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Indic Ornaments on Javanese Shores: Retooling Sanskrit Figures in the Old Javanese Ramayana.


In recent decades, a number of scholars have highlighted and mapped cases wherein cosmopolitan cultural models travelled and productively engaged with a variety of local vernaculars. In particular, in the wake of Sheldon Pollock's 2006 Language of the Gods, much attention has been paid to Asia-wide processes of literization, philologization, literarization, and finally translation or vernacularization, when local "languages of the place" came into contact with global "languages of the road," such as Sanskrit, Arabic, or Persian. (1) Despite this initial wave of thought-provoking studies, there is still much we need to learn about the process of cultural negotiation between prestigious universal models and evolving local ones, especially in cases that do not exactly replicate Pollock's typical model. One such case is the island of Java, where a flourishing literature that later spread to Bali did not seem to involve, at least at first, the production of a large library of theoretical treatises on grammar and poetics. (2)

In what form did knowledge about cosmopolitan codes arrive on new shores, how was it unloaded, mediated, and decoded, and how did it come to be adopted, adapted, and "owned" by local agents? Such questions, relevant to every case of cosmopolitan vernaculars, are particularly pertinent to Java, with its relative lack of interest in formal poetics (especially in the narrow sense of treatises on figuration)--a culture, that is, that offers plenty of prayoga (practice) but much less written sastra (theory). Here an important study by Thomas Hunter provides a key insight. For Hunter, the Javanization of Sanskrit literary models comprised two contrasting modes that underpinned the prose and poetic (kakawin) traditions respectively. (3) Within this framing, the Javanization of prose works involved a commentary-like process developed initially in religious institutions wherein an original text was taken apart, and each of its constituting elements received exposition, expansion, and a local flavor. This process partly replaced, pedagogically and institutionally, the codified grammars familiar from Sanskrit and other parts of the large world interacting with it. To account for kakawin literature, Hunter then posits a second poetic mode of transcreation that drew on the resources of kavya to produce an indigenous literary form.

The purpose of this essay is to peek behind the scenes and deduce the protocols that guided this process and to suggest that, rather than two contrasting modes, the commentarial tradition operated, at least in some cases, in tandem with the poetic mode in the composition of kakawin literary works. For this purpose, we provide a microlevel analysis of a selection of verses from a text that is particularly suited to this task: the Old Javanese Ramayana (hereafter OJR).

The OJR is the cornerstone of the kakawin literary tradition and of the entire project of poetic interchange between ancient South Asia and the Indonesian archipelago. This text stands near the beginnings of recorded kakawin literary history and is the sole survivor from the Early Mataram period (ca. 730-928 CE), which came to an end when the center of political power shifted from Central to East Java. (4) It is also one of the few Old Javanese kakawin poems for which a clear Sanskrit source can be identified. This source is Bhatti's Ravanavadha (ca. 600 CE) also known as Bhattikavya (hereafter BhK), a work that is distinctive in offering, in addition to the story of Rama's exploits, a comprehensive teaching of grammar and poetics, two of the main building blocks of Sanskrit literary culture. This means that this work, even more than other Sanskrit poems, necessarily anticipated a commentary that would unpack the formal teachings its poet interwove into the narration. (5) Therefore, it may have been of particular interest to Javanese pedagogues and translators. Naturally, it is also of interest to us.

Despite the long history of examining the OJR, the BhK, and their interrelations, there is more that can be said about the specific interaction that took place between and around them. In this essay we offer a new comparison of chapter 10 of the BhK and chapter 11 of the OJR, the two chapters that offer a methodical presentation of figures of speech (Skt. alamkara, or "ornaments"). Our main argument is that the Javanization of Sanskrit ornaments was not by chance or random but rather was the result of a careful and studied approach on the part of the OJR poet (or poets) to grapple with the complexities of Sanskrit ornamental principles and to make them his (or their) own. (6)


The understanding of the early analysis of ornaments in Sanskrit is hazy in several ways. First, from the period before 600 CE, we know the names of only a handful of texts, practically all of which have been lost. (7) Second, the earliest extant works are rather uninformative about the framework in which ornaments are to be understood: what defines them, how essential they are, what explains their charm, and how they differ from the related category of "poetic virtues" (guna) are questions that rarely received attention in this phase. It is likely that much of this discussion took place orally in gatherings of literati (sabha), and it can be said more generally that Sanskrit poetics was slow in becoming an academic discipline, certainly in comparison with other fields. (8)

An important watershed in this early period is Bhamaha's Ornaments of Literature (Kavyalamkara). (9) The author discusses a large set of nearly forty ornaments, far more than the mere handful mentioned in the foundational treatise on dramaturgy, the Natyasdstra, and likely more than in any other forerunner. Bhamaha, moreover, takes credit for a "law of ornaments" (alamkaravidhi), namely, that all ornaments entail intensification (atisaya) and hence indirect or nonfactual (vakra) expressivity. (10) He goes on to use this criterion to reject some ornaments that he believed lacked it. (11) It is probably in recognition of such achievements that his work became the standard textbook for poets and the standard reference book on poetics for intellectuals from other disciplines. (12)

Indeed, it can be stated more strongly that all the extant works from the early phase of Sanskrit poetics share a very tight kinship with Bhamaha's Ornaments. This is certainly true of Dandin's famous Mirror of Literature (Kavyadarsa), in which the author engages in a detailed and conscious response to his predecessor (whom he never names), (13) and the same can be said of the BhK. Bhatti's tenth chapter offers an illustration of ornaments that is extremely close to Bhamaha's discussion in selection and order and sometimes even in imagery and vocabulary. (14) In fact, readers of both Bhatti and Dandin have often read their works along with Bhamaha's. This is particularly apparent in Jayamangala's commentary on the BhK (date unknown), in which he systematically cites Bhamaha's definitions for every relevant ornament and shows how they apply to the illustration at hand. (15) It is easy to imagine that these three texts--Bhamaha's Ornaments, Bhatti's BhK, possibly with a commentary such as Jayamangala's, and Dandin's Mirror--travelled together not just in South Asia but also to Java along with other scholarly treatises (on grammar, prosody, lexicography, astral sciences, dharma, and other subjects) and other works of literature that are represented in the later Old Javanese tradition. In fact, it is impossible to make sense of Bhatti's poem as a whole and of its tenth chapter more specifically if it is read in isolation, and it is hard to imagine a massive and creative work like the OJR without its author's full mastery of this larger discourse.

Little scholarly evidence has been adduced thus far to explain how or why the kakawin genre emerged at this historical moment, but it is clear that the OJR can hardly have arisen spontaneously and must instead belong to a tradition that is far longer and deeper. Indeed, although Bhatti has long been known as the main influence on the OJR, at least to the end of chapter 16, (16) there are certainly other influences that reflect the broad translocal spectrum of Ramayana traditions that flourished in mid ninth-century Java. (17) There is a growing body of evidence that the OJR drew on a number of other sastric and literary sources from both the Sanskrit and the Old Javanese traditions, including written and oral commentaries.

Although the Valmiki Ramayana does not appear to have been a direct source for the OJR, echoes of its influence have been traced in certain episodes. From the Prambanan complex temple reliefs we also know that the Valmiki Ramayana was independently well known in Java at the time at which the OJR was written. In addition to the BhK and the Valmiki Ramayana, however, there is a long list of major Sanskrit works whose footprints can be traced in the OJR and other literary and artistic works from Java. These works may have included the Bhagavadgita, the Manusmrti, and verses from Kalidasa's poetry. (18) Indeed, as Hunter observes, there are a number of shared features between the OJR and the Lalitavistara, an early Sanskrit Buddhist work that is copiously illustrated on the second and earlier great architectural monument of Central Java, Borobodur, built ca. 760-850 CE. (19) To this list we can also add the well-attested presence in the Old Javanese and Balinese textual corpus of Kamasastra, legal, and religious traditions. (20) There is also clear evidence in later periods of the influence of specific literary works, such as Bharavi's Kiratarjuniya on the eleventh-century Arjunawiwaha and Kalidasa's Raghuvamsa on the thirteenth-century Sumanasantaka. (21)

In short, there is every reason to believe that the creation of the OJR did not happen in a vacuum, and evidence, both direct and conjectural, suggests that the BhK was read and adapted in the context of a long process wherein the broad Indic cultural package was absorbed, a process that involved a careful selection and a conscious retooling. A close look at OJR 11 reveals a similar picture at the microlevel of the individual poetic devices, again despite the absence of evidence for the existence of formal treatises on the topic in Java. Below we offer a series of case studies for the mediation and translation of Sanskrit figures into Old Javanese.


The two chapters at the heart of this essay, BhK 10 and OJR 11, have many things in common. For one thing, they begin at exactly the same point, with Hanuman's tail set ablaze, and end at exactly the same point, when the army of the monkeys stands ready to cross the ocean and free Sita. Of course, in addition to narrating a segment of the Ramayana, BhK 10 also follows another plan, namely, the presentation of poetic ornaments more or less in the order in which they appear in Bhamaha's standard textbook. Generally speaking, the OJR follows this program rather closely and thoughtfully, and as we will argue, even significant divergences in this regard are based on well-informed decisions.

Our first test case finds Rama and his allies on the shores of the ocean, which they have reached several verses earlier. The ocean is described in both poems as teaching the onlookers a lesson. In Bhatti, the lesson is about the humility needed from those in power, or the constant awareness that power is momentary:
na bhavati mahima vina vipatter
avagamayann iva pasyatah payodhih |
aviratam abhavat ksane ksane 'sau
sikhariprthuprathitaprasantavicih || (BhK 10.63)

There is no such thing as greatness
without loss, the ocean imparted,
as it were, to those observing it
ever changing: waves huge as mountains
one moment, the next moment,
lying calm.

This striking verse tells us that the ocean was using its rolling of waves, depicted in the final and highly alliterative metrical foot that consists of one long compound word, to demonstrate, as it were, that every rise must lead to a fall. Jayamangala correctly identifies this as a case of the ornament nidarsana (also nidarsana), or "teaching a lesson," and it should be noted that both examples of nidarsana in Bhamaha and Dandin are about similar political lessons directed at those in power. Bhamaha's example consists of a cautionary tale (the sun's setting teaches the wealthy that every rise leads to a fall), whereas Dandin pointedly has both a positive and a negative lesson to offer (the sun's sharing its luster is a good example for those in power, and the moon's impact on darkness is a warning to their foes). (22) Bhatti's verse can be said to combine both options. He still keeps the notion of rising and falling, but the waves rise and fall in endless succession. Moreover, at this moment in the plot, Rama is miserable and lonely. The cyclical nature of the ocean's instruction can be seen as at least partly positive or even encouraging. Finally, it should be noted that Bhamaha explicitly forbids the use of words such as iva ("as it were") in nidarsana, but Bhatti allows himself to use it nonetheless. (23)

The OJR keeps very close to Bhatti, but with significant subtle changes:
hana mademit salengenn ikanang ryak
hana ya magong kadi parwata mawan
pasili-silih nikanang sukaduhka
winarahakenya kadi pwa matangguh || (OJR 11.75)

There were waves as slender as arms,
and others as high as tall mountains.
Joy and sorrow follow in turn,
they told him, as if to admonish him. (24)

We lose the alliteration, and the lesson veers from the political to the personal, perhaps because the ocean of the Old Javanese poem is more attuned to Rama's emotional state. (25) Nevertheless, no key element is lost in translation. First, the distributive duplication ksane ksane ("one moment, the next moment") is replaced with a Javanese twin, pasili-silih, also denoting constant alternation. Second, the causative formation that is found in all the early Sanskrit examples, including Bhatti's, is significantly reproduced in the Javanese verb winarahaken, which refers to the act of communicating or imparting. Even "as if" (kadi) is carried over, Bhamaha's stipulation notwithstanding. Most important, the entire conceit of teaching a lesson is perfectly preserved, even though it could have been easily simplified by replacing it with merely likening big waves to joy and small waves to sorrow. In fact, the OJR poet enhances this notion by segueing into the next verse, where Rama's suffering is highlighted with the word "but" (ndan). Rama is thus singled out, as we shall see, as the one onlooker who has failed to get the reassuring message because his heart was "reaching out to his beloved more and more."

Bhatti continues:
mrdubhir api bibheda puspabanais
jalasisirair api marutair dadaha |
raghutanayam anarthapandito 'sau
na ca madanah ksatam atatana narcih || (BhK 10.64)

Although soft, the flower arrows pierced Rama.
Although cooled by the water, the wind
was burning him alive. No wound, no flame--Love
is such a master of misfortune.

Rama fails to heed the ocean's message of solace, and he is entirely devastated, as separated lovers are, by things soft and cool. As Jayamangala explains, this is a case of "antithesis" (virodha). In fact, the verse is particularly close to the way in which Bhamaha defines this ornament. Bhamaha has two subtypes of antithesis, action with a contradictory attribute and action with a contradictory action, and as Jayamangala shows, both are elegantly packed into this verse. The softness of the flower arrows (attribute) is antithetical to their piercing of Rama (action), as is the case with the cool wind "burning him alive." But then there is another pair of contradictions that involve actions: the piercing and burning are inconsistent with leaving "no wound" and igniting "no flame," respectively. (26) Bhatti's verse is thus particularly dense: it not only illustrates both types of Bhamaha's antithesis in a single stanza but also provides two examples for each. The OJR author clearly understood the double contradiction, but in typical fashion he chose to rearrange the materials and unpack the complex Sanskrit verse by apportioning different aspects of it to three consecutive stanzas:
ndan ika manah nira tan mari moneng
makin angalah dayita ya paranya
Madana aho wihikann umanah ng wang
priyawirahalara murcita denya. || (OJR 11.76)

kusuma panah nira komala yapes
tuwi taya tan pangani hati suksma
kathamapi kamaturan hati sang sri
Raghusuta mogha tenuhh alah oneng || (OJR 11.77)

pawana mirir ya malon tuwi matis
pinaka apuy nira sang hyang Anangga
atisaya kadbhuta denya manunwi
hati nira sang wirahalara denya. || (OJR 11.78)

But his yearning was never-ending,
his heart reaching out to his beloved more and more.
Love is a master, his arrows raining down,
stupefying those who suffer the pain of separation.

His flower arrows are soft and powerless--but
without fail they wound the heart invisibly.
Somehow lovesick Rama's heart
was suddenly shattered, and he was filled with longing.

A cool breeze blew gently,
serving as the flame of the god of Love.
Truly astonishing, it burnt up
his suffering, lonely heart.

The first verse connects this triplet to the example of "teaching a lesson" (nidarsana) on which it comments. It shows, as we noted, that Rama was in too much pain to heed the lesson of the ocean and explains this as the result of Love's unique weaponry. In fact, it seizes and expands on Bhatti's adjective "master of misfortune" (anarthapandita) to portray the capacity of Love to toy masterfully (wihikan) with Rama's emotions and further highlight his predicament. The Javanese poet thus mediates the kavya convention of the flower arrows and their tormenting power, and by doing so, he helps frame the strange antithetical occurrences of the following two verses, each dedicated thematically to one aspect of Love's paradoxical impacts. In verse 11.77 the flowers' being "soft and powerless" is contrasted with their ability to penetrate, unseen, deep into the heart (suksma), leaving the reader to wonder how this seemingly harmless blow can shatter it into pieces "somehow" (kathamapi). In verse 11.78 the poet turns to the wind, which blows gently and coolly but acts as the fire of Love, scorching Rama's heart.

In this way, the Javanese poet decodes and recodes Bhatti on several levels. First, he unpacks the extremely dense Sanskrit verse with four types of contradictions (two relating to flowers, two to the wind) by distributing them into two separate verses (one about flowers, the other about the wind), itself framed by an introductory stanza. Second, he further highlights the contradictory effects of both entities as incredible and unique. In other words, the very presence of an antithesis is specifically and repeatedly marked and commented on by words such as "somehow" (kathamapi) and "truly astonishing" (atisaya kadbhuta). (27) But throughout this small section of the poem, it is clear that the OJR poet was aware of the aesthetic essence of virodha as Bhatti understood it, including the subtle distinction between an antithesis of an attribute and an action and between that of two actions. (28) The complex ornamental structure of the Sanskrit virodha is thus fully incorporated into Javanese; nothing is lost in translation even as new emphases are potentially added.


A few verses later the moon rises, again altering Rama's fragile emotional state by taking away his diversions and forcing him to think of Sita's being alone. Bhatti describes moonrise as a complex give and take:
adhijaladhi tamah ksipan himamsuh
paridadrse 'tha drsam krtavakasah |
vidadhad iva jagat punah pralinam
bhavati mahan hi parartha eva sarvah || (BhK 10.67)

Then, above the ocean, dispelling darkness,
the moon came into sight and gave the eyes a chance,
as if creating the world from oblivion.
What makes one great is caring for others.

The main point here for Jayamangala is that moonrise is described as an exchange between the moon and the world. This, he explains, fits into the figurative model of parivrtti, or reciprocity, wherein an action is phrased as barter: the moon, merely by virtue of its rising, takes darkness away and gives "the eyes a chance." Indeed, closely agreeing with Bhamaha's stipulation that the ornament of parivrtti be topped off by a more general "citing of another case" (arthantaranyasa), the verse ends with just such an afterthought about the nature of the selfless one, a statement that indeed echoes Bhamaha's example. (29) All these elements are carefully preserved and in fact tightened in the OJR version, even though, as we have come to expect, two verses are dedicated to unpacking and presenting the same imagery:
metu ta bhatara Sasangka sateja
ring udayaparwata bhaswara ramya
kadi anumoda tumon sira mopek
suluh ikanang dasadesa ya mawa || (OJR 11. 81)

athawa parartha kuneng sira ring rat
kalebur ikang peteng ardha gelana
ya ta wateken nira wehen anona
prakrti sang arya parartha rikeng rat || (OJR 11. 82)

The moon rose over the Eastern Mountain,
radiant, shining, charming,
as if feeling for Rama, seeing him so cast down:
A torch lighting up every corner of the universe.

Or perhaps he cared for all those
deeply distressed and engulfed (30) in darkness--so
he drew it back and gave them sight.
What makes one great is caring for others.

The first verse, which sets up the complex interchange in the second, is original and again betrays a special sensitivity to Rama's emotional state. Like this Javanese moon, the reader is perhaps expected to look at the hero with added sympathy. But it is in verse 11.82 that the real work of the parivrtti is done. It opens by speaking of the moon's generosity more generally, not just toward poor Rama but also with an eye to the entire suffering world, which the moon illuminates, as in the Sanskrit, precisely because of his selflessness. Only then comes the line that has the two actions that make up the conceit of barter, the drawing back (wateken) of darkness (peteng) and the granting (wehen) of sight (anona). Note how close to each other the two opposed actions are, a fact that makes the figurative exchange much clearer than in Bhatti, where the actions appear in separate lines and do not literally denote taking (ksipan means "dispel") and giving (krtavakasa literally means "making an opportunity"). This strengthening is a clear indication that the translation of the verse was mediated by an understanding of the figurative processes it entailed. Indeed, the general statement (arthantaranyasa) that for Bhamaha and Bhatti was essential to the ornament of parivrtti is faithfully reproduced in the last line of the Javanese stanza, which closely echoes not only the final words of Bhatti's parallel verse but also of Bhamaha's example.


It is not just the moon that lights up the world when Rama is so gloomy. Earlier in both poems the ocean produces a similar effect:
glapitarasatalasambhrtandhakaram |
upahataravirasmivrttim uccaih
pralaghupariplavamanavajrajalaih || (BhK 10.53)

Lit by massive heavy pearls in oyster wombs,
the darkness of the lower world receded.
And above, the sunbeams were disrupted
by floating webs of weightless diamonds.

This amazingly dense Sanskrit verse, technically consisting of only five words, describes the dual action of the ocean's riches in two opposite vectors. The sheen coming from oyster pearls lights up the darkness below, all the way down to the underworld, and the rays emanating from lattices of tiny floating diamonds obstruct even the flow of the sun's rays in heaven. Note how this dual directionality is iconically encoded. The first and last lines are compounds, each depicting one shining element, the heavy pearls and the light gems, and the two middle lines consist of compounds that modify the ocean through its impact on the dark rock bottom and the shining sun, respectively. (31) Almost as a complement to the rich spatial and syntactic effects is the verse's ornament, "richness" (udatta, also known as udara), defined, content-wise, as entailing great opulence. Jayamangala notes its presence, and this is a rare case where the medieval commentator Mallinatha agrees with him about the figure at hand. (32)

The OJR, again, unpacks this tight compaction in two verses and adds a unique touch:
hana ta karang ya katon i dalem wwai
bahuwidharatnamanik ya isinya
atisayabhaswaramutya ya tan krah
kadi ta ya pawwata ning jaladhi n ton || (OJR 11.64)

hana ta manik mahangan ya kumambang
pada ya mabang manibajra sateja
jwalita lumong kena ring rawirasmi
kadi guyu ning jaladhi n teka mangling || (OJR 11.65)

You could see the reefs under the water
bearing myriad jewels and gems
and masses of pearls, dazzling bright,
as if they were the ocean's gift.

And there were weightless jewels floating,
red, radiant pearls and diamonds
struck by sunbeams, all aflame,
as if the ocean smiled in welcome.

The most obvious difference from the Sanskrit is, of course, the fact that the two vectors are now apportioned, each to a separate verse. The pearls and their top-down illumination are the topic of 11.64, and the gem lattices and the bottom-up radiance occupy 11.65. Additional unpacking and explanation are found in the replacement of the Sanskrit rasatala, literally the netherworld, with the Javanese karang, or coral reefs. This makes far more sense: what the ocean gems can and do illuminate is not some subterranean domain but the submarine reefs, where oyster shells are indeed found. But in addition to making more sense of the Sanskrit (if not, we dare say, understanding Bhatti better than some of his Sanskrit readers), the reefs are a set piece in ocean description in later Old Javanese poetry. There are also interesting changes in 11.65, where, for example, the obstructive effect the gems have on the sun is replaced with the harmony of mutual reflection.

In both verses, moreover, the description is topped off by an utpreksa, an attributive "seeing-as," which is the favorite mode of the OJR author and is a part of an extended set of such figures that carries over to the following verses. Why, we can ask, does the ocean display such riches when Rama and his allies arrive? The OJR author intuits that it treats them as its guests, and the extended utpreksa, consisting of the effects of both verses, supplies the two key components of showing hospitality in Old Javanese poetry: a gift, which should be a substantial offering, and a smile, which is the lighter part. Suddenly the Sanskrit is seen in an entirely new and even more appealing light, and one wonders how it could have ever been read differently, as not about welcoming guests.

But with all the unpacking and elegant repacking, the author of the OJR again seems keenly aware of the original ornament, consisting of the actual display of wealth, and makes sure to preserve it. Indeed, there is a faint echo in the Javanese not just of the Sanskrit of Bhatti but also of Bhamaha. The words of Bhamaha's definition of udatta as a statement "containing different kinds of gems" (nanaratnaviyuktam) resonate, as if above the shoulders of Bhatti, with those of the OJR's "[with] many different kinds of gems and jewels" (bahuwidharatnamanik). (33) Note also that this phrase in Javanese is really a long Sanskrit compound in itself, and that as such, it is a marker of the literary culture from which the rich gift of ornaments has arrived.

There is more richness to follow. Here is Bhatti's immediately following verse, still describing the ocean as displaying wealth:
samucitajalam vivardhamanair
amalasaritsalilair vibhavarisu |
sphutam avagamayantam udhavdrin
sasadhararatnamayan mahendrasanun || (BhK 10.54)

With surging waters from spotless streams
it welled up at night, thus clearly revealing
Mahendra's all-flowing peaks
to be nothing but moonstones.

At night, when the moon is out, the sea level rises. But this is described here not as the result of an ordinary tide but rather as the moon's transformation of the moonstones that form Mount Mahendra's peaks. In Sanskrit poetry, when moonbeams touch moonstones, the latter begin to melt and become a pure watery fluid. The point of the verse is thus to suggest the immense quantity of such precious stones by ascribing the tide to the flood of water from melting stones gushing down from the mountain. For Jayamangala, this is a second example of udara, and we can see why he thought that the verse's aesthetic effect is primarily tied to the image of great wealth, although, technically speaking, Mallinatha has a point in labelling it an "equal mixture" (samkara) of intensification (atisayokti) and richness (udatta). (34)

Now take a look at the following two verses from the OJR:
hana ta gunung ri tengah nikanang wwai
pinakawatunya manik sasikdnta
wuhaya ula ya umunggw i guhdnya
kadi kumemit tikanang maniratna || (OJR 11.66)

hyu penu kakap kadiwas hana banglus
himi-himi tan papasah saparanya
kadi ta ya medi ri sirang Raghuputra
hati nira mogha katangguhan oneng || (OJR 11.67)

A mountain rose up in the middle of the ocean:
its rocks were the gems beloved of the moon.
Crocodiles and snakes dwelt in its caves,
as if to protect its hoard of pearls.

There were sharks, turtles, kakap, kadiwas, and banglus fish,
and the inseparable pairs of himi-himi crabs,
who seemed to tease Rama
so that the burden of his heart's longing
felt lighter.

In the first of these two verses, the author is again keenly aware of the need to preserve the udaraludatta of the Sanskrit by emphasizing the plethora of gems (manik sasikanta, maniratna) that are found on or that actually constitute the mountain. However, the suggestion that water rises as a result of the melting of moonstones is removed. (35) Instead, the poet turns to his favourite mode of intensification, utpreksa. Here the crocodiles and snakes of the mountain, which recur in 11.71 (parallel to Bhatti 10.60), are prefigured, and to them is attributed the intention of protecting the unimaginable riches of the mountain. We thus see the dual vectors of simplification and complication in action. On the one hand, Bhatti's tight construction that insinuates a causal relationship between the mountain's constitution and the ocean's tide is passed over. On the other hand, a series of local Javanese species is inserted, the utpreksa mode is introduced, and sensitivity to what goes on inside Rama's heart (hati) is highlighted. All these tendencies are exemplified by the himi-himi crabs, local to Indonesian waters and quintessentially embodying inseparable lovers in Old Javanese poetic convention. Their ever-amusing mating dance is as if intended to put a momentary end to Rama's suffering and perhaps also promises his union with his own lover.


Here is another example from earlier in the narrative. Hanuman is just returning from his mission, and his powerful approach triggers a whole sequence of events that culminates in the lovemaking of couples from a much higher order:
gacchan sa variny akirat payodheh
kulasthitams tani tarun adhunvan |
puspastarams te 'ngasukhan atanvan
tan kinnara manmathino 'dhyatisthan || (BhK 10.23)

Flying, he stirred up the ocean's waters.
They rocked the trees on the shore.
These laid inviting carpets of flowers--soft beds
on which divine couples lay to make love.

The couples in question are kinnaras, mythical musicians that roam the world, usually in amorous couples. Jayamangala classifies this verse as a case of illumination (dipaka). Dipaka is when one element, situated either in the beginning, middle, or end of a verse, is elliptically construed with the remaining portions, which is why it is compared to a lamp that throws light beyond its immediate location. However, in the early texts of the Sanskrit poetic tradition, "initial illumination" (adidipaka) was typically conceived of as a chain reaction set off by an element mentioned only in the beginning and referred back to by means of pronouns, a connection explicitly noted by Dandin. (36) Later tradition moved away from this view of adidipaka as a chain, which is why the medieval commentator Mallinatha had an entirely different classification for Bhatti's verse just quoted, and why modern scholars find it a problematic example. (37) Jayamangala, however, correctly identifies the type of "illumination" involved as per Bhamaha's stipulations, (38) and as we have come to predict, the OJR poet stays close to this early notion of adidipaka:
meh prapta sang Hanuman pracalita ikanang ryak magong kapwa mombak
kontal tempuh ta pang ning kayu ri tepi rum ramya kembangnya sasri
lumra ring bhutalatap mrdu kadi ta tilam komala rumnya mar mrik
darpekang kinnaracumbana teka maguling ring sekar ngka n tekanglih
|| (OJR 11.8)

As Hanuman approached, its swelling waves trembled and rose up.
These crested and crashed on the branches of trees by the shore,
whose glorious flowers fell sweetly down,
spread over on the ground, layer upon tender layer--a
soft bed spreading fragrance everywhere--where
passionate divine couples made love,
until, exhausted, they fell asleep among the blossoms.

Here the chain begins with Hanuman's passage through the air. It has the waves (ryak) crest (mombak) and crash down on (kontal tempuh) the branches (pang) and make the flowers (kembangnya) fall sweetly down (ruru), spread over the ground (lumra), pile up (atap), and emit a delightful fragrance (mar mrik) so that the passionate divine couples lie down there (maguling) to make love (acumbana) until they fall asleep (anglih). As can be seen, this is a much-expanded version of the same sequence of events, set off by the same causes and leading to very similar results, although in more loving detail. And as in all the examples we have looked at so far, here too the Javanese poet is keenly aware of the form and the essence of the ornament as it was understood by Bhatti (and explained by Bhamaha and Dandin) and is cautious not to disrupt them; if even one of the elements in the chain had been repeated, the elliptical effect of this ornament would have been lost.


Let us turn from a chain of reactions to a chain of command:
atha laksmanatulyarupavesam
gamanadesavinirgatagrahastam |
kapayo 'nuyayuh sametya ramam
natasugrivagrhitasadarajnam || (BhK 10.43)

Then Rama, Laksmana's like in garb
and in form, pointed his finger ahead,
his command. Devout Sugriva bowed down,
and the monkeys followed en masse.

At first blush, there is nothing special about this verse. The narrative advances in a way that is certainly sensitive to subtle signs: Rama gives his command to go to war speechlessly, with a simple bodily gesture, (39) and this silent order goes down the chain of command, from Rama to Sugriva and from the latter to his fellow monkeys. Beyond this, however, no ornament forces itself on our attention. Still, the commentator Jayamangala identifies an atisayokti, or "intensification," on the basis of an otherwise unremarkable phrase, namely, that Rama was "Laksmana's like in garb and in form." This, he explains, is because a statement that the two brothers are identical to the point of indistinguishability (na tu pratyaksapramanaparicchedya) transgresses the boundaries of possibility in the world (lokatikrantavacanam), for "surely there was some difference between the two" (avasyam ca kascid viseso 'sti). (40)

At first, this seems like a strange observation. But as is often the case with Jayamangala, once you start thinking about his identification of ornaments, you begin to realize his point. In this case, there are two factors in his interpretation that are worthy of consideration. First, it reminds us of the theme that runs through many examples of atisayokti in Bhamaha, Dandin, and the later adaptations of Dandin's work, namely, that an entity is described as distinctive precisely because it becomes indistinguishable. For Bhamaha, this is the dita tree, whose blossom is so bright that it becomes invisible in moonlight; for Dandin, it is the fair and brightly clad women who can remain undetected while making their way to their lovers on a moonlit night; and in a verse from the Kannada Kavirajamarga, it is a huge elephant covered with vermilion that becomes inconspicuous during twilight. (41) Second, and equally important, Jayamangala calls attention to a part of the verse that otherwise makes little sense. Why are we told that the two brothers looked alike, and how is this related to the silent chain of command from Rama to the monkeys? (42) As we can see, the Javanese poet was well aware of this aspect of the verse and its ornamental effect:
mulat sire sang tarunarya Laksmana
ikang abhipraya makon umangkata
kapindra Sugriwa weruh ring inggita
r atagg ikang wre sahananya mangkata || (OJR 11.49)

He looked at noble young Laksmana
with the intention of giving the order to depart.
Monkey King Sugriwa read the signal
and summoned them all to set out. (43)

Once again, all is not as it seems: the similar garb is lost in translation, but the OJR poet understands that this verse is about more than giving an order to depart. Rather, something about the symmetry between the two brothers is key to the aesthetic effect, and it is this symmetry that the adapter seeks to heighten or improve, which is the very idea of atisaya. What we see in the new verse is that the chain of command actually goes through Laksmana, or rather that there is a simultaneity of gazes and, indeed, a heightened indistinguishability in the sense that, visually speaking, Rama is no longer distinguished from his brother by raising his finger, as he does in the Sanskrit. In fact, the need for marked physical gestures is no longer felt. It is enough for Sugriwa to intercept midway the unspoken interchange between the two brothers and to act on the order before it is uttered. In effect, the Javanese poem thus participates in a complex hall of mirrors that includes Bhamaha, Bhatti, Dandin's Mirror along with its many adaptations, and the Ramayana and its many reflections, and it improves on the original, so that you could say that the younger brother, in this case the Javanese literary tradition, looks right back with no inferiority at his elder brother (or source) as a distinctive equal.

We find support for our understanding of Laksmana's new role in the OJR elsewhere in the poem. Consider, for example, the end of the first chapter, when Rama and his younger brother set out for the forest at the behest of Wiswamitra. In Bhatti's poem we are told that "bold Laksmana, son of three mothers, who mastered all arrows and armaments, became his companion, because he cared deeply only about what was best for Rama." Rama himself is described in the first half of this verse as "ready to set out to the sacred forest, eager for victory, his face all bright." (44) In the OJR two verses replace the single Sanskrit stanza, as is often the case, but significantly, they are all about Laksmana:
sang Laksmana sira dibya
sira samasukhaduhka mwang sang Rama
rumaket citta nira land
dadi ta sira tumut mareng patapan || (OJR 1.59)

sira magawe pratiwimba
tulada nikang wwang ulah nirar paniwi
sakwan sang Rama tumut
tar dadi kantun asing saparan || (OJR 1.60)

Laksmana the excellent
shared weal and woe with Rama--his
thoughts were always with him,
so with him, he went to the hermitage.

He thus set an example--let
people imitate the way he served.
Everywhere he followed Rama,
inseparable wherever they went. (45)

Note that, as in the verse we discussed earlier (OJR 11.49), the emphasis is on the total symmetry between the two brothers. Laksmana is explicitly said to be equal in "weal and woe" (samasukhaduhka) with Rama. This is an interesting choice of phrase because in Sanskrit the compound often refers to a person who is serene and composed and in whose eyes pleasure and pain are equal. Here, however, this compound is used to depict Laksmana as a person who shares the entire range of his brother's emotional experience: in addition to partaking in his elder's ups and downs, his thoughts are always with him, and so is his body, so that the two are "never parted." Moreover, it is in this capacity as a mirror image (note the term pratiwimba) that is never detached from its source that Laksmana is singled out as the one model that people should follow, now in the voice of the author speaking directly to the readers at the close of the chapter (just before the meter switches for the last two stanzas). So although the Ramayana is about Rama, the quintessential ideal character, the readers, at least in Java, are directed to a more accessible ideal--the devoted companion whom they, in turn, can follow. In other words, they should themselves mirror Rama's mirror image, for only by doing so can they approximate the example that Rama sets. Again, there are metapoetic implications for positioning the younger brother, perhaps standing for the younger tradition, in this prominent intermediate position vis-a-vis the senior role model. Indeed, we will see in the following section that like chapter 1, chapter 11 also ends by giving Laksmana the final word.


Bhatti concludes the chapter with a short speech delivered to Rama by his younger brother Laksmana. Standing on the shores of the ocean and faced with the moonrise, Rama is confused and overwhelmed by his longing for Sita. Laksmana urges his older brother to wait no longer and attack his enemies immediately, noting that great men fall hardest if they are inattentive or negligent (pramadi; 10.72-73). He then concludes his short oration with further prodding that is followed by an apology:
boddhavyam kim iva hi yat tvaya na buddham
kim va te nimisitam apy abuddhipurvam |
labdhatma tava sukrtair anistasahki
snehaugho ghatayati mam tathapi vaktum || (BhK 10.74)

What is there to know that you don't already know?
Even the flicker of your eye is knowing.
Still, this flood of affection has taken on a life of its own,
thanks to past good deeds, and fearing for you,
impels me to speak.

What is the ornament in this verse? By this point Bhamaha's list of ornaments, which Bhatti has been following rather faithfully, has basically exhausted itself. (46) Laksmana praises Rama's omniscience and explains his need to speak nonetheless by being impelled by his great "flood of affection." Mallinatha takes this great show of emotions as the key for identifying the ornament as preyas (affection or joy) as Dandin has defined it, and he even quotes Dandin's definition to corroborate his point. (47) There is also the trope of affection being reborn, as it were, perhaps because of its own past deeds, if this is the correct interpretation of the compound. (48) Jayamangala, however, seems more interested in the depiction of Rama as all-knowing. He thus identifies this verse as a case of nipuna (skill, cleverness), an ornament not mentioned by Bhamaha, and says that it should really have been given under the already discussed figure of udatta because of its "depth of meaning." (49) Indeed, udatta is known to have two subtypes, one dedicated to magnificent opulence, which we have seen in two verses of Bhatti and their corresponding Javanese stanzas, and the other to a magnificent character, so far missing from the chapter. Moreover, both Bhamaha and Dandin choose Rama as their example character for this type of udatta, (50) so it seems fitting for Bhatti to do the same and perhaps even to highlight Rama's loftiness by placing it out of order.

Support for this position is found in the parallel Javanese passage, again divided into two verses:
tan sangkeng guragada ta nghulun matangguh
lawan tan hana kakurangta ring wiweka
solah tangen-angen atah purwakanya
tan yogyat wara-warahenn apan huwus wruh || (OJR 11.93)

kabwatnya n nipuna rikang wiweka yukti
ndan menggep nghulun awarah kiteng kalinga
trsnasih ya juga makon matangguhatah
hetunyak pawara-warah tatan sakeng wruh || (OJR 11.94)

It is not out of insolence that I admonish you.
After all, you do not lack discernment:
The origin of your every action is thought, and then more thought.
It's not my role to tell you what to do. You already know.

By nature you're skilled in discerning right from wrong.
It may seem I'm telling you what all this means.
But it's love and affection that compel me to admonish you.
That's the reason I've been telling you what to do. It's not as if I know.

What caught our eyes about these two verses in the first place was the appearance of the Sanskrit term nipuna, which is Jayamangala's name for the device. (51) This indicates to us the possibility that both Jayamangala and the OJR poet had access to the same commentary or textbook, or at least to specific knowledge of the existence of a figure by this name in Bhatti 10.74. Indeed, in both Jayamangala's classification and the Javanese rendition, it is Rama's skill and pervasive knowledge that are highlighted by the term nipuna. This, then, is another instance where a discursive Sanskrit source on poetics (in this case the learned commentary of Jayamangala) and the Javanese poem appear to be trading knowledge about ornamental devices above the shoulders of Bhatti.

However, there is more to the Javanese stanzas than first catches the eye. One unique feature of these verses is that they not only mirror Bhatti but also closely mirror each other. Note, for example, the recurrence of the words matangguh (to admonish) and wiweka (discernment), representing Laksmana and Rama, respectively. Then there are the last lines of both verses, each containing a reduplicated form of the verb "to tell, instruct" (wara-warah) and an occurrence of the verb "to know" (wruh). But while the instruction is Laksmana's doing, the distribution of knowledge is more complex. In the closing phrase of 11.93, Laksmana presents Rama as knowing everything; in the closing of 11.94, he portrays himself as knowing nothing. Rama's perfect knowledge is what makes him skilled, but as the Javanese poet helps us see, Laksmana's portrayal of his brother's omniscience and his own utter lack of knowledge helps create an image of himself as also quite skilled in the difficult task of speaking firmly but politely to his elder. This skill relates to the clever apology found in both languages, namely, that the speech is not Laksmana's own initiative but was forced on him by an overwhelming outpouring of emotions. This apology, as we said, is doubled in the Javanese version, and perhaps not by coincidence, if we take it to identify consciously with the role of the younger brother here, as we have suggested above. In this sense, the new distribution of nipuna, if we are correct in our interpretation of these verses, is the sign of a polite but confident younger tradition that it too has what it takes to know and speak.


Let us leave Laksmana and turn to another key ally of Rama. Here is how Hanuman, who has returned with news of Sita, concludes his report to Rama, first in a verse from Bhatti and then in two verses in the Javanese version:
samatam sasilekhayopayaydd
avadata pratanuh ksayena sita |
yadi nama kalahka indulekham
atlvrtto langhayen na capi bhavi || (BhK 10.40)

You could compare Sita, spotless
and wasting away, to the crescent moon,
had it not been sullied by the stain it bore
and will forevermore.

gelana manglih mawenes sirakuru
wulan rikang krsna pada nireng ksaya
kuneng kasor ning sasiwimba de nira
ika kalengkanya ya jati tan hilang || (OJR 11.45)

sirar hana ngka kadi padma ring latek
apann ikonggwan nira murkatanmaya
ika kasatyan nira suddha nirmala
land haneng citta ya kesara nira || (OJR 11.46)

Exhausted, weary, pale, thin--she's wasting away
just like the moon dissolving in the dark half of the month.
But she outshines the moon because its stain
is there from birth and will never go away.

There she is like a lotus in mud,
for the place in which she dwells is sheer madness.
Yet her faithfulness, pure and untainted,
constantly in her mind, is her filament.

As can be seen, the Sanskrit and the Javanese are very close in meaning, including Sita's outshining the moon. This is what makes this a case of vyatireka, or distinction, when the subject of comparison is said to be superior to the standard. Note, however, the distinctive nature of the OJR in this case. First, Bhatti's counterfactual mode ("You could compare... had it not been") is replaced with a straightforward comparison that is then countered ("Just like the moon... But she outshines the moon"). This, by the way, is closer to the standard illustrations of vyatireka as found in works such as Dandin's Mirror. (52) Second, much is added in translation. For example, what is emphasized in the Javanese is not the sliver remaining when the moon wanes but the much larger part of it that is hidden in the dark. It could even be that the poet hints at the fact that the moon is hiding itself in shame, given the contrast between its blemish and the faultless beauty of Sita. There is also a nice play on something only implicit in the Sanskrit, namely, the accidental nature of Sita's situation compared with that of the moon. She is in Lanka through no fault of her own, or at least through no inherent flaw, whereas the moon's stain (kalahka) is inborn. Indeed, the Javanese poet may have introduced here a bitextual "embrace" (slesa), speaking both of Sita as being only temporarily in Lanka and of the moon as permanently blemished with the same expression (kalengka). (53)

Sita's distinction is further explored in the next verse, which has no direct source in Bhatti. Here Hanuman sets aside the moon, Sita's pathetic standard of comparison, and concentrates instead on the contradiction between her unstained faithfulness and her terrible surroundings: the sheer murky madness of Lanka. He does this by comparing her to a lotus, a flower known to be spotless despite being rooted in a dark and wet substratum. Just like the lotus's bright filaments, Sita's pure thoughts rise up "untainted" in stark contrast to her muddy backdrop. So in the pattern we have by now come to recognize, the OJR, once it has unpacked the Sanskrit ornament, repacks it with added figurative power: in this case the distinction (vyatireka) is topped off by simile (upama) and antithesis (virodha) in addition to the aforementioned seeing-as (utpreksa) and embrace (slesa).

The full import of the last verse, which suggests that the OJR is also distinct in being far more attuned to Sita's situation and her inner world, (54) can be understood only if it is taken in context. Here, when Hanuman comes back from his mission, he presents Rama not only with Sita's jewel but also with a handwritten missive that is eleven verses long--one of the most distinctive moments of innovation in the OJR. In the above verse, Hanuman is responding to Rama's reaction to Sita's heartfelt letter. In Bhatti's version, Rama learns very little of Sita's plight other than the fact that she has been found alive in Ravana's den and is quickly fading away. He never hears about her feelings toward him or in general, and certainly not from her directly, because the entire conversation is mediated by Hanuman and is short and mostly action-oriented. In her letter in the OJR, however, Sita pours out her feelings, blames herself for her current situation, and pleads for understanding and forgiveness. This plea then leads to Hanuman's added defense of Sita's utmost faithfulness. It is thus another instance of a subordinate politely and skillfully directing Rama, who tends to forget himself when he is overcome by the darkness of his emotional state, in the right path.


Let us then turn to this letter. (55) We read it along with Rama and observe his tearful reaction to it. It is significant that such a long passage finds its place in a chapter meant to illustrate the beautifying elements of poetry. In fact, it may be seen as a kind of a poem within a poem, as hinted at, first, by the distinct metrical pattern. All verses in Sita's letter are in sardulavikridita, and these are the only verses in this meter in the entire chapter. This poem also has its own form, as a letter, and its own aesthetics, based on a clever and powerful blending of ornaments and other effects, and it thus hints at the way these should be appreciated.

Consider, for example, the letter's opening verse:
sembah ni nghulun aryaputra ya teke padadwayanta prabhu
nyeking reka wacan uninya ya iko cihna ny uneng ni nghulun
mwang cudamani tulya ni nghulun ike mangso sumembah kita
nyang simsim pakirim narendra ya ika sparsanta tekak hidep
|| (OJR 11.22)

May my humble bow, lord prince, reach your feet.
Here it is, a written word; read it aloud. It is a sign of my longing.
My crest jewel, too, draws near to bow before you, as if it were me,
just as the ring you sent me, my king, I consider your very touch.

The first stanza in Sita's poetic letter highlights a closely connected pair: ornaments and written words. Two ornaments in particular are featured here as tokens of their owners: the crest jewel Sita sends to Rama and the ring he has already sent her. Through their exchange of these tokens, the separated lovers experience each other's presence. In fact, each of the ornaments forms a direct extension of the body part on which it is borne and thus performs its function. Sita's crest jewel, like the head that bears it, bows down to Rama's feet, and Rama's ring is his "very touch." So it is through these powerful ornaments that Sita and Rama can intimately unite and directly touch each other, and the same can be said for Sita's "written word." This is a text that she has written with her longing, and that Rama is to perform by reading it aloud. Thus in accordance with the Sanskrit ideal that poetry can and should rise above the real, here Sita's words, once enacted, can succeed in creating a union between lovers whose spatial separation the verse cleverly insinuates. (56) Moreover, it is clear that ornaments are inherent in achieving this aesthetic ideal. Indeed, the physical ornaments (ring and crest jewel) are allotted their respective roles in this stanza by means of poetic ornaments, namely, simile ("My crest jewel... as if it were me"), identification ("the ring ... is your very touch"), and seeing-as ("draws near to bow before you"). The showcasing of these tropes carries added weight in a chapter that will soon present, in an orderly manner, the ornaments that make poetry effective.

It is not only ornaments, of course, that make poetry worthy. As the author of the OJR knows well, a poem's aestheticized emotional flavors (rasa) and virtues (guna) are just as important. Another verse from Slta's letter highlights these aspects as well:
sakweh ning maraseng dangu ya rinasan tatan hanang angrase
kembang bap hana ring taman taman ika tamba ny uneng ni nghulun
sakweh ning karengo manohara lawan sakweh nikang srak marum
yekan wyartha hananya nirguna kabeh wway tan pasuk ring gulu
|| (OJR 11.25)

All the tastes I once tasted are now tasteless.
A gardenful of flowers fails to cure my longing.
Everything that sounded sweet or was sweet-scented,
all that is meaningless, all worthless--water
that cannot wet one's throat.

The first line offers three different grammatical forms based on the Sanskrit word rasa, which in Javanese, too, has a wide range of meanings, including "love," "essence," "taste," and "poetic flavor." Each of the three occurrences is different in form. The first is an intransitive verb (marasa, to have rasa or taste), the second is a passive verb (rinasan, "tasted"), and the third is the active verbal form (angrase, to enjoy or taste). The reader is faced with a meditation on the topic of rasa, augmented by the alliteration and the grammatical cleverness that underlies the repetition of this stem in three different forms (a cleverness that readers of Sanskrit poetry in general and Bhatti's poem in particular have also come to relish). (57)

But it is not only a mastery of verbal pyrotechnics that the Javanese poet demonstrates here. The aesthetic ideal of love in separation (vipralambhasrngara) has been entirely absorbed and perfected. On the one hand, the separated characters can no longer enjoy any sources of past enjoyment. In fact, they are now acutely painful, as the final beautiful line suggests. On the other hand, readers, beginning with Rama himself--here, as in the Ramayana, he is the first and prototypical listener to poetry--relish it precisely because of its intense flavor of love, here reinforced by the almost subliminal repetition of the word rasa itself. The strong metapoetic flavor of this verse is further intensified by the loaded references to worth (guna) and meaning (artha). What is more, two additional ornaments top off this perfect stanza: twinning (yamaka; the word taman means both "garden" and the negative particle "not") and the "citing of another case" (arthantaranyasa) with which the verse ends. The image of water that cannot slake this thirst most powerfully captures the idea of pain caused by normally pleasure-giving sounds, tastes, smells, and sights on top of the touch mentioned already in verse 11.22 (and again in some of the following verses). It is also a powerful reflection, as is often the case with such ornaments, about the verse itself, with its various poetic elements.

The reflection continues in Sita's letter as she thinks back to the early phases of their relationship, and here, too, rasa continues to figure prominently:
ringng Indrani lawan Saci tama tuwin tatan mapunggung kita
ri pratyeka nike rasanya ya kabeh sampun kita wruh rikd
nahan teki dumeh manahku kalaran sirnan tehuh tang hati
apan tan hana len padanta rikanang jnanadi lawan guna || (OJR 11.28)

You were well versed in the teachings of Indrani and Saci,
you knew them all, each and every flavor.
All of this is why my heart is overcome
with pain and smashed to pieces. No one else
is your equal in knowledge and expertise.

The details of their love life that she is invoking here could have a variety of intended implications. (58) First, Sita is speaking of something very intimate, so much so that only she can have this knowledge, which is a proof of her identity as the sender and author of this letter. In later Ramayanas and messenger poems in Sanskrit, conveying such items of private knowledge is a set piece, and it may well be that the Javanese Sita is doing something similar. (59) Second, she reminds him that their relationship is one that has such deep and strong roots that it should be able to withstand their current forced separation. She even reminds him in the preceding verse (OJR 11.27) that their marriage had the blessing of their fathers. (60) Third, she continues to portray her devastating situation precisely as the result of the contrast with their former intimate togetherness, thereby also intimating that she has stayed entirely faithful. Finally, there is the portrayal of Rama as unequalled in knowledge, expertise (guna), and connoisseurship of rasa, which, we presume, would also make him the ideal reader of her poem. We are reminded of Laksmana's statement to a similar effect in his description of Rama as nipuna, or highly knowledgeable and capable.

Rama's reaction to the letter is profound. Tears well up in his eyes, he begins to cry, and to his horror he discovers that his tears have obliterated the ink so that he can never tell how the letter ends (OJR 11.33). Not knowing what to do, he despairs and appeals to Hanuman and Laksmana (OJR 11.34). They both respond by reminding him that he does know exactly what he needs to do and that the letter has indicated as much (OJR 11.35-36). It is only now that the chapter switches back from the sardulavikridita meter that was used for Sita's letter to the carrying meter that was used earlier. Here we are told that once the letter had been read, Rama held Sita's jewel, examined it, rubbed it against his cheek, only to feel her actual, painful presence, and then embraced or even addressed it (kinudang; OJR 11.37-38) before the action resumed and the army set out for the ocean. We find it fascinating that this poem within a poem expands to include the first reactions to it, indeed in a way that overwrites its final lines. Again, this could be read as reflection on the power of poetry and how it can affect the readers. It can also be seen as a comment on the power that Sanskrit poetry had on the island of Java and on the island's ability to master this genre and to write back.


The OJR is an outcome of a careful and thorough translation project that took place at a formative moment in the cultural exchange between South and Southeast Asia. But the term "translation" merely masks a host of pressing questions: What was it that the Javanese poets set out to capture when they rendered the BhK into Old Javanese? What sort of knowledge and protocols informed their work? In what way was the outcome different from the original? And what can the OJR teach us about Bhatti's poem? We believe that the case studies discussed above afford us new insights into these and related queries, at least as far as the compared chapters are concerned.

We can begin by asserting the simple, important fact that just as BhK 10 systematically sets out to display the basic kit of kavya's figurative tools, so does OJR 11 with respect to the nascent aesthetic form of kakawin. Put differently, the ornamental devices are not incidental to rendering the poem into Javanese but rather form a main target of the project. One clear indication of this is the care the Old Javanese author took to retain the particular structures, textures, and conceits of the ornaments in question when these could have been easily replaced or lost in a translation dedicated merely to the narrative elements. Another indication is the familiarity that OJR 11 displays with the Indic discourse on ornaments. Indeed, it sometimes engages in direct conversation with this discursive world even as it renders Bhatti into Javanese, as we have seen with the figures of magnificence (udara) and skillfulness (nipuna). Moreover, as we have shown, there are instances where the OJR version of an ornament departs from Bhatti's wording and veers closer to its Sanskrit textbook understanding. For instance, the verse illustrating reciprocity (parivrtti) in the OJR is phrased unmistakably as a case of give-and-take, and the verse illustrating distinction (vyatireka) unambiguously states the superiority of a subject over a standard within the framework of an explicit analogy. In both these cases the ornament is expressed more clearly and straightforwardly than in the BhK original.

Bhatti may have had more leeway with the standard theory if he assumed a readership well versed in the treatises on ornaments. (61) He may have also anticipated a commentary like Jayamangala's, where his stanzas presenting the ornaments are matched with definitions and illustrations from Bhamaha's primer on a one-to-one basis. The author of the OJR seems not to have had this luxury. From the start, he had to create an embrace of prayoga (practice) and sastra (theory) that is far tighter than that of the Sanskrit original. In this sense, the Old Javanese poem itself acts as a commentary. Not unlike Jayamangala's exegesis, OJR 11 silently aligns Bhatti's verses with scholarship about the pertinent ornaments. And as noted, it occasionally emends the original to better meet scholastic guidelines.

Another commentary-like function of OJR 11 is its tendency to simplify the original. We have seen how the Javanese author regularly unpacks an extremely dense stanza of Bhatti into two or even three verses. This is often done by apportioning elements that in the Sanskrit are bunched together in a way that may confuse the reader into separate verses in the Javanese poem. Consider, in this context, the assigning of antitheses concerning the injurious nature of Love's flower arrows and the burning power of the cool breeze into two separate virodha verses, or the similar severing of the upward and downward movement of light emanating from the ocean in the case of udara. Occasionally, a third verse may be added to set up the situation or sum up its lessons (e.g., atisayokti). If necessary, additional explanatory language may be added along the way. For example, the chain reaction in illumination (dlpaka) is extended in a way that clarifies the pattern of this ornament (in its ancient form) beyond doubt, vocabulary is inserted that calls attention to the contradiction underlying antithesis (virodha) and the notion of the indistinguishability of the brothers is clarified and enhanced in atisayokti, if we are correct in our interpretation of this passage. In all these practices, we find support for kakawin's indebtedness not only to kavya poetics but also to Indian forms of commentary for its pedagogical and aesthetic goals. Indeed, it is extremely tempting to speculate that a commentary on the BhK, either written or delivered orally by an informant from the subcontinent, was involved in the act of translation, in a conversation that must have taken place in Javanese centers of learning, be they monastic or royal. (62)

Another dimension of the commentarial function of the OJR is the way it familiarizes the Indic elements by serving them with a distinct Javanese dressing. Consider, in this connection, the insertion of local items that pertain to the landscape, flora, and fauna of the island, such as coral reefs and the himi-himi crabs. The added emphasis on the younger brother (and Rama's juniors more generally) may also partly reflect the social sensibilities and kinship matrixes of the target audience. This Javanization of Bhatti is surely related to a theme that runs throughout OJR 11 (and the work as a whole) but is far less developed in the original, namely, the keen interest in the emotional state of the protagonists, Rama and Sita, and the sensitive reactions these elicit in their surroundings, from Laksmana and Hanuman to mountains and oceans. This also means that despite the effort to understand and faithfully preserve Indic ornaments, they receive a local twist and are made to feel at home.

This tendency is related to an aspect of OJR 11 that seems to stand at odds with its trajectory of clarifying and simplifying Bhatti's poem. As we have seen in each case study, once the ornaments of BhK 10 are analyzed and decoded and elements of the dense original are allotted to separate statements, they are also enhanced and recoded, or "recon-figured." This figurative remaking typically involves added layers of figuration, including embrace (slesa), simile (upama), antithesis (virodha), identification (rupaka), intensification (atisaya), distinction (vyatireka), and, above all, seeing-as (utpreksa). Time and again human motives are attributed to the ocean, the moon, crabs, snakes, and alligators, often (but not always) with an eye to the emotional well-being of Rama. With the added figurative layer or layers comes a second-order suggestiveness that includes a reflexive element. This reflexivity pertains deeply and widely to the ornaments in question, the act of translation itself, and the relationship between the Javanese Ramayana and the Sanskrit original. Such meta-awareness is then thematized, as we have seen most clearly in Sita's letter and its meditation on meaning (artha), ornaments (alamkara), qualities (guna), and the tastes (rasa) of a poem.

This complex process of reflection allows us to read Bhatti's poem in a new light. It also supplies the emotional depth that, in hindsight, seems sorely missing in the original. This is a good illustration of the Borgesian principle according to which the original must be faithful to the translation. For those who read the poems side by side, the BhK will never be the same again, as we have argued, for example, in the case of the ocean's smile and gift for Rama (udara) or the full symmetry of the two brothers (atisayokti).

Ultimately, OJR 11 with its insertion of the letter episode can be read as a declaration of independence on the part of a nascent Javanese literary culture. The ships from the subcontinent arrived and unloaded endless cultural treasures, including many narrative gems and ornaments of language. The local literati unpacked them with utmost care, inspected them closely, and took them apart with precision, likely with the help of expatriate experts and manuals. When the time came to put them together again, they reminisced over their additional potentials, reconfigured them, and came to own them in a process that gave these ornaments added depth and new external contours. Perhaps anticipating something of the long career that these ornaments would come to enjoy in later praxis, the OJR poet chose to leave the letter inserted into the narrative open ended, made the younger brother the model, and left him with the last word.

In fact, it may be better to avoid the term "translation" altogether in speaking about the OJR and instead consider the terminology that informs the poetic illustrations in the chapters under discussion. In this connection, the devices of intensification (atisayokti) and distinction (vyatireka) present themselves as powerful tools for thinking about the intercultural project of the Javanese poets. As we have seen, these and other tropes involve a playful and creative attempt to posit an entity that both reflects its original and is improved and consciously distinct. We believe that something very similar was attempted on a much larger scale in the formation of the OJR.


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We started working on this paper in Jerusalem, at the Israel Institute of Advanced Studies, and we would like to thank the Institute and its staff for its amazing hospitality. Thanks also to Whitney Cox, Thomas Hunter, Andrew Ollett, and David Shulman, who commented on earlier drafts, and to the three anonymous readers for their excellent suggestions.

(1.) Pollock 2006, Ricci 2011.

(2.) Pollock 2006: 399. There is some textual evidence for an ongoing interest in certain aspects of lexicography, prosody, and poetics that continued until the late Balinese period in treatises such as the Candakirana (Lokesh Chandra 1997, Rubinstein 2000) and grammatical texts such as the Karakasahgraha (Schoterman 1981, Radicchi 1996). The development of sastric traditions in Old Javanese is the focus of Creese and Hunter forthcoming.

(3.) Hunter 2011b: 11-21.

(4.) For an overview of this historical period in relation to the development of the kakawin tradition and the composition of the OJR, see Hooykaas 1955, 1958a, 1958b, Zoetmulder 1974, Saran and Khanna 2004, Worsley 2009, Acri 2010, Acri, Creese, and Griffiths 2011, and Hunter 2014a.

(5.) As is explicitly noted in the poem's penultimate verse (BhK 22.34: vyakhyagamyam idam kavyam).

(6.) The identity of the author of the OJR is unknown, although later traditions ascribe its composition to a certain Yogiswara on the basis of a reference to "the lord of yogis" in the epilogue of the poem (26.50): "The minds of the learned lord of yogis and of the good man are purified having read it" (sang yogiswara sista sang sujana suddha manah ira huwus mace sira). There are strong arguments to suggest that the OJR was not the work of a single author but, like the contemporaneous architectural monuments of Central Java, Prambanan and Borobodur, represented a longer-term cooperative venture (Hunter 2014a, 2014b). The later chapters, including the epilogue, regarded by earlier generations of scholars as interpolations, may have been the work of other hands (Zoetmulder 1974: 229-30), although the consensus is that these chapters do not date from a significantly later period than the earlier sections. See Hooykaas 1955, Aichele 1969, and Acri 2010: 477.

(7.) Primarily the Acyutottara of Ramasarman and a work attributed to one Medhavirudra.

(8.) On the moment at which this academic turn did happen under Jayapida of Kashmir (r. 776-807), see Bronner 2016.

(9.) The work's place of composition is unknown, and the date perhaps falls somewhere in the sixth or early seventh century (for this estimate, see Bronner 2012).

(10.) KA 5.69, 6.64, 3.58: svayam paritarkya; avagamya svadhiya ca kavyalaksma; giram alamkaravidhih savistarah svayam viniscitya dhiya mayoditah. For the necessity of atisaya and vakra, see KA 2.84-85.

(11.) See, for example, KA 2.86-87.

(12.) See Bronner 2012: 89-90, 95-96.

(13.) He does, however, nod respectfully to the person who composed the law of colorful language (vacam vicitramarganam nibabandhuh kriyavidhim; KA 1.9).

(14.) One unmistakable echo between the two works that has been long recognized concerns poetry's dependency on commentaries (BhK 22.34 and KA 1.20 and 2.20). A more systematic study of KA and BhK 10 is a desideratum.

(15.) Dandin's earliest known commentators, Ratnasrijnana and Vadijanghaladeva (both of whom lived in the tenth century), consistently quote Bhamaha's statements and contrast them with Dandin's (see Bronner 2012: 80-86).

(16.) In fact, the correspondence goes well beyond chapter 16, as is shown by Khanna and Saran 1993 and Acri 2010. See also Aichele 1931 and Hooykaas 1958a, 1958b.

(17.) See Worsley 2009, Acri, Creese, and Griffiths 2011.

(18.) For the discussion of textual influences see Khanna and Saran 1993, Saran and Khanna 2004: 88-111, and Hunter 2015, and for architectural influences Jordaan 2011 and Levin 2011.

(19.) Hunter 2014a.

(20.) See Creese and Bellows 2002, Creese 2009, Acri 2011a, 2011b.

(21.) See Hunter 2011a, Worsley et al. 2013.

(22.) KA 3.34, KA 2.347-48.

(23.) KA 3.33. Note that Dandin removes this stipulation from his definition (KA 2.346) even though he does not employ iva in his examples.

(24.) Excerpts from the Old Javanese text of the OJR are from the re-edition of Kern's edition (Kern 1900) by van der Molen (2015). Although our translations from the OJR are inspired by Stuart Robson's new translation (Robson 2015), in order to bring out the similarities to and differences from the BhK text, we have often modified or retranslated individual OJR verses.

(25.) For a discussion of the links between language and emotion in the last chapter of the OJR. see Becker and Ricci 2008.

(26.) In Bhatti, unlike in our translation, the latter effects are expressed through a verbal rather than a nominal construction.

(27.) Zoetmulder (1982: 819) indicates that the meaning of kathamapi in Javanese is "however," "yet," "nevertheless," or "even." But here the Sanskrit meaning "somehow or other" is indicated even though all the meanings listed by Zoetmulder equally mark a contradiction.

(28.) In verse 11.77, the softness of the flowers (attribute) contradicts their deep penetration (action), and this invisible penetration contradicts the shattering of the heart (both actions). In 11.78, the situation is a bit less clear, but the wind's coolness (attribute) stands in contrast to its flame-like quality (attribute) and its gentle manner of blowing to its burning effect (two actions).

(29.) Jayamangala ad BhK 10.67, KA 3.41-42.

(30.) Following Robson (2015: 300), we read kalebur ikang here as kalebu ikang.

(31.) The word "above" (uccaih), the only one that is outside this pattern, points forward to the fourth line.

(32.) Jayamangala and Mallinatha ad BhK 10.53.

(33.) KA 3.12.

(34.) Jayamangala and Mallinatha ad BhK 10.54.

(35.) The convention of moonstones as melting when they are touched by moonlight is found in other parts of the OJR. See, for example, 8.95 and 12.25.

(36.) KA 2.108; See also KA 2.27.

(37.) Mallinatha ad BhK 10.23, Fallon 2009: 496.

(38.) Jayamangala ad BhK 10.23, KA 2.27. Note, however, that Jayamangala goes on to state that there are two kinds of adidipaka, and he supplies an illustration for the second kind (which is absent from both Bhamaha and Bhatti).

(39.) For a similar gesture in Magha's Sisupalavadha, see McCrea 2014: 131.

(40.) Jayamangala ad BhK 10.43. At this point he quotes, as he does routinely, Bhamaha's definition of this ornament (KA 2.81).

(41.) KA 2.82; KA 2.213; KRM 3.92.

(42.) In an earlier verse in the chapter, the two brothers are already described as alike in every physical and mental aspect. There this is used as a first step in a simile that compares them to the mythical pair of Nara and Narayana (BhK 10.31). Here, however, the poet emphasizes only a close affinity between the two.

(43.) The translation is adapted from Robson 2015: 287-88.

(44.) prayasyatah punyavanaya jisno ramasya rocisnumukhasya dhrsnuh | traimaturah krtsnajitastrasastrah sadhryan ratah sreyasi laksmano' bhut || (BhK 1.25).

(45.) The translation is adapted from Robson 2015: 43.

(46.) As Jayamangala notes, the last ornament, bhavikatva, operates on the level of the work as a whole and therefore cannot be demonstrated in just this one stanza. Jayamangala ad BhK 10.74: bhavikatvam ity alamkara uktah. tadbandhavisayatvat prthak pradarsayisyati. It could, however, be the case that Bhatti did intend a bhavika here, although in a different sense than that found in Bhamaha (at least as understood by Jayamangala): an ornament that is suffused by emotion (bhava).

(47.) Mallinatha ad BhK 10.74, KA 2.273.

(48.) This is how Jayamangala seems to take the compound. For Mallinatha, the good deeds are Laksmana's (ad BhK 10.74). For a different take on labdhatma, see Fallon 2009: 247.

(49.) Jayamangala ad BhK 10.74: arthavagadhatvad asya coddate 'ntarbhdvo drastavyah.

(50.) KA 3.11, KA 2.299.

(51.) This was also noted by Hooykaas (1957: 362-63), who made some insightful comments about the potential relationship between nipuna and causality (hetu).

(52.) KA 2.178-96.

(53.) For the former interpretation, we consider ka-lengka as a hypothetical stative passive form, "to be in a state of (being in) Lengka."

(54.) Old Javanese kakawin poetry routinely gives prominent roles to women and the social world, especially to virtuous and loyal wives. See Creese 2004.

(55.) For a discussion of rhetorical devices in this letter episode, see van der Molen 2003.

(56.) On this ideal, see Shulman 1991. For an insightful discussion of the effects of distance as a function of the usage of different deictic pronouns in this verse, see Hunter 2012.

(57.) For a similar triple repetition of rasa in another section that forms a meditation on this topic, see OJR 26.35.

(58.) Sanskrit kamasastra traditions were well known in Java and Bali (Creese 2004: 201-9). Specific erotic treatises entitled Indranisastra and Rukminitattwa, in which Saci is the teacher who imparts esoteric erotic knowledge to her pupil, Rukmini, are still found in the Balinese tradition (Creese and Bellows 2002: 391-93; Creese 2004: 267). We therefore prefer the translation "teachings of Indrani and Saci" (Creese and Bellows 2002: 386) to that of "Indrani and Saci postures" adopted by van der Molen (2003: 341, 352) and Robson (2015: 283). The Indranisastra text in relation to knowledge of amorous play, including a posture called "the play of swans" (ulah hangsalila), is also referred to in OJR 8.71.

(59.) Verses delivered by trusted messengers who act as go-betweens for lovers temporarily separated are also common in kakawin poetry (Creese 2004: 62, 86-87, 106-8).

(60.) As van der Molen (2003: 342-43) notes, the principal, unspoken purpose of Sita's letter is not only to convince Rama of her faithfulness but also to find out whether he will take her back now that she has been so long in the home of another man. Indeed, this letter skillfully foregrounds the end of the entire Ramayana narrative: Sita's forebodings turn out to be correct when, having rescued her from Ravana's clutches, Rama then cruelly casts her aside (OJR 24.147-53). This act of cruelty finds its particularly Javanese response in the OJR when Trijata, daughter of Wibhisana, who has been Sita's companion throughout her ordeal, rounds on Rama and berates him for his cowardly, improper treatment of his wife (OJR 24.169-86).

(61.) He certainly expected his poems to work as a lamp for readers who had studied grammar (the teaching of which occupies chapters 1-9 and 14-22 of his work), and he predicted that without such knowledge, his work would be as useless as a mirror for a blind man (BhK 22.33).

(62.) For example, later texts include the detailed description of the training of women poets in Princess Indumati's entourage in Sumanasantaka 41.1 (Worsley et al. 2013: 183) and Krsnayana 10.4-10 (Creese 2004: 48-49).
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Date:Jan 1, 2019
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