Kuntaka’s evaluation of Sanskrit literature

by Nikitha. M | 2018 | 72,578 words

This page relates ‘Kiratarjuniya in Kuntaka’s treatment’ 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.

1. Kirātārjunīya in Kuntaka’s treatment

Among the mahākāvyas chosen by Kuntaka for criticism, Kirātārjunīya of Bhāravi has an important position. Kuntaka has selected fourteen verses from Kirātārjunīya to substantiate his different arguments. Besides evaluating these individual verses, Kuntaka has tried to evaluate the text on a bigger canvas. He sheds his attention on the choice of the hero, incorporation of the main sentiment, beauty of various episodes, the selection of the plot and the additions as well as the omissions made by the poet in the plot etc. This clearly reveals Kuntaka’s attempt to unravel the beauty of the Kirātārjunīya as a whole.

There are different opinions about the date of Bhāravi. It is mostly accepted as the 5th or 6th century C.E. Kirātārjunīya is the only available work of Bhāravi. It has eighteen cantos and the story is taken from the Mahābhārata. Bhāravi beautifies it with his own poetic skill in a distinct manner. Among the eighteen cantos the smallest one is the fourth one and has 38 verses. The eleventh one is the biggest canto which comprises 81verses. Vīra or heroic is the main sentiment of this mahākāvya and śṛṅgāra, raudra etc. are the subordinate sentiments. The fight between kirāta and Arjuna is the core theme of the poem. This justifies the title Kirātārjunīya.

The story of this mahākāvya starts at the time of exile of pāṇḍavas for fourteen years after the Kurukṣetra war. It opens with the message of one of the spies of Yudhiṣṭhira about the righteous rules of Duryodhana. In the latter half of the first chapter, Draupadī provokes Yudhiṣṭhira to fight against his enemies. The second canto is a dialogue between Yudhiṣṭhira and Bhīma. In the third canto, sage Vyāsa advises Arjuna to acquire supreme powers and weapons from lord Śiva through penance. The chapters from four to ten deal with different topics like description of autumn season, the mount Himalaya, features and attempts of heavenly beauties to disturb the penance of Arjuna, the sun set etc. The proper incorporation of subordinate sentiments without disturbing the flow of the main sentiment is essential for a composition.

Ānandhavardhana says it in Dhvanyāloka: -

uddīpanapraśamane yathāvasaramantarā/

“This brings about both the high tide of sentiment and its low ebb appropriately in the work; preserving the unity of the principal sentiment from beginning to end.”[2]

The descriptions of nature, seasons etc. found in the middle cantos of the poem have been moulded into the text in such a manner that they do not hamper the gradual development of the main sentiment.

In the eleventh canto, Indra, having heard about the victory of Arjuna from the heavenly nymphs, disguised as a sage, advises Arjuna to pray to lord Śiva for his success. The twelfth canto describes Arjuna’s severe penance for winning the favour of Śiva. The thirteenth and fourteenth cantos are conversations between vanecara, one of the subordinates of disguised Śiva (kirāta) and Arjuna about the arrow that was shot on the wild beast (varāha). In the fifteenth canto Bhāravi depicts the battle between lord Śiva and Arjuna. The sixteenth canto depicts the dilemma of Arjuna by seeing the excellent fighting skill and dexterity of Śiva. The last two cantos are devoted to the description of the great battle between Śiva and Arjuna. In the last canto, Śiva reveals his original form and offers pāśupatāstra and dhanurveda to Arjuna. At last Arjuna goes to his own place after attaining the other bows from the gods like Indra. In this way it was but natural that Bhāravi would achieve great success through this composition on account of including ingredients that are essential for a mahākāvya in a judicious manner.

Bhāravi has brilliantly discussed about various aspects of polity in the first three cantos as well as in the thirteenth and fourteenth cantos. The notable feature of this mahākāvya is that Bhāravi developed a small theme from Mahābhārata into an epic poem. Selection of episodes, gradual development of rasa and portrayal of Duryodhana as a good ruler are some of the innovations brought by Bhāravi. Such innovations make Bhāravi adorn a unique position in Sanskrit literature.

The Mahābhārata has numerous heroes like Kṛṣṇa, Yudhiṣṭhira, Karṇa, Bhīma etc. Avoiding such great heroes Bhāravi shows the boldness to highlight Arjuna in his Kirātārjunīya and developed it in an interesting manner by avoiding all unpleasant things explained in the original source to avoid a negative impression on the ideal character. In Kirātārjunīya, the depiction of Arjuna is seen to be different from the original epic. No other critic in Sanskrit criticism appreciated Bhāravi for considering Arjuna as the hero of his Kirātārjunīya as done by Kuntaka. Ānandavardhana establishes the main sentiments of Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata respectively as karuṇa and śānta. But he does not discuss any other literary piece like Kirātārjunīya. No other rhetorician has tried to evaluate a work completely and properly as Kuntaka did, taking cue from Ānandavardhana. Kuntaka comments on Bhāravi’s skill in the incorporation of suitable elements that nourish the sentiment of valour at appropriate places. The context of arm-fight between Arjuna and Śiva is quoted as an illustration by Kuntaka. Bhāravi’s boldness and cleverness in depicting a mahākāvya with heroic as the main sentiment is also highly appreciable. The dramas like Veṇīsaṃhāra of Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa, Mahāvīracarita of Bhavabhūti, Dūtaghaṭotkaca, Ūrubhaṅga etc. of Bhāsa have heroic as the main sentiment. Kuntaka’s discussion about the compositional figurativeness and the contextual figurativeness of Kirātārjunīya is strikingly original. These two are adequate to make an overall assessment of a particular text.

1. Compositional figurativeness

The final variety of figurativeness named compositional figurativeness (prabandhavakratā) is the exact realm for discussing the complete evaluation of a text. Kuntaka cites single lines from three verses to ascertain one of the varieties of compositional figurativeness.

The definition given for this variety is as follows:-

itihāsaikadeśena prabandhasya samāpanam//
kurvīta yatra sukaviḥ sā vicitrāsya vakratā//

A poet can start his work by explaining the whole story of the main source but he should conclude his work only by explaining the overall victory and prosperity of the hero, because the poetic purpose is to depict the hero as an ideal man and highlight his achievements in an interesting manner by avoiding other repulsive things to delight the readers. This is one of the varieties of compositional figurativeness.

This view expressed by Kuntaka corresponds to Ānandavardhana’s opinions in Dhvanyāloka: -

itivṛttavaśāyātām tyaktvānanuguṇā sthitim/

“If, in a theme, adapted from a traditional source, the poet is faced with situations conflicting with the intended sentiment, his readiness to leave out such incidents and inventing in their place even imaginary incidents with a view to delineating the intended sentiment.”[5]

For instance, the following passages in Kirātārjunīya can be cited. Here Kuntaka just cites the single stanzas of these verses.

So only the translations of the stanzas cited by Kuntaka are given below.

dviṣām vighātāya vidhātumicchato rahasyanujñāmadhigamya bhūbhṛtaḥ/
sa sauṣṭhavaudāryaviśeṣaśālinīm viniścitārthāmiti vācamādade//[6]

“For equipping himself to destroy the enemies, Arjuna took the king’s permission in secret.”[7]

vidhisamayaniyogāddīptisaṃhārajihvam śithilavasumagādhe magnamāpatpayodhau/
riputimiramudasyodīyamānam dinādau dinakṛtamiva lakṣmīstvām samabhyetu bhūyaḥ//[8]

“Like the sun rising at the morning, overthrowing his darknessfoe, let glory attend on the same mission.”[9]

yayā samāsāditasādhanena suduścarāmācaratā tapasyām/
ete durāpam samavāpya vīryamunmūlitāraḥ kapiketanena//[10]

“All the said warriors mighty will be destroyed root and branch by Arjuna when he obtains the most difficult divine missile”[11]

The meaning of the first line of the first verse is that Arjuna secretly attains the permission from Yudhiṣṭira for doing penance, who himself has some plans to annihilate the enemies. The meaning of the second line of the second verse is that let the goddess of wealth approach Yudhiṣṭira alone like the rising morning sun by wiping out the enemy, means the darkness. The second line of the third verse means that after attaining the powerful pāśupata bow through great penance, Arjuna would terminate all the enemies.

Bhāravi, at the outset, paints a general picture of the events that preceded the penance of Arjuna through the episode of vanecara. This creates a background on which Bhāravi starts to focus upon the heroic Arjuna. For this, he explains the fight between the disguised Śiva and the great warrior Arjuna, who lost everything in the game of dice, who has great anger due to the various humiliations heaped upon Draupadī, who has got advice from sage Vyāsa to acquire the divine missiles, and who starts his austerities to attain the pāśupata etc. In this fight Bhāravi has succeeded in depicting the valour of Arjuna. Thus Bhāravi highlights the importance of the hero of this kāvya brilliantly.

Bhāravi depicts the greatness of Arjuna in a different and attractive manner. Arjuna alone had to fight with the great god Śiva even before attaining the divine missile named pāśupata. Even lord Śiva was astonished and bewildered when he was taken by Arjuna in his hand and thrown up to dangle in the air at the time of their arm-fight. It is notable that only after this fierce fight, Arjuna attained the divine pāśupata. Moreover the discus-armed lord Kṛṣṇa is Arjuna’s charioteer. He can protect Arjuna from all the perils. But from the Mahābhārata it is explicit that Arjuna of such great prowess had done some improper deeds in the war. Kuntaka points out some of them like Arjuna, with the support of Bhīma and others, treacherously defeated the old aged Bhīṣma by placing Śikhaṇḍin before him. At that moment, Bhīṣma remarks “these are the arrows of Arjuna and surely not of Śikhaṇḍin”. This really indicates that it was a cowardly act by Arjuna. Secondly Arjuna cut down the Bhūriśravas’s arm when he was engaged in some other action. Thirdly he beheaded Karṇa, who was lifting his chariot that was sunk in the mud of the battle field. Arjuna engages in such actions even when he is aware of the laws of the battlefield. Bhāravi has avoided the description of these inappropriate actions of Arjuna to idealize him as a great warrior. Kuntaka appreciates this skill of Bhāravi in employing one of the varieties of compositional figurativeness. Kuntaka praises Bhāravi’s genius in selecting the appropriate episodes which would enhance the sentiment of valour. Here Kuntaka again proves his proficiency to evaluate literary works by comparing them with the original story from which theme of the current poem has been taken.

Bhāravi also brings forth some other innovations to highlight the importance of Arjuna. In Mahābhārata, Vyāsa advises a mantra named pratismṛti to Yudhiṣṭhira. Yudhiṣṭira in turn gives this advice to Arjuna. This mantra would help to defeat the enemies. Unlike in Mahābhārata, in Kirātārjunīya, Vyāsa directly advises Arjuna to reform austerities for fighting against his enemies. Bhāravi might have also thought that a mortal human being is not enough to take the role of opponent to show the power of Arjuna, so he brilliantly introduces Lord Śiva himself as the rival.

2. Contextual figurativeness

Kuntaka cites a verse from the poem in the first unmeṣa as an example of contextual figurativeness.

One of the varieties of contextual figurativeness is the inclusion of a completely innovative context to the new plot apart from the original story to increase its aesthetic delight or the development of already described episode brilliantly by his poetic skill.

itivṛttaprayukte’pi kathāvaicitryavartmani/
utpādyalavalāvaṇyādanyā lasati vakratā//[12]

“When a poet is constructing a plot of his own, based though it might be on a well-known source, if he succeeds in infusing even a small streak of originality, the beauty gained thereby will be singular.”[13]

tathā yathā prabandhasya sakalasyāpi jīvitam/
bhāti prakaraṇa kāṣṭhādhirūḍharasanirbharam//[14]

“Even as an episode too can shine forth as the vital essence of the work as a whole, brimful of sentiments reaching their utmost limit.”[15]

In the thirteenth canto of Kirātārjunīya, after killing the wild boar at the same time by Arjuna and disguised Śiva, one of the subordinates of Śiva had a heated argument with Arjuna. Bhāravi uses a number of verses to depict the argument abounding in brilliant and polite words. The suggestive meaning hidden behind the scholarly speech is to persuade Arjuna to fight against Kirāta. The subordinate persuades Arjuna to give back Śiva’s arrow which actually killed the boar.

When Arjuna understands this point he says:-

prayujya sāmācaritam vilobhanam bhayam vibhedāya dhiyaḥ pradarśitam/
tathābhiyuktam ca śilīmukhārthinā yathetarannyāyamivāvabhāsate//[16]

“You have used persuasion, temptation and even threat to cause division in my mind. And while claiming this arrow, you have so spoken that what is unjust appears as if it were just.”[17]

Such type of persuasion is not seen in the original source book, only a mutual argument between the Kirāta and Arjuna is mentioned there. A character like the subordinate of Kirāta and his indirect and mild persuasion is Bhāravi’s innovation and it is undoubtedly one of the beautiful instances for contextual figurativeness. Only those who have the real knowledge of both the epic Mahābhārata and Kirātārjunīya can pin point out such innovation. So Kuntaka’s selection of this particular context as an example of contextual figurativeness again firmly proves Kuntaka’s sharp acumen in poetic analysis.

Kuntaka cites yet another instance from Kirātārjunīya as an example of the one of the varieties contextual figurativeness.

The definition given for this variety of contextual figurativeness is as follows:-

yatrāṅgirasaniṣyandanikaṣaḥ kopi lakṣyate/
pūrvottarairasampādyaḥ sāṅkāteḥ kāpi vakratā//

According to Kuntaka due to this type of figurativeness, in one particular act or canto the poet exhibits the main sentiment of that composition; the beauty of it can never be found in the preceding or following act or cantos. This canto must be the soul of that composition. This canto will help readers to understand the overall essence of the main sentiment of the composition and should contribute unique artistic beauty to the whole work. Kuntaka cites the arm-fight between Arjuna and Śiva from the Kirātārjunīya as an instance of it. In this fight they did not use any objects for protection like armour. So obviously Arjuna has got the opportunity to exhibit his power of his arm. The power and valour of Arjuna is projected by the poet by depicting lord Śiva being thrown up in the air by the power of Arjuna’s arm. Thus the poet successfully brings forth the heroic sentiment to the peak through such incidents in the fifteenth canto of Kirātārjunīya. This particular canto is enough to attract the attention of the readers than any other cantos.

3. Kuntaka’s appreciation of individual verses of Bhāravi

Kuntaka’s views about Bhāravi and the citations taken from Kirātārjunīya is discussed here in detail. Kuntaka, in the beginning of the first unmeṣa, establishes that neither word nor sense alone can make poetry. So a doubt may arise as to how in aprastutapraśaṃsa mere sense or meaning gives delight to the readers. He makes it clear by saying that a subject which flashes at first in the mind of poet is like a rough stone. He then polishes it with beautiful language and produces it in his composition to attract the readers. The same idea can be depicted in two different ways by a brilliant poet as well as a novice poet. For showing this, Kuntaka cites two verses, one from the efficient poet Bhāravi and other from an unknown poet.

The verse from Bhāravi’s Kirātārjunīya is given first.

mandamandamuditaḥ prayayau kham bhītabhīta iva śītamayūkhaḥ//[19]

“Slowly and softly the moon does rise, as if he were gripped with fear. Exposed to the burning glance of damsels bathed in hot and streaming tears.”

Though there are numerous other mahākavyas, which beautifully describes the moon rise, Kuntaka selects the above verse from the ninth canto of Kirātārjunīya in this particular context. According to the Pāṇinia sūtranityavīpsayoḥ’ (8.1.4) the word will double itself for denoting repetition when the affix ‘ṇamul’ (am) combines with the root.[20] In the second line ‘mandamandam’, the word used by Bhāravi is an example to it. From this it is clear that the poets incorporate various grammatical aspects in the kāvyas to bring about charm and deeper connotations. Moreover the poet gives shape to a description which is brief and precise. Undoubtedly this reveals Kuntaka’s sensibility in choosing perfect examples suitable for the contexts. Kuntaka compares this verse of Bhāravi with a verse of unknown authorship. Here Kuntaka just says that the verse of Bhāravi is beautiful and not the latter one. He does not give ample explanation for the reason of the beauty of this verse. Perhaps Kuntaka leaves it to the imagination of the sahṛdaya.

The other verse of unknown authorship quoted by Kuntaka is:-

kramādekadvitriprabhṛtiparipāṭīḥ prakaṭayan kalāḥ svairam svairam navakamalakandāṅkurarucaḥ/
purandhrīṇām preyovirahadahanoddīpitadṛśām kaṭākṣebhyo bibhyannibhṛta iva candro

Though both the verses explain the beauty of the moon rise, the first verse depicts it very beautifully and pleasantly than the second one. In the second verse the epithets given to the moon are lengthy and hence charmless. The first line itself (ekadvitriprabhṛti…) indicates this impropriety. Such verses never delight the connoisseurs but only create boredom. Yet another verse cited from Kirātārjunīya by Kuntaka is as an example of propriety (aucitya). Deviating from the usual scheme of poetic virtues Kuntaka is known to have enunciated two qualities named propriety and grace (aucitya and saubhāgya).

He defines propriety as:-

yatra vaktuḥ pramāturvā vācyam śobhātiśāyinā/
ācchādyate svabhāvena tadapyaucityamucyate//

Wherein the primary meaning is concealed either by the excessively charming nature of the speaker or the listener is also known as propriety. For illustrating propriety Kuntaka chose a verse from Kirātārjunīya.

It is as follows:-

nipīyamānastabakā śilīmukhairaśokayaṣṭiścalabālapallavā/
viḍambayantī dadṛśe vadhūjanairamandadaṣṭauṣṭhakarāvadhūnanam//[23]

“With clusters of blossoms sucked by bees and tender leaves waving in the breeze, the Aśoka branch seemed to imitate the hands of maidens warding off lovers from kissing them hard.”

This is an example of propriety where the nature of listener conceals the primary meaning. Here the maidens (the listener) feel their own love experience in the natural swinging of the Aśoka branch. Such aesthetic experience of the maidens makes the readers feel as if the primary meaning indicates the description of the Aśoka branch, being clouded by it. Here undoubtedly the identification of the maiden’s own beautiful experience with that of the Aśoka branch creates the charming quality named propriety (aucitya) mentioned by Kuntaka. Again in the third unmeṣa, Kuntaka cites this verse as an example of upamā in word (padārthopamā) by using the indicators like ‘iva’ etc.

The figurativeness related to synonym (paryāyavakratā) is of different kinds, selection of the most suitable synonym in a particular context, and the selection of a synonym which gives extreme delight to a particular context because of its inherent beauty etc.

To illustrate this point Kuntaka cites the following verse from Kirātārjunīya.

nābhiyoktumanṛtam tvamiṣyase kastapasviviśikheṣu cādaraḥ/
santi bhūbhṛti hi naḥ śarāḥ pare ye parākramavasūni vajriṇaḥ//

“I would not like to fight with you for nothing. And what regard do the arrows of hermits deserve? I have other arrows of mine in my mountain store and they from the wealth of the thunder-wielding god’s prowess.”

This verse of Bhāravi is a conversation between one of the subordinates of the disguised Śiva and Arjuna. They argue for the ownership of the arrow that killed a wild boar. Here Kuntaka appreciates Bhāravi for his apt use of the synonyms like ‘vajrin’ and ‘tapasvin’ respectively for Indra and Arjuna in the guise of the ascetic. Though having thousands of words to denote the word Indra, Bhāravi used the word ‘vajrin’ (who possess thunder bolt) to increase the charm through the figurativeness related to synonym. Here the hunter refers to Indra as the Lord of celestials who always keep vajrāyudha with himself and also his particular skill in using the arrows which are extraordinarily powerful. Moreover the word ‘tapasvin’ or ascetic is also apt. The word makes it obvious that everyone had respect towards the arrows of great warriors but none had any respect for the arrows of an ascetic. Here another intention of the poet, which is indicated through the words of hunter is that as they were in the mountain of great ‘vajrin’ and are blessed with lot of weapons and there is no need to blame him falsely for an arrow. The hunter or the subordinate of disguised Śiva wants to prove that he is always talking about the truth and not just accusing Arjuna.

Kuntaka cites another verse from the poem as an example of the figurativeness of concealment (samvṛtivakratā), one of the divisions of lexical figurativeness.

This type of figurativeness is simply concealing impropriety, i.e. something which sounds improper when brought forth by direct expression.

durvacam tadatha mā sma bhūnmṛgastvayyasau yadakariṣyadojasā nainamāśu yadi vāhinīpatiḥ pratyapatsyata śitena patriṇā//[25]

“It is indeed difficult to express what this mighty beast would have done to you, had it not been shot down in time by the commander of our army with his sharp arrows. May that evil not befall you (any time in future too).”

Here Bhāravi very brilliantly conceals the idea of the slaying of Arjuna. It is really improper to directly say such an inauspicious thing about a great warrior like Arjuna. He intends to say that the wild boar may have killed him if it has not been killed by the Kirāta. There are numerous such examples in the works of Kālidāsa, Bhāravi etc. Here Kuntaka’s selection of verse from Kirātārjunīya for this particular context is apt and beautiful.

Kuntaka cites yet another verse as an example of the figurativeness named illuminator (dīpaka) which he defines as:-

aucityāvahamamlānam tadvidāhlādakāraṇam/
aśaktam dharmmamarthānām dīpayad vastu dīpakam//
ekam prakāśakam santi bhūyāṃsi bhūyasām kvacit/
kevalam paṅktisaṃstham vā dvividham paridṛśyate//

An object which illuminates the function of a described thing having full of propriety, innovativeness, power to delight the connoisseurs and denoting the suggested meaning of a word is known as illuminator (dīpaka) . It is of two types, single or numerous. That is, here either a single object illuminates many things or numerous objects may be illuminating many other things. The second type of illuminator is of three types.[27]

The example taken from Kirātārjunīya is for the second variety of the second type of illuminator. According to this variety, the first one illuminates the second one and the second illuminates the third and so on and an example is given below.

Here the preceding one becomes the object and the succeeding one becomes the subject.

śuci bhūṣayati śrutam vapuḥ praśamastasya bhavatyalaṃkriyā/
praśamābharaṇam parākramaḥ sa nayāpāditasiddhibhūṣaṇaḥ//[28]

“Spotless learning the body adorns and learning’s ornament is calmness; calmness is adorned by heroism and that by successful diplomacy.”

According to this variety, the succeeding one illuminates the preceding one and this goes forth as a series.’ So undoubtedly this is one of the pertinent examples for illuminator.

According to Kuntaka, some figures like ananvaya, parivṛtti, nidarśanā etc. are simply different varieties of simile (upamā). Thus he refuses to accept them as separate figures. Kuntaka quotes the following verse as an example of nidarśanā and then he establishes that it is none other than simile. Kuntaka cites the definition given by Bhāmaha in his Kāvyālaṅkāra for nidarśanā. It is given below:-

kriyayaiva viśiṣṭasya tadarthasyopadarśanāt/
jñeyā nidarśanā nāma yathevavatibhirvinā//

Nidarśanā indicates a special meaning using verb without using words like ‘iva’ , ‘yathā’ and the suffix ‘vat’ etc. which are usually employed to signify similarity. But sometimes in padārthopamā, the resemblance between the upamāna and upameya, situated in one particular part of a sentence is denoted directly. Either the upamāna or the upameya of the same sentence have some resemblance with another attribute of the another object of the latter half of the same verse. In such a situation, in order to depict their similarity, the poet uses the words like iva etc. more than once.

Kuntaka illustrates this with the following verse from Kirātārjunīya.

niryāya vidyātha dinādiramyād bimbādivārkkasya mukhānmaharṣeḥ/
pārthānanam vahnikaṇāvadātā dīptiḥ sphuratpadmamivābhipede//[30]

“The love got out from the sage’s face like luster from the lovely morning sun, bright like sparks of glowing fire and entered Arjuna’s face at once like sunshine making the lotus bloom.”[31]

Here in the first half of the verse the upamāna and upameya respectively are the luster of the morning sun and love of the sage. Then Kuntaka says that here either the above mentioned upamāna or upameya could be related to another nature of another object of the latter half of the verse based on their resemblance. This is shown again using the word ‘iva’ etc. In the latter half of the verse, Arjuna’s face is compared to lotus. The love entering the face of Arjuna from the face of the sage resembles the luster of the morning sun entering the blooming lotus.

From this it is clear that the upamāna and upameya of the first half of the verse can be related to another nature of another object of the latter half. In the first sentence ‘iva’ is used in the word ‘bimbādivārkkasya’ and in the next sentence it is again used in the word ‘sphuratpadmamivābhipede’. Thus in the latter half, ‘iva’ is again used to show the resemblance between the Arjuna’s face receiving the sage’s love and the blooming lotus touched by the sun’s rays. The verse actually contains two pairs of upamāna and upameya. But the charm of the verse lies in the fact that these two pairs do not stand separately. They are connected to one another through a relation based on resemblance. This is one of the most difficult, but beautiful verses cited by Kuntaka from Bhāravi to substantiate his arguments.

As an example of the description of the concurrent occurrence (sahokti), Kuntaka cites two consecutive verses from the ninth canto of Kirātārjunīya. In this canto Bhāravi beautifully depicts certain things like sun set, moon rise, love sickness and the anger and union of certain lovers etc.

The definition given for the description of the concurrent occurrence by Kuntaka is as follows:-

yatraikenaiva vākyena varṇanīyārthasiddhaye uktiryugapadarthānām sā sahoktiḥ satām matā//[32]

According to him, sahokti is the fact of expressing two ideas or images, simultaneously, by a single sentence to enrich the beauty of the described subject. Kuntaka propounded this new definition for sahokti after refuting the definition accepted by the early rhetoricians arguing that theirs was akin to simile. It is one of the appreciable characteristics of Kuntaka that he does not blindly follow the celebrated early rhetoricians and he exhibits boldness to indicate the impropriety found in them. He puts forth a new definition with an appropriate example too. Kuntaka’s uniqueness in the realm of Sanskrit poetics is undoubtedly due to these reasons.

The example given for sahokti is as follows:-

ucyatām sa vacanīyamaśeṣam neśvare paruṣatā sakhi sādhvī/
ānayainamanunīya katham vā vipriyāṇi janayannanuneyaḥ//
kim gatena na hi yuktamupaitum kaḥ priye subhagamānini mānaḥ/
yoṣitāmiti kathāsu sametaiḥ kāmibhirbahurasā dhṛtirūhe//[33]

This is a conversation between a heroine and her friend; here at first the heroine says, ‘speak out everything to him whatever you would like to say’. Hearing this, the friend replies that it is not proper to be harsh to one’s husband. Then the heroine asks her to bring him back through persuasion. The friend says that it is difficult to persuade one who is misbehaving with us. The heroine replies that there is no use of approaching him and it is improper too. Then the friend says, ‘Oh beautiful one! Do not be angry with your beloved’. The lovers enjoyed listening to such conversations between the women. These are the conversation between the heavenly nymphs described in the ninth canto of Kirātārjunīya.

Here both the heroine and her friend are so intimate; the friend tries to make the union of the hero and the heroine in her own way. This makes clear that the aims of both of the friend and heroine are same. But both of them express it with different meanings through a single sentence. In the description of concurrent occurrence, single sentence should be used instead of two sentences to convey the intended meaning and make it more attractive. In these two verses, the question and answer of the heroine and her friend are expressed in each single sentences. Though these verses are a little bit difficult to understand from its first reading, the example chosen by Kuntaka is appropriate and deserves appreciation.

Again Kuntaka quotes two verses from the ninth and eighth cantos of Kirātārjunīya as examples of the figure of speech named poetic doubt (sasandeha).

He defines poetic doubt as:-

yasminnutprekṣitam rūpamutprekṣāntarasambhavāt
sandehameti vicchittyai sasandeham vadanti tam//

Here already accepted poetic fancy is getting suspected because there are also some other poetic fancies having the same features. Such doubtfulness is for creating extreme aesthetic delight and is known as the figure of speech named poetic doubt.

The example chosen by Kuntaka is:-

rañjitā nu vivadhāstaruśailāḥ nāmitam nu gaganam sthagitam nu/
pūritā nu viṣameṣu dharitrī saṃhṛtā nu kakubhastimireṇa//[35]

“Are all the trees and hills painted black? Or is the sky bent down or stilled? Or he earth’s depths filled up and leveled? Or all quarters rolled together by darkness?”

Here the poet beautifully presents a doubt on the cause of the dark colour of the trees and mountains, the covering of the sky etc. to various other reasons in a touching manner.

The second verse cited as an example of poetic doubt is given below:-

nimīladākekaralolacakṣuṣām priyopakaṇṭham kṛtagātravepathuḥ/
nimajjatīnām śvasitoddhatastanaḥ śramo nu tāsām madano nu paprathe//[36]

“Near their lovers, as the ladies bathed with closing eyes, reeling and rolling looks with bodies shivering and bosoms heaving. One of the two was evident as the cause either fatigue (of water-sport) or love.”

Here also the poet beautifully presents doubt as to whether the reason for the shivering of the damsel’s body is either due to love or tiredness. Through these two verses, Bhāravi beautifully depicts the darkness and the symptoms of love seen in the damsel with the help of the figure of speech named poetic doubt. Kuntaka’s selection of these verses for this particular context is really substantial.

4. Other innovations of Bhāravi untouched by Kuntaka

Kirātārjunīya contains many innovative episodes which can be regarded as illustrations of contextual and compositional figurativeness. But Kuntaka does not mention each of these innovations. He just indicates a few and leaves the rest to the sensible readers. Some of those innovative episodes in the poem which are not mentioned by Kuntaka are explained here.

Bhāravi has given a detailed description about the positive nature of Duryodhana by showing his good behavior and concern to his people. In the Vanaparvan of Mahābhārata there are only few verses that show the greatness of Duryodhana. But in Kirātārjunīya, Bhāravi devotes the first half of the first canto for the detailed description about the statecraft of Duryodhana.

The two verses denote the greatness of Duryodhana in the Vanaparvan is given below:-

sarve kauravasainyasya suputrāmātyasainikāḥ/
samvibhaktā hi mātrābhir bhogairapi ca sarvaśaḥ//
duryodhanena te vīrā mānitāśca viśeṣataḥ/
prāṇāṃstyakṣyanti saṃgrāme iti me niścitā matiḥ//

Through this verse, Yudhiṣṭhira brings forth that all the officers of the army of the Kauravas like sons, ministers etc. have been honoured by Duryodhana with the proper division of wealth and luxuries. Here Yudhiṣṭhira tells Bhīma that they will really sacrifice their life for their master Duryodhana as they have been properly honoured by him. These seem to be the threads that inspire Bhāravi to devote the first canto for depicting the greatness of Duryodhana’s reign in detail. There are also some other instances in Mahābhārata, which show the greatness of Duryodhana.[38] These hints are beautifully developed by Bhāravi to enrich the plot of Kirātārjunīya. This is one of the beautiful instances which show the poetic genius of Bhāravi, which helps him to indicate the might of the enemy of the Pāṇḍavas. This knowledge about Duryodhana’s power helps Yudhiṣṭhira to be more cautious in the preparation of war. He comes to know that they have a mighty enemy to fight in the battle. This becomes a reason for Arjuna to do penance so as to acquire powerful weapons which would help them to defeat Duryodhana and his men. Thus the description of Duryodhana’s strength at the outset of the poem, helps in laying a strong foundation for the whole plot.

Another notable innovation made by Bhāravi is the introduction of the forester (vanecara) episode. From Kirātārjunīya, it is clear that the episode of vanecara is an indispensable part of the plot. The depiction of the sincerity of the vanecara and his ample explanation of matters to his master will really delight the readers. This episode is really marvelous and it supports the innovative course of this mahākāvya. Undoubtedly this proves the poetic genius of Bhāravi. The vanecara episode is one of the best examples for the contextual figurativeness of Kuntaka. But Kuntaka does not point out this episode as an example of contextual figurativeness. Bhāravi also introduces many new characters in the poem. When Arjuna goes to Indrakīla mountain for penance, the poet introduces a yakṣa who acts a guide to him. A set of heavenly nymphs persuades Arjuna to withdraw from the penance. All these characters who are born out of the poet’s imagination add beauty to the work as a whole.

Footnotes and references:


K. Krishnamoorthy (critical Ed.), Dhvanyāloka of Ānandavardhana, p.136.




K. Krishnamoorthy, Vakrokti-jīvita of Kuntaka, p.276.


Acharya Jagannath Pathak, Dhvanyaloka of Sri Anandavardhanacharya, p.360.




Ācārya śrīnivāsa śarmā, Kirātārjunīyam, p.3.


K. Krishnamoorthy,op.cit,p.571.


Ācārya śrīnivāsa śarmā,op.cit,p.26.


K. Krishnamoorthy,op.cit,p.571.


Ācārya śrīnivāsa śarmā, op.cit,p.63.


K. Krishnamoorthy,op.cit,p.572.


















The third variety of figurativeness named grammatical figurativeness of Kuntaka creates vakratā through the peculiar use of affixes, which is mainly divided into six varieties as kāla (tense), kāraka (case), saṅkhyā (number), puruṣa (person), upagraha (voice) and pratyaya. As an example to the final variety named pratyayavakratā, Kuntaka cites some verses having repetition. One example of it is ‘pāyam pāyam kalācīkṛtakadalidalam’ from Meghadūta.


K. Krishnamoorthy,op.cit,p.9.












The three-fold division of the second type of dīpaka (dīpaka in a series) are ‘several ones are illuminated by several’ or ‘one illuminates a second and that a third in a serial order’ or ‘the illuminated ones will in their turn be illuminators’.




T.Bhaskaran, Kāvyālaṅkāram, p.88.


K. Krishnamoorthy, op.cit,p.216.














Sukthankar, (critical Ed.), The Mahābhārata, Vol.III,ch.3.37.11,p.122.


One of the verses of Udyogaparvan depicts the greatness of Duryodhana. The verse means that the Duryodhana is surrounded by old men, true men and also by wicked men. He would even give gifts to his enemies and so he would never withdraw the gift given to the Brahmans. The verse is given below:-santyeva vṛddhāḥ sādhavo dhārtarāṣtre santyeva pāpāḥ pāṇḍava tasya viddhi/ dadyādripoścāpi hi dhārtarāṣṭraḥ kuto dāyāt lopayedbhrāḥmaṇānām//

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: