Journal of Indian Philosophy

, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 503–518 | Cite as

Poetry Beyond Good and Evil: Bilhaṇa and the Tradition of Patron-centered Court Epic

Article

Abstract

The eleventh century poet Bilhaṇa’s magnum opus, his Vikramāṅkadevacarita, quickly became one of the most admired and quoted examplars of a newly emergent genre in second millennium Sanskrit poetry, the patron-centered court epic—an extended verse composition dedicated to relating the deeds and celebrating the virtues of the pet’s own patron. But Bilhaṇa’s verse biography of his patron, the Cālukya monarch Vikramāditya VI, while ostensibly singing his praises, is colored throughout by darker suggestions that Vikramāditya may be less than the moral paragon it proclaims him to be, and that the power of poetry lies precisely in its ability to fabricate royal virtue where none exists, and to wash clean the reputation of any king, regardless of his actual deeds. He makes these insinuatons through a variety of formal and narrative techniques, most strikingly by his persistent suggestions that Vikramāditya has perhaps less in common with Rāma, the archetypal paragon of royal virtue, than with his demonic antagonist Rāvaṇa, and, even more corrosively, that Rāma’s own reputation may owe more to his panegyrist’s skill than to his own virtue.

Keywords

Bilhaṇa Vikramāditya VI Patron Court epic Panegyric Rāvaṇa 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Asian StudiesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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