India has a vast, though little known, literature. Even in India itself few people have any idea of the extent and interest of this heritage, being mostly intent on material affairs and on foreign ideas which might prove financially advantageous. They may be dimly aware that there is a considerable religious literature, some old epics of a semi-religious character, a few books of philosophy and a sprinkling of modern novels. It is a rare thing to meet a person who knows anything of the long tradition of literature in the strict sense of poetic and dramatic works and of fiction. Outside India, again, everyone has heard something of the great religious tradition of Brahmanism and Buddhism, but few have stumbled upon a work of literary art from India, a work whose main purpose is to entertain and not to teach.
This small volume is not intended to indicate the extent of India's little known literature but, instead, to discuss the enjoyment of it. Some might think such discussion superfluous: one may simply read, at least in translations (though India has been poorly served by translators, compared, for example, with China), and if one enjoys the story, or the characterizations and descriptions, well and good; if not, one may try something else. But literature does not always yield its pleasures so easily, especially when it belongs to an unfamiliar tradition or to a past epoch. Remoteness always brings a special charm and a safe detachment, but it may result in difficulty of perception unless some aid is provided. It is part of the purpose of the present sketch to indicate the value and interest of literary criticism itself, particularly when objective and scientific, regardless of any special problem of remoteness in time or in culture. The critics whose works we are to discuss were not at al remote in culture from the literature they studied, but belonged to the Indian tradition itself; they were also not far enough to be objective in their appreciation of the authors they wrote about.
Thus our study is not directly of the beauties of Indian literature but of the appreciations of Indian literary criticism. Ultimately, however, our objective is the same: it is the enjoyment of literature.
This volume originated as a series of six lectures given in the University of Madras in 1977. it is a pleasure to thank Dr. K.K. Raja, Professor of Sanskrit, for his kind invitation and participation and interesting comments. Since the lectures, though public, were intended primarily for students, they have been revised here in an effort to make them more accessible to a wider readership. However, criticism is a some-what technical subject, and it has seemed better to retain this technicality, though attempting to explain it clearly, than to water it down or even wash it out altogether in the hope of being easy and popular. For the same reason, references to the original sources and the necessary bibliography are supplied
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