Kavyamimamsa of Rajasekhara (Study)

by Debabrata Barai | 2014 | 105,667 words

This page relates ‘Kavisamaya (poetic conventions) and Kavyadosha (poetic blemish)’ 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 7.2 - Kavisamaya (poetic conventions) and Kāvyadoṣa (poetic blemish)

In the history of Sanskrit poetics Rājaśekhara seems to be the first who introduced the concepts of kavisamaya [kavi-samaya] (poetic convention).

The kavi (poet) is the creator of kāvya (poetry) and in the Amarkoṣa says, ‘Samaya’ means ‘a firm assertion’ an established custom, time, an axiom or knowledge:

samayaḥ śapathācārakālasiddhāntasamvidhaḥ |”

- Amarkośa of Amarchandra: Ch-III/ 3/ 150

According to a Sanskrit English Dictionary of Monier Williams, ‘Samaya’ means sometimes accompany and come along with etc.[1]

But the two epics of Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata say the ‘Samaya’, in the sense of reconciliation, harmony or consent as:

yadāḥ rāmo dharmātmā tatku ruṣya samāhitaḥ |
rājamastiṣḍha svasamaye bhava satapratirśavaḥ || ”

- Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki: Kanda-IV/31/51


ivaṃ te samayaṃ kṛtvā dāsābhāvāya vai mitaḥ |
jagmatuḥ svagṛhāneva śvo drakṣāya iti smaḥ || ”

- Mahābhārata of Vyasadeva: Parva-I/18/5

In this way all the sense given the meaning of ‘common practice’, thus the term kavi-samaya (poetic convention) is may be generally means by the ‘traditionally uses common practices from ancient times to present times by the poets based on general consent. However, Keśavamiśra in his Alaṃkāraśekhara uses the word ‘sampradāya’ (sampradāya) in the place of ‘samaya’ (samaya)[2].

According to Rājaśekhara, kavi-samaya (poetic convention) as:

aśāstrīyamalaukikaṃ ca paramparāyātaṃ yamarthamupanibanadhnanti kavayaḥ sa kavisamayaḥ |”

- Kāvyamīmāṃsā of Rājaśekhara: Ch-XIV, Pp- 78


“The things and meaning, the poets described in kāvya (poetry) even when these things and meanings are not accepted by Śāstras and not found in day-today life but which are merely sanctioned by tradition.”

In this concept of kavi-samaya (poetic convention) is connected to the kaviśikṣā school of Sanskrit poetics, because it seems to the text book of a poet and deal with the construction of a poet. But before the time of Rājaśekhara kavi-śikṣā branch was neglected and untouched by the previous rhetoricians of Sanskrit poetics. There is none of the work deal about this matter. Rājaśekhara is first time notices this valuable topic of kavi-śikṣā and fully concentrated his attention various aspects of it.

Thus he frankly says about the kavi-samaya (poetic convention) in his Kāvyamīmāṃsā as:

so'yaṃ kavīnāṃ samayaḥ kāvye supta iva sthitaḥ |
sa sāmpratamihāsmābhiryathāvuddhi vivodhitaḥ || ”

- Kāvyamīmāṃsā of Rājaśekhara: Ch-XIV, Pp- 89

The topic kavi-samaya where poets should imagine the differences themselves. But that had remained unnoticed by previous rhetoricians and treated here by me (Rājaśekhara) which seems to be in a state of sleep in poetic compositions has been reawakened with my (Rājaśekhara) own intellectual power. However the early poets Aśvaghoṣa, Bhāsa and Kālidāsa etc. uses the kavi-samayas (poetic conventions) but the previous ālaṃkārikas of Rājaśekhara i.e. Bhāmaha, Daṇḍin and Vāmana were banned such ‘aśāstrīya’ and ‘alaukika’ description of kavi-samaya (poetic convention) amongst the doṣas or poetic blemishes of a composition poetry.

Ācārya Bhāmaha in his Kāvyālaṃkāra (of Bhāmaha) says:

deśakālakalālokanyāyāgamavirodhi ca |
pratiñjāhetudṛṣṭāntahīnaṃ duṣṭaṃ ca neṣyate || ”

- Kāvyālaṃkāra (of Bhāmaha) of Bhāmaha: Ch-IV/2


“In poetry, the descriptions of opposed things to geography, seasons, fine arts, natural facts, Śāstras, Śrūti, Smṛti and so on should be avoided.”

Further he illustrates all these types blemishes descriptions are entirely nonsensical.

There he mentions a defect is prasiddhiviruddha (contrary to the tradition) and divided it into five i.e.

  1. kālaviruddha,
  2. deśaviruddha,
  3. lokaviruddha,
  4. nyāyaviruddha and
  5. āgamaviruddha.

He mentions deśaviruddha by the Devadāru trees on the mountain Malaya, implying that Malaya is home of candana. In the kālaviruddha description, the mango trees as blossoming in the rainy season and the lokaviruddha descriptions are simply cases of excessive exaggeration.

In the Kāvyādarśa ācārya Daṇḍin posits that, the poets should abstain from the descriptions of things opposed to geography, seasons, fine-arts, natural facts, Śāstras etc.


deśa-kāla-kalā-loka-nyāyāgamavirodhi ca |
iti doṣā daśaivete varjjyāḥ kāvyeṣu surabhiḥ || ”

- Kāvyādarśa of Daṇḍin: III/126

Among the ten kāvyadoṣas [kāvya-doṣas], he discusses the deśavirodha, kālavirodha, lokavirodha, nyāyavirodha and āgamavirodha. Then he illustrates to describing desāvirodha in kaverī, camphor in, Malaya and elephants born in Kaliṅga. In the kālavirodha descriptions he mentions padminī blooming at evening and kumudvati during day, Nicula trees blooming in the spring and durdina in Grīṣma, cackling of swans in rainy seasons, peacock-dance in autumn, clear sun-shine in Hemanta and use of Sandal paste in winter.

In chapter II of Kāvyālaṃkārasūṭra-vṛtti of Vāmana discusses the defect as lokavirūddha;


deśakālasvabhāvaviruddhārthāni lokaviruddhāni || ”

kalācaturvargaśāstrāviruddhārthāni vidyāviruddhāni || ”

- Kāvyālaṃkārasūṭra-vṛtti of Vāmana: Ch- 2/2/23-24

He explains lokaviruddhani as deśakālasvabhāvavituddhani. He mentions Madhura in Sauvira as deśavirodha, Kadamba flowers in spring as kālavirodha and manjari of Saptacchada as svabhavavirodha.

In this way ancient critics had discussed and give sufficient warning to a novice about the things which should be scrupulously avoided from a good literary composition.

But Yāyāvarīya Rājaśekhara does not agree about it and says that how can it be doṣa or poetic blemish which are propitiates the poet’s the path.


kavimārgānugrāhī kathameṣa doṣaḥ ? ” iti yāyāvarīyaḥ |

- Kāvyamīmāṃsā of Rājaśekhara: Ch-XIV, Pp- 78

However, the both kāvya-doṣas (poetic blemish) and kavi-samaya (poetic convention) possess the common characteristic of describing opposed things to Śāstras and tradition. But kāvya-doṣa is poet’s lack of knowledge and negligence, which detract the poetic beauty of a literary composition.

According to Keśavamiśra, kāvya-doṣa as the impediment that obstructs the realization of rasa in kāvya (poetry).


doṣatvaṃ ca rasotpattiprativandhakatvama |”

- Alaṃkāraśekhara of Keśavamiśra: Ch-VI/ 1

Kāvya-doṣa also connected with rasa as like as kāvya-guṇas, but when they impede the rasa-realization then it is known as kāvya-doṣa.

About this Ānandavardhana also said in his Dhvanyāloka:

anaucityādṛte nānyad rasabhaṅgasya kāraṇam |
prasiddhaucicityavandhastu rasasyopaniṣat parā || ”

- Dhvanyāloka of Ānandavarhana: III/ 30

Impropriety is the one and the only one impediment in Rasa-realization.

Ācārya Daṇḍin in his Kāvyādarśa says that, it a gifted poet can transform the kāvya-doṣa to literary merits through his literary skill.


virodhaḥ sakalo'pyeṣa kadācit kavikauśalāt |
utkramya doṣagaṇanāṃ guṇavīthīṃ vigāhate || ”

- Kāvyādarśa of Daṇḍin: III/ 179

In this way we can seems that, the difference between kāvya-doṣas (poetic blemish) and kavi-samaya (poetic convention). Where kāvya-doṣa occur out of the poet’s lack of understanding, knowledge and negligence but kavi-samaya as the poets deliberately. The kāvya-doṣa detracts the poetic charm but the kavi-samaya always beautifies the poetic compositions.

Therefore, in the matter of poetic truth and philosophical truth, ‘poetry expresses most adequately the universal element in human nature and in life; it does not merely tell the story of individual life[3]. The truth, then of poetry is differ from the truth of philosophy. Things that are outside and beyond the range of our experience, that never have happened and never will happen, may be more true, poetically speaking-more profoundly true than those daily occurrence which we can with confidence predict[4].


“It is the privilege, May the duty of the poet to tell lies skillfully: he must learn the true art of fiction”.[5]

In this way the Aristotle’s idea of expression is connected to the Rājaśekharas’ views of kavi-samaya (poetic convention).

However, the source of kavi-samaya (poetic convention) is also unidentified and failed to understand its basis or origin but it came to be used conventionally.


kavisamayaśabdaścāyaṃ mūlamapaśyadbhiḥ prayogamātradarśibhiḥ prayukto rūḍhaśca |”

- Kāvyamīmāṃsā of Rājaśekhara: Ch-XIV, Pp- 78

Rājaśekhara also gives the origin of kavi-samaya (poetic convention) by saying:

pūrve hi vidvāṃsaḥ sahastraśākhaṃ sāṅgaṃ ca vedamavagāhya, śāstrāṇi cāvabudhya,
deśāntarāṇi dvīpāntarāṇi ca paribhramya, yānarthānupalabhya praṇītavantasteṣāṃ
deśakālāntaravaśenānyathātve praṇītavantasteṣāṃ
deśakālāntaravaśenānyathātve'pi tathātvenopanibandho yaḥ sa kavisamayaḥ

- Kāvyamīmāṃsā of Rājaśekhara: Ch-XIV, Pp- 78

In ancient times the learned people made a profound study of the Vedas with the thousand schools, the six Vedāṅgas and various other Śāstras, wandered from place to place, country to country, observed many a things and set them forth in their works. To preserve these things as they were observed by the ancients even though they are not so, even though time and place may have brought about a difference or opposition in them also known by kavi-samaya (poetic convention).

Footnotes and references:


Monier Williams, ‘A Sanskrit English Dictionary’, Pp- 164


Alaṃkāraśekhara of Kesavamiśra: VI. I, Kasi Sanskrit Series, Varanasi, 1927


S. Lt. Butcher, Aristotle’s Theory of Poetry and Fine arts, Kalyan Publishers New Delhi, 1978, Pp- 163-164


Ibid: Pp-170


Ibid: Pp-171

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