Kuntaka’s evaluation of Sanskrit literature

by Nikitha. M | 2018 | 72,578 words

This page relates ‘The concept of vakrokti in earlier poeticians’ of the study on the evaluation of Sanskrit literature with special reference to Kuntaka and his Vakroktijivitam from the 10th century CE. This study reveals the relevance of Sanskrit poetics in the present time and also affirms that English poetry bears striking features like six figurativeness taught by Kuntaka in his Vakroktijivita, in which he propounds the vakrokti school of Sanskrit literary criticism.

2. The concept of vakrokti in earlier poeticians

It was Bhāmaha who introduced the term vakrokti in Sanskrit poetics. On his Kāvyālaṅkāra, he states:

saiṣā sarvaiva vakroktiranayārtho vibhāvyate/
yatnosyām kavinā kāryaḥ kolaṅkāro
nayā vinā//[1]

“This peculiar method of statement (vakrokti) is found everywhere (i.e, in other alaṅkāras). By this, meanings are rendered beautiful. Poets should be assiduous in cultivating it. Where is the alaṅkāra without this?”[2]

Ānandavardhana cites this verse in his Dhvanyāloka. He states that all figurativeness should be included in atiśayokti or in vakrokti. He also says that the figurativeness devoid of atiśayokti and vakrokti is mere figurativeness. Atiśayokti of Ānandavardhana is similar to the vakrokti of Bhāmaha and Daṇḍin. According to him, poetry devoid of atiśayokti and vakrokti is considered as a bad one. However, it was Kuntaka who developed this concept in a full-fledged manner in his Vakroktijīvita. Bhāmaha says that vakrokti is a delicate turn given to expression which distinguishes poetic expression from ordinary converse. The term vakrokti has been differently interpreted by different scholars without explaining its exact meaning. Kuntaka in Vakroktijīvita says, vakrokti is ‘vaidagdhya bhaṅgībhaṇiti’. It can be translated as ‘the artistic turn of speech’[3], which means dexterous expression of something in a most attractive way, i.e. the selection of most striking form of expression in a particular context though the word has numerous meanings. Most of the early rhetoricians used the term vakrokti in some way or the other.

Thus Daṇḍin divided the poetry in to two viz, svabhāvokti and vakrokti and he defines it as:-

śleṣaḥ sarvāsu puṣṇāti prāyo vakroktiṣu śriyam/
dvitā bhinnam svabhāvoktiḥ vakroktiśceti vāṅmayam
/ /[4]

To Vāmana, vakrokti is only a figure of speech consisting of metaphor based on similarity.

sādṛśyāllakṣaṇā vakrokti[5]

The example cited for it is as follows:-

unmimīlam kamalam sarasīnām kairavam ca na mimīla muhūrtāt/[6]

Here the poet imposed the action of opening and closing of eyes on flowers due to their similarity.

Bhoja, the poet who belonged to the same period of Kuntaka, has also used the term vakrokti.

He gave a definition of poetry related to vakrokti in the sixth chapter of his Śṛṅgāraprakāśa as follows:-

yadavakram vacaḥ śāstre loke ca vaca eva tat/
vakram yadarthavādādau tasya kāvyamiti smṛtiḥ//

Bhoja in his Sarasvatīkanṭhābharaṇa divided the speech into three as vakrokti, rasokti and svabhāvokti.

vakroktiśca rasoktiśca svabhāvoktiśceti vāṅmayam/
sarvānugrāhiṇī tāsu rasoktim pratijānate
/ /[8]

Though there are some early rhetoricians who have already discussed about vakrokti, it is Kuntaka who considered vakrokti as the soul of poetry and developed it in a different and beautiful manner.

Kuntaka defines vakrokti as follows:

ubāvetāvalaṅkāryau tayoḥ punaralaṅkṛtiḥ vakroktireva vaidagdhyabaṅgībhaṇitirucyate/[9]

“Both these are the ‘adorned’. Their adornment consists in the poetic process known as artistic turn of speech”.

Here the term ‘both’ indicates the word and sense.

Footnotes and references:


Acharya Jagannath Pathak, ‘Dhvanyaloka of Sri Anandavardhanacharya’, p.499.


P.V Naganatha Sastry, Kāvyālaṅkāra of Bhāmaha, p.49.


K. Krishnamoorthy, Vakrokti-jīvita of Kuntaka, p.308.


Dandin, Kāyādarśam, 2-363, p.88.


Shri Hargovinda Shastri, Kāvyālaṃkārasūtra of Ācārya Vāmana, p.172.


Bechana Jhā., Kāvyālaṃkārasūtra of Ācārya Vāmana, p.164.


V. Ragavan, ‘Bhoja’s Śṛṅgāraprakāśa, p.117.


Kameshwar Nath Misra, ‘Saraswatīkaṇṭhābharaṇa of Bhoja’, p.335.


K. Krishnamoorthy, op.cit,p.20.

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