Amaru


Amaru
(seventh century)
   Amaru was a Sanskrit love poet whose “century” (sataka) of verses is one of the most admired collections of short love lyrics in the Sanskrit language. Virtually nothing is known of Amaru’s life, but he was singled out by the great literary theorist Anandavardhana in the ninth century as the master of the short lyric known as the muktaka. The Amarusataka, or “hundred poems of Amaru,” has survived in four different versions, ranging in size from 96 to 115 short poems. Only 51 lyrics are common to all four versions, but because of the similarity of style and language, it is virtually impossible to determine which of the extant verses are truly Amaru’s.
   Amaru’s poems are not professions of love addressed to the speaker’s beloved, but rather brief vignettes that suggest a single moment in the history of a relationship. Some poems have a male speaker, others a female, still others an objective narrator. But the purpose of all of these poems is to evoke what was aesthetically considered the perfect erotic mood (or rasa). In doing so, the poet follows the conventions of the erotic rasa, including the presentation of different “types” of women, different emotional states, and various physical aspects of love as described in the Kamasutra.
   One of Amaru’s favorite themes is his depiction of the manini, or angry heroine, who chastises her lover for his infidelity. In one poem, the manini speaks:
   You grovel at my feet
   and I berate you
   and can’t let my anger go.
   (Selby 2002, 38, ll. 11–13)
   At their most successful, Amaru’s poems speak of the universal emotions of love. One such poem expresses the emotion of the lover who is so smitten he can only think of his beloved—a state he compares with mystical notions of divine unity:
   O heart,
   there is no reality for me
   other than she she
   she she she she
   in the whole of the reeling world.
   And philosophers talk about Oneness.
   (Selby 2002, 102, ll. 8–13)
   Bibliography
   ■ Brough, John, trans. Poems from the Sanskrit. Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1968.
   ■ Ingalls, Daniel H. H., trans. Sanskrit Poetry from Vidyakara’s Treasury. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968.
   ■ Selby, Martha Ann, trans. “From Amarusataka.” In Norton Anthology ofWorld Literature. 2nd ed.Vol. B, edited by Sarah Lawall, et al., 1339–1342. New York and London: Norton, 2002.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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