The Agni Purana

by N. Gangadharan | 1954 | 360,691 words | ISBN-10: 8120803590 | ISBN-13: 9788120803596

This page describes Investigation into poetic excellences (kavya-guna) which is chapter 346 of the English translation of the Agni Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas dealing with all topics concerning ancient Indian culture, tradition and sciences. Containing roughly 15,000 Sanskrit metrical verses, subjects contained in the Agni-Purana include cosmology, philosophy, architecture, iconography, economics, diplomacy, pilgrimage guides, ancient geography, gemology, ayurveda, etc.

Chapter 346 - Investigation into poetic excellences (kāvya-guṇa)

Fire-god said:

1. Poetry, even though embellished, does not produce pleasure, if it is devoid of guṇas (excellences). A necklace would only be burdensome to women, if their bodies are not beautiful.

2. It cannot be said that excellence would only be the absence of defect.[1] Excellences such as Śleṣa (coalescence) and the like and defects such as Gūḍhārtha (obscurity of sense) and the like have been distinguished from one another.

3. An excellence is that which confers great charm to poetry. It exists in two forms such as general and particular.

4. That which is common to all[2] is considered to be the general. The general (excellence) is threefold relating to word, sense and both.

5-6a. The excellence (of word) is that which relates to the word, the body of the poetry[3]. The excellences of the word are sevenfold, namely, Śleṣa (coalescence), Lālitya (smoothness), Gāmbhīrya (depth), Saukumārya (softness), Udāratā (richness of expression), Satī (purity) and Yaugikā (derivative).

6b. That is said to be Coalescence in which there is a closely coalesced arrangement of words.

7. Smoothness is declared as that in which a letter that is already combined in the words by means of (substitution such as) guṇa, ādeśa and the like is never euphonically combined.

8. The wise name it as Depth which is a composition chiselled by special characteristics and which contains elevated words; others (name) the same as Suśabdatā (grammatical correctness).

9. Softness consists of words mostly of unharsh letters. Elevatedness consists of elevated words and is endowed with praiseworthy epithets.

10. Splendidness (Ojas) (is) abundance of compounds. It is the life of prose etc.[4] From the Highest Being to a clump of grass, manliness (comes) by ojas alone.

11-12. That is said to be the Excellence of Sense[5] which brings out the excellence of a described object by whichsoever word. There are six varieties of it, viz., Mādhurya (tranquility), Saṃvidhāna (contrivance), Komalatva [Komalatvaṃ] (softness), Udāratā (elegance), Prauḍhi (maturity) and Sāmayikatva (being conventional).

13. The gravity of appearance even in anger (and) deep state of composure is Tranquility. Contrivance (consists of) the effort for the accomplishment of an expected object.

14. An arrangement of words free from rigidity appearing after setting aside laxity (of structure) is (known as) Softness.

15. The excessive gracefulness of intention which indicates the characteristic of the disposition of being aimed at explicitly is the Elegance of Guṇa.

16. That is declared Maturity in which there are mature reasonings impregnated with logical reasonings bringing about accomplishment of what is intended.

17. The apprehension of the sense in the demonstrated conclusion[6] of something independent or dependent (is known as) ‘Being Conventional’.

18-19a. That which embellishes both word and sense is known by the name ‘the Excellence of Both’. Prasāda (lucidity), Saubhāgya (loveliness), Yathāsaṅkhya (relative enumeration), Praśastatā (praiseworthiness), Pāka (ripeness) and Rāga (tint) are its six (varieties) divulged in their manifoldness by the wise.

19b-20. Lucidity is glorified as consisting of words possessing very well-known sense. That which, when expressed, suggests some eminent attribute, is declared by the wise as Saubhāgya (loveliness) or Udāratva (elegance).

21-22a. Yathāsaṅkhya (is) Relative Enumeration extended to similar things. Praiseworthiness is the description of even a terrible object by means of a word not terrible, when there is an occasion.

22b-23. A certain high maturity is said to be Ripeness. It is of four kinds, viz., as the ripeness of grape and that of coconut water etc. That is indeed the ripeness of grape in which there is sweetness both at the beginning and the end.

24-25. It is glorified as Tint which is a special characteristic for the purpose of poetic composition. It excels even the natural grace (when) put to constant practice. It is again of three varieties: yellow, saffron and indigo. That which is within the range of its own characteristics is to be recognised as the particular (Excellence).

Footnotes and references:


The reading doṣo bhāva has been corrected as doṣābhāva.


Probably the Rītis.


The reading kāvyaśarīram [kāvyaśarīra] is better than kāvyaṃ śarīraṃ.


The text wrongly reads as padya.


arthaguṇa seems to be better than the reading artho guṇa.


The reading rāddhāntaḥ samayo mataḥ seems to be better than bāhyāntaḥ samayogataḥ of the printed text

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