Kavyamimamsa of Rajasekhara (Study)

by Debabrata Barai | 2014 | 105,667 words

This page relates ‘Rajashekhara’s Elaboration on Plagiarism (Introduction)’ 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 6 - Rājaśekhara’s Elaboration on Plagiarism (Introduction)

In the three chapters’ XI, XII and XIII of Kāvyamīmāṃsā, Yāyāvarīya Rājaśekhara devoted with the subjects of different kinds of plagiarism of both śabda (world) and artha (idea). Plagiarism is a misappropriation of word and ideas without acknowledgement. The term ‘plagiarism’ in poetry is derived from the Roman word ‘plagium’. In the Roman law Judiciary the word ‘plagium’ is given to the criminal offences of stealing a slave from his master or a free man with intent to enslave. But in the literature the word plagiarism is used as appropriation. This means the copying from another works or passing off the same things as an original.[1]

From the very ancient times the Indian and Western both of the literary theorists focuses on the problems of originality in literature. In any literature originality is like an acid test or touchstone test to identify the importance of a poet in the poetic world. The concept of originality in poetry is just opposite meaning of plagiarism. We see that from the ancient Sanskrit rhetorician Vāmana in his work Kāvyālaṃkārasūṭra-vṛtti discusses about the matter of plagiarism in India. However it may be possible that, the concepts of plagiarism was formulate in the second half of sixteen century A.D. in western literary practice.[2]

From ancient times plagiarism thought considered to be a serious crime but in literature it is the common feature. There borrowing of words, phrases or lines from an earlier writer is not considered as a sign of plagiarism, the words and phrases are may be same for every time. But without acknowledgement of any previous author if any later author uses misappropriation of words and ideas thus it can be called plagiarism.

In the śloka (verse) of Mahābhārata indicates that, there is nothing in this world which has not been described in there.

dharme cārthe ca kāme ca mokṣe ca bhāratarṣabha |
yadihāsti tadanatra yannehāsti na ku trāsit || ”

- Mahābhārata: XVIII/5/38

In this verse’s second part clearly indicate that all the pervading and keen observation of earlier poets. So we can take it as a literary sense that all the works of later authors would be considered as the repetition of the previous author’s text. However it is true that, in the Sanskrit literary world there are so many works which are not only imitations of earlier works, there also be poets own imaginations. Poet is a social being and he has a passions and feelings of his own experiences in this universe, where his experience of life and nature create a universal form in his writing. There the influence of the environment and the works of earlier writers may be not as a flow of a poet, it would be his own merit.

However, various cultural epochs can help the poet to find out a theme from the cultural accumulated from earlier works and experiences. But the imaginative aspect of his creative genius makes his individual experiences as universal form. Those types of potentiality of a poet’s individual experience flourished as universalize, which is the way of originality. Sanskrit poetical theory also discusses about in this matter, when they describing the matter of Pratibhā, Vyutpatti and Abhyāsa as the causes of writing poetry. If an aspiring poet endowed all these qualities will be always original in his expression.

The first and foremost theory of imitation was formulated by the earlier rhetorician in ancient Indian literature and Western literature both. In India, Bharatamuni was propounded the theory of imitation by ‘Anukaraṇavāda’ in his Nāṭyaśāstra and Western Aristotle was the founder and propagandist of this imitation theory. They both are accepted imitation as the ‘representation of reality’. But, some where the meaning of imitation as ‘the imitation of authors’ inexplicably. These types of thoughts may be gradually developed into the origin of plagiarism.

This is interesting to note that, no any writer before Rājaśekhara had dealt with this subject with details. Though the earlier writers i.e. Bharata, Bhāmaha, Daṇḍin etc. were aware of the concepts of imitation but they were not much concerned with the topic of plagiarism. There only Vāmana in his Kāvyālaṃkārasūṭra-vṛtti and Ānandavardhana in his Dhvanyāloka touched this subject for warning the poets to be very careful in ridding themselves of their pernicious practices. But Yāyāvarīya Rājaśekhara in his Kāvyamīmāṃsā discusses elaborately and critically in this topic of the problem of plagiarism in the history of Sanskrit literature. Though it is difficult to discover that the source of Rājaśekhara’s information. Therefore following to Rājaśekhara the later writers Kṣmendra treats in his Kavikaṇthāvaraṇa of this matter with different details. And Hemacandra in full three chapters in commentary of Kāvyānuśāsana (of Hemacandra) discussing on this topic.

In the Harṣacarita, the author Bāṇabhaṭṭa (7th century A.D) had already alluded to borrowing while referring to different types of poets[3]. This type of statement indicates the prevalence of poetasters and borrowing in his times. Bhāmaha and Daṇḍin in their work advised the poets to take themes from the epics and Purāṇas as a source of inspiration. It may be causes for their ignorance of poetic theft that was prevalent in the field of literature and moreover their silence attitude becomes positive attitude for the any types of literary borrowing.

Then ācārya Vāmana in the Kāvyālaṃkārasūṭra-vṛtti at first dealt with the problems of literary borrowing.

There he classified the Artha or subject matter of poetry into two parts:

  1. Ayoni (original) and
  2. Anyacchāyāyoni (derivative).


artho dvividho'yoniranyacchāyāyoniśca || ”

- Kāvyālaṃkārasūṭra-vṛtti of Vāmana: Ch-III/2/7


“Meaning is of two classes i.e. ayoni (original) and Anyacchāyāyoni (borrowed from other sources).”

The first one type is purely an invention of the poet’s imagination. There poet has not to use of any other previous works as the source of his theme of writing. Though there may be present unconscious influence of other previous works as like as his same poetic imagination. In this type of poetry the poet accumulates raw-materials from his environment with the help of his inner pratibhā (creative genius). Therefore he can be able to acutely write his original poetic composition.

The Anyacchāyāyoni (derivative) types of poetry is refers to the poets indebtedness to some other earlier work’s in the selection of subject matter. This types of implied the theory of imitation is like connected with plagiarism or literary borrowing.

To the view of Vāmana, the Artha is again two types i.e.

  1. Vyakta (explicit) and
  2. Sūkṣma (subtle).


vyaktaḥ sūkṣmaśca |” ayoniranyacchāyāyoniśca yo'yamarthaḥ, sa dvedhā — vyaktaḥ sūkṣmaśca |

- Kāvyālaṃkārasūṭra-vṛtti of Vāmana: Ch-III/ 2/ 8


“The meaning is again divided into two: Vyakta (explicit) and Sūkṣma (subtle).”

The Sūkṣma (subtle) is divided into two parts: Bhāvya and Vāsanīya.


sūkṣmo bhāvyo vāsanīyaśca |”

- Kāvyālaṃkārasūṭra-vṛtti of Vāmana: Ch-III/2/9

Bhāvya types of poetry is that where the implication of poetry may be understood just only hearing it. Another Vāsanīya is that types of poetry where it can be understood only by contemplation. There Vāmana’s inclusion of Anyacchāyāyoniin subject matter indicates that he is not much concerned with originality, though he may be think that the poets of creative genius would always be capable of keeping their identity even though they would appropriate ideas from any other sources.

In 9th century, Dhvañyālokakāra Ānandavardhana, in his Dhvanyāloka elaborately deals with the problem of the literary appropriation of words and ideas from earlier writers. To whom, a poet even trite subjects in poetry will put on a new freshness if they are infused with Rasa (emotion), just like as a same trees appear quiet new with the advent of spring.


dṛṣṭapūrvā api hyarthā kāvye rasaparigrahāt |
sarve navā ivābhānti madhumāsa iva drumāḥ || ”

- Dhvanyāloka of Ānandavardhana: Ch-IV/4


“Even the ideas which are treated before appear as if new in poetry on account of its coming in touch with the Rasa (sentiments), just like trees appear new in the spring.”

The attainment of novelty in poetry for even a common place theme due to the resonance-like suggestion based on the power of word is the best way for expressing ideas in an enjoyable way. Here Ānandavardhana may be trying to demonstrate the limitlessness of poetic concepts due to their association with Rasa (sentiment) and emotions.

Ānandavardhana thinks that, the appropriation of idea from earlier works may not be considered to be a serious crime. Any types of words of a poet proclaim can be fresh and novel through the delineation of a suggested sense, though it can correspond to the writing of an earlier work. Thus, any unsentimental thing can be brought up with poetic sentiment by the creative imaging faculty of a poet. In this views of Ānandavardhana, seems that he may be the supporter of appropriates of words and senses.

Thus he may feel same as Agni-purāṇas as:

apāre kāvyasaṃsāre kavire va prajāpatiḥ |
yathāैsmarocate viśvaṃ tathedaṃ parivartate ||
śṛṅgārī cet kaviḥ kāvye jātaṃ rasamayaṃ jagat |
sa cet kavirvītarāgo nīrasaṃ vyaktameva tat || ”

- Agnipurāṇa–Alaṃkāre rasadinirupanam: Chapter-III/ 9-10

In the boundless poetic world, poet is the sole creator and the world revolves round at his like. In this boundless poetic world poet is actuated by the Rasa (sentiment of love), the world becomes prevented with sentiment, if the poet is bereft of attachment; it becomes manifested as devoid of sentiment indeed. In this poetry a poet can freely portray sentient and insentient. There novelty is not only his poetic themes by his verities of suggested content but also by the verities of different suggestive elements. K. Krishnamoorthy think that, moreover, so long as the poet exercises undeflected concentration regarding the suggested contents, the poets entire work will become strikingly novel[4]. For supporting in his view Ānandavardhana illustrates and gives and examples of the famous repeated description of the battle which is described in the Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata.

When Ānandavardhana explains how one sentiment can be treated as dominant and others as its accessories. Pointing out delineation of sentiments in Mahābhārata he comes to conclusion that novelty in poetic theme as well as the beauty of construction is achieved by adopting a single sentiment as predominant in any poems as a whole[5]. Thus Gunībhūtavyaṅgya (subordinated suggestion) will be ensuring the novelty of poetic themes.

If the varieties of principal suggestion and Gunībhūtavyaṅgya (subordinated suggestion) are taken into account and if there is genius of the poets, there can be no scarcity of poetic themes.


dhvaneritthaṃ guṇībhūtavyaṅgyasya ca samāśrayāt|
na kāvyārthavirāmo'sti yadi syātpratibhāguṇaḥ || ”

- Dhvanyāloka of Ānandavardhana: Ch-IV/6

This type unlimitness of expressed poetic theme which is naturally limited is brought about also by the consideration of particular circumstances, places and time etc.


avasthādeśakālādiviśeṣairapi jāyate|
ānantyameva vācyasya śuddhasyāpi svabhāvataḥ || ”

- Dhvanyāloka of Ānandavardhana: Ch-IV/4-7 vrtti

Here, Ānandavardhana has given an elucidation of an immaculate prose. There an unalloyed pure and simple expressed meaning takes an a variety of charming forms in accordance with a corresponding variety in respect of place, time and prevailing state. Here states that the graces of sweethearts as well as the meaning of a good poet are limitless and ever new without showing the least touch of any repetition.

In this cause Ānandavardhana says that:

vācaspatisahasrāṇāṃ sahaisrarapi yatnataḥ |
nibaddhā sā kṣayaṃ naiti prakṛtirjagatāmiva || ”

- Dhvanyāloka of Ānandavardhana: Ch-IV/10


“The poetic themes like the resources of the nature of this word, will never diminish even though utilized exhaustively by thousands of Bacaspati’s [Vācaspati] thousand (ten million).”

There Ānandavardhana also recognizes that, among great personalities plenty of coincidences means resemblance with another and it may be like that the reflection of an image of persons or like that of a painting of persons or like the two living persons resembling each other.


saṃvādo hyanyasyādṛśyaṃ tatpunaḥ pratibimbavat|
ālekhyākāravattulyadehivacca śarīriṇām || ”

- Dhvanyāloka of Ānandavardhana: Ch-IV/12

Here Ānandavardhana refutes the charges of appropriation or plagiarism among good poets. Of these three-fold resemblances the first two are of little significance, while the third one is a fit thing to be cultivated especially by young budding kavi (poets).

A poetic composition bears a resemblance with any earlier works through the creative genius of any writer thus it can be made a novel concepts or get ornamentation. There any types of poetic theft are arises and there are not reflect any discredit of a poet who indulges in such creation, it is all his imaginative power.

Footnotes and references:


K. K. Ruthven, See Pp-107-108


Ibid, Pp-107


Harsacarita of Banabhatta: ed. jagannath pathak, chawkhamba vidyabhabana, Varanasi,1972 Ch-I/ Vyaktiviveka/ 5-6


K. Krishna moorthy, Dhvanyaloka. trns, Karnataka University, Dhawar. 1974, Pp-273


Ibid, Pp- 281-282

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