Alamkaras mentioned by Vamana

by Pratim Bhattacharya | 2016 | 65,462 words

This page relates ‘Definition of Atishayokti 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”)

10: Definition of Atiśayokti Alaṃkāra

Atiśayokti is one of the most famous arthālaṃkāra in Sanskrit Poetics. The etymological meaning of the word atiśayokti is a heightened or hyperbolic mode of expression. Bhāmaha treats this figure in accordance with this view and also gives it great importance as an arthālaṃkāra.

His definition of the figure is—

nimittato vaco yattu lokātikrāntagocaram/
manyate'tiśayoktiṃ tāmalaṃkāratayāyathā//

  —Kāvyālaṃkāra (of Bhāmaha) 2.81.

—A statement with a reason surpasses the ordinary or common perception of people is called atiśayokti.

Bhāmaha regards that all poetic descriptions contain atiśayokti as far as possible—

sarvaivātiśayoktistu tarkayettāṃ yathāgamam/
  —Kāvyālaṃkāra (of Bhāmaha) 2.84.

Bhāmaha recognises vakrokti as identical with atiśayokti and maintains that this peculiar method of statement which renders beauty and charm to the meaning of a poem can be found in each and every alaṃkāra

saiṣāsarvaiva vakroktiranayārtho vibhāvyate/
yatno'syāṃ kavinākāryaḥ ko'laṃkāro'nayāvinā//

  —Kāvyālaṃkāra (of Bhāmaha) 2.85.

Kuntaka acknowledges Bhāmaha in this regard—

ucyate'tiśayoktiḥ sāsarvālaṃkārajīvitam/
  —Vakrokti-jīvita (of Kuntaka) 3.33.

Daṇḍin also recognises atiśayokti as the best of alaṃkāras.

He regards the figure as an expression of a particular thing which surpasses the limits of day-to-day usage—

vivakṣāyāviśeṣasya lokasīmātivartinī/
asāvatiśayoktiḥ syāt alaṃkārottamāyathā//

  —Kāvyādarśa (of Daṇḍin) 2.214.

Daṇḍin also asserts that this figure is honoured by all masters of speech as the ultimate figure—

alaṃkārāntarāṇāmapyekamāhuḥ parāyaṇam/

  —Kāvyādarśa (of Daṇḍin) 2.220.

The same notion about the figure has been adopted by Hemacandra.

He even includes figures like sāmānya, mīlita, ekāvalī, nidarśanā and viśeṣa in the broad sphere of atiśayokti

evaṃvidhaṃ ca sarvatra viṣaye'tiśayoktireva prāṇatvenāvatiṣṭhate / tāṃ vinā prāyeṇālaṅkaraṇatvāyogāditi na sāmānyamīlitaikāvalīnidarśanāviśeṣādyalaṅkāropanyāsaḥ śreyān /
  —Kāvyānuśāsana (of Hemacandra) 6.11. vṛtti.

Udbhaṭa has followed the definition of Bhāmaha very closely[1] while Bhoja quotes the definition of Daṇḍin in verbatim. He also quotes another verse of Daṇḍin (Kāvyādarśa (of Daṇḍin) 2.220.) to emphasise the importance of the figure. Bhoja further adds that this figure involves only guṇas and kriyās and not dravyas and jātis[2] .

Vāmana has also defined atiśayokti in a general and broad sense—

  —Kāvyālaṃkārasūtravṛtti (of Vāmana) 4.3.10.

—When an assumption of some imaginary property or superior excellence of property is made, the figure is called atiśayokti.

He illustrates the figure as—

ubhau yadi vyomni pṛthak patetāmākāśagaṅgāpayasaḥ pravāhau/
tenopamīyate tamālanīlamāmuktamuktālatamasya vakṣaḥ//

  —Kāvyālaṃkārasūtravṛtti (of Vāmana) 4.3.10. vṛtti.

—If in the sky there could appear two concurrent streams of the celestial Ganges, then that could be compared to his blue chest embellished with the pearl necklace.

Here the imaginary concurrent streams of the celestial Ganges have been assumed as property with the specific purpose of indicating that nothing existing can be regarded as similar to the object compared (the chest). The whole process thus points out the supreme excellence of the chest.

The Kāmadhenu commentator has clearly explained the existence of the first type of atiśayokti (atiśayokti by means of saṃbhāvyadharmakalpanā) in this verse—

yadi tathāvidhaṃ vyoma sambhāvyeta tadevāmuktamuktāphalasy a vakṣasa
upamānaṃ bhavet na punaranyat kiñcidityatiśayasyokteratiśayoktiḥ/

  —Kāmadhenu, Kāvyālaṃkārasūtravṛtti (of Vāmana) 4.3.10.

The example of the second type of atiśayokti (atiśayokti by means of utkarṣakalpanā) is as follows—

sitataradantapatrakṛtavaktraruco rucirāmalāṃśukāḥ/
śaśabhṛtivitatadhāmni dhavalayati dharāmavibhāvyatāṃ gatāḥ
priyavasatiṃ prayānti sukhameva nirastabhiyo'bhisārikāḥ//

  —Kāvyālaṃkārasūtravṛtti (of Vāmana) 4.3.10.

—The bright shining moon-light has whitened the earth and thus the lovely ladies with their bodies covered with sandal-paint, necks shining with pearl necklaces, faces glowing with white teeth and who are wearing white cloths are going to meet their lovers with joy and fearlessness.

Here the superior excellence of the fair complexion of women rendered by sandal-paint etc. has been assumed. The fairness of the women is of such superior excellence that they are not being recognised in the white moon-light.

The Kāmadhenu commentator thus asserts—

malayajarasanavahāralatādīnāṃ dhāvalyasyotkarṣo'tiśayaḥ kalpyate/
yāvatā candrikāyāṃ tadvivecanākṣamatvaṃ cakṣusoriti/

  —Kāmadhenu. Kāvyālaṃkārasūtravṛtti (of Vāmana) 4.3.10.

Mammaṭa regards this verse as an example of the figure sāmānya (Kāvya-prakāśa 10.202, vṛtti).

Vagbhata II[3] has also defined the figure atiśayokti in its general etymological sense. Rudraṭa does not regard atiśaya as an individual figure but rather treats it as a broad rhetorical parameter under which he has brought twelve figures (Kāvyalaṃkāra (of Rudraṭā) 9.1-2.). Later rhetoricians have advocated adhyavasāya or adhyavasāna as an essential feature of the figure. Mammaṭa is probably the first rhetorician to introduce the concept. He uses the word ‘adhyavasāna’ in the definition of the first kind of atiśayokti[4] . According to him, the adhyavasāna means the swallowing up of the upameya by the upamāna[5] . This adhyavasāna is an extreme state of superimposition. It is different from ordinary āropa or imposition where the two objects compared are allowed to retain their distinct nature. But in adhyavasāna, the upameya is completely dominated by the upamāna.

Ruyyaka classifies adhyavasāya into two types—sādhya and siddha.  In the sādhya adhyavasāya the process of swallowing up of the upameya by the upamāna does not reach its final or settled point. The action or quality which is the basis of this process seems to be continuing in the case of sādhya adhyavasāya. But in siddha adhyavasāya, the process of absorption of the upameya by the upamāna is completed and finally settled[6] . The sādhya adhyavasāya is the basic feature of the figure utprekṣā while the siddha adhyavasāya is the basis of the figure atiśayokti. Ruyyaka clearly states that in atiśayokti the upameya or viṣaya must be submerged by the upamāna or viṣayī and it should not have any prominent role in the figure[7] .

As far as determining the sub -divisions or varieties of the figure are concerned, Bhāmaha and Daṇḍin have made no attempts in this regard. Vāmana, as mentioned earlier, has put forth two basic varieties of the figure based on saṃbhāvyadharmakalpanā and utkarṣakalpanā respectively.

Udbhaṭa is the first rhetorician to classify the figure into four types—

i) bhede'nanyatvam (imposing similarity where there is difference in reality),

ii) anyatra nānātvam (imagining difference where there is sameness in reality),

iii) saṃbhāvyamānārthanibandhaḥ (describing a thing which is really impossible),

iv) kāryakāraṇayoḥ paurvāparyaviparyayat yatra āśubhāvaṃ samālambya badhyate (the reversal of cause and effect in order to show the promptness of effect)[8] .

Mammaṭa has also furnished four varieties of the figure in a much more precise manner[9] . The first two varieties of the figure mentioned by Udbhaṭa can be included in the second variety of the figure admitted by Mammaṭa while the third and fourth variet ies correspond to the same varieties of Mammaṭā. Ruyyaka has widened the sphere of adhyavasāya by defining the figure atiśayokti in terms of adhyavasāya. He furnishes five varieties of the figure[10] and puts forth adhyavasāya as common feature in all of them.

Vidyādhara (Ekāvalī (of Vidyādhara) 8.13 & 8.37.), Vidyānātha (Pratāparudrayaśobhūṣaṇa (of Vidyānātha) Chapter-VIII, p-396.) and Viśvanātha (10.46.) have followed the foot-steps of Ruyyaka in the treatment of the figure. Hemcandra, though admitting some of the popular varieties of the figure, has omitted adhyavasāya as an essential feature of it[11] . Jagannātha replaces the word adhyavasāya with atiśaya in his definition of the figure[12] . He thus combines the etymological approach relating to the figure atiśayokti of ancient rhetoricians and the relatively newer concept of adhyavasāya in his treatment of the figure.

Bhoja mentions several variations of the figure like:

  1. mahattvātiśaya,
  2. tanutvātiśaya,
  3. kāntyātiśaya,
  4. prabhāvātiśaya and
  5. anubhāvātiśaya.

And illustrates a few of them with the example verses furnished by Daṇḍin as examples of the figure.

Jayadeva and Appayya Dīkṣīta put forth six varieties of the figure—

  1. akramātiśayokti,
  2. atyantātiśayokti,
  3. capalātiśayokti,
  4. sambandhātiśayokti,
  5. bhedakātiśayokti and
  6. rūpakātiśayokti.

[Cf. Candrāloka (of Jayadeva) 5.41-46 & Kuvalayānanda (of Appayyadīkṣīta) 36-43]

From the different doctrines of Sanskrit rhetoricians we can sketch out the following general features of the figure atiśayokti

i) Atiśayokti is basically a heightened or hyperbolic mode of expression.

ii) It surpasses the ordinary or common perception of people and thus can be regarded as the very foundation of all figures of speech.

iii) Rhetoricians like Mammaṭāhave advocated adhyavasāya or adhyavasāna as an essential feature of the figure.

iv) This adhyavasāna means the swallowing up of the upameya by the upamāna.

v) Several varieties of the figure have been mentioned by Sanskrit rhetoricians.

Vāmana has treated the figure atiśayokti in accordance to his predecessors Bhāmaha and Daṇḍin but he has not rendered such great importance to the figure as his predecessors have. Again, he gives a two -fold sub-division of the figure which has probably helped later rhetoricians like Mammaṭāand Ruyyaka to develop several varieties of the figure.

Footnotes and references:


nimittato yattu vaco lokātikrāntagocaram/
manyate'tiśayoktiṃ tāmalaṃkāratayābudhāḥ //

  —Kāvyālaṃkārasārasaṃgraha (of Udbhaṭā) 2.11.


sāca prāyo guṇānāṃ ca kriyānāṃ copakalpyate/
na hi dravyasya jātervābhavatyatiśayaḥ kvacit//

  —Sarasvatī-kaṇṭhābharaṇa (of Bhoja) 4.82.


  —Kāvyānuśāsana (of Vāgbhaṭā II) Chapter-III, p-37.


nigīryādhyavasānaṃ tu prakṛtasya pareṇa yat/
  —Kāvya-prakāśa (of Mammaṭa) 10.153.


upamānenāntarnīgirṇasyopameyasya yadadhyavasānaṃ saikā/
  —Kāvya-prakāśa (of Mammaṭa) 10.153. vṛtti.


viṣayanigaraṇenābhedapratipattirviṣayiṇo'dhyavasāyaḥ/ sa ca dvividh-aḥ-sādhyaḥ siddhaśca / sādhyo yatra viṣayiṇo'satyatayāpratītiḥ / ... yasyāsatyatvaṃ t asya satyatvapratītāvadhyavasāyaḥ sādhyaḥ / ataśca vyāpāraprādhānyaṃ siddho yatra viṣayiṇo vastuto'satyasyāpi satyatāpratītiḥ/
  —Alaṃkārasarvasva (of Ruyyaka) p-56.


viṣayaprādhānyamadhyavasāye naiva saṃbhavati / adhyavasitaprādhānyaivātiśayoktiḥ/
  —Alaṃkārasarvasva (of Ruyyaka) p-65.


bhedenanyatvamanyatra nānātvaṃ yatra badhyate/
kāryakāraṇayoryatra paurvāparyaviparyayāt/
āśubhāvaṃ samālambya badhyate so'pi pūrvavat//

  —Kāvyālaṃkārasārasaṃgraha (of Udbhaṭā) 2.12-13.


nigīryādhyavasānaṃ tu prakṛtasya pareṇa yat/
prastutasya yadanyatvaṃ yadyarthoktau ca kalpanam//
kāryakāraṇayośca paurvāparyaviparyayaḥ/
vijñeyātiśayoktiḥ sā//

  —Kāvya-prakāśa (of Mammaṭa) 10.153.


asyāśca pañca bhedāḥ-bhede'bhedaḥ/abhede bhedaḥ / saṃbandhe'saṃbandhaḥ/ asaṃbandhe saṃbandhaḥ / kāryakāraṇapaurvāparyavidhvaṃsaśca/
  —Alaṃkārasarvasva (of Ruyyaka) pp-65-66.


viśeṣavivakṣaya bhedābhedayogāyogavyatyayo'tiśayoktiḥ/
  —Kāvyānuśāsana (of Hemacandra) 6.20.


viṣayiṇa viṣayasya nigaranamatiśayaḥ/ tasyoktiḥ/
  —Rasa-gaṅgādhara (of Jagannātha) Chapter-II, p-307.

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