Journal Article

Traces of Śaunaka: A Literary Assessment

Laurie L. Patton

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 79, issue 1, pages 113-135
Published in print March 2011 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online November 2010 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI:
Traces of Śaunaka: A Literary Assessment

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This article takes up the question, “Who is Śaunaka?” from a literary angle. Śaunaka was both a proponent of a method of Vedic interpretation and a mythological sage. It examines the references to Śaunaka in the Vedic and Epic literature, and characterizes the distinction of his approach. Śaunaka's emphasis on the role of the deity and the giving of names (nāmadheya) in ritual activities is distinct from other sages. Second, it argues that the later legends that treat the progenitor of this school, the sage Śunaka, as well as his descendant, Śaunaka, focus in some way on the power of the deity within ritual action, especially the use of mantra. In his penchant for mantra-centered theological commentary (especially through etymological means), Śaunaka stands for a deity-centered literary style, even in the later texts in which he appears as a mythological figure. The article ends by suggesting that in ancient India, an author does not create a text so much as a textual tradition creates a sense of authorial capacity, an authorial imaginaire.

Journal Article.  8686 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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