Friday, March 11, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.44: Ones Who Stopped at Nothing

shvapacaM kila senajit-sutaa
cakame miinaripuM kumudvatii
mRga-raajam atho bRhadrathaa
pramadaanaam agatir na vidyate

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The daughter of Sena-jit the Conqueror, so they say,
coupled with a dog cooker;

Kumud-vati, 'Lilly Pool,'
paired up with Mina-ripu, 'Foe of Fishes';

And 'Burly Heroine' Brhad-ratha loved a lion:

There is nothing women will not do.

EHJ noted that he was unable to identify the stories alluded to in this verse, but supposed that miina-ripu was the same as shuurpaka (a demon who was the enemy of the god of love), perhaps taking the form here (since ku-mud-vatii is the name of a river) of a fish-eating crocodile.

In any event Ashvaghosha as I hear him is exercising a sense of humour which is wry, ironic and at times wicked. And the butt of this wicked humour is not the promiscuity of women: it is rather the striving of men.

In line 1, what was the outrageous sexual exploit of Sena-jit's daughter? She had sex with a fellow human being -- a so-called "outcaste," an individual who had no class.

Who was Sena-jit? He was an ancient king of Magadha whose history is not known in detail but there might be a clue in his name "Army Vanquisher." His vanquishing of armies, we can suppose, involved more than conquering the power of his own senses through the practice of integrity. It doubtless involved the wholesale maiming and slaughter on ancient Indian battlefields of hundreds or thousands of fellow men.

Sometimes society needs people -- men or women -- who will stop at nothing to get the job done. One thinks of the role of British Bomber Command in World War II, or the traditional ethos of the US Marine Corp. Again, one thinks of the tradition in Tibet of sky burial, for which purpose a "non-Buddhist" is required to chop up the corpse of the deceased to facilitate the vultures' task. Speaking for myself, what I find distasteful about this Tibetan tradition is adherence to the view, which seems to me to be hypocritical, that a "Buddhist" is not allowed to do the chopping up. The same might go for meat-eating "Buddhists" in various Asian countries who regard the job of slaughtering animals as the reserve of "non-Buddhists."

Coming back to line 1, then, who truly was the one who was willing to stop at nothing: King Sena-jit the Slaughterer? Or his daughter?

With respect to lines 2 and 3, when women have sex with animals, in ancient Indian legends or in modern pornography, is it because women like to engage in sex with animals? Or is it that female characters in a male fantasy are catering to a jaundiced view of women that men, like Ashvaghosha's striver, are liable to have?

EH Johnston:
The daughter of Senajit, it is said, loved an outcast, Kumudvati, the fishes' foe, and Brhadratha a lion, there is nothing women are not capable of.

Linda Covill:
They say that Senajit's daughter slept with an outcase, Kumudvati with Mina-ripu and Brihad-ratha with a lion; there is nothing a woman will not do.

shvapacam (acc. sg.): m. " one who cooks dog " , a man of a low and outcaste tribe
kila: ind. so they say
senajit-sutaa (nom. sg.): f. Senajit's daughter
sena-jit: mfn. "vanquishing armies"; N. of a king of Magadha
sutaa: f. a daughter

cakame = 3rd pers. sg. perfect kam: to wish , desire , long for; to love , be in love with , have sexual intercourse with
miinaripum (acc. sg. m.): Minaripu
miina: m. a fish
ripu: m. enemy, foe
ku-mud-vatii (nom. sg.): f. an assemblage of lotuses , place or pond filled with them ; f. N. of a sister of the serpent-king kumuda and wife of kusha ; f. of the wife of the kiraata king vimarShaNa ; f. of the wife of pradyumna ; f. N. of a river
ku-mud = ku-muda: n. " exciting what joy " , the esculent white water-lily (Nymphaea esculenta)

mRga-raajam (acc. sg.): m. " king of beasts " , a lion
atho: and, then, likewise
bRhadrathaa (nom. sg.): f. 'powerful heroine' ; N. of a river
bRhat: mfn. lofty , high , tall , great , large , wide , vast , abundant , compact , solid , massy , strong , mighty
ratha: m. "a goer," car, chariot; a warrior , hero , champion

pramadaanaam (gen. pl.): f. women
agatiH (nom. sg. f.): mfn. not going , halting ; f. stoppage
na vidyate: there is not

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