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date: 26 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Distinguishing between “religious” and “secular” in terms of activity (worship), setting (temple), content (deities), intent (edification) is problematic in Hinduism, whose aesthetics often hovers ambiguously between transcendent values and worldly pursuits, while sometimes claiming to constitute a third and distinct domain. Sacred and profane are often superposed, such that the artistry may consist in playing upon the opposed registers, holding them together even while keeping them apart, or refusing to recognize the very distinction. This is best illustrated by the deployment of “humor” around the clown of the Sanskrit drama, whose obvious purpose is vulgar entertainment though his stereotyped role and characterization is intelligible only in terms of a “religious” function. Six fundamentally different approaches to the “sacred” are distinguished: sacrifice (Veda), renunciation, secularization (kingship), possession, devotion (bhakti), and transgression (tantra). This chapter extends the vantage point of Abhinavagupta’s poetics of rasa to the art of storytelling, riddling, and joking.

Keywords: aesthetics, bhakti, clown, Hinduism, humor, India, rasa, sacrifice, theater, transgression

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