Kuntaka’s evaluation of Sanskrit literature

by Nikitha. M | 2018 | 72,578 words

This page relates ‘Shringarashataka 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.

Kuntaka also cites one verse from Śṛṅgāraśataka. The author of Śṛṅgāraśataka is Bhartṛhari and his other two śatakas are Nītiśataka and Vairāgyaśataka. These three śatakas are together known as śatakatraya in Sanskrit literature. Bhartṛhari is not only a poet but also a grammarian and a philosopher. There are different opinions about the date and identity of Bhartṛhari.[1] Śṛṃgāraśataka reminds the Amarukaśataka of Amaruka by its subject. But undoubtedly Bhartṛhari excels Amaruka in his keen observation of the common aspects of love. But in the case of expressing deep emotions and intensity of feelings, it is Amaruka who undoubtedly excels Bhartṛhari.

Kuntaka opines that writing poetry is a dignified job. He has given a definition about poetry that it should delight the connoisseur. He adds that the adornments like upamā, rūpaka etc. will never add any charm to the subject matter as if paintings on an improper canvas, if the subject matter is not excellent or attractive. Then Kuntaka compares the subjectmatter, which need to be adorned like a damsel, because she wears only a few ornaments at the time of taking bath, leading ascetic life during separation from her husband and also at the end of amorous sports. In such situations the natural beauty of the damsel is really attractive.

Kuntaka cites a verse from Bhartṛhari in the beginning of the third unmeṣa while he started to give a detailed description about sentential figurativeness.

smitam kiñcinmugdham taralamadhuro dṛṣṭivibhavaḥ parispandho vācāmaviralavilāsoktisarasaḥ /
gatānāmārambhaḥ kisalayitalīlāparimalaḥ spṛśantyāstāruṇyam kimiva hi na ramyam mṛgadṛśaḥ//

The verse means that the smile, glance, speech and walk of a maiden at the beginning of her youth are extremely gentle, tremulous and sweet. The verse concludes by saying that nothing is unattractive in a maiden in her advent youth. According to Kuntaka when the poet starts to describe the natural beauty of content there is no need of any adornment to it. That is why the poets depict the subjects like budding youth of a girl, the advent of the spring season, its enrichment and its completion etc. without adding any figure of speeches. In such natural depiction of matters, the poets use their extreme skill of spontaneous overflow of their sentential figurativeness. The verse mentioned above is its best example. There are slight difference in the words found in the original text of Śṛṅgāraśataka from the verse cited by Kuntaka.

The verse of the text is as follows:-

smitam kincidvakre saralataralo dṛṣṭivibhavaḥ parispando vācāmabhinavavilāsoktisarasaḥ/
gatānāmārambhaḥ kisalayitalīlāparikaraḥ spṛśantyāstārunyam kimiha nahi ramyam mṛgadṛśaḥ//[3]

From this it is clear that Kuntaka has made slight modifications in this verse for making it more attractive. It is really appreciable of Kuntaka that he had chosen Śṛṅgāraśataka only for quoting this single and beautiful verse. There is no need of more evidence to show the utmost care Kuntaka has taken in choosing examples for each and every situation. At the same time it is notable that Kuntaka does not quote from the other two śatakas of Bhartṛhari. In the fourth udyota of Dhvanyāloka Ānandavardhana cites this verse as an example to show the beauty brought about by suggestion in a subject, often described by earlier poets. The verse comes under the category of atyantatiraskṛtavācyadhvani one of the divisions of avivakṣitavācyadhvani.[4]

Footnotes and references:


There are also some controversies about the authorship of the śatakas like Amaruśataka of Amaruka and the śatakatrayas of Bhartṛhari. Amaruka is often considered as identical to the Vedānta philosopher Śaṅkarācārya and Bhartṛhari, the author of śatakatrayas to the grammarian Bhartṛhari, who has wrote Vākyapadīya and the commentary on Mahābhāṣya of Patañjali and a treatise on the philosophy of language.


K. Krishnamoorthy, Vakrokti-jīvita of Kuntaka, p.127.


Swami Jagadishwaranand Saraswati(Ed.), Bharttriharishatakam, p.76.


Acārya Jaggannath Pathak, op.cit,pp.559-560.

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