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Flowers, daggers, and bitten lips: citrakāvya in Sanskrit literature

  • Alessandro Battistini
Thursday 6 April 2017
drinks afterwards
Lecture series Society of Friends of the Kern Institute (VVIK)
Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 3
2311 BZ Leiden
104 ("The Verbarium")

Citrakāvya (“flashy poetry”) is one of the most baffling and entertaining genres of ancient Indian literature. Since the beginning of Sanskrit poetic production, poets have devised verses that keep puzzling readers many centuries after: these compositions remind one of Western carmina figurata, crosswords and riddles, but have unique features. While located within court poetry and learned circles, citrakāvya has much deeper implications rooted in religion and ritual. We will explore this enigmatic genre through manuscripts showcasing beautiful examples of figurative poems, and the most significant passages from Sanskrit authors.


Alessandro Battistini is Gonda fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies in Leiden. He studied Classics in Milan and Sanskrit in Varanasi and holds a PhD from the University of Rome. His thesis was the first critical edition, translation and study of the masterpiece of citrakāvya: Ānandavardhana’s Devīśataka with the commentary by Kayyaṭa. He is currently
working on a Nepalese manuscript carrying an unpublished rewrite of that work made by a Buddhist scribe. His main fields of interest are Indian manuscripts, Sanskrit poetry and aesthetics, games and puzzles in India.

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