Two books on erotic Sanskrit literature now in English
Stories of love and longing from ancient Sanskrit literature, lesser known among modern readers have been rendered into English by retired diplomat Haksar
New Delhi: Stories of love and longing from ancient Sanskrit literature, lesser known among modern readers have been rendered into English by retired diplomat, Haksar, acclaimed for his translation of the Kama Sutra.
In “The Seduction of Shiva: Tales of Life And Love” Haksar has compiled an eclectic stories of erotic love from ancient Sanskrit texts which academics have estimated to have been spread over a period of 1500 years, nearly a millennium from the present times.
“All great literature deals with the theme of the relation between the sexes and I have tried to bring together a collection of stories covering as big a period as possible,” Haksar said during the book release here recently.
The first story in the anthology talks about how the god Shiva is seduced by Mohini, the female form assumed by Vishnu. In another tale, Urvashi curses the Pandava prince Arjuna when he rejects her advances. The protagonist in another story pursues pleasure first as a man and then as a woman.
“All great literature deals with the theme of the relation between the sexes and I have tried to bring together a collection of stories covering as big a period as possible,” says the author.
“The stories in the ‘Seduction of Shiva’ have been taken over a over 1500 years let me drew material from not only from what is called secular writing but also literature traditionally regarded as scriptural like tales from the Puranas,” says Haksar.
The story of Bodhisattva, before he became the Buddha is also narrated in the tome.
“The tale of Prince Sudhana from the eighth century Divyavadana is also a love story, the only one in my knowledge which features the future Buddha as a lover,” the author says.
Most jataka accounts of his deeds in former births dwell on the cultivation of virtues like compassion, truth, patience and self control as prerequisites for eventual enlightenment points out Haksar.
The stories, says the author have been taken from the time stretched between fourth century BCE to the 12th century CE and “still holds resonance for contemporary times.”
“The process of translation for me has always been a process of learning and with each translation my own knowledge of the language has increased,” says the author.
The texts echo basic human emotions, which have tended to be the same throughout centuries.
“The theme of the book is based on the relations between the sexes and it is not just sexual relations but they cover many other dimensions like duty, need and responsibility, seduction and restraint, sex and marriage,” says the author.
In another book, “The Courtesan’s Keeper”, also brought out by Penguin Classics series, Haksar has translated the satire “Samaya Matrika, written by 11th century Kashmiri writer Kshemendra. This is the first time that this has been done in English.
The author says the ‘katha’ or purely narrative content of Sankrit literature often appears to have been overshadowed by the scholarly attention devoted to its philosophical, linguistic and academic dimensions.
“The process of translation for me has always been a process of learning and with each translation my own knowledge of the language has increased,” says Haksar.
The retired diplomat has previously translated Kshemendra’s “Three satires from ancient Kashmir.”