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Nala et Damayantī, héros épiques

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When regarded separately, the story of Nala and Damayantī does not amount to much more than a tale. Therefore it has been inserted in book III of the Mahābhārata as a “sub-story”, according to the usual practice of the Epic. The aim of this article is to show that this insertion is not without importance for an understanding of the story itself. The Epic provides a context for it and thereby helps in distinguishing the levels of significance which would otherwise pass unnoticed. Reciprocally, the ‘sub-story’ brings to the Epic an outlook which is in part new and more profound by taking up the Epic plot in its own way and at its proper level. In this way, the role of the Avatāra in the Nalopākhyāna is taken up by the wife of the exiled king. This leads one to ask oneself about the link connecting the Avatāra Ka and the princess Kā Draupadī, wife of the five Pāava king, in the Epic ideology.

At the background of all of this, there are an active concept of the entire Epic, and also the aspects of the method which results from this.


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