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Madly after the MusesBengali Poet Michael Madhusudan Datta and his Reception of the Graeco-Roman Classics$
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Alexander Riddiford

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199699735

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199699735.001.0001

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The Meghnādbadh kābya (1861), Homer’s Iliad, and Vergil’s Aeneid 1

The Meghnādbadh kābya (1861), Homer’s Iliad, and Vergil’s Aeneid 1

(p.93) 3 The Meghnādbadh kābya (1861), Homer’s Iliad, and Vergil’s Aeneid1
Madly after the Muses

Alexander Riddiford

Oxford University Press

The Meghnādbadh kābya (MBK), an epic reworking of a portion of the Hindu epic Rāmāyaṇa, is considered to be Madhusudan’s masterpiece. The poem draws on a wide range of epic models and sources, but the focus of the chapter is on Madhusudan’s use of Homer’s Iliad and Vergil’s Aeneid. The Bengali epic takes the Iliad as its basic structural model. Hindu deities and mortals are depicted in a way which recalls Homer’s characters, and the poem’s narrative arc is markedly Iliadic. However, the closest and most developed allusion to Western classical epic is to Aeneas’ katabasis in the sixth book of Vergil’s Aeneid. It is shown that Madhusudan’s reception of Western classical epic in the MBK is markedly independent of the contemporary British literary discourse, and that the poet’s use of the Western classics assists his purpose in challenging Hindu literary and religious orthodoxy.

Keywords:   Meghnādbadh kābya, Homer’s Iliad, Vergil’s Aeneid, Rāmāyaṇa, epic, Indo-European

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