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Strong Arms and Drinking StrengthMasculinity, Violence, and the Body in Ancient India$
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Jarrod L. Whitaker

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199755707

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199755707.001.0001

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Mighty Champions and Slaying the Dragon

Mighty Champions and Slaying the Dragon

(p.109) 3 Mighty Champions and Slaying the Dragon
Strong Arms and Drinking Strength

Jarrod L. Whitaker (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Chapter 3 argues that the term śū́ra (“big/strong man; champion”) is far more specialized in use than has been previously recognized as it signifies a specific and expert martial and political role. As such, it designates the real hero of early Vedic ritual culture. The primary evidence for this relates to Indra’s mythic battle with his archnemesis, the cosmic serpent Vr̥tra, who in the human world represents the paradigmatic “Enemy-Other” to R̥gvedic social and political concerns. Furthermore, this chapter examines the notion of the śū́ra’s “strength” (sávas) as the use of this term sheds considerable light on the role of the śū́ra and the meaning of Indra’s battle with Vr̥tra. This chapter thus explores the relationship between heroism, physical strength and size, cosmic expansion, controlling natural resources, and the myth of Indra’s destruction of the Vedic “dragon”, Vr̥tra.

Keywords:   Vr̥tra, snake, dragon, strength, hero, champion, size, body, śū́ra, śávas

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