Sense and Sensuality
The Spectrum of Love
Love is of particular interest in Sanskrit writings. Sometimes it is tied to positive, life giving undertones and other times, it is associated with violent, feverish attacks. Looking at two Sanskrit poems concerning the way women and men deal with love sheds light on how complicated the culture’s view on the phenomenon was. Through the use of nature-related metaphor, the female reaction to love is given a pure characteristic. The breeze is commonly used as a romantic symbol in Indian poetry. In poem 1129 by Acala (found in Vidyakara’s “Treasury” of Sanskrit Poetry), it is noted to pollinate jasmine flowers, a metaphor for how love creates new life. The beautiful, natural image of the gentle spring breeze “scattering the pollen” establishes a pure, natural erotic mood. However, this mood is presented with the subtlety of metaphor, which sets an air of tension as the reader begins to anticipate a more concrete, explicitly depicted Rasa. The poem then directly ties in a human element by noting how the wind plays with the hair of Gujerat women, which relates to the sexual stimulation the breeze has on them. This perpetuates the sexual nature of the poem and helps convey the romantic Rasa on a more blatant level. The poem really materializes this mood by then adding that the curls of hair have “lost their flowers / and are loosened and disheveled / from the fondling of their lovers” (Acala). Here the poet shows how ravaged these women are from their love. Acala builds tension through the work by using subtle, sexually suggestive metaphors but ultimately releases it all by referencing male “lovers” in the last line, establishing solidity to the metaphor in the poem’s end. The structure of the poem is vaguely sexual as the rasa is implicitly expressed at the beginning, building the sexual excitement until it explicitly and ultimately confirmed in a sort of climax or release of...