An introduction to Bharatheeya Kavyasastra: Part I
- V S Bhaskara Panicker
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April 23, 2006

(This long research paper that Mr. V S Bhaskara Panicker would like to share with narthaki readers will appear every month in parts)

The history of Indian poetics is the story of a long and continuous flow of a wonderfully exalted original thinking of sagacity, as well a scientific, philosophical and subtle unfoldment of the spiritual substratum of human mind. When and how it was started? We can only speculate with no scope for any definite conclusion. Bharatha has, therefore, given its authorship to Brahma, the creator of the world. However, this thinking process carrying with it the diverse aspects of Kavya Sasthra appears to have come to an abrupt end with Jagannatha (1610-1670) after attaining perfection.

This branch of study of poetics was formerly known as KAVYALANKARA. It was Bhoja who lived in the 11th century who termed it as Kavyasasthra. At that time, it was also known as KRIYAKALPA. Acharyas of yore, say, from Bharatha to Jagannatha had endeavoured to define and describe the term KAVYA from their own perspectives, but they had been following a particular mode of approach, as in other branches of Indian thinking process.

The first and foremost aspect was SWAROOPA - a concise definition. The second is PRAYOJANA - what for Kavya is made, and lastly GUNA and DHARMA. There is general agreement among the Acharyas on the first two aspects. The third aspect is the real aesthetic science and as the outcome of subtle studies, intellectual qualities and imaginative thinking, the Acharyas have propounded various theories and propositions, sometimes complimentary and often contradictory to another. These are classified as SAMPRADAYAS (Rasa, Alankara, Ouchithya, Dhwany, Vakrokthi etc.). The study of Kavyasasthra is the comprehensive evaluation of these Sampradayas and comprehension of the basic underlying unity.

As explained before, in the process of evaluation of Kavya, the scholars used to look into three aspects:

Firstly, its Swaroopa¸ that is the linguistic aspect in general, secondly its purpose and thirdly the qualitative ingredients which add to the beauty. The poet expresses his Bhava through the medium of language. Language is sabdha and artha combined. Thus, in general, the outward form of Kavya constitutes the Bhava, Shabda and Artha. The Acharyas hold different views in this matter, say: 1) Shabda and Artha combined is Kavya and 2) Kavya is Sabdaroopa. It was Bhamaha who stressed the first point of view. Kunthaka opines that Kavya is that poetical treatise, beautiful and that which makes the listener happy. According to Mammata, the Sabdartha without dosha and in agreement with the prescribed Gunas is Kavya. Dandhi, Viswanatha, and Jagannatha are also of the opinion that Sabdha with profound Artha is Kavya. Viswanatha says that Rasa based Vakya is Kavya. Jagannatha holds the latest view that Kavya is Ramaneeyartha. However, Sabda and Artha are inseparable, “like the inner and outer sides of the same hand.” Kalidasa says that the two are SAMPRIKTHA.

WHY KAVYA: Acharyas are in general agreement with the proposition that the purpose of Kavya is the attunement of the inner faculties, especially that of the mind to make it contemplative, effective and efficient in the pursuit of the four Purusharthas. Bhamaha holds the view that mere enjoyment of Rasa is the purpose, but through that enjoyment, affinity for virtue and abhorrence from vices is developed, leading to inner purification.

HOW DOES IT BECOME BEAUTIFUL? Unlike Sabdartha in the ordinary sense, how does the blending of the two (Sabda and Artha) in Kavya make the listener enlightened and cultured? Acharyas have suggested several means to endow Kavyas with this potential. The history of Kavyasasthra is the story of this experiment extending for the last two millennium. Several principles were evolved in this long pursuit - Rasa, Alankara, Guna, Rithi, Vakrokthi, Dhwany, Ouchithya, Chamatkara, Sayya, Vrithi, Paka, etc. It has been established that these aspects (Sampradayas) either singularly or in combination with others generate beauty. These are termed as KAVYATHATWAS. Thus different schools of thought (Prasthanas) came into being.


This does not mean that one contradicts the other. These are mutually complimentary.

Rasa Sampradaya
According to legend, Nandikeswara was the first perceiver of Rasa. Bharathmuni is looked upon with respect as the originator of Rasasidhantha. His Natyasasthra is the first and last word of this Sidhantha. Natyasasthra is primarily intended for the whole concept of Natya and Kavya is only a component aspect of Natya.

The principles evolved for the whole are also applicable to the parts, and Rasasidhantha covers Kavya also.

Natyasasthra remained the unchallenged, approved, authoritative text (Grandha-Pramana) in Kavya pursuits till the time of Anandavardhana/Dandhi. The great poets like Kalidasa, Aswaghosha and the “gems” of Bhoja Durbar would have taken inspiration and guidance from Natyasasthra.

Dandi's Kavyasasthra was the second Grandha enunciating exclusively the guide lines for Kavya making. During this long period, Rasa was considered as an Alankara. The word Rasavath had been used by certain Acharyas in a sense to indicate Mathurya and Guna and not Rasa to convey the correct import of the word according to Natyasasthra. In short, in Srotha Kavya, Rasa was considered as an Alankara and not the aesthetic pleasure as derived from Natya. But while elaborating the word ‘Rasavath,' Dandi had made mention of the eight Rasas described by Bharatha. But in a different context, he has also used the word. In Kavya sense as an Alankara, Dandi was not opposed to the Rasasidhantha by Bharatha. Bhamaha, Udbhada, Vamana, Rudraka, and most of the Acharyas who lived during the period, though aware of Rasa, had given only secondary importance to Rasa in Kavya. The general trend was to classify it as an Alankara.

With the establishment of Dhwanysidhantha by Anandavardhana, Rasa assumed its full importance in Kavya. Though he had stressed KAVYASYATHMANI DHWANY (Dhwany is the soul of Kavya) he was unequivocal in establishing that VASTHUDHWANY and ALANKARA DHWANY were auxiliary to RASADHWANY. Abhinava Guptha has also explained this elaborately in Lochana. This approach had been pursued by Mammata, Ruyyaka, Viswanatha and finally by Jagannatha.

Alankara Sampradaya
The Vedic term for Alankara is Alankrithi. In Upanishads, the word Alamkarishnu is used for a person who decorates himself. In Vedas, Alankaras such as Upama are seen used. In Niruktha, the synonym Karmopama, Bhoothopama, Roopopama, Sidhopama etc. are also seen used by Yaska. Even before his time, Gargwan had written about Upama. By Panini's time, Upama had attained poetical acceptability. Panini had also used the words Upamana, Upamitha, Samanya, Upama etc. as Oupamya, Upamitha, Sadrisya etc. In Aswaghosha, there are instances of graceful use of Alankaaras like Yamaka, Upama, Utpreksha, Apprasthuthaprasamsa etc. It cannot be gainsaid that Alankaras were subjected to scientific treatise for the first time by Bharatha. He has defined four Alankaras, viz. Upama, Roopaka, Deepaka and Yamaka. He has also given a list of thirty six Alankaras. The prominent Acharyas in Alankara Sampradaya are Dandi, Bhamaha and Udbhada. They have merged Rasa in Alankara. It was Rudrata who classified Alankara as Sabdalankara and Arthalankara. He was also a Rasavadin.

When Rasa and Dhwany Sidhantha became prominent, Alankara was relegated to the background. Dhwanivadins included Alankara in their treatise giving them only secondary importance (Gouna). Mammata holds the view that Alankara is not an inevitable factor for Kavya. Alankaravadins also were not inclined to remain quiet.. They repeated the argument that Alankaras add to the beauty of Kavya. Jayadeva was prominent among them. Along with him Ayappa Deekshithar (16th century) was another Acharya who strived to promote the importance of Alankaras.

Rithi Sampradaya
Vamana was the main protagonist of Rithi. According to him, the life force of Kavya is Rithi. Dandi and Bhamaha were also aware of the importance of Rithi. They used the term Marga for Rithi. Originally Rithi had a regional base as the name indicated. But it denoted a particular style in the general sense. Kunthaka was the prominent Acharya of Rithi. He held the view that Rithi was a style personal to the poet.

Dandi had made a critical study of Rithi in his Kavyadarsa. After Dandi a detailed study on Rithi is found in Bana. According to him, northerners laid stress on Slesha, west on Artha and south on Utpreksha. Gouda found pleasure in verbal pomposity. Further, new meanings, beautiful swabhavokthi, easy Slesha, combination of unusual Varnas (letters) were the diverse aspects.

Graceful combination of words (Padvinyasabhangi) is Rithi, according to certain poets. The words Komala (graceful), Kadtina (hard) and mixed (misra) became prevalent in the place of Vidarbha, Goudi, and Panchali. Kunthaka says that Rithi is something personal to the poet. It is a sort of inherent force in him. If the poet is of graceful and gentle nature the poetic force in him would assume the same characteristics, and his composition would also be of the same nature.

Kunthaka accepts only two types of Rithi i.e. Sukumara and Vichithra. There is no objection for a third one, a combination of these two. It is called Ramaneeya. In short, apart from Vamana, no other Acharya had given paramount importance to Rithi. Rithi is after all the superstructure only and not the life force of Kavya. This is the inherent
drawback of this Sampradaya.

It was Rajanak Kunthaka who propounded the Vakrokthi Sidhantha. Alankarikas are familiar with Vakrokthi. Dandi had classified the entire Kavya structure as Vakrokthi and Swabhavokthi. Bhamaha is of the view that it is Vakrokthi that makes Kavya graceful as Alankaras are constructed with Vakrokthi. But he prefers the term Athisayokthi instead of Vakrokthi. Perhaps he would have developed his Sidhantha from what had been alluded by these Acharyas. The limits of Swabhavokthi as prescribed by Dandi do not involve Vakrokthi. Further, Dandi and Bhamaha were not in full agreement in their conception of Vakrokthi. The use of similar words in Lakshana is Vakrokthi (Bhamaha).

There was a time when Dhwany and Vyanjana had overshadowed Alankaras. Kunthaka entered the scene with his Vakrokthi Sidhantha. Primarily he was an Abhidhavadin. His Vakrokthi is Abhidha principle in a different sense. During that period Dhwany Sidhantha was also facing severe repudiation by Anumithi Vadins. Kunthaka argued that the inferred meaning (Pratheeyamana) of Dhwany-concept was Vakrokthi. He had also made efforts to include the whole Dhwany Sidhantha in appropriate segments of Vakrokthi Sidhantha.

Vakrokthi Sidhantha had received high acclaim though not as equal as Dhwany. The subtle difference between the two is that Dhwany rebounds from inspiration (Anubhoothi) whereas Vakrokthi gives prominence to imagination which would be more intellectual (Prathibha) in content.

Dhwany Sampradaya
In Drisyakavya, Rasa continued to be considered as a prominent factor, but in Sravyakavya its relevance remained undeclared. It was through Dhwany Sidhantha that the importance of Rasa was established as far as Sravyakavya was concerned and received acceptance as the life force of Kavya. Though Anandavardhana is considered as its originator (Dhwanyaloka), he himself had no reservation to mention that the concept existed in the embryo stage even earlier. Dhwany is the inferred or alluded meaning hidden behind the generally accepted meaning of the word or word combination used. This adds Chamatkara to the Vakya. This mode of expression existed as an accepted fact already in literature. Dandi, Bhamaha, Udbhada were fully aware of this suggestive mode of expression, nonetheless they had not explicitly dilated upon it in their treatises. They had given indication of this suggestive meaning while explaining Alankaras like Paryokthi, Vyajasthuthi etc. They had explained it away as Guneebhootha Vyangya, but the word Dhwany had never been used as such in that sense.

As explained early, Dhwany is the suggestive or evocative meaning that pre-shadows the Vachyartha. In Kavya, Vachya comprises of three constituent factors, viz. Vasthu, Alankara and Rasa. Dhwany pervades all these three elements. The divisions thus formed are termed as Vasthudhwany, Alankara-Dhwany and Rasadhwany, the last one being of primary importance. It is, therefore, clear that the ultimate consummation of Dhwanysidhantha is Rasa.

The basis of Rasasidhantha is a new word-force known as Vyanjana. The suggestive meaning that the listener comprehends is not akin to Abhidha, Lakshana or Thathparya. Abhidhavrithi gives only the technical meaning of the word. Lakshanavrithi offers a meaning connected to the main meaning (Mukhyartha) as affected by it, connected to it, combined with it or benefited by it as Roodhi. Thatparya (hidden intention) also would not throw light on Vyanjana. In these circumstances, it has to be assumed that there is a fourth factor, or process of comprehension unfolding a suggestive meaning in the imaginative mind of the Sahridaya. This is the Thuriya process which the Dhwanyvadins define as Dhwana, Vyanjana, or Avagamana.

Some of the later critics like Mahima Bhatta had tried to repudiate Dhwanysidhantha. They had argued that the entire Dhwanyvada was merely an inference based on imagination, but Abhinava Gupta, the renowned scholar had given mature interpretative shape to Dhwanysidhantha. Mammata, a still later Acharya, gave a proper positive explanation refuting the counter arguments of earlier critics. Hemachandra (12th century), Viswanatha (14th century) and lastly Jagannatha Panditharaja (16th century) were strong protagonists of Dhwany.

Ouchithya Sampradaya

The Acharya of Ouchithya Sampradaya was Kshemendra. Ouchithya was an Alankara according to Bharatha. Anandavardhana and Abhinava Gupta had given secondary importance (Gouna) or qualitative standard to Ouchithya. Kshemendra admitting that Rasa is the soul of Kavya, confirmed Ouchithya as Rasa living.

Dhwany included Ouchithya. The fructification of Sidhanthas (Alankara, Guna, Rithi, Vakrokthi, Dhwany, Kavyanumithi) depends on Ouchithya (propriety).

Chamathka Sampradaya

Ouchithya produces Chamathkara. Those who have experienced it introduced Chamathkara Sampradaya. According to them, Chamathkara is the soul of Kavya. There is Chamatkara in Dhwany. Visveswara was its main protagonist. The chief organs of Kavya are Guna, Rithi, Rasa, Paka, Vrithi, Sayya and Alankara. When these are assimilated, there is Chamatkara.

Essence of Kavya

This is the summary of Sanskrit linguistics and aesthetics extending over a period of about 2000 years. It is Rasasidhantha that has received universal acceptance and approval direct or indirect by all Acharyas. They differed only in its origin (nishpathi), mode of expression, and the means to be adopted for its attainment.

The primary principle being Rasa, the second proposition which attained acceptance in Sanskrit Literary studies is Dhwany. Aanandavardhana has affirmed that Dhwanysidhantha aims at creating Rasa which is the soul of Kavya. What exactly is Rasa? It is a stage of consciousness free from all inhibitions and impediments, a state of pure naught - Ananda. Other attributes like Alankaras etc, give shape to this state of awareness - that is Rasa. In this contemplation of beauty, it is found possible to attain that pleasure-full elevation or excitement of the inner being which we experience as poetic sentiment (Kavyanubhoothi). This is the province of POEM.

V S Bhaskara Panicker has been an ardent writer since childhood, writing mainly in Malayalam language. Some of his literary expulsions have seen light and many are still left unpublished. He is 77 years old and still continuing his passion. In 2005, when he visited his son in Gujarat, he typed out his research paper on Bharatheeya Kavyasastra. He would like to share it with narthaki readers.