set up the Murthy Classical Library of India, a Harvard University Press initiative that attempts to publish scholarly translations of medieval classics in Indian languages other than Sanskrit. Cutting-edge research into Sanskrit aesthetic theory, linking it to modern cognitive studies, is also done by people like Patrick Colm Hogan. It is an irony that today the most authentic text that you refer to might be authored by a non-Indian, and that most of the good Indian scholars working in the area are located in metropolitan academies. Except for the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune, India seems to have lost track of Indian literary traditions. It is not as if western interest in Indology is a contemporary phenomenon. It goes back to the 18th century in India when Sanskrit was elevated to the level of a classical language by William Jones and the founding of the Asiatic Society in 1764.

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