Saturday, April 21, 2012

the use of metaphors in traditional indian poetry

i love metaphors. because, they serve a purpose much bigger than entertainment in literature. metaphors teach us to instinctively do what is called in jargon - horizontal benchmarking. metaphors allow us to pick up lessons from completely unrelated contexts, and to apply those lessons to another context in a meaningful way.

it saddens me that traditional indian literature - both classics and folk, are so ignored by our children and by our education. The natural, spontaneous use of metaphors in our growing up, teaches us to connect dots across contexts as a matter of habit. Thats a skill that a lot of low context cultures will give an arm and a leg to learn. so why do we choose to throw this important learning aid away?

even in religious literature, we find abundant use of metaphors.

Lets start with the oldest book known to mankind - the Rig Veda (the link takes you to only one of the many metaphors that we find in the Vedas, but i thought this one was beautiful)

Sanskrit literature, in general, thrives on metaphors.. In fact, the critics in Sanskrit knew the difference between similes, metaphors, and something in between.

Kalidasa, of course, was the king of is impossible to talk of metaphors in poetry and to ignore Kalidasa, even today.:

O king! you are the finest among men with self-control. It is not fit of you to be struck by sorrow like the ordinary folk. If a great wind can move a tree and a mountain equally, how is the mountain better?

We have an unbroken tradition of THINKING in metaphors. This, imho, allows us to understand related concepts  across unrelated domains.

ps: i found this article on the timeline of indian lit very interesting.

No comments: