Kavyamimamsa of Rajasekhara (Study)

by Debabrata Barai | 2014 | 105,667 words

This page relates ‘Origin and development of the Kavisamaya (poetic conventions)’ 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 7.1 - Origin and development of the Kavisamaya (poetic conventions)

The concepts of kavisamayas [kavi-samayas] are first introduced by the kavi (poet) in their kāvya (poetry) and then it can regularize by the sahṛdaya (critic). In the Kāvyamīmāṃsā, Rājaśekhara first used the expression on kavi-samaya and dealt with details. At this time also mentions some of his predecessor-critic who has taken an objection to the use of such types of conventions in any poetry. However the reputed critic i.e. Bhāmaha, Daṇḍin, Vāmana, Rudraṭa and Udbhaṭa etc. does not discussed on this theory but the earlier poets had used such types of convention in their works i.e. Aśvaghoṣa, Bhāsa and Kālidāsa etc.

In the Buddhacarita of Aśvaghoṣa used the matter of kavi-samayas (poetic conventions) about Sarojas blooming during the day only and Kumudas blooming in the night only[1].

There he refers to the Udayagiri in the Eastern part and Āstācala in the Western part of country, describes the God of Love as Puṣpasara and Pañcabana and also Cakravāka pair as a symbol of ardent passion;


sa cakravākyeva hi cakravākastayā sametaḥ priyayā priyārhaḥ |
nācintayadvaiśrameṇaṃ na śakraṃ tatsthānahetoḥ ku taḥ eva dharmaṃ || ”

- Saundarānanda of Aśvaghoṣa: IV/2

Then the Pratithayaśā Nātyakāra Bhāsa in his thirteen plays used the above described kavi-samaya or kavi-samketa (poetic conventions) i.e. Kumuda blooming at night[2], Malaya as the home of sandal[3], Cakravāka pair as a symbol of ardent love[4] and their separation at night[5]. He also described the story as white and love as red colour and refers to the Rising Mountain and the Setting Mountain.

Therefore the works of Mahākavi Kālidāsa’s are very much full of these conventions. i.e. In the drama Abhijñānaśakuntalā[6] the sun causing the day-lotuses to bloom and the moon the night-lotuses[7]. Cakravākas as symbol of sexual love and their separation at evening[8], Cātaka begging of a cloud[9]. In the Meghadūta-II, Kālidāsas going to the Mānasa Lake during the rainy season and a female crane conceiving merely on hearing the thunder of the cloud[10]. Candrakāntamani, the Lunar Gem oozing at the touch of the rays of the moon[11] A swan separating water from milk in the[12] and Śūryakantamani burning when touched by the rays of the sun[13] a female cuckoo getting her eggs hatched by a female crow[14], Gandhadvipa scaring away the  elephants by means of the fragrance of its ichors[15] In the Kumārasaṃbhava[16], an owl being afraid of the light of the sun and throbbing of right eye in the case of men and left eye in the case of women as an auspicious omen[17].

The use of common kavi-samaya (poetic convention) like glory, smile and laughter being while, love and wrath being red etc. are present here and there in all Kālidāsa’s works. Beside those he also applied some new interesting pregnancylongings, Dohadas in connection with the Aśoka tree and Bakuḷa tree. In the Meghadūta[18], and Malavikāgnimitra[19], said that, the first desires to be kicked with the left foot of a beautiful woman and the other desires to be sprinkled over with a mouthful of wine by her.

Therefore, the two Mahākāvyas Kumārasambhava and Raghuvaṃśa of Kālidāsa represent at the models for later writers and generally described the same things by the later writers. Beside those, the poets Bhāravi in his Kirātārjunīya, Māgha in his Śiśupālavadha, Śriharṣa in his Nāgānanda and the works of Bāṇabhaṭṭa’s Kādambari and Harṣacarita also found the uses and utilizes of kavi-samaya (poetic convention).

In the Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharata assumed that the origin of kalās (atrs) is out of the representation of the real worldly life by saying:

nānābhāvopasampannaṃ nānāvasthāntarātmakam |
lokavṛttānukaraṇaṃ nāṭyametanmayā kṛtam || ”

- Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharata: Ch-I/112

There ‘poetic truth’ does not need to correspond to the ‘natural truth’. Because “poetry is not limited to the imitation of the world of sense; it has not only the whole circle of nature for its province, but makes new worlds of its own and shows the person who are not be found in being”.[20] The concepts of kavi-samayas (poetic conventions) transforms the poetic descriptions more relishable and gives the difference between ‘poetic truth’ and ‘natural truth’

Footnotes and references:


Buddhacarita: 1/ 8


Avimāraka: II


Ibid: IV


Svapnavāsavadutta: II


Ibid: III


Abhijñānaśakuntalā: V/ 28




Abhijñānaśakuntalā: IV, Raghuvaṃśa: III/ 24


Raghuvaṃśa: V/ 17


Ibid: 67


Abhijñānaśakuntalā: VI


Ibid: II


Ibid: V


Ibid: IV, 18


Kumārasaṃbhava, I/ 12


Abhijñānaśakuntalā : I and VII, Meghaduta: 92


Meghadūta, 75


Malavikāgnimitra, III


Vide, M.H. Abrams, op. cit. Pp-275

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