Kavyamimamsa of Rajasekhara (Study)

by Debabrata Barai | 2014 | 105,667 words

This page relates ‘Poetic conventions regarding to the Trees, Plants and Creepers’ 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 7.4 - Poetic conventions regarding to the Trees, Plants and Creepers

In Sanskrit literature, most of the poetic descriptions are embedded by various types of kavi-samaya (poetic convention) of trees, plants and creepers. There some of them are ardent desire of trees descriptions and others are only poetic imagination.

(1) Poetic conventions of lotus:

In literaturary descriptions there are four types of conventions relating to the lotus i.e.

  1. Lotuses exist in all rivers and oceans,
  2. Lotus blooms only in day light,
  3. Lotus blooms in all seasons except Hemanta and Śiśira and
  4. The buds of lotus should not be described as green.

In ancient times, rivers, ponds and oceans were considered as equal sense that which all of them possess water. Thus we found in the Ṛgveda Veda[1], Atharva Veda[2] and Mahābhārata[3] the term ‘Sindhu’ is used to both rivers and oceans. So poets also used to describe lotuses in all such rivers and oceans and it is traditionally become the poets used to describe the lotuses to be present in all rivers.

In evening the lotus flower get closed and next day morning it gets bloomed fully. This is a natural fact, which is accepted by tradition as a poetic convention.

Thus on the basis of this convention the sun is considered to be the lover of lotus and Moon as its enemy.

In a poetry poets are described the lotuses during the season Hemanta and Śiśira, but in this time lotuses are get lacks of beauty up to it is almost covered up by dewdrops.

In poetic compositions, the buds of lotuses should not be described as green, because the eyes are generally compared with the buds of lotuses. In these types of descriptions the upamāna should be equal to the upameya by its form and colour. Then the green colour of lotus bud would be contradicting with the eyes. However, in poetic convention there is identity between green and black colours, thus poets should used to describe the bud of lotus as lacking of greenness and attributed blackness to it.

(2) Poetic conventions relating to mālatī flower:

In poetic convention the Mālatī flower blooming in Vasanta-kāla (spring season). It is true that Mālatī flower blooming in thrice time in a year i.e. Varṣā-kāla (rainy season), Śiśira-kāla (winter season) and Vasanta-kāla (spring season). If the Mālatī-flower bloomed in the Varṣā-kāla or Śiśira-kāla thus it possesses excessive beauty than the Vasanta-kāla’s (spring-season) flower. So the poets are debarred from the description of Mālatī-flower in the Vasanta-kāla.

Rājaśekhara also illustrates this as:

mālatīvimukhaścaitrau vikāsī puṣpasampadām |
āścaryaṃ jātihīnasya kathaṃ sumanasaḥ priyāḥ || ”

- Kāvyamīmāṃsā of Rājaśekhara: Ch-XIV, Pp- 80

In this śloka has double entendre is used, where Jāti and sumanas have two meaning each. The first one for the Mālatī flower blossoms and a Brahmana while the last one denotes flower and God. Here he says that how the Vasanta-kāla (spring season) can be favorite to flowers which are devoid of Jāti (Mālatī flowers). Thus he says, Mālatī flowers should not described in Vasanta-kāla (spring season).

(3) Poetic conventions relating to sephālikā flower:

In poetic convention Śephālikā flower do not be described in the night. The Śephālikā flowers blooming at night with the arrival of the moon and fall down in day during sun. Here it is to think that the Śephālikā trees out of their excessive love for the moon and unable to tolerate the separation from moon, thus shed tears through the flowers. It also thinks that to be complaining to the moon with drops of flower tears about the cruel treatment from the sun during the day.

This concept beautifully presented by the ślokas as:

tvadviprayoge kiraṇaistathāgrairdagdhā'smi kṛtsnaṃ divasaṃ savitrā |
itīva duḥkhaṃ śaśine gadantī śephālikā roditi puṣpabāṣpaiḥ || ”

- Kāvyamīmāṃsā of Rājaśekhara: Ch-XIV, Pp- 82

Here, the Śephālikā flower seems to intense love to moon during night. Thus Śephālikā flowers do not be described during night in the presence of moon.

(4) Poetic conventions relating to kunda flower:

In generally the buds of Kunda flowers are red and in the poetic convention bars to the poets from depicting them. Thus in the poetic convention the buds of Kunda flowers should not be described in red. However, the buds of Kunda flowers are not white but the poets described it as white to ignore the red colour.

Thus Rājaśekhara appropriate a śloka from the Śiśupālavadha of Māgha for this convention as:

dyotitāntaḥsabhaiḥ ku ndaku ṅmalāgradataḥ smitaiḥ |
snapitevābhavattasya śuddhavarṇā sarasvatī || ”

- Kāvyamīmāṃsā of Rājaśekhara: Ch-XV, Pp- 84

(5) Poetic conventions relating to bhurjapatra:

The Birch trees are found largely on mountain side, especially in the surrounding of Himalaya. In poetic convention the description of Bhurjapatra is prohabitated in the Himālāya Mountains area.

To illustrate the poetic convention Rājaśekhara appropriate a śloka from the Kumārasaṃbhava of Kālidāsa points out the birch trees while describing the beauty of Himālāya Mountain as:

nyastākṣarā dhāturasena yatra bhūrjatvacaḥ ku ñjarabinduśoṇāḥ |
vrajanti vidyādharasundarīṇāmanaṅgalekhakriyayopayogam || ”

- Kāvyamīmāṃsā of Rājaśekhara: Ch-XIV, Pp- 81

Therefore, in the Raghuvaṃśa, Kālidāsa also describing the birch-trees of Himālāyain the time of Raghu’s victorious journey.


tasyānī kairvisarpadbhiraparāntajayodyataiḥ |
rāmāstrotsārito'pyāsītsahyalagna ivāṇavaḥ || ”

- Raghuvaṃśa of Kālidāsa: Canto-IV/ 43

(6) Poetic conventions relating to candana:

Candana (sandal wood) is found in various parts of country and poets also describe Candana (sandal wood) in various parts of India. Some of them even depicted Candana (sandal wood) while describing in Himālāya Mountain[4]. But the most cherished types Candana (sandal wood) is produced in the Malaya mountain region. It may be causes to the poets to treat it as poetic convention and the production of Candana (sandal wood) is prohabitated to the Malaya Mountain.

This is illustrated by the śloka of Subhāṣitaratnabhāṇḍāgāra as:

kiṃ tena hemagiriṇā rajatādriṇā vā yatraśarītā hi taravasta eva |
mañjāmahe malayamova yadāśrayeṇa śākhotravimvaku ṭṭajā'pi candanāni || ”

- Subhāṣitaratnabhāṇḍāgāra

In this śloka beautifully brought out the excessive fragrance of the Candana (sandal wood) produced from the Malaya Mountain.

Then Rājaśekhara also illustrate about the product of Candana (sandal wood) on Malaya Mountain as:

tapāpahāracaturo nāgāvāsaḥ surapriyaḥ |
nānyatra malayādadrerdda śyate candanadrumaḥ || ”

- Kāvyamīmāṃsā of Rājaśekhara: Ch-XV, Pp- 81

Here the poet’s view is that Candana (sandal wood) trees are only found on Malaya Mountain.

Another poetic convention about the Candana (sandal wood) tree is that, there will be neither flowers nor fruits there only bear a fragrant useful smell to human beings. Thus when compared with its wood, the flowers and the fruits are seems to in significant to human beings.

So the poets are always ignoring the existence of flower and fruits on Candana (sandal wood) tree by the śloka as:

yadyapi candanaviṭapī vidhinā phalaku sumavarjito vihitaḥ |
nijavapuṣaiva pare ṣāṃ tathāpi santāpamapaharati || ”

- Kāvyamīmāṃsā of Rājaśekhara: Ch-XV, Pp- 80

Footnotes and references:


Ṛgveda Veda: I/17/8


Atharvaveda: III/13/1


Mahābhārata: III/182/186


Kirātārjuniya of Bharavi: VII/ 29

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