Kuntaka’s evaluation of Sanskrit literature

by Nikitha. M | 2018 | 72,578 words

This page relates ‘Suktimuktavali 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.

2. Sūktimuktāvalī in Kuntaka’s treatment

The author of Sūktimuktāvalī is Jalhaṇa and it is also known as Subhāṣitamuktāvalī, which means a chain of pearls of beautiful sayings. Though the authorship is attributed to Jalhaṇa, it is said that it is compiled by one Vaidya Bhānu Paṇḍit at 12th century C.E. The complete name of Jalhaṇa is Arohaka Bhagadatta Jalhaṇa Deva and he was the son of Lakṣmīdeva. Sūktimuktāvalī consists of two thousand seven hundred and ninety (2790) verses and it is arranged on one hundred and thirty three sections on the basis of subject discussed in it. The topics discussed in it are poets and poetry, wealth, generosity, union, separation, love, sorrow, fate, royal service etc. It also contains a section of traditional verses discussing about Sanskrit poets and poetry. The number of authors and works cited in this anthology is more than two forty. Information about the family of Jalhaṇa is available from some beginning verses of this anthology. There is another anthology of the same name as Subhāṣitamuktāvalī of one Puruṣottamadeva, there is also a Bengali author of the same name. But it is not sure whether both are identical or not.

One of the verse cited by Kuntaka later found in Sūktimuktāvalī is as follows:-

dinamavasitam viśrāntāḥ smastvayā marukūpa he, paramupakṛtam vaktum joṣam hṛiyā na vayam kṣamāḥ/
bhavatu sukṛtairadhvanyānāmaśoṣajalo bhavā-niyamapi punaśchāyābhūyā tavopataṭam śamī//[1]

Kuntaka cites this verse as an example of vyājastuti. He defines it as follows:-

yatra vācyatayā nindā vicchittyai prastutasya sā/
stutirvyaṅgyatayā caiva vyājastutirasau matā//

The definition of this figure of speech in Kuvalayānanda is as follows:-

ukirvyājastudirnindāstutibhyām stutinindayoḥ/[3]

In vyājastuti either the praise is expressed by obvious strong criticism or the disapproval is expressed by the obvious praise. Kuntaka cites this verse for vyājastuti having praise as primary meaning and the disapproval as suggestive meaning.

Here someone says to the well of a desert that:-

“The day is over, rested we are by your kindness, o desert-well. Your favours galore we cannot state. Overcome by shyness as we are. We wish your water never dries up by the good luck of the wayfarers. Also that śamī tree beside you will always provide good shade.”

Here the poet directly praises the generosity of a person, but the suggestive meaning of it reveals the ungenerous nature of that person. So undoubtedly this is one of the best and beautiful examples for vyājastuti.

Kuntaka cites yet another verse as an example of śabdaśleṣa, one of the varieties of Śleṣālaṅkāra.

yena dhvastamanobhavena balijitkāyaḥ purāstrīkṛtaḥ yaścodvṛttabhujaṅgahāravalayo gaṅgām ca yo'dhārayat/
yasyāhuḥ śaśimacchirohara iti stutyam ca nāmāmarāḥ pāyātsa svayamandhakakṣayakarastvām sarvado-mādhavaḥ//[4]

In the ninth prakāśa of Śṛṅgāraprakāśa, Bhoja also cites this verse as an example of śabdaśleṣa.[5]

Ānandavardhana also cites this for the same, he opines about it as

“If two ideas are manifest (simultaneously) as a result of the power of the word, we have only an instance of double entendre (śleṣa)”.[6]

There are different opinions about śleṣālaṅkāra among the rhetoricians.

The definition given by Kuntaka for śabdaśleṣa is as follows:-

tulyaśabdasmṛterarthaḥ tasmādanyaḥ pratīyate/
śabdasyodbhūtanaṣṭatvāt smṛtiḥ sarvatra vācikā//

When hearing a single word, we have got another meaning of it only by the remembrance of another word of the same sound. The sound gets destroyed soon after it is produced, the remembrance of its past existence alone is the denotation of the meaning everywhere.

Among the two meanings, the first one praises Lord Śiva.

“He by whom the god of love was destroyed, by whom the very body of Bali’s enemy was turned in to a shaft, whose necklaces and bracelets are serpents forsooth, who bore the celestial River on his head, and whose holy title ‘the moon crested Hara’ is praised by all the gods, may that slayer of Andhaka and the spouse of Pārvatī preserve thee.”

The same verse also beautifully praises Lord Viṣṇu in another way.

“He, the unborn, by whom the cart-demon was killed, whose body that conquered Bali was in to a woman’s form changed, who slew the proud serpent Kāliya, who held aloft the mountain as well as the earth, whose holy name, ‘the beheader of Dragon’s head’, is glorified by all the gods, and who was himself the cause of the destruction of Yādavas, may that all-giver Mādhava preserve the.”

In this way the poet beautifully incorporates the actions of both Lord Śiva and Viṣṇu in a single verse properly. Moreover by hearing a single word, another meaning of the same word is grasped. In this manner this verse becomes one of the best examples for śabdaśleṣa cited by Kuntaka. He again cited the third and final verse of this anthology as an example of asatyabhūtārthaśleṣa. In this variety of śleṣa the contextual meaning would be unreal.

The example of it is given below:-

dṛṣṭyā keśava goparāgahṛdayā kiñcinna dṛṣṭam mayā tenaiva skhalitāsmi nātha patitām kim nāma nālambase/
ekastvam viṣameṣu khinnamanasām sarvābalānām gatiḥ gopyevam gaditaḥ sa leśamavatādgoṣṭhe hasantyā hariḥ//[8]

“O Kṛṣṇa, nothing was seen by me, blind as I was by the dust raised by cows (also, as I was drawn by love for the cow-herd), hence I have stumbled (also, strayed away from morality): and why don’t you, O lord, give support to a fallen one? (also, why don’t you behave like a husband towards me?). Are you not the only succour for the frail women, whose minds are troubled by uneven paths (also, whose minds are troubled by the love-god)? Thus in the cow-pen was Hari addressed, by the cowherdess with equivocal words: may he preserve us for long!”[9]

The verse signifies the words of a woman. One of the meanings of the verse is that she could not see anything due to dust raised by the cows and so she stumbled down. She asks the Lord why he was not supporting the fallen one. He was the sole protector of all the women, whose minds are in trouble in some pathetic situations. (The other meaning of this verse is that she could not see anything due to her love blindness and so she trembled down in to a wrong path. She asks why he is not accepting the position as her. He was the only protector of all the women whose minds were troubled by Cupid, the god of love). Thus Lord Kṛṣṇa, about whom the gopikas converses with a smile keeping some intention in her mind in Ampāṭī, may protect this entire universe. Here the poet beautifully depicts the prayer of a helpless woman towards Kṛṣṇa as the contextual meaning, but which is unreal. The real meaning of it is the love of gopikas towards Kṛṣṇa. This makes it clear that the poet succeeded in incorporating the asatyabhūtārthaśleṣa in this verse.

Dhvanyāloka has the same verse as an example of arthaśleṣa. Ānandavardhana opines that “Even a suggested figure will not become an instance of resonant suggestion based on the power of the word if it also gets expressed at the same time by other expressions. In such instances we will find only an expressed figure like Evasive speech”[10] and then he cites the above mentioned verse as an example for it.

Two verses cited in Vakroktijīvita are later found in both Subhāṣitāvalī of Vallabhadeva and Sūktimuktāvalī of Jalhaṇa. Among them, the first one is very familiar because it is cited in most of the poetic texts as an instance of the figure of speech samāsokti. But Kuntaka cites this verse as an example of rasavadalaṅkāra.

The definition given for rasavadalaṅkāra is already discussed before. The example given for it is as follows:-

upoḍharāgeṇa vilolatārakam tathā gṛhītam śaśinā niśāmukham/
yathā samastam timirāṃśukam tayā puro
pi rāgādgalitam na lakṣitam//[11]

The meaning of the verse is that the moon (the lover) glowing red due to deep passion takes possession of the face of the night (face of the heroine) having twinkling stars. At that moment the darkness disappears in the east (she did not even notice that the entire black garment of her has slipped off in front of her) which is not noticed due to illumination (due to deep passion).

Here the prominent subject is the description of moon and the night and here the poet brilliantly incorporates the relation of the lovers without direct denotation by the help of the figure of speech called metaphor (rūpaka). The śleṣa stands as subordinate to metaphor making this verse an apt example for rasavadalaṅkāra according to Ānandavardhana.

It is familiar that the depiction of irrelevant subject through the explanation of relevant subject is known as samāsokti.

The definition given for samāsokti in Kāvyālaṅkāra and Kāvyādarśa is given below respectively.

yatroktau gamyatenyorthastatsamānaviśeṣaṇaḥ/
sā samāsoktiruddiṣṭā saṃkṣiptārthatayā yathā//[12]

Where the irrelevant subject is explained briefly using the same epithet of relevant subject is called as samāsokti by the scholars.

vastu kiñcidabhipretyatattulyānyavastunaḥ/
uktiḥ saṃkṣeparūpatvāt sā samāsoktiriṣyate//[13]

Some another similar subject is explained briefly by keeping either the irrelevant or relevant thing in mind is called samāsokti.

In the above mentioned verse, the irrelevant subject like the relation of lovers is pictured brilliantly by the poet through the relevant subject like the description of the beautiful night. It is really difficult to differentiate samāsokti and aprastutapraśaṃsā both of them are almost equal.

Kuntaka firmly object the existence of samāsokti and he says that:-

samāsokti sahoktiśca nālaṅkāratayā matā/
alaṅkārāntaratvena śobhāśūnyatayā matā//[14]

According to Kuntaka, samāsokti and sahokti are not figures of speech because they have the nature of other figure of speeches and also they did not possess any poetic charm too.

Kuntaka cites the next verse as an example of ‘praise of the in apposite’ (aprastutapraśaṃsā) and the definition of it is already given in this chapter and the example of it is as follows:-

lāvaṇyasindhuraparaiva hi keyamatra yatrotpalāni śaśinā saha samplavante/
unmajjati dviradakumbhataṭī ca yatra yatrāpare kadalikāṇḍamṛṇāladaṇḍāḥ//[15]

This is an exclamatory remark of a man on seeing a beautiful woman in the sea shore. He exclaims that which is the beautiful river that was never seen before? and here the blue lotuses float along with the moon, the head of the elephants has reached its pinnacle, the stems of the plantain tree and the stems of the lotuses are also seen. Then he compares the beautiful river to the damsel, the blue lotuses to her eyes, her face to the moon, the head of the elephant to her breast, the stem of the plantain tree to her thighs and also the shoots of the lotuses to her hands. Here by the support of the irrelevant subject in the sentence like the description of the river, the intended subject of the poet like the beauty of a maiden is manifested based on their similarity. In this way, the poet beautifully brings about aprastutapraśaṃsā in this verse and Kuntaka’s selection of this verse for this particular context is also significant. This verse is also cited by Vāmana in his Kāvyālaṅkārasūtravṛtti of Vāmana.

Footnotes and references:






T.K Ramachandra Aiyar, The Kuvalayananda of Appayya Dikshita, p.102.




M.M.Prof.Rewāprasāda Dwivwdī(cri Ed.), Śṛṅgāraprakāśa of Bhoja, Vol1, p.477.


K.Krishnamoorthy,(cri Ed.), Dhvanyāloka of Ānandavardhana, p.73.


K. Krishnamoorthy, op.cit,p.219.










P.V.Naganatha Sastri, Kāvyālaṅkāra of Bhāmaha, p.47 .


Acharya Ranchandra Mishra (Ed.). Kāvyādarśa of Mahākavi Danḍī, p.146.


K. Krishnamoorthy, op.cit,p.224.



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