Alamkaras mentioned by Vamana

by Pratim Bhattacharya | 2016 | 65,462 words

This page relates ‘Western views on figures and their resemblance to Vamana’s thought’ 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”)

5: Western views on figures and their resemblance to Vāmana’s thought

The term ‘figure’ which originates from the Latin word ‘figura’ primarily means the form or shape of an object. In secondary sense the word can be meant as a deviation from the plain or ordinary way of expressing an idea for the sake of greater effect. We do not come across the word ‘figure’ in Aristotle’s doctrine. He uses the term ‘metaphora’ to describe something similar to figure of speech. According to him, a metaphor consists in giving the thing a name that belongs to something else. This transference can be achieved from genus to species or from species to genus or from species to species or on grounds of analogy. He states that the metaphors which are founded on analogy are esteemed more highly.

Vāmana’s doctrine on poetic figures as a whole remarkably ech oes the basic idea of figures in Western Rhetoric. Using the word ‘saundarya’ (aesthetic) in defining poetic figures is one of the finest instances in this matter. Majority of the western rhetoricians have accepted beauty as the supreme goal and final quest for the poet. Again by taking similarity as the basis of his scheme of arthālaṃkāras, Vāmana has matched the idea of Aristotle who regards metaphor based on analogy as the best way of deviating from ordinary speech.

Vāmana has recognised vakrokti as an indicated meaning based on lakṣaṇā (Kāvyālaṃkārasūtravṛtti (of Vāmana) 4.3.8.). This lakṣaṇā, according to him, must be generated from similarity. Aristotle has also stated that the main objective of the poet is to search for similarity among the dissimilar. So, both Aristotle and Vāmana have put forth similarity as the essence of poetic language. Vāmana’s idea of vakrokti has been also regarded by Ruyyaka as a major contribution to Sanskrit literary criticism[1] .

Resemblance with prominent western figures like alliteration (anuprāsa), chime (yamaka), simile (upamā), metaphor (rūpaka), comparison (prativastu), paronomasia or pun (śleṣa), homonym (vakrokti), hyperbole (atiśayokti), personification (samāhita to some extent) etc. can also be found in the definition of figures put forth by Vāmana. He recognises upamā even when there is slightest resemblance between the two objects compared. This is also the basic idea of western simile. Again, he admits kalpitopamā as the predominant variety of the figure upamā. This also echoes the importance rendered to the imaginary element of the figure simile by western rhetoricians.

Vāmana recognises all poetic figures (other than figures based on words) as figures based on similarity while western rhetoricians have classified poetic figures on other various parameters like figures based on difference, figures based on association, figures based on imagination etc. It is to be said though that Vāmana’s doctrines about individual figures basically show their early conceptual development. So it is hard to comprehensively resemble the figures mentioned by Vāmana with the developed western figures.

Footnotes and references:


vāmanena tu sādṛśyanibandhanāyālakṣaṇāyāvakroktyalaṃkāratvaṃ bruvatākaściddhvanibhedo'laṃkāratayaivoktaḥ/
  —Alaṃkārasarvasva (of Ruyyaka) p-7.

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