Chapter

The Maṇimēkalai's Community of Readers and Listeners

Anne E. Monius

in Imagining a Place for Buddhism

Published in print January 2002 | ISBN: 9780195139990
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834501 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195139992.003.0003
 The Maṇimēkalai's Community of Readers and Listeners

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The nature of the Maṇimēkalai's textual or reading community is considered through an examination of the narrative as a literary work produced in the context of a diverse and multilingual South Indian literary culture. Through careful reading of the intertextual allusions in the Maṇimēkalai, particularly in relation to the principal themes of an earlier Tamil narrative from which the Buddhist text borrows its central characters and settings, a picture begins to emerge of a textual community of literary connoisseurs who are multilingual, well versed in world views and the literature of various religious communities, and thoroughly engaged in the project of articulating religious identity in a literary and religious landscape of extreme diversity through the medium of ornately sophisticated poetry. The Maṇimēkalai's free appropriation and translation into Tamil of Buddhist narratives and philosophical concepts found in earlier Pāli and Sanskrit transregional sources provides a glimpse of the processes of transmission of a tradition for which no other record exists. In a literary‐cultural context that includes the vehemently anti‐Buddhist invective of the earliest Hindu poet‐saints, such easy switching from transliterated Sanskrit to translated Pāli in the Maṇimēkalai bespeaks a moment in Tamil literary history when language choice did not entail the same cultural, political, or religious allegiance that it would assume by the time of the eleventh‐century Vīracōliyam.

Keywords: Buddhism; Buddhist culture; Buddhist history; Buddhist literature; Hinduism; literary culture; literary history; Maṇimēkalai; Pāli; reading community; religious history; Sanskrit; South India; Tamil

Chapter.  18101 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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