Kuntaka’s evaluation of Sanskrit literature

by Nikitha. M | 2018 | 72,578 words

This page relates ‘Gaudavaho 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.

Gauḍavaho is a Prakrit historical mahākāvya of Vākpatirāja. The date of the author is somehow assigned to the 8th century C.E. because it was written after the death of the Yaśovarman in 750 century C.E. The title given to the author is Kavirāja. Madhumathavijaya is the other work of the poet, written long before Gauḍavaho but unfortunately it is not available. Utprekṣā is the master piece figure of speech of Vākpatirāja like the upamā of Kālidāsa.[1] Gauḍavaho got attention only in 1887 when a scholar named S.P. Pandit brought out the edition of this work. It consists of almost 1209 gāthas. Unlike other mahākavyas like Raghuvaṃśa, Kumārasambhava, it is not divided into cantos. It is a continuous arrangement of gāthas in ārya metre. The main aim of writing this poem is to celebrate the victory of Yaśovarman against a Gauḍa king.

Kuntaka cites three verses from this kāvya, the first one is as follows:-

gaganam ca mattamegham dhārālulitārjjunāni ca vanāni/
nirahaṅkāramṛgāṅkā haranti nīlā api niśāḥ//

“The sky steeped with drunken clouds, the Arjuna trees in the woods trembling in the downpour, the prideless moon that appears and the dark night too cause delight.”

Kuntaka cites this verse, which is also cited by Ānandavardhana as an example for atyantatiraskṛtavācyadhvani, as an example of metaphorical figurativeness (upacāra vakratā), the division of lexical figurativeness (padapūrvārdhavakratā). Here the qualities like drunkenness and humility are really sentient in nature but here the poet applied these qualities to non-sentient objects for delighting the readers. Kuntaka also says that such types of vakratā can be found in the works of lots of great poets. It is also doubtless that this verse is apt for this context. From the keen evaluation of the cited verses of Kuntaka, it is clear that he had taken utmost care in choosing the verses.

Yet another verse quoted by Kuntaka from Gauḍavaho is an example of sentential figurativeness. According to Kuntaka, sentential figurativeness is a unique skill of a poet like an overall beauty of a painting, which is distinct or unique from its constituent elements like canvas, lines, paints etc. Likewise the beauty of a sentence is distinct from its constituent elements like words, meaning etc. and which will only delight the connoisseur.

Poetic skill is regarded as the important factor of having a subtle shade of art in the word or sentence.

āsaṃsāram kavipuṅgavaiḥ pratidivasagṛhītasāro'pi/
adyāpyabhinnamudra iva jayati vācām parispandaḥ//[3]

This beautiful verse cited by Kuntaka from Gauḍavaho says that though the poets drew out the essence of speech from the beginning of the world, still the speech triumphs as an unbroken seal as before. Here actually the poet means that though the poets in the past did not take out the exact essence of the word, no one can attain anything from the unopened word. But for the first time his genius has opened the hidden essence and so from now the unbroken seals will be opened. In this manner the speech attains triumphs by getting the success of the unique genius of a poet.

Kuntaka cites another verse from Gauḍavaho as the example of utprekṣā (poetic fancy).

He defines poetic fancy as:-

sambāvanānumānena sādṛśyenobhayena vā/
tadiveti tadeveti vādibhirvācakam vinā//
utprekṣā kāvyatattvajñairalaṅkaraṇamucyate//[4]

Due to the poetic desire of conveying the extraordinary nature of a described subject due to the way of fancying or by the way of similarity or by the combination of both of it, either by the help of a indicative word ‘iva’ denotes ‘it is like this’ or ‘it is this itself’ or by the suggestive meaning, the meaning of a well-conceived matter described quite apart from it is known as poetic fancy. Here similarity is of two types 1. natural 2. imaginary.

The third and last verse cited from Gauḍavaho is the example of the combination of both the natural and imaginary.

It is as follows:-

niḥśvāsāḥ kṣaṇavirahe sphuranti ramaṇīnām surabhayastasya/
kṛṣṭahṛdayasthitakusumabāṇamakarandaleśā iva //[5]

The meaning of this verse is that even the momentary separations from their lovers create sweet sighs in the lady beloveds and this seems to be the droplets of honey that struck in the heart even after taking out the flower-arrows by the cupid. Here the first line denotes that the sweet sigh of the ladies due to momentary separation is really a natural description and compare this with the droplets of honey that get struck in the heart even after taking out the flower-arrows by the cupid is an imaginary concept. So Kuntaka’s selection of this example for this particular context is striking. From the evaluation of three verses cited from this, it is clear that Kuntaka has a positive attitude towards these verses. The verses are selected for describing sentential and lexical figurativeness.

Footnotes and references:


N.G. Suru (Ed.), Gauḍavaho, p.viii.


K. Krishnamoorthy, op.cit,p.94.







Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: