Kuntaka’s evaluation of Sanskrit literature

by Nikitha. M | 2018 | 72,578 words

This page relates ‘Malatimadhava 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.

5. Mālatīmādhava in Kuntaka’s treatment

Mālatīmādhava is a prakaraṇa with an invented plot. But some of the incidents described in it have resemblance to the incidents of Kathāsaritsāgara written based on Guṇāḍhya’s Bṛhatkatha. It is divided in to ten acts and discusses the life of the middle class people, below the rank of royalty. It is a love story between Mālatī, daughter of the minister Bhurivasu and Mādhava, son of another minister Devavrata. So obviously its main sentiment is śṛṅgāra.

1. Kuntaka’s evaluation of single verses

Kuntaka cites only two verses from Mālatīmādhava for substantiating his argument. Though he does not cite any instance from this drama for contextual and compositional figurativeness, his observation of single verses is praiseworthy. In Kuntaka’s definition of poetry, sahitau means the harmony between one word and another and also between one meaning and another. According to him discordance between the word and meaning will completely spoil the beauty of a verse. Kuntaka cites a verse from Mālatīmādhava to show the loss of beauty due to the discord between the meaning. In the fifth act of Mālatīmādhava a demon named Aghoraghaṇṭa and his pupil Kapālakuṇḍalā were in a search of a beautiful maiden as an offer to their goddess. They kidnapped Mālatī for this purpose. Mādhava, the hero reached there by hearing a cry for help.

Then Mādhava says these words towards Aghoraghaṇṭa, while he is going to kill Mālatī.

asāram saṃsāram parimuṣitaratnam tribhuvanam nirālokam lokam maraṇaśaraṇam bāndhavajanam /
adarpam kandarpam jananayananirmmāṇamaphalam jagajjīrṇṇāraṇyam kathamasi vidhātum vyavasitaḥ //

“Lost is the charm in life, robbed is the universe of its best jewel, sightless is the world made; now death is the only succour for kinsfolk. Humbled is the love-god, and in vain are the eyes of people made; the globe itself will be a dying forest, when you accomplish your nefarious intent.”[2]

In this verse meaning of each word beautifully depicts the extreme beauty of a heroine and so it contributes charm to the whole verse. But among them a single sentence stating that ‘death is the only succour kinsfolk’ does not contribute any charm to this verse. Thus this verse can never entertain the connoisseurs. According to Kuntaka the poetic excellence of a poet should work hard to make each single sentence of a verse attractive. He also says that it is not an easy task to suggest an apt alternative instead of the dull sentence mentioned in it. Then he suggests a substitute phrase, which is ‘vidhimapi vipannādbhutavidhim’. It means that “the creator is aggrieved by the death of his best handiwork”.[3] Here without merely criticizing the verse Kuntaka suggests a beautiful solution for avoiding its impropriety. It is considered as one of the beautiful modifications made by Kuntaka in a verse.

Another verse taken from this prakaraṇa is given below. While discussing the varieties of simile, Kuntaka denotes that the simile will be of two kinds in the case of compound words as 1) implied and 2) expressed. Then he cites a verse from Mālatīmādhava as an instance of the second variety. These are the words of Mādhava to his friend Makaranda and his servant Kalahaṃsa, after seeing Mālatī in a Cupid festival.

yāntyā muhurvalitakandaramānanam tadāvṛttavṛttaśatapatranibham vahantyā /
digdho'mṛtena ca viṣeṇa ca pakṣmalākṣyā gāḍham nikhāta iva me hṛdaye kaṭākṣaḥ //

“As she went arching her neck often, her face like a lotus bloom whirled all round, the glance of my thick-browed beloved seemed to be dipped in nectar and poison and stuck deep in my heart as it were.”[5]

The compound words in this verse are muhurvalitakandaramānanam and āvṛttavṛttaśatapatranibham. Here the poet compares the face of the damsel with a lotus and for this purpose he directly expresses the word nibham means equal. Thus it will become one of the apt examples of this particular variety of simile. It is famous that Kuntaka is unique due to his plausible suggestion of new word or sentence for increasing the charm of a particular verse. Here also Kuntaka has done appreciable change for keeping the harmony between the meanings of a verse. Thus Kuntaka’s observation of a single verse as well as the whole composition is equally admirable. Though Kuntaka has selected only two verses from this drama, his observation on them is noteworthy

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