Depending on the week's assignment, you may have several pages of Background Reading. This week, you have TWO PAGES of Background reading.
The translation of the Hitopadesa that you will be reading is quite old, dating back to the late 18th century! The transliteration system that it uses to represent the Sanskrit alphabet in English is not the same system that is used today, which may cause you a bit of confusion. For example, the god Shiva is referred to as the god "Seeva".
In order to prepare for this week's readings, you should familiarize yourself with the names and cultural references listed below.
Brahmacharya: this is a technical term meaning "a religious life lived in devotion to God" (ofen involving celibacy, along with other spiritual practices)
Brahman: a priest; member of the priestly caste
Ganges: A sacred river of northern India that starts in the Himalaya Mountains and flows east to the Bay of Bengal.
Kunti (Kuntee): Kunti was the legendary mother of Arjuna and other great heroes of the ancient Indian epic tradition
Makaraketu: this is a name for the Hindu god of love; he is usually known by the name Kamadeva, and like the Greco-Roman god of love, Cupid, he shoots arrows of desire at his victims
pandit: a learned or wise man; often a Brahman
Patna: A city in norther Indian situated on the Ganges River, north of Calcutta.
rajah: The Sanskrit term for king or ruler (it is related to the English words like "regal," "regent," etc.)
Rama and the golden deer: Rama is the hero of the ancient epic called the Ramayana; at one point in the story, his wife Sita asks him to chase and capture a golden deer for her - but this was a great mistake, because the golden deer was just a decoy, and Rama's wife was kidnapped when he left her to chase the deer
Rama and Sugreeva: Sugreeva was the king of the monkeys who became Rama's ally in the quest to find Rama's wife Sita, who had been abducted by an evil demon
Shiva (Seeva): Shiva is the Hindu god of destruction and of regeneration
Sri Lanka (Ceylon): Sri Lanka is an island country in the Indian Ocean, located off the southeast coast of India; it was formerly known as Ceylon
Vishnu - Narayana: Narayana is the name of a cosmic god in Hinduism, usually equated with the god Vishnu, the preserver of the universe; the hero Rama is considered to be an avatar, or incarnation, of the god Vishnu
Vrihaspati (Brihaspati): a celestial priest in the Hindu tradition who is endowed with extraordinary powers; the god of magic and chants and prayers
MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
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