La 'queste' di Uttaṅka

Paolo Magnone

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in libroContributo a convegno


Uttaṅka’s name is unknown to the older literature. His epic-puranic character is built up by three main narratives: i) the quest for the wondrous earrings; ii) the killing of asura Dundhu; iii) the origin of “Uttaṅka’s clouds”. The present paper is devoted to the analysis of i), extant in two different versions: A) MBh I, 3, 78 ff.; and B) MBh XIV, 56-58 (of which SkP VII, 3, 2 is but an abridgement, albeit with a couple of innovations). The gist of the story is the perilous quest for a pair of wondrous earrings, won at the risk of life, stolen and carried to the underworld and finally rescued. Version A of the story appears to have undergone an extensive brahmanization, stressing the values of loyalty and obedience to the master as well as of ritual purity, and bringing out by contrast the respective social stands of brāhmaṇa-s and kṣatriya-s. In version B there come to the foreground some typical features of the folktale more or less suppressed in A, such as the magical objects (the earrings, only here described as such), the ogre (king Saudāsa, the owner of the earrings, only here characterized as man-devourer), the difficult questions, the swift mount etc.; and even more the underlying structure, evidencing the specific functions of the folktale as identified by Propp. On closer investigation, however, there glimpses through the surface layers of the edifying story and the folktale an even deeper level, seemingly presenting us with an Indian version of the universal myth of the hero’s descent to the netherworld in quest of immortality. Several clues are there: a prologue in B mentioning Uttaṅka’s despair upon realizing his approaching old age; an incongruous hint at his rejuvenation; the vivifying properties of the kuṇḍala-s; Saudāsa’s and his queen’s characters, displaying features (grim appearence, anthropophagy, invisibility) typical of the guardians of the dead; the ordeal; the theft of the kuṇḍala-s by a serpent; the time symbolism of the netherworld, etc. Although admittedly none of the above is tranchant, the proposed interpretation seems all the more plausible when brought to bear on other pieces of narrative, from which the ambrosia-theme is clearly seen to be anything but incidental to the Uttaṅka cycle. Such is for instance the uttaçkamegha myth, where Uttaṅka unwittingly forfeits ambrosia graciously conceded by Kṛṣṇa but disguised by jealous Indra under disgusting appearances.
Titolo tradotto del contributo[Autom. eng. transl.] The 'these' of Uttaṅka
Lingua originaleItalian
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteAtti del Sesto e del Settimo Convegno Nazionale di Studi Sanscriti (Venezia 23 novembre 1990 - Palermo, 20-21 maggio 1993)
Numero di pagine11
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 1998
EventoSettimo Convegno Nazionale di Studi Sanscriti - Palermo
Durata: 20 mag 199321 mag 1993


ConvegnoSettimo Convegno Nazionale di Studi Sanscriti


  • Mahabharata
  • Purana
  • Uttanka
  • letteratura sanscrita


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