Alamkaras mentioned by Vamana

by Pratim Bhattacharya | 2016 | 65,462 words

This page relates ‘Definition of Samasokti Alamkara’ of the study on Alamkaras (‘figure of speech’) mentioned by Vamana in his Kavyalankara-sutra Vritti, a treatise dealing with the ancient Indian science of Rhetoric and Poetic elements. Vamana flourished in the 8th century and defined thirty-one varieties of Alamkara (lit. “anything which beautifies a Kavya or poetic composition”)

3: Definition of Samāsokti Alaṃkāra

Samāsokti is a prominent arthālaṃkāra in Sanskrit Poetics. Almost all the Sanskrit rhetoricians except Kuntaka[1] have admitted it.

Bhāmaha defines samāsokti as a terse expression in which having put forth an idea of a certain object, the meaning of another object evolves due to similarity of epithet (viśeṣaṇa)—

yatrokte gamyate'nyoarthastatsamānaviśeṣaṇaḥ/
sāsamāsoktiruddiṣtāsaṃkṣiptārthataya yathā//

  —Kāvyālaṃkāra (of Bhāmaha) 2.76

Daṇḍin’s definition carries the same idea as that of Bhāmaha—

vastu kiñcidabhipretya tattulyasyānyavastunaḥ/
uktiḥ saṃkṣeparūpatvāt sāsamāsoktiriṣyate//

  —Kāvyādarśa (of Daṇḍin) 2.205.

Samāsokti or ‘terseness in expression’ is created when having in mind a certain object, the statement about another object similar to it is made.

Daṇḍin has mentioned three types of samāsokti—‘tulyākāraviśeṣaṇa’ (where the objects have similar attributes), ‘bhinnabhinnaviśeṣaṇa’ (where the attributes are partly the same and partly different) and ‘apūrva’ (where the attributes are completely different). Daṇḍin cites different examples to elongate these different kinds of samāsokti.

Again, the example verse ‘pivanmadhu yathākāmam[2] etc. cited by Daṇḍin, has been pointed out as an example of ‘kāryaghaṭita samāsokti’ by the commentator Jīvānanda Vidyāsāgara

samāsokteḥ kāryaliṅgav iśeṣaṇaghaṭitatvat prathamaṃ kāryaghaṭitāṃ samāsoktimudāharati pivannityādi… aprastutāt bhramarakāryāt prastutasya kāmukakaryasya pratītiḥ/

Vāmana is somewhat unique from his predecessors while defining samāsokti as he furnishes his definition of samāsokti with unparallel terseness—

anuktau samāsoktiḥ/
  —Kāvyālaṃkārasūtravṛtti (of Vāmana) 4.3.3.

In his vṛtti he clarifies his view—

upameyasyānuktau samāna vastunyāsaḥ samāsoktiḥ / saṃkṣepavacanāt samāsoktirityākhyā/
  —Kāvyālaṃkārasūtravṛtti (of Vāmana) 4.3.3.

Samāsokti is a terse expression in which the ‘samānavastu’ or ‘upamānavastu’ (the similar thing) is put forth without stating the ‘upameyavastu’ (the object which it is similar to).

Vāmana puts forth the following verse as an example of samāsokti

slāghyādhvastādhvagaglāneḥ karīrasya marau sthitiḥ/
dhiṅmerau kalpavṛkṣȧṇāmvyutpannārthināṃ śriyaḥ//

  —Kāvyālaṃkārasūtravṛtti (of Vāmana) 4.3.3.

The existence of the ‘karīra plant’[3] in the desert is praise-worthy because it affords relief to the fatigued traveller. Fie upon the grandeur of the ‘kalpatree on the ‘meru’ which fails to fulfill anybody’s need.

The Kāmadhenu commentator cites the existence of samāsokti in this verse as follows—

atra karīrasya marusthiti ślāghanena kalpavṛkṣāṇāṃ merusthitinindanena ca
tadupmeyayoḥ paropakarapravaṇatadvimukhayoḥ s̄ lāghāninde samasyokte iti
, Kāvyālaṃkārasūtravṛtti (of Vāmana) 4.3.3.

In this verse, the existence of ‘karīra plant’ in the desert is praised and the presence of ‘kalpatrees in the ‘meru’ is condemned in accordance to their capabilities of affording relief to the needy. Both the ‘karīra plant’ and the ‘kalpa’ tree are ‘upamānavastu’, i.e., the glory of a person who helps people despite of his inadequate resources and the ‘kalpa’ tree in the ‘meru’ symbolizes the ‘upameyavastu’, i.e., the disgrace of a rich person who does not help the needy although he is fully capable to do so. Both the ‘upameyavastus’ are not mentioned and can only be understood by suggestion.

The treatise laid down by Vāmana regarding samāsokti indicates that it is some sort of model metaphor in a form of concise assertion. The necessity of a ‘śliṣṭa viśeṣaṇa’ (paronomastic epithet) or otherwise in samāsokti which is stated by his predecessors Bhāmaha and Daṇḍin is not mentioned by Vāmana. The essentiality of an epithet or epithets in samāsokti is also emphasized by the later rhetoricians like Udbhaṭa[4] , Mammaṭa[5] , Ruyyaka[6] , Vidyānātha[7] , Kavikarṇapura[8] , Hemacandra[9] etc. Viśvanātha, in his Sāhityadarpaṇa, has treated samāsokti as a kind of ‘pathetic fallacy’ or a figure of speech crediting nature into human emotion. Here the emotive gestures of a living being are super-imposed upon an insentient object.

Viśvanātha puts forth ‘kārya’, ‘liṅga’ and ‘viśeṣaṇa’ as the causes of this super-imposition or ‘vyavahārasamāropa’—

samāsoktiḥ samairyatra kāryaliṅgaviśeṣaṇaiḥ /
vyavahārasamāropaḥ prastute'nyasya vastunaḥ//

  —Sāhitya-darpaṇa (of Viśvanātha) 10.56.

Paṇḍitarāja Jagannātha also treats samāsokti as an ascription of human feelings to inanimate objects—

yatra prastutadharmiko vyavaharaḥ sādhāraṇaviśeṣaṇamātr opasthāpitāprastutadharmikavyavahārābhedena bhāsate sāsamāsoktiḥ/
  —Rasa-gaṅgādhara (of Jagannātha) Ch-II, p-367.

The verses cited by Bhāmaha, Daṇḍin, Udbhaṭa, Bhoja etc as examples of samāsokti exhibit this sort of personification. The example verse taken up by Vāmana is also an enchanting instance of the same. A human attribute like benevolence is praised in this verse with the help of non-human objects like the ‘karīra’ plant and the ‘kalpa’ tree. This verse can be termed as ‘apūrva samāsokti’ in accordance with Daṇḍin and can be named ‘kāryaghaṭita samāsokti’ in accordance with Viśvanātha. It is, therefore, clear that though Vāmana has not directly mentioned the importance of emoti onal personification present in samāsokti but the example verse cited by him suggests his assertion towards this aspect of samāsokti.

The definition of samāsokti furnished by Vāmana also indicates the difference between the two figures of speech prativastu and samāsokti. In prativastu, a typical comparison is made in two separate sentences, where in one the similar thing or the object of comparison is mentioned and the standard of comparison in another. But the samāsokti comprises of only one sentence and the object of comparison is not mentioned at all.

Ruyyaka has differentiated samāsokti from śleṣa, rūpaka and aprastutapraśaṃsā. According to him, in the śabdālaṃkāra śleṣa both the ‘viśeṣya’ (substantives) and the ‘viśeṣaṇa’ (epithets) are similar, while in samāsokti only the epithets are similar. In rūpaka there is a super-imposition of the self or ‘rūpasamāropa’ of the contextual (prakṛta) while in samāsokti the similarity of epithets signify the behavior of the non-contextual (aprakṛta). So, in samāsokti we only witness the imposition of behavior (vyavahārasamāropa). The features of aprastutapraśaṃsā are quite the reverse of samāsokti. The aprastutapraśaṃsā deals directly with the non-contextual and the contextual is implied. Whereas the samāsokti treats the contextual directly and the noncontextual object is implied[10] .

It is worth mentioning that ancient rhetoricians like Bhāmaha, Udbhaṭa etc have indirectly apprehended the existence of suggested sense in alaṃkāras like samāsokti, ākṣepa, viśeṣokti, paryāyokti, dīpaka, saṃkara etc[11] . Ānandavardhana, however, has clearly pointed out that though in the alaṃkāras such as samāsokti there is cognition of the suggested, it is always inferior to the expressed sense (vācyārtha). Dhvanikāra also puts forth the famous verse attributed to the poet Pāṇini and mentioned by Ruyyaka in support of his view[12] . Thus, these alaṃkāras cannot be termed as ‘dhvani’ though they can be identified with ‘guṇībhūtavyaṅgya kāvya[13] . Jagannātha has also stated that alaṃkāras like samāsokti can be regarded as instances of both ‘citra kāvya’ and ‘guṇībhūtavyaṅgya kāvya[14] .

We can sketch out the characteristic features of the figure of speech samāsokti from the various doctrines put forth by Sanskrit rhetoricians—

i) Samāsokti comprises of only one sentence. The figure of speech gets its name from the brevity of form caused by the dropping of one sentence.

ii) Samāsokti mentions the upamānavastu directly and the upameyavastu is implied.

iii) The implication of the upameyavastu is based upon the similarity of epithets (both paranomastic and non-paranomastic), action or gender.

iv) An imposition of behavior or ‘vyavahārasamāropa’ is seen in samāsokti.

v) Samāsokti ascribes human feeling to inanimate objects and can be identified with ‘pathetic fallacy’.

From the brief definition of samāsokti by Vāmana and from his subsequent illustrations we can clearly trace the basic structural features of the figure of speech.

Footnotes and references:


samāsoktiḥ sahoktiśca nālaṃkāratayāmatā/
  —Vakrokti-jīvita (of Kuntaka) 3.51.


pivanmadhu yathākāmaṃ bhramaraḥ phullapaṅkaje/
apyasannaddhasaurabhayaṃ paśya cumvati kuṭamalam//

  —Kāvyādarśa (of Daṇḍin) 2.206.

—Look, after drinking honey from the blossomed lotus to its hearts’ content, the bee proceeds to kiss the opening bud although it has not yet gained fragrance.


The ‘karīra’ plant: A thorny leafless plant growing in deserts and are gradually eaten by camels. The Kāmadhenu commentator states—

karīro vaṃśo varvuro vā/

He also quotes Amarakoṣa in this connection—

karīroastrīdantidantamūle cakrakare ghate/
sallakyāmapi varvure kāce vaṃśe tadamṅkure//

Also—vaṃśāṅkure karīroastrītarubhede ghate ca nā/
  —Amarakoṣa (of Amarasiṃ̄ha) Nānārthavarga, 3.173.


vaṃśāṅkure karīroastrīvṛkṣabhidghaṭayoḥ pumān/
karīrīcīrikāyāṃ ca dantamūle ca dantinām//

  —Medinīkoṣa (quoted in Amarakoṣa (of Amarasiṃ̄ha) Vanauṣadhivarga, 2.77.)

Reference to this desert plant can be found in various literary works—

patraṃ naiva yadākarīraviṭape doṣo vasantasya kiṃ
nolūkoapyavalokyate yadi divāsūryasya kiṃ dūṣaṇam/
dhārānaiva patanti cātakamukhe meghasya kiṃ dūṣaṇaṃ
yat pūrvaṃ vidhinālalāṭalikhitaṃ tanmārjituṃ kaḥ kṣamaḥ//

  —Bhartṛhari, Śatakatraya, Nītiśataka, 98.


kiṃ puṣpaiḥ kiṃ phalaistasya karīrasya durātmanaḥ/
yena vṛddhiṃ samāsādya na kṛtaḥ patrasaṃgrahaḥ//


—The ‘karīra’ plant bears thorny fruits. These fruits were used as an oblation in a Vedic ritual sacrifice named ‘kārīrīṣṭi’.


prakṛtārthena vākyena tatsamānairviśeṣaṇaiḥ/
aprastutārthakathanaṃ samāsoktirudāhṛtā//

  —Kāvyālaṃkārasārasaṃgraha (of Udbhaṭā) 2.10.


paroktibhedakaiḥ śliṣṭaiḥ samāsoktiḥ/
  —Kāvya-prakāśa (of Mammaṭa) 10.48.


viśeṣaṇānāṃ sāmyādaprastutasya gamyatve samāsoktiḥ/
  —Alaṃkārasarvasva (of Ruyyaka) 31.


viśeṣaṇānāṃ taulyena yatra prastutavartinām/
aprastutasya gamyate sāsamāsoktiriṣyate//

  —Pratāparudrayaśobhūṣaṇa (of Vidyānātha) Chapter-VIII, p-403..


śliṣṭaviśeṣaṇaireva viśeṣasyānyathāsthitiḥ/ samāsoktiḥ//
  —Alaṃkāra-kaustubha (of Kavikarṇāpūra) 8.251.


śliṣṭaviśeṣaṇairūpamānadhīḥ samāsoktiḥ/
  —Kāvyānuśāsana (of Hemacandra) 6.24.


gamyatvam tu prastutaniṣthamprastutapraśaṃsāviṣayaḥ aprastutaniṣthaṃ tu samāsoktiviṣayaḥ/ tatra ca nimittaṃ viśeṣaṇasāmyam/ viśeṣasyāpi sāmye śleṣaprāpteḥ/ viśeṣaṇasāmyāddhi pratīyamānamaprastutaṃ prastutāvacchedakatvena pratīyate / avacchedakatvaṃ ca vyavahārasamāropo na rūpasamāropaḥ/ rūpasamārope tvāvacchāditatvena prakitasya tadrūparūpitvādeva rūpakam/
  —Alaṃkārasarvasva (of Ruyyaka) p-31.


iha hi tāvat bhāmahodb haṭaprabhṛtayaścirantanālaṃkārakārāḥ pratīyamānārthaṃ vācyopaskāratayāalaṃkārapakṣanikṣiptaṃ manyate/ tathāhi paryāyoktāprastutapraśaṃ sāsamāsoktyākṣepavyājastutyupameyopamāananvayādau vastumātraṃ gamyamānaṃ vācyopaskārakatvenasvasiddhayeparākṣepaḥ parārthaṃ svasamarpaṇam' iti yathāyogaṃ dvividhayābhaṅgyāpratipāditaṃ taiḥ/
  —Alaṃkārasarvasva (of Ruyyaka) pp-3-6.


samāsoktau tāvatupoḍarāgeṇa
vilolatārakaṃ tathāgṛhitaṃ śaśināniśāmukham/
yathāsamastaṃ timirāṃśukaṃ tayāpuroapi rāgād galitaṃ na lakṣitam//

  —ityādau vyaṅgyenānugataṃ vācyameva prādhānyena pratīyate,

samāropitanāyikānāyakavyavahārayorniśāśaśinoreva vākyārthat-vāt/
  —Dhvanyāloka (of Ānandavardhana) 1.13 (vṛtti).


samāsoktyākṣepaparyāyoktādiṣu tu gamyamānāṃ ṣāvinābhāvenaiva
tattvavyavasthānāt guṇībhūtavyaṅgyatānirvivādeva/

  —Dhvanyāloka (of nadavardhana) 3.36.


teṣāṃ guṇībhūtavyaṅgyatāyāścitratāyāśca sarvālaṃkārikasammatatvāt/
  —Rasa-gaṅgādhara (of Jagannātha) Chapter-II, p-20.

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