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A History of Sanskrit Literature by MacDonell

At the mouth of the Narmada Nerbudda in Gujarat


With

regard to the Epics, we find the statement of the Greek rhetorician Dio Chrysostomos (50-117 A.D.) that the Indians sang in their own language the poetry of Homer, the sorrows of Priam, the laments of Andromache and Hecuba, the valour of Achilles and Hector. The similarity of some of the leading characters of the Mahabharata, to which the Greek writer evidently alludes, caused him to suppose that the Indian epic was a translation of the Iliad. There is, however, no connection of any kind between the two poems. Nor does Professor Weber's assumption of Greek influence on the Ramayana appear to have any sufficient basis (p. 307).

The view has been held that the worship of Krishna, who, as we have seen, plays an important part in the Mahabharata, arose under the influence of Christianity, with which it certainly has some rather striking points of resemblance. This theory is, however, rendered improbable, at least as far as the origin of the cult of Krishna is concerned, by the conclusions at which we have arrived regarding the age of the Mahabharata (pp. 286-287), as well as by the statements of Megasthenes, which indicate that Krishna was deified and worshipped some centuries before the beginning of our era. We know, moreover, from the Mahabhashya that the story of Krishna was the subject of dramatic representations in the second or, at latest, the first century before the birth of Christ.

It is an interesting

question whether the Indian drama has any genetic connection with that of Greece. It must be admitted that opportunities for such a connection may have existed during the first three centuries preceding our era. On his expedition to India, Alexander was accompanied by numerous artists, among whom there may have been actors. Seleucus gave his daughter in marriage to Chandragupta, and both that ruler and Ptolemy II. maintained relations with the court of Pataliputra by means of ambassadors. Greek dynasties ruled in Western India for nearly two centuries. Alexandria was connected by a lively commerce with the town called by the Greeks Barygaza (now Broach), at the mouth of the Narmada (Nerbudda) in Gujarat; with the latter town was united by a trade route the city of Ujjayini (Greek Ozene), which in consequence reached a high pitch of prosperity. Philostratus (second century A.D.), not it is true a very trustworthy authority, states in his Life of Apollonius of Tyana, who visited India about 50 A.D., that Greek literature was held in high esteem by the Brahmans. Indian inscriptions mention Yavana or Greek girls sent to India as tribute, and Sanskrit authors, especially Kalidasa, describe Indian princes as waited on by them. Professor Weber has even conjectured that the Indian god of love, Kama, bears a dolphin (makara) in his banner, like the Greek Eros, through the influence of Greek courtesans.

The existence of such conditions has induced Professor Weber to believe that the representations of Greek plays, which must have taken place at the courts of Greek princes in Bactria, in the Panjab, and in Gujarat, suggested the drama to the Indians as a subject for imitation. This theory is supported by the fact that the curtain of the Indian stage is called yavanika or the "Greek partition." Weber at the same time admits that there is no internal connection between the Indian and the Greek drama.


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