Bhagavatpadabhyudaya by Lakshmana Suri (study)

by Lathika M. P. | 2018 | 67,386 words

This page relates ‘Poetic Experience: Alankara, Rasa and Vritta’ of the study on the Bhagavatpadabhyudaya by Lakshmana Suri: a renowned Sanskrit Scholar from the 19th century. The Bhagavatpada-abhyudaya is a Mahakavya (epic poem) narrating the life of Shankara-Acharya, a prominent teacher of Advaita Vedanta philosophy. This essay investigates the socio-spiritual conditions of 8th century AD in ancient India as reflected in Lakshmanasuri’s work.

Poetic Experience: Alaṅkāra, Rasa and Vṛtta


Poetry is an art and its immediate purpose and aim are the giving of delights, the aesthetic pleasure. This was recognised by Sanskrit critics from very ancient times. Bhagavadpādābhyudaya is written in the form of a Mahākāvya divided into several sargās.

In Sanskrit literature Alaṅkāra adorned very great and important position. bhāmaha defined the word alaṅkāra [alaṅkāraḥ] in two ways: ‘alaṃkriyate iti alaṅkāraḥ’ and another is ‘alaṃkriyate anena iti alaṅkāraḥ’. Alaṅkāras have classified mainly in three types in Sanskrit literature. They are śabdālaṅkāra, arthālaṅkāra and ubhayālaṅkāra The alaṅkāras like ‘anubhāsa, yamaka and śleṣa are included in śabdālaṅkāra. The alaṅkāras like svabhāvokti, upamā, ūprekṣā, svabhāvokti, rūpaka, dīpaka, arthāntaranyāsa, vibhāvanā, atiśayokti are included in arthālaṅkāra | and the alaṅkāras of punaruktvadābhāsa is included ubhayālaṅkāra.

The author Lakṣmaṇa Sūrin has used these Śabdhālaṅkāras and Arthālaṅkāras in Bhagavatpādābhyudaya while he narrates Śaṅkara’s biography. He mostly used the figure ‘upamā’ in this work.

The definition of alaṅkāra named upamā is—

upamānopameyayoḥ sādharmyebhedābhedatulyatve upamā |[1]

That is Upama (simile) where a similarity between two objects is clearly expressed a comparison of two similar object is upamā |

The example of this Alaṅkāra in Bhagavatpādābhyudaya is:

brahmavarcasanirvṛttajesāgnirivajvalan |
prathamāśramamāhātmyaṃ sa babhau khyāpayanniva ||

In this verse, the poet describes the beautiful view. He imagines that the words of Brahma is like fire. The author applies upamā through the comparison of fire and words.

The definition of Alankara named ‘udātta’ is:


Its example of Bhagavatpādābhyudaya is:

sa viveśa purīṃ kāśīṃ kāśamānāṃ tvayā śriyā |
avatīrṇāmiva brahmapurīṃ bhuvi riraṃsayā ||

In this verse Lakṣmaṇa Sūrin defines the beauty and prosperity of the kingdom named Kāśi. Here the poet describes the old country, Kāśi’s peculiarities. Here

udāttālaṅkāraḥ |

The definition of alaṅkāra named ‘kāvyaliṅga’ is

hetorvākyapadārthatā kāvyaliṃgaṃ[5]

Where an expressed idea is in need of justification is sustained by another idea, it is ‘kāvyaliṅgālaṅkāraḥ

Its example of Bhagavatpādābhyudaya is:

apārāṃścatigambhīrānāmnāyāṃsāgarāniva |
pibankhelena nanveṣa dvitīyaḥkumbhasaṃbhavaḥ ||

In this verse the poet describes the sage Agastya drank the whole water of the ocean. Here Śaṅkara drinks the whole Vedas. So he is the second Kumbasaṃbhava. That idea justified by another idea.

The definition of alaṅkāra named arthāntaranyāsālaṅkāraḥ |

sāmānyaviśeṣakāryakaraṇabhāvābhyāṃ nirdiṣṭaprakṛtasamarthāntaranyāsaḥ |[7]

The method of just a normal or a common term to indicate either an object or ideology of great importance, or using an important symbol of signify a common thing is that makes the arthāntaranyāsālaṅkāraḥ |

Lakṣmaṇa Sūrin gives the example of this alaṅkāra.

iyaṃ hi mahatāṃ śailī yatprapannaiṣvanugrahaḥ |
rājño'napatyatāduḥkhaṃ putreṣṭayā śamayanvibhuḥ ||

In this verse, the depiction of the general idea narrated by a particular idea, could be seen this alaṅkāra. The sad people have always got the blessings of Mahāpuruṣās. That is the general idea. Here the thirst for a son is a particular idea.

The definition of alaṅkāra named yamaka is:

svaravyañjanasamudāyapaunaruktyaṃ yamakaṃ[9]

This alaṅkāra becomes applicable in sentences where vowel and consonant sounds are repeatedly used.

Lakṣmaṇa Sūrin gives a beautiful example of yamaka—

śrutyantavyāpinī saumyeviśāle cāsya cakṣuṣī |
śrutyantavyāpi cakṣuṣṭaṃ vyācakṣāte niraṅkuśam ||

Here the first line is identified with the repetition of śvara and vyañjana. In that manner that alaṅkāra is yamakaṃ |


Following the style of a Mahākāvya in Bhagavatpādābhyudaya the river, mountain, wind, the moon, sun and night are portrayed thematically and briefly. In some places, the narration of Lakṣmaṇa Sūrin is beautiful and enjoyable. Sometimes he uses aṅgarasa or secondary rasa as adding effect to main rasa. In narrating the childhood of Śaṅkara he uses ‘adbhutarasa’. The meeting with Govindabhagavatpāda has ‘śāntarasa’. In Bhagavatpādābhyudaya. Bhakti for Śaṅkara is the main theme. Therefore Bhakti may be regarded as the dominant rasa expressed throughout the text.


The Vṛtta has a prominent position in Sanskrit literary tradition. Lakṣmaṇa Sūrin used various metres in Bhagavatpādābhyudaya. But ‘anuṣṭhup’ is the most important one. From One to nine cantos, the starting Vṛtta is anuṣṭhup | In the end of every cantos he uses so many Vṛttas. They are vasantatilaka, mandākrāntā, mālinī, śārdūlavikrīḍita, daṇḍaka | etc.

The content analysis shows that Bhagavatpādābhyudaya was written in the style of Mahākāvya, but it cannot fulfil all the lakṣaṇās of mahākāvya as noted above. In other sense this biography was written in the style of purāṇa with many anecdotes. He gave importance to tell the stories about Śaṅkara as an avatār of Śiva. This kāvya is entirely different from traditional Mahākāvyās. So many stories are mixed there. Here the stories about Śaṅkara’s disciples are also available. He gave most importance to narration. There are so many Rasās, Bhāvas, and Alaṅkāras displayed. The author gives much importance to narration, not for description; he gave importance to the legends of Śaṅkara. He considers Śaṅkara was the protector or saviour. Advaita is its path. He believes in the principle of unity. This work is highly influential in maintaining the idea of ‘unity in diversity’. Śaṅkara’s life is the example of this. He believes in karma but gave ultimate importance to jñāna-marga. He believs jñāna is the true way for liberation.

In Śaṅkara’s life Lakṣmaṇa Sūrin narrates bhakti in so many aspects such as devotion to deity, to Guru and mother. In Bhagavatpādābhyudaya we can see so many bhāvās and rasās. The situation of Śaṅkara’s ‘parakāyapraveśa’ is the example of ‘Vismaya’ and Rati’. In meeting with Maṇḍana Miśra he asks so many tricky questions and answers it with wit. That is the best example of ‘Hāsya’. Āryāmba’s death scene is the example of ‘Śoka’. The people of Kaladi do not allow Śaṅkara for his mother’s funeral. At that time he cursed them. In that situation ‘Krodha’ is there. At last he spread Advaita thoughts all over India, defeating the rivals there is the sentiment ‘Utsāha’. After the crocodile incident he consoled his mother, there ‘Jugupsa’, is shown towards the material world. The incident of Kanakadhārastotra is situated in Bhakti and ‘Vismaya’. Sarvajñapiṭārohaṇa and find liberation as Śiva is situated ‘Sānta’. In this manner rati, hāsa, śoka, krodha, utsāha etc. may be considered as the Poṣakās of rasa, bhakti which is the dominant. But whether it is fully revealed or not is a matter of contention. However the combination of several Bhāvas are indeed a great attraction of this Kāvya.

Footnotes and references:


Rajānaka Ruyyaka, Alaṅkārasarvasva of with the Commentary of Jayanatha, Ed., Durgaprasad, Kaśinath Pandurang Parab, Bombay: Nirnayasagar Press, 1893, p.25.


Lakṣmaṇa Sūrin, Bhaghavatpādābhyudaya, Tanjore: Parimal Publications, 1927, III.8.


Rajānaka Ruyyaka, Alaṅkārasarvasva of with the Commentary of Jayanatha, Ed., Durgaprasad, Kaśinath Pandurang Parab, p.183.


Lakṣmaṇa Sūrin, Bhaghavatpādābhyudaya, IV. 1.


Rajānaka Ruyyaka, Alaṅkārasarvasva of with the Commentary of Jayanatha, Ed., Durgaprasad, Kaśinath Pandurang Parab, p.143.


Lakṣmaṇa Sūrin, Bhaghavatpādābhyudaya, II. 47.


Rajānaka Ruyyaka, Alaṅkārasarvasva of with the Commentary of Jayanatha, Ed., Durgaprasad, Kaśinath Pandurang Parab, p.36.


Lakṣmaṇa Sūrin, Bhaghavatpādābhyudaya, III. 32.


Rajānaka Ruyyaka, Alaṅkārasarvasva of with the Commentary of Jayanatha, Ed., Durgaprasad, Kaśinath Pandurang Parab, p.10.


Lakṣmaṇa Sūrin, Bhaghavatpādābhyudaya, II. 6.

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