Kavyamimamsa of Rajasekhara (Study)

by Debabrata Barai | 2014 | 105,667 words

This page relates ‘Nature of Pratibha (poetic genious)’ of the English study on the Kavyamimamsa of Rajasekhara: a poetical encyclopedia from the 9th century dealing with the ancient Indian science of poetics and rhetoric (also know as alankara-shastra). The Kavya-mimamsa is written in eighteen chapters representing an educational framework for the poet (kavi) and instructs him in the science of applied poetics for the sake of making literature and poetry (kavya).

Part 3.3a - Nature of Pratibhā (poetic genious)

In Sanskrit poetics there are so many theories on the causes of poetry given by various ālaṃkārikas. There Rājaśekhara also had given his own view about causes of poetry. To whom, kāvya-śakti (poetical power) is the main causes of poetical composition, which is strengthen by the Samādhi (meditation) and Abhyāsa (repeated practice). Samādhi (meditation) is an inward endeavour and the Abhyāsa is outward mental ability.

Both Samādhi (meditation) and Abhyāsa (repeated practice) strengthen the kāvya-śakti (poetical power).

samādhirāntaraḥ prayatno bāhyastvabhyāsaḥ |
tāvubhāvapi śaktimudbhāsayataḥ

- Kāvyamīmāṃsā of Rājaśekhara: Ch-IV, Pp- 11

This kāvya-śakti (poetical power) is the main factor of poetical composition. The term pratibhā is inborn creative faculty. It appears an appropriate spirit of the writer on poetics, which discusses its various aspects.

P. V. Kane observes:

Pratibhā is power if mind, whereby the poet sees the subject of his poems as steeped in beauty and gives to his readers in apt language a picture of beauty he has seen. It is power whereby the poet not only calls up in his reader’s heart the impressions of faded experiences but whereby he presents ever new, wonderful and charming combinations and relations of things never experienced before or thought by ordinary man. A poet is a seer, a prophet, who has visions and possesses the additional gift of conveying to others less fortunate, through the medium of language the visions he has or dreams he dreams”.[1]

The origin of the concept of pratibhā in Sanskrit poetics appears to have connected with Kāśmīra-Śaivism. Locankāra Abhinavagupta pays due homage to pratibhā, the parā śakti of Lord Śiva that unfolds into the Universe.

There he says:

yadunmīlanaśaktyaiva viśvamunmīlati kṣaṇāt |
svātmāyatanaviśrāntāṃ tāṃ vande pratibhāṃ śivām || ”

- Dhvanyāloka-Locana of Abhinavagupta-p-60

Means: I offer my salutations to that pratibhā which rests in Śiva resides in the self and due to whose power the universe unfolds itself. This pratibhā can turn the invisible into the visible. Just as Śiva creates the universe with the help of śakti, in the same way the appreciate poet has the vision of the unseen world of poetry, which unfolds itself with the help of pratibhā. This pratibhā resides in the poet; it is not only intellectual faculty.

It’s has intuitive or emotive in nature. Bhaṭṭatota in his lost work Kāvyakautuka says pratibhā is the source of poet’s inspiration:

prañjā navanavonmeṣaśālinī pratibhā matā |”[2]

Prañjā is that aspect of intellect, which can deal with events of all the three times-past, present and future. When Prañjā unfolds newer ideas, it is known as pratibhā.

Then Mahimbhaṭṭa, the author of Vyaktiviveka described pratibhā as the third eye of Lord Śiva.

sā hi cakṣurbhagavatastṛtīsasiti gīyate |
yena sākṣātkarotyeṣa bhāvāṃstrailokyavartinaḥ || ”

- Vyaktiviveka of Mahimabhaṭṭa: II/ 118


“On the account of its power the poet is able to perceive objects belonging to all the three times, the past, present and future.”

There the intellect of the poet whose mind is absorbed in thinking of the words and their sense that would suit excellences, helping proper delineation of emotive moods, arises his poetic creative faculty that is called pratibhā.

rasānuguṇaśavdārthacintāstimitacetasaḥ |
kṣaṇaṃ svarupasparśotthā prañjaiva kaveḥ || ”

- Vyaktiviveka of Mahimabhaṭṭa: II/ 117

The prañjā of poets transforms itself into pratibhā, that helps to the poets can compose poetry effortlessly. With easy flow come to him, the words with suitable sense that ultimately help delineation of emotive moods that is to say Rasas. If poetry composed with this kind of inspiration for excels poetry composed with perspiration.

Ānandavardhana also believes the creative faculty of the poet is endowed on the poet by divine grace. This divine grace helps the poet to invent plot full of pleasing emotive moods, the very quintessence of poetic art and devise the theme in such a natural way that no effort is needed on the part of the poet to reveal the light of the poet’s genius that shines with transcendental halo:

sarasvatī svādu tadarthavastu niṣyandamānā mahatāṃ kavīnām |
alokasāmānyamabhivyanakti parisphu rantaṃ pratibhāviśeṣam || ”

- Dhvanyāloka of Ānanaavardhana: Ch-I/6

The goddess of learning herself manifests extra-ordinary creative faculty dripping with pleasant sense, in the works of great poets. There Ānandavardhana emphasizes the point that, ‘the goddess of learning (Sarasvatī) takes care of the expression of the poet whose mind has turned away from borrowing other’s ideas. Let poetic compositions full of poetic ideas and emotive moods are composed.

The poets should never feel shy nor should they feel lazy in writing poetic compositions.

pratāyantāṃ vāco nimitavividhārthamitarasā
  na sādaḥ kartavyaḥ kavibhiranavadye svaviṣaye
parasvādānecchāviratamanaso vastu sukaveḥ
  sarasvatyeṣā ghaṭayati yatheṣṭaṃ bhagavatī
|| ”

- Dhvanyāloka of Ānanaavardhana: Ch-IV/17

The Agni Purāṇa also observes, Pratibhā or Śakti is rarest of the rare faculties in man. It is said that human birth is difficult to obtain in this world, because human being is endowed with rationality, which is found among other animals. It is possible only when merits are abundant. All human beings are not fortunate to obtain learning; learning is rare among human beings. But all learned man cannot compose poetry, it is rare. Among those who can write poetry, the poets with real poetic inspiration are fewer.

Thus creative ability called as pratibhā. C.f.

naratvaṃ durlabhaṃ loke vidyā tattra sudurlabhā |
kavitvaṃ durlabhama tatra śaktistattra sudurlabhā || ”

- Agni-Purāṇa: Ch-336/ 3, Alaṃkāra Section-I/3

Birth as human being is difficult to obtain. Learning is more difficult to obtain therein. Poetic inspiration is difficult to obtain. More difficult it is to have creative ability.

Yāyāvarīya Rājaśekhara when given the definition of pratibhā in his Kāvyamīmāṃsā as:

yā śavdagrāmamarthasārthamalaṅkāratantrasūktimārgamanyadapitathāvidhamadhihṛdayaṃ pratibhāsayati sā pratibhā | apratibhasya padārthasārthaḥ parokṣa iva | pratibhāvataḥ punarapaśyato'pi pratyakṣa iva |”

- Kāvyamīmāṃsā of Rājaśekhara: Ch-IV, Pp- 11


Pratibhā helps to perceive words, meanings, figures of speech, expressions and other poetic imagery in the mind. It is another mental faculty by which those things that are not even perceived by poets are easily conceived and expressed. This is also called as mental perception or ‘mānasapratyakṣa’. For anyone who is without pratibhā an even perceptible object appears non-present while for one who possesses it, non-present objects are as if directly perceived.”

The poet is able to create altogether new world of poetry due to his power of expression. All the elements of poetry first unfold themselves in poet’s mind and then express themselves in the form of poetic composition that takes form. Thus pratibhā is the very inner aspect of expression. According to Rājaśekhara, vyutpatti gives birth to the form; pratibhā gives the inner beauty of expression. There many ālaṃkārikas appear to in favour of identifying Śakti as root cause of pratibhā.

Then Rājaśekhara also regards śakti as root cause of pratibhā and Śakti as root cause of vyutpatti.

viprasṛtiśca sā pratibhāvyutpattibhyām |
śaktikartike hi pratibhāvyutpattikarmaṇī
|| ”

- Kāvyamīmāṃsā of Rājaśekhara: Ch-IV, Pp- 11

Then Rājaśekhara gives the example of two blind poets Medhāvirudra and Kumārdāsa, who were born blind but become great poets by their pratibhā.

In the undernoted verse in the Sūktimuktāvalī says about those two blind authors’ as:

jānakīharaṇaṃ kartaṃु raghuvaṃśe sthite sati |
kaviḥ ku māradāsaśca rāvaṇaśca yadi kṣamaḥ || ”

- Sūktimuktāvalī of Jalhana

The poets, who endowed with pratibhā can visualize and describe in their poetry the customs and manners of people in different geographical regions islands without the face to face knowledge of same.

In the twelve chapter of Kāvyamīmāṃsā, Rājaśekhara says about those types of Sārasvata poets as:

suptasyāpi mahākaveḥ śavdārthau sarasvatī darśayati | taditarasya tatra jāgrato'pyandhaṃ cakṣuḥ | anyadṛṣṭacare hyarthe mahākavayo jātyandhāḥ | tadviparīte tu divyadṛśaḥ | na tat ttyakṣaḥ sahasrākṣo vā yaccarmacakṣuṣo'pi kavayaḥ paśyanti | matidarpaṇe kavīnāṃ viśvaṃ pratiphalati |”

- Kāvyamīmāṃsā of Rājaśekhara: Ch-XII, Pp- 62


“In the time of sleep, great poets mind flash with words and senses by the Sarasvatī (goddess of learning). An inferior poet remains blind to them even when wide awake. Great poet may be blind in physically to the merits and demerit of other poets but as regards novel and original ideas which have been unobserved by their predecessors, they have a divine vision. What poet can see with their simple eyes even the three eyed god Śiva or the thousand-eyed India can’t see. In the mirror of the poet’s intellect, the whole universe is, as it were reflected.”

The words and the senses of their own accord and with eagerness accumulate very near to good poets. There we can seems that the poetic power of Rājaśekha is mostly based on Ānandavardhana, their views also same about this matter.

Then Rājaśekhara collect some verses from various poetical works to gives the examples to how a poet can describes in his pen-picture of work. For the examples of place and manners we see the Abhijñ anaśakuntalā of Kālidāsa. C.f.

prāṇānāmani, na vṛttirucitā satkalpavṛkṣe vane
  toye kāñcanapadmare ṇukapiśe puṇābhiṣekakriyā
dhyānaṃ ratnaśilāgṛheṣu vivudhastrīsannidhau saṃyamo
  yatkāṅkhānti tapobhiranyamunayastasmiṃstapasyantyamī
|| ”

- Abhijñanaśakuntalā of Kālidāsa: VII/ 12

In the forest of Kalpa-trees, they draw from air life’s necessary sustenance, in waters yellow with the golden dust of the lotus flower, they perform ablutions for religious vows; on jeweled slabs they meditate; and restrain their passions on the midst of celestial nymphs; they practice penance in a place where other sages by their austerities seek to win.

Then he cited example from Raghuvaṃśa for description of Island. C.f.

anena sārdhaṃ viharāmvurāśe strīre ṣu tālīvanamarmare ṣu |
dvīpāntarānītalavaṅgapuṣpairapākṛtasvedalavā marudbhiḥ || ”

- Raghuvaṃśa of Kālidāsa: VI/ 57


“O princess, sport with him on the shores of the sea full of rumbling whispers of the palm groves. The beads of perspiration from your body will be swabbed by the cool breezes waving close flowers from other islands.”

Here Kālidāsa describes the condition of an island on the opposite side of the country of the king in question and refers to the Lavaṅga flower grown in that island. But Kālidāsa never visit this place.

Then we can see the character description in a story:

haro'pi tāvatparivṛttadhairyaścandrodayārambha ivāmvurāśiḥ |
umāmukhe vimvaphalādharauṣṭhe vyāpārayāmāsa vilocanāni || ”

- Kumārasambhava of Kālidāsa: III/ 67


“Like the moon’s influence on the sea at rest, came passion stealing over the Hermit’s breast, while on the maiden’s lip that mocked the dye, of ripe red fruit, he bent his melting eye.”

Here the same poet (Kālidāsa) described the conduct of Mahādeva when he falls in love with Pārvatī. But he never envisaged such types of scenes in his life.

Rājaśekhara think that pratibhā is not only the causes of poetic composition, śakti or poetical power is the main factor in this, which act in a seeds in poetry. Both pratibhā and vyutpatti strengthen kāvya-śakti (poetical power). Because if a poet try to compose poetry with his immature poetical power so it cannot be accepted by the appreciate reader.

About the matter of śakti (poetical power) Rājaśekhara possibly expanded and echo the Rudraṭa’s vies. Where we see:

manasi sadā susamādhini visphu raṇamanekadhābhidheyasya |
akliṣṭāni padāni ca vibhānti yasyāmasau śaktiḥ || ”

- Kāvyālaṃkāra (of Rudraṭa) of Rudraṭa: Ch- 1/15

By the pratibhā (genius) of poetical composition a poet can go to the haven and described about this place. The poet who have not Pratibhā (genius) of poetical imagination he cannot imaginates anything’s. It is called by the Mānasaprathakṣya (Inner eyes) of poets.

Footnotes and references:


Kane, P. V. History of Sanskrit Poetics. MLBD, Third rev. Ed. 1961, Delhi, Pp-348


Kāvyakautuka, quoted in Dhvanyāloka, Ed. by Bhattācārya, B. P. Vol-I, Cal, 1956, Pp -62

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