Journal of South Asia Women Studies

New Titles

Pandanus. Flowers, Nature, Semiotics: Kavya and Sangham

By Jaroslav Vacek and Blanka Knotkova-Capkova (ed.)

Prague: Signeta, 1999

Pp. 179. ISBN 80-902608-1-0

Review by Enrica Garzilli, December 25, 1999

This book presents papers on Kavya and old Tamil Cankam literatures from the point of view of their imaginery, in particular natural and plant symbolism, and theoretical literary interpretation. This study is part of a research project of the Institute of Indian Studies of the Charles University Prague. All the papers, but that of J. Cejka were read at a workshop held in Prague in May 29-30, 1998. The original idea was to deal with the symbolism of flowers and plants and it was later extended. The symbolism of flowers represents a very broad field and verges on several other features that are very important for understanding the semiotic intricacies of the respective literary genres. Though some features are common both in Indian and in Western literatures, other are clearly specific. In India, they are conditioned by specific natural or cultural phenomena. The use of natural imaginery is strongly culturally defined. Seven papers are published in this collection: "Rain Poems and the Genesis of Kavya" by Giuliano Boccali, "Neem and Campaka in Classical Indian Literatures" by Jan Dvorák; "Some Remarks on Literary Analysis of the Symbolical Patterns in Ancient Tamil Poetry" by Blanka Knotková-Capkova; "Ambiguities, Polysemy, and Identifications by Bernhard Kölver; "Sattasai and the palai poems of Ainkurunuru" by Guido Pellegrini; "A Neytal Feature to Be Found in the Meghaduta?" by Jaroslav Vacek; "Plants in Kavya Poetry: Problems with Plant-names" by Jakub Ceika. An interesting long-term project of the Institute of Indian Studies of Prague connected to this study is the creation of an electronic database of flowers and plants in Indian poetry. This "will hopefully provide a further possibility of quick cross-reference between the individual context for comparison (while being aware of all the problems of identification of plants, their proper designations, alternative designations, multiple meanings of certain plant names, etc.)". This database will finally show the gap in the plants and flowers identification, will be an important reference for any serious study on the subject, and will open the way to further studies on the "real" natural world and the semiotics of this world in Indian cultures.