Amarakoshodghatana of Kshirasvamin (study)

by A. Yamuna Devi | 2012 | 77,297 words | ISBN-13: 9788193658048

This page relates ‘Education (8): Knowledge of Metres and Figures of speech’ of the study on the Amarakoshodghatana of Kshirasvamin (in English) which represents a commentary on the Amarakosha of Amarasimha. These ancient texts belong the Kosha or “lexicography” category of Sanskrit literature which deals with the analysis and meaning of technical words from a variety of subjects, such as cosmology, anatomy, medicine, hygiene. The Amarakosa itself is one of the earliest of such text, dating from the 6th century A.D., while the Amarakoshodghatana is the earliest known commentary on that work.

Education (8): Knowledge of Metres and Figures of speech

Metres and figures of speech form integral part of literature and it had by itself developed into a separate science as is evidenced in Bharata's Nāṭyaśāstra. By the 11th C. A.D. many writers on poetics like Bhāmaha (6th C. A.D.), Vāmana, Udbhaṭa (8th C. A.D), Ānandavardhana (9th C. A.D) had made much contribution to this field. Amarakośa has very megre references pertaining to this topic. Though a contemporary of Bhoja, Kṣīrasvāmin does not refer to his poetic text while he cites Bhoja in many instances. While dealing with rasa in the Nāṭya varga, Kṣīrasvāmin mentions that there are nine rasas and discusses its origin[1].

Even in such instances Kṣīrasvāmin does not refer to dhvani or other poetic concepts. Two instances pertaining to this topic are as follows:

(a) Chandas (II. 7. 22; p. 167)[2]


Amarakośa mentions that the metres like gāyatrī etc. are chandas.

Kṣīrasvāmin compliments this statement with more information that the metres are named from a quadret constituting letters of 6 to 26 as follows–

gāyatrī (6),
uṣṇig (7),
anuṣṭub (8),
bṛhatī (9),
paṅkti (10),
triṣṭubh (11),
jagatī (12),
atijagatī (13),
śakvarī (14),
atiśakvarī (15),
aṣṭī (16),
atyaṣṭi (17),
dhṛti (18),
atidhṛti (19),
vikṛti (23),
saṅkṛti (24),
atikṛti (25),
utkṛti (26)–

gāyatrī uṣṇiganuṣṭub bṛhatī paṅkti triṣṭub jagatī ātijagatī śakvarī ātiśakvarī āṣṭī ātyaṣṭi dhṛti ātidhṛti vikṛti saṃkṛti ātikṛti utkṛtyakhyaṃ ṣaḍakṣarādārabhya ṣaḍviṃśatyakṣaraṃ yāvat |

The metres kṛti (20), prakṛti (21) and ākṛti (22) are missing in the list.

All these metres pertain mainly to Vedic texts. The metre relating to classical literature mentioned is Toṭaka (III. 5. 30; p. 353)

Kṣīrasvāmin explains that this term denotes a metre as well as a variety of drama

toṭakam vṛttabhedo daśarūpakabhedaśca |

Toṭakā[3] metre is considered a very difficult metre to compose poetry and not often used by poets.

(b) Alaṃkāras:

Regarding alaṃkāras or other poetic concepts there is no direct reference available in Amarakośa except in the Nānārthavarga, in the commentary of Kṣīrasvāmin

(i) Dīpaka[4] (III. 3. 11; p. 271):

Amarakośa mentions dīpaka can also denote yavāni.

Kṣīrasvāmin adds that the term dīpaka is also indicative of the alaṃkāra

āpi śabdād dīpe'pi ālaṃkāre jīrake'pi |

This is the only alankara mentioned.

(ii) Rīti (III. 3. 68; p. 285-86)–


Amarakośa mentions pracāra as one of the meaning of the word.

Kṣīrasvāmin explains it as denoting the style of poetry such as Vaidarbhī and others–

pracāraḥ śailī | vaidarbhyādau |

Rīti is considered the soul of poetry by Vāmana and he gives three styles viz.Vaidarbhī, Gauḍī and Pāñcālī[5].

(iii) Pratibhā[6] (III. 1. 25; p. 241)–


Amarakośa defines it as a talent and Kṣīrasvāmin explains that it is also the presence of mind and quotes the famous definition that it is the power of intellect to unveil afresh'–

pragalbhate pragalbhaḥ | pratibhātyasyāmiti pratyutpannamatistatkāladhīśca prajñā navanavonmeṣaśālinī pratibhā matā |

Pratibhā is an essential requisite of a poet as mentioned by Vāmana in his Kāvyālaṅkārasūtravṛtti (I.3. 16)[7].

Footnotes and references:


The discussion on this is dealt with in the section “Art and Architecture” in the same chapter ahead.


gāyatrī pramukhaṃ chandaḥ |


The popular devotional lyric Toṭakāṣṭaka of Toṭakācārya, disciple of Ādi Śaṅkara.


yavānyāmapi dīpakaḥ |


Kāvyālaṅkārasūtravṛtti (I. 2. 6,9)–rītirātmā kāvyāsya | sā tredhā vaidarbhī gauḍīyā pāñcālī ceti |


pragalbhaḥ pratibhānvite |


kavitvabījaṃ pratibhānam |

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