Amrita Darshanam– International Centre for Spiritual Studies, in association with Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, organised a One-day National Symposium on the Storytelling Tradition of Sanskrit on October 20, 2018, in Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Mysuru.
On the morning of October 20, 2018, the guests of honour were welcomed traditionally with pūrṇa-kumbha and vedic chants. The symposium commenced with the ceremonial lighting of lamps by Prof ‘Abhiraj’ Rajendra Mishra, Prof. Prabhunath Dwivedi, Br. Sunil Dharampal, and Dr. Ajay Kumar Sharma. Br. Sunil Dharampal, Director, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Mysuru, presided the inaugural session as the Chief Guest. Dr. Ajay Kumar Sharma, the Assistant Editor of Sahitya Akademi, delivered the welcome speech, and in his welcoming remarks, he highlighted the efforts of Sahitya Akademi towards propagating different languages, and in lieu of the same, he lauded the initiative to hold a symposium on the storytelling tradition of Sanskrit.
The keynote address was delivered by Prof. Prabhunath Dwivedi, Member, Sanskrit Advisory Board, Sahitya Akedemi, and former Professor, Dept. of Sanskrit, Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Hindu Vidyapeeth, Varanasi. He discussed the necessity of discussing the storytelling tradition of Sanskrit, different classifications and types of stories in Sanskrit and the possible ways in which modern Sanskrit stories could be classified.
Prof. ‘Abhiraj’ Rajendra Mishra, Convener, Sanskrit Advisory Board, Sahitya Akademi, and Former Vice Chancellor, Sampurnanda Sanskrit University, Varanasi, delivered the presidential address. A modern Sanskrit storyteller himself, he shared his profound insights into the various aspects and types of the extant kathā-literature in Sanskrit and highlighted the fact that Sanskrit is an immortal language and through its stories it can take us beyond this mortal world.
The first session was chaired by Prof. Prabhunath Dwivedi. It commenced with a presentation by Dr. Balram Shukla, Assistant Professor, University of Delhi. He spoke at length about the migration of Vishnu Sharma’s Pancatantra across the world. He discussed how it first migrated to Iran in the 6th century C.E. Borzūya, a Persian physician, was responsible for the first translation from Sanskrit to Pahlavi (medieval Persian). Two centuries later, in 750 C.E. in Baghdad, Ibn-al-Moquaffa translated it from Pahlavi to Arabic, and almost all the pre-modern translations of the Pancatantra in Europe have their roots in this Arabic translation. By 1888, there existed over seventy variants with different titles in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Spanish, German, French, Italian, English, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Hungarian, Czech, Croat, Polish, Armenian and many other languages.
Ananta Sharma B. G., Assistant Professor, Spiritual Studies, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Bengaluru, presented his paper on the stories in the Upaniṣads. He discussed how stories are used as a vehicle to convey eternal truths, and illustrated it with stories of Yājñavalkya, Satyakāma, Naciketa, Indra-Prajāpati, Raikwa and many others from various Upanishads.
Manish Walvekar, Assistant Professor, Spiritual Studies, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Bengaluru, discussed the concept of Nāga-s in Kalhaṇa’s Rājataraṇgiṇī. He mentioned that there are three types of nāga-s mentioned the Rājataraṇgiṇī, and highlighted the differences and purposes of using the medium of snakes as characters in his paper.
Prof. Prabhunath Dwivedi gave the remarks on each of the papers presented, and also presented his own paper on modern Sanskrit writings chiefly focusing on the various dimensions of the story genre.
The afternoon session was chaired by Prof. Kaushalendra Pandey, former Head, Dept. of Sahitya, Faculty of SVDV, Benaras Hindu University, Varanasi. The first presentation of this session was delivered by Dr. N K Sundareshwaran, Professor and Head, Dept. of Sanskrit, University of Calicut, Kerala. In a very comprehensive presentation, Dr. Sundareshwaran discussed how stories of Sanskrit are treated in the treatises of Alankāra-śāstra, thus emphasising the śastric perspective of Kathā.
In the next presentation, Manjushree Hegde, Assistant Professor, Spiritual Studies, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Coimbatore, discussed stories in Ayurveda textbooks. Vigneshwar Bhat, Assistant Professor, Spiritual Studies, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Mysuru, highlighted the stories found in the treatises of mīmāṁsā, and Dr. M. V. Vishwanath, Assistant Professor, Spiritual Studies, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Mysuru, presented a very engaging paper on the nuances of the usage of the words rama-kathā, rāmasya-kathā, ramāyaṇasya-kathā in the Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki.
The symposium came to a conclusion with a valedictory session. The Chief guest, Dr. S. Ranganath, Member, Sanskrit Advisory Board, Sahitya Akademi, Bangalore, gave his remarks on the symposium. The session was presided by Dr. Vidya Pai C., Principal, Amrita School of Arts and Sciences, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Mysuru Campus, and the vote of thanks was delivered by Dr. M. V. Vishwanath. In the evening, a lively and engaging kavi-goshti was organised. Budding poets and veteran Sanskrit poets of the likes of Prof. ‘Abhiraj’ Rajendra Mishra recited their varieties of Sanskrit poems. Thus, the symposium came to a conclusion with a comprehensive overview of the genre story and storytelling traditions of Sanskrit.