Kuntaka’s evaluation of Sanskrit literature

by Nikitha. M | 2018 | 72,578 words

This page relates ‘Suryashataka 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.

In Kuntaka’s literary world, stray verses also play a significant role. Unlike in the case of other compositions, it is difficult to assess stray verses because contextual analysis of these verses poses many difficulties. So here it is only possible to focus on the evaluation of the single verses rather than the text as a whole. However, from the appraisal of the verses found in them, it is sure that some of them give great aesthetic and moral appeal. They also help to understand the social condition and culture that was prevalent at the time of a particular poet. This shows that Kuntaka does not ignore any type of compositions. This renders Kuntaka utmost perfection in choosing appropriate examples. Some of them are taken from few śatakas and anthologies. Interestingly some other verses were later compiled in to various anthologies.[1]

Some famous śatakas in Sanskrit literature are Nītiśataka and Vairāgyaśataka of Bhartṛhari, Devīśataka of Bāṇa, Sūryaśataka, Śṛṅgāraśataka and Amaruśataka. It is believed that as the name indicates śatakas are the collection of hundred verses of a single poet. But sometimes more than hundred verses are also found in them. The subject matter of śatakas is numerous which includes erotic, devotional, philosophical, moral teachings etc. Kuntaka’s selection of verses from śatakas has an important role. He cites verses from the śatakas like Sūryaśataka, Śṛṅgāraśataka, Amaruśataka and Bhallaṭaśataka. Kuntaka cites only one verse from both Sūryaśataka and Śṛṅgāraśataka and two verses from Amaruśataka and Bhallaṭaśataka.

The author of Sūryaśataka is Mayūra. Thus it is also known by the name Mayūraśataka. It is believed that Bāṇa was a relative and contemporary of Mayūra. From this, the date of the text is assigned to the first half of 7th century C.E. It is also believed that Mayūra was the court poet of the king Harṣavardhana. As the name indicates, it contains hundred verses of the Sun god. There is a belief about this śataka that the poet was cured of his leprosy by composing this eulogy of sun. In this śataka, Mayūra discusses about the rays, the horses, the charioteer, the chariot and the orb of the sun god respectively. Sūryaśataka made him a renowned poet. He wrote these verses in sragdharā metre. Kālidāsa has also written five or ten verses using the metre sragdharā in his entire composition. Other poets generally do not give much prominence to this metre. But his excellent language and themes really shine vigorously in this metre.

One and only verse cited by Kuntaka from Sūryaśataka is as follows:-

śīrṇṇaghrāṇāṅghripāṇirvraṇibhirapaghanairghargharāvyaktaghoṣān dīrghāghrātānaghaughaiḥ punarapi ghaṭayatyeka ullāghayan yaḥ /
gharmmāṃśostasya vo
'ntardviguṇaghanaghṛṇānidhvanirvignavṛtterdattārghāḥ siddhasaṃghairvidadhatu ghṛṇayaḥ śīghramaṃhovighātam//[2]

In one of the varieties of varṇavinyāsavakratā, Kuntaka says that harsh syllables should not be used for the preparation of a verse and then he cites this example to show how the use of harsh syllables of a verse hampers its charm. Sūryaśataka is a widely accepted work in Sanskrit literature, but not many rhetoricians had tried to criticize it. Here Kuntaka does not criticize the meaning of the verses, but he boldly points out the harsh and unpleasant use of syllables used by the poet Mayūra. A keen evaluation of the text Sūryaśataka makes it clear that the point of view of Kuntaka is exactly right. All the verses of this work are written with some harsh syllables using sragdharā metre. Kuntaka reminds that both word and meaning are essential for a beautiful composition. Every poet should take utmost care in it otherwise it will hamper the taste of connoisseur

Footnotes and references:


The difference between anthologies and śatakas is that the anthologies are the collected verses of different poets but the verses of śatakas are of a single poet. They can be included in a single category as they have similar style of writing and description of matter.


Ramakant Tripathi(Ed.), Sūryaśatakam of śrī Mayūra Bhaṭṭa, p.4.

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