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Why Asians Are Supposedly 'Cuter' (Scientific Breakdown)
Literature The peoples of South Asia have had a continuous literature from the first appearance in the Punjab of a branch of the Indo-European-speaking peoples who also settled all of Europe and Iran. In India this branch of Indo-Aryans, as they are usually called, met earlier inhabitants with different languages and no doubt a different culture—possibly a culture akin to that of the Indus Valley civilization, which had a script, and perhaps a literature of its own, of which nothing is known. Certain to have been settled in India were peoples who spoke languages of Dravidian origin, as well as other languages, called Munda, now preserved only by aboriginal tribes, which show affinities with the languages of Southeast Asia. The earliest literature is of a sacred character and dates from about bc in the form of the Rigveda. The language of the Rigveda, which is a compilation of hymns to the high gods of the Aryan religion, is complex and archaic. This language is called Sanskrit Tongue Perfected. Sanskrit has had a scarcely interrupted literature from about bc until today, but its greatest efflorescence was in the classical period, from the 1st to 7th centuries ad. In a further development of these dialects, the early beginnings can be seen of modern Indo-Aryan languages of northern India: Bengali also the language of Bangladesh , Hindi the official language of the Republic of India since , Rajasthani, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, Kashmiri, Oriya, Assamese, and Sindhi, each of which produced a literature of its own. Their names are derived from the regions in which they are spoken, regions with uncertain boundaries, where the different dialects fused at the borders. They all retained a close family resemblance that made bilingualism easy and a fact of Indian literary life. Far more marked was the difference between Indo-Aryan speech and the languages of the Dravidian family, which are structurally wholly different, though in time a measure of convergence took place. Among them, the oldest recorded is Tamil, now the language of Tamil Nadu Madras state and of northern Sri Lanka, whose literature goes back to the early centuries of the Christian Era. In spite of this linguistic differentiation, the literatures composed in all of these languages reflect, in different degrees, the monumental influence of Sanskrit literature , Sanskrit being the universal Indian language of culture. This influence was one of both substance and form: Camp , based on Hindi; Urdu was the lingua franca of the army. Urdu was used later for literature and at present is the mother tongue of most Indian Muslims and their brethren in Pakistan. Its influence, however, does not compare with that of Sanskrit. Comparable to the impact of Sanskrit, but far more alien, is that of English , which began to assert itself in the 18th century. The language brought with it new literary forms that were gradually adapted to the old ones, producing new genres—without necessarily giving up the older ones—in the local languages and giving rise to an interesting literature in the English language. Once more, a universal cultural language to a large extent unified aims in the scattered languages; English still plays this role, though it appears to be slowly declining. Not literary but religious-magical in its purposes, it is mostly a compilation of hymns, dedicated to a number of gods of the Vedic religion. They have the regular structure of an invocation: The poets, of whom little is known, appear to have come at the close of a priestly poetical tradition, rivalling one another in allusions to obscure exploits, in language often opaque and at times intended to mystify. Nevertheless, the Rigvedic hymns include lines of great beauty. Or they may occur in poetry addressed to a deity whose beauty inspires the poet to well-turned lines. To the Dawns, for example: He yokes these brown steeds early in the morning, And, when the fire is low, sinks down an outcast. There are thy cows, there is thy wife, O gambler. Although not literary in purpose, the Rigveda had a decisive influence on the form of Sanskrit poetry: The second Veda c. More literary interest attaches to the fourth Veda bc , the Atharvaveda an atharvan was a special priest , which contains hymns, incantations, and many magic charms. The succeeding literature c. They were written in a dry, expository prose, so that only their narrative portions have any literary interest. These prose texts at times convey the actual mode of teaching of a revered sage, in a style that can be strikingly intimate: Believe me, my dear. They are the oldest examples of didactic verse, a genre that later gained enormous popularity. The contribution of late-Vedic texts to later literature is preeminently that of the development of an expository prose style and the evolution of a sacred language, which, in order to be effective, must be completely correct. This language, Sanskrit, remained the language par excellence for later literature and was used for literary purposes until the 13th century and, epigonically, until today. The close of the Vedic period was one of great cultural renewal, with the founding of the new monastic religions of Buddhism and Jainism 6th century bc and the more slowly emerging rearticulation of Brahminism into Hinduism. Neither the earliest Buddhists nor the Jains availed themselves of Sanskrit in their preachings, apparently viewing the language as the preserve of a Brahmin elite. Originally charioteers to noblemen and thus witnesses of their feats, they chronicled the martial history of the families to which they were attached. From these beginnings, part chronicle, part panegyric, developed the epic style. Generally, one metre is used throughout the poem, though for stylistic effects other metres may be interspersed. Its characters go back to around bc, but in its present form the epic could not have been composed before bc. This the five brothers do, along with the wife they hold in common. Upon their return from exile, they are refused their promised share of the kingdom, and, though parleys are held, war is inevitable. This summary does no justice to an extremely complex story with hundreds of participants, but it sketches the general outline of epic events. The main story has an unmistakable epic and heroic tone, and some of the events and encounters are completely comparable to those in epics of other peoples. But narrative and stylistic unity are disrupted by the inserted quasi-related and unrelated secondary episodes, each of which has a style of its own, ranging from light badinage to sonorous morality tales. Still, it is open to doubt whether it would have exerted this influence were it not for its poetry. A monumental battle ensues. It is the main story of the romance that has made an indelible impression on Indian culture, morally as well as literarily. He delights in description of pastoral scenes, in lamentations and grand martial spectacles, and in the idyll of the hermitage, which depicts a serene sage leading a life of quiet meditation and living on simple forest fare in a tranquil woodland close to a sacred river. In the opinion of one scholar, this book constitutes the greatest poem ever written; and so it is in the popular estimation of the Hindus. It was adapted in many Indian languages and provided themes and scenes for the flourishing miniature styles of the Middle Ages. Their texts, written in dialects other than Sanskrit, articulate the teachings of the religious founders and their successors. Because they were transmitted orally for a considerable time before they were written down in the form they would retain, they underwent the inevitable censorship of the centuries, both negative in the form of documents dropped out of use and positive in the form of newer documents added. The dates given here are only approximations of the time of the documentary fixation of the dates. Most of the canonical literature is exclusively of religious interest, but interspersed in it are works of considerable literary interest. With their straightforward, lively, and incisive style, homely similes , and simple humour, they are excellent examples of the homiletics of early Buddhist preaching. Incorporated in the canon, too, are more general works of literature. The prosodic variety of Buddhist lyrics is great; about 30 different metres can be distinguished. Only those parts in archaic verse are canonical; the prose portion was written later c. Though their setting is often imaginary, they provide significant material for the historian of society and culture. These mostly short tales abound in moving, delicate, often rustic touches that have made them the delight of the Buddhist world. The extensive Buddhist erudition that the sage displays is artfully presented in the form of simile and parable, and the work has contributed importantly to the edification of audiences in the countries where Buddhism came to be established. The style, in spite of the repetitions so typical of Buddhist doctrinal texts, is lively and presents the reader with an invaluable picture of contemporary Indian life. The belletristic contribution of Jaina literature is discussed below. It evolved an elaborate poetics of figures of speech, among which the metaphor and simile, in their many manifestations , predominate; a careful use of language, governed by the stated norms of grammar; an ever-increasing tendency to use compound nouns instead of drawing on the quite plentiful possibilities of Sanskrit inflection; a sometimes ostentatious display of erudition in the arts and sciences; an adroitness in the use of varied and complicated, if appropriate, metres—all applied to traditional themes such as the epic had provided and to the rendering of emotions, most often the love between men and women. It can also be extended to narrative literature, especially the prose novel. Compared with later examples, they are fairly simple in style but reveal typical propensities of writers in this genre: The original Buddhacarita, rediscovered in , had been known from Tibetan and Chinese translations. It is typical of the genre that, while each strophe, or stanza , is intended to be part of a narrative sequence, it more often stands by itself, a discrete unit conveying one idea or developing one image. In this, the tendency of the Rigvedic stanza see above Sanskrit: Although the lines of the classical stanza are long enough to convey their meaning quite explicitly, it is the pride of the poet to suggest rather than to express. Sometimes this is done by simple collocation of words: Another common suggestive device is the double meaning, or play on words. These double meanings often add a certain graceful playfulness to the poetry, reminding one that the poem was written first of all to give pleasure to the man of taste. The original is in eight cantos, but a sequel was added by an imitator. This innovation did not take hold, though the poem inspired imitations along precisely the same story line. It must be considered among the finest poems, if not the finest poem, written in Sanskrit. Generously interspersed between cantos, however, are erotic-religious lyrics of extremely musical assonances, which were, and still are, sung. The short lyric It is in the short, one-stanza lyric that Sanskrit poetry is revealed most intimately in its real aims. As noted, almost all of high Sanskrit poetry is strophic in fact; in the lyric it is so in intention. It is eminently a genre of the poetic moment, making an aesthetic observation and placing it within the Sanskritic universe of discourse. It may be an observation of anything: In the short lyric it is hard to make a distinction that depends on the language in which it is composed; for, although the language may be different, the subject matter and forms are the same. Though by no means always, there is often a particularism about them: The number of such verses is countless; every major religious and philosophic leader is held to have added to their stock. Some are especially famous: The entire erotic experience, from budding love to the aftermath of consummation, is represented brilliantly in lyric poetry. But among the many themes inspired by love, poets have been most attracted to the lament of separated lovers. While often extremely erotic, they are very rarely obscene. Sanskrit norm banned all coarse expressions for sexual play; and, although much probably escapes the modern reader, blunt allusions to genital organs are rare and, where allusions occur, extremely veiled. Bodily parts with less overt sexual connotations , such as breasts and buttocks, are frankly mentioned and described—in fact, celebrated. The erotic and the devotional lyric merge freely, and at times it is impossible to make out whether the free sexual imagery employed is to be taken literally or as an allegory of the human soul courting the love of its god. The task—not a very pressing one—is made more difficult by the fact that some bhakti devotion religions have developed the poetics of love poetry into a kind of theology, a phenomenon quite characteristic of Bengal Krishnaism see below Indo-Aryan literatures: The theatre Of all the literary arts , the Indians esteemed the play most highly, and it is in this form that most of the other arts were wedded together.
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