Mahfil. v 7, V. 7 ( 1971) p. 45.


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Robert P. Goldman

MYTH AS__LITERATURE IN ANCIENT INDIA:

THE SAGA OF SUKRACARYA AND THE DEMONS (MATSIAPURANA, 47)

An exposition^ translation and notes

Introduction

A great deal has been written on the subjects of ancient Indian myth and Sanskrit literature. This is not to suggest, though, that either has been sufficiently examined. I certainly do not mean to disparage the considerable body of fine scholarly work in these fields. There are many insightful and excellent works, both in India and the West, concerning both myth and literature in Sanskrit and related languageso My point is, simply, that the body of material for study, much of it not yet edited, is so vast that we have as yet only lighted a few flares in a huge and half-unknown landscape.

Students of Sanskrit literature and poetics are still painfully aware of the dearth of sound and scholarly translations of many of the most seminal texts. The situation is far worse for the student of Classical Indian mythology. In the case of art-literature (including kavya^ nataka, and prose of the type exemplified by the Kadambart), there are a large number of editions, translations, and critical studies. The massive body of mythological material in the Vedic, epic, and, especially Puranic texts, has received, by comparison, only the most minimal and diffuse treatment.

There have been a number of efforts to bring some order into the vast chaos. Scholars such as Macdonnell have provided valuable digests of Indie myth in the form of indices, etc. There have also been any number of sound and informative studies of the problems of a given myth, mythic figure, or motif./ But, for various reasons, there has been little in the way of valuable studies of either major mythic complexes or the ways in which myth developed and functioned in the Sanskrit tradition.

This lack is, I think, thrown into very sharp focus by the fairly recent revival of interest in mythology in general. For various reasons, and largely through the efforts of such men as Levi-Strauss, Mircea Eliade, Georges Dumezil, and followers of their several schools of thought, myth has again become the center of an interest such as it has



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