On birds, ascetics, and kings in Central Java R?m?yana Kakawin, 24.95–126 and 25

Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde. 2010;166(4):475-506


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Journal Title: Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde

ISSN: 0006-2294 (Print); 2213-4379 (Online)

Publisher: BRILL

Society/Institution: Vereniging KITLV (NL)

LCC Subject Category: History (General) and history of Europe: History of Oceania (South Seas) | Language and Literature: Languages and literature of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania

Country of publisher: Netherlands

Language of fulltext: English, Dutch; Flemish

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Andrea Acri


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 20 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

In the first part of the paper I introduce stanzas 95-126 of Sarga 24 and the whole of Sarga 25 of the Old Javanese R?m?ya?a, which present the most difficult and least understood pieces of poetry in the whole of Old Javanese literature. The two sections, displaying a close relationship between each other on account of several shared lexical items and corresponding motifs, describe in allegorical terms animals, birds and plants in order to satirically represent ascetic and political characters of mid-9th century Central Java. Because of their idiosyncratic language and style, and because of their allegorical content which find no correspondences in the Bha??ik?vya or other Sanskrit versions of the R?m?ya?a, they have been for long regarded as a ‘corpus alienum’ in the poem. The thesis of interpolation was criticized by Hooykaas (1958a/b/c), who, however, did not rule out the possibility of their having been composed by a ‘second hand’. Having tried to distinguish the various textual layers that characterize those sections, I turn to analyse their contents along the lines set out in the masterful article by Aichele (1969) ‘Vergessene Metaphern als Kriterien der Datierung des altjavanischen R?m?ya?a’, discussing the allegories depicted there in comparison with the contemporary ?iwag?ha metrical inscription. By taking into account additional Old Javanese textual and visual documents, I suggest a fine-tuning for some of the identifications advanced by the German scholar. In particular, I argue that the character of Wibh??a?a (instead of Lak?ma?a, as argued by Aichele) in the poem could allegorically represent King Rakai Kayuwa?i, and that the satirical descriptions of various kinds of water-birds of the heron family deceiving the freshwater fishes are to be taken as a critique directed to historical figures representing covert agents of the ?ailendra prince B?laputra disguised as ?aiva (and not Buddhist) ascetics. My conclusion is that the satirical themes displayed in the stanzas represent a case of ‘localization’ of materials widespread in Sanskrit literature, which should be taken into due consideration in order to understand the identity and religious affiliation of the ascetic figures allegorically represented in Sargas 24 and 25.