About the Book
The present volume, Indian theories of verbal comprehension and hermeneutics, contains 21 articles discussing different aspect of Indian theories of verbal comprehension and hermeneutics. Hermeneutics, as is well known, is the art and science of interpretation. India has a rich tradition of hermeneutics. Verbal comprehension which naturally forms a part of hermeneutics, was a hot subject of discussion for not only philosophers but also for poeticians. It is Mimamsa, also called as Vakyasastra , which contributed much for developing theories regarding verbal comprehension. Mimamsaka-s held that ‘an action, or the deed of prompting the listener to act’ (bhavana) is the central core of a sentence-meaning. Naiyayika-s especially of the Navyanyaya phase have also made a notable contribution to the field. They hold that the object denoted in the nominative case is the central core or verbal cognition (prathamantarthamukhyavisesyakasabdabodha). Grammarians also have put their might in developing theories of verbal comprehension. Bhartrhari’s ideas and theories regarding are bafflingly novel and original even to modern linguists and philosophers.
I have great pleasure to introduce the present work Indian Theories of Verbal Comprehension and Hermeneutics edited by Dr. N.K. Sundareswaran, Reader, Department of Sanskrit, University of Calicut to the world of scholars as the 4151 book in the Calicut University Sanskrit Series. The work as the title suggests deals with the concept of verbal comprehension and hermeneutics.
The word hermeneutics means the art or science of the interpretation of literature. The word was originally confined to the interpretation of sacred scripture. But during the 19th century it broadened its scope to encompass the problem of textual interpretation as a whole. In literary criticism’ Hermeneutic’ method was introduced by German thinkers like Schleiermacher, Dilthey and Heidegger. Later on Hands George Gadamar broadened its scope still further. He clearly articulated several problems plaguing literary theory, like the meaning of a text, its relation to the intension of the author, and the possibility of ‘understanding’ objectively meaning of the text alien to us. When we consider the Indian tradition of hermeneutics it is clear that almost all the texts in Sanskrit have commentaries. There are various reasons for this. The first reason is India’s oral tradition itself. The second reason accounted for the profuse production of the commentaries is the tendency to keep the knowledge as enigmatic one or personal possession. The third reason is that almost all disciplines in Sanskrit developed in course of time and introduced new concepts.
The present volume, Indian theories of verbal comprehension and hermeneutics, contains various articles discussing different aspects of Indian theories of verbal comprehension and hermeneutics. Of late some studies on Indian theories of hermeneutics have appeared. But the field is so vast that there is still ample scope left out for new explorations and assessments.
Hermeneutics, as is well known, is the art and science of interpretation. India has a rich tradition of hermeneutics. All the canonical texts of ancient India were written in a terse and pithy language which resulted in an abundance of commentarial literature. The vibrant tradition of heated discussions of serious conceptions (which is reflected even in the Upenisedic literature) also acted as a catalyst in the emergence of various interpretations of theories - related to variegated branches of learning like Philosophy, Language, Grammar, Literature, Aesthetics and even Technical literature. And often commentaries excelled (at times even eclipsed) the original text. The Mahabhasya of Patanjali and the Abhinavabharati commentary on Natyasastra are best examples of the commentaries surpassing the original texts in popularity. The tradition of writing commentaries was so active that sometimes even the methodology that is claimed to have been employed by the commentator gained much popularity (namulam likhyate kincinnanapeksitamucyate- Mallinatha). And the dictum vyakhyata vetti no kavih (The commentator knows well and not the poet) goes to speak volumes about the position of commentator. And the methodology of interpreting a text prescribed by the Mlmaf!/saka-s is well known upakramopasamharavabhyaso ‘purvata phalam /arthavadopapattica lingam tatparyanirnaye //).
Verbal comprehension, which naturally forms a part of hermeneutics, was a hot subject of discussion for not only philosophers but also for poeticians. Mimamsaka-s and Vedantin-s declare that their prime business is the interpretation of Vedevakya-s, It is Mimamsa, also called as Vakyasastra, which contributed much for developing theories regarding verbal comprehension. Mimamsa-s held that ‘an action, or the deed of prompting the listener to act’ (bhavana) is the central core of a sentence-meaning. Naiyayika-s, especially of the Navyanyaya phase have also made a notable contribution to the field. Works like Vyutpattivada and Sabdasaktiprakasika are note-worthy in this regard. They hold that the object denoted in the nominative case is the central core of verbal cognition (prathamantarthamukhyavisesyakasabdabodha). Grammarians also have put their might in developing theories of verbal comprehension. Bhartrhari’s ideas and theories regarding verbal comprehension and philosophy of language are bafflingly novel and original even to modern linguists and philosophers. Ancient Indian poeticians (Anandavardhana, Abhinavagupta, Mukulabhatta, Bhattanayaka, Dhananjaya, Dhanika and Mahimabhatta are only some notable names) not only employed and innovated the theories of verbal comprehension but also developed various theories regarding aesthetic experience.
The contributors of the present volume, who are experts in the respective fields, have been chosen from a wide range. Considering the peculiar nature of the theme and in order to give the reader a first-hand- experience of the style of approach and the methodologies of sastraic tradition (the tradition of sastraic discourse in Sanskrit - sastrarthavicara - is still live in India), traditional scholars have been asked to write in Sanskrit language. There are articles in English too. Hence the volume is bilingual. Apart from the theme proper, some related topics like ‘Contribution of Kerala to Mimamsa philosophy’ and ‘The concept of Dharma in Indian philosophy’ have also been included.
Eminent scholars like Prof. N.V.P. Unithiri, Prof. C. Rajendran, Prof. K.N. Neelakantan, Prof. V. Ramakrishna Bhat, Pro’. P. Narayanan Namboodiri, Prof. T. Aryadevi, Prof. Krishnakumar and Prof. K.V.Vasudevan have kindly contributed to the volume. Three articles, viz. those of N.V. Krishna Warrior (an Eminent scholar, poet and critic), Dr. K.Kunjunni Raja (the author of celebrated works like Indian theories of meaning and Contribution of Kerala to Sanskrit Literature), and Kalakkath Govindan Nambyar (an erudite traditional scholar in Vyakarara) , are posthumously included. In fact these papers (those of Dr. Kunjunni Raja and Govindan Nambyar contain only the gist) were presented in the National Seminar on ‘Indian Theories on Sabdabodha - A linguistic perspective organized by our Department way back in 1986.
Now let me place in record my sincere gratitude to all the scholars who have contributed articles to the volume. I express my thanks to the University authorities, especially the Department council (of the Department of Sanskrit), for including this work in the Calicut University Sanskrit Series. And special thanks to Sri Omprakash. V, the Publication officer and Smt. Laly Francis, the Layout Designer.
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