The Marriage of Bhāvanā and King Best: A Sixteenth-Century South Indian Theory of Imagination

Diacritics 38 (3):22-43 (2008)
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In sixteenth-century South India, the notion of the imagination was strongly thematized as perhaps the defining aspect of the human mind. We examine one striking example, an allegorical play called the Bhāvanā-puruṣottama by Ratnakheta Srinivasa Dīkṣita. Here we see a king searching frantically for his own imagination, the young woman Bhāvanā with whom he is in love, while she, for her part, is absorbed in the uneven and rather frustrating processes of imagining him. The two lovers could be said mutually to determine one another’s existence. On the other hand, imagination, for this poet, is not a matter of discovering something new but of perceiving something that is already there and, by perceiving it, enhancing or intensifying its presence and its activity. At the same time, the imagination focuses on singularities, however elusive: in this period, the general faculty of imagination has become a highly personal matter



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