Journal of Indian Philosophy

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 289–312 | Cite as

After the Unsilence of the Birds: Remembering Aśvaghoṣa’s Sundarī

  • Sonam KachruEmail author


Once encountered in Beautiful Nanda, Aśvaghoṣa’s Sundarī is unforgettable. It is easy, then, to forget that we are given to see and hear her only in two of the eighteen chapters of Aśvaghoṣa’s long, lyrical narrative of Nanda. When she is given to speak, her words and voice resonate powerfully, but the narrative reduces her at last to silence. Among the last images of her, there is the moment when she is likened to a screaming bird, bereaved of her mate, her voice transformed and eventually drowned out (Beautiful Nanda 6.30). This essay argues for a new interpretation of the salience of this figurative transformation, and of two different ways in which Sundarī is lost to view as she is forgotten or overlooked by characters in the narrative. Along with a close-reading of Sundarī?s loss of voice, this essay offers readings of the depiction of Sundarī?s grief (Beautiful Nanda 6.28-29) and Nanda?s ?disremembering? of her (Beautiful Nanda 7.5-7.9). In conclusion, I suggest that re-reading such passages recommends taking very seriously the possibility that for Aśvaghoṣa there might be a close relationship between the kind of sensitivity his poetry enables and a variety of moral attention.


Aśvaghoṣa Buddhism  Literature  Saundarananda  Attention  Ethics 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Religious StudiesUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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