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Kāvyapuruṣa – Sanskrit poetry’s primordial man and the creation of the kāvya cosmos

  • Lidia Szczepanik-Wojtczak
Thursday 18 February 2016
Lecture series Society of Friends of the Kern Institute (VVIK)
Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 3
2311 BZ Leiden

Thursday 18 February Lidia sSzcepanik-Wojtczak (IIAS) will give a VVIK Indology Lecture. The lecture will be followed by drinks in the basement of Matthias de Vrieshof 3. 

Kāvyapuruṣa – Sanskrit poetry’s primordial man and the creation of the kāvya cosmos

The aim of this lecture will be to discuss one of the most wide-spread yet still often misunderstood literary styles of pre-modern India, kāvya – courtly poetry. 

The first part of my paper will be dedicated to outlining a brief history of the development of Sanskrit kāvya (beginning with inscriptional passages from 2 CE) and of Sanskrit poetics (kāvyaśāstra in the broadest sense). 

The second half of the presentation will concern one of the most original accounts of the ‘genesis’ of kāvya found in the treatise Kāvyamīmāṁsā by Rājaśekhara (10 CE). This text, which is often referred to as a kaviśikṣā, or a handbook for poets, represents one of the most novel approaches towards kāvya production because it depicts Sanskrit poetry primarily as a social and cultural phenomenon as opposed to simply providing an analysis of textual material. In the third chapter of the Kāvyāmīmāṁsā Rājaśekhara finds inspiration in Vedic cosmogony, the Indian epics, as well as treatises on poetics and grammar in order to offer his readers the story of the Kāvyapuruṣa, ‘Poetry-Man’, a primordial being who stands at the inception of all poetry. 

Over the course of the lecture, I will trace the account of the Kāvyapuruṣa and demonstrate the ways Rājaśekhara’s allegorical account makes use of and sets itself apart from the work of his predecessors. 


Dr Lidia Szczepanik-Wojtczak is a Gonda fellow at IIAS. She was awarded the title PhD in the field of Literature Studies – Oriental Philology/Indology at the Jagiellonian University, Kraków, in 2015. Her research topic at IIAS comprises the beginnings of dūtakāvya (messenger poetry), one of the most prolific yet also one of the most understudied literary genres of India. 





The lecture is organised by the Society of Friends of the Kern Institute (VVIK). All are welcome to attend. 

Society of Friends of the Kern Institute

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