Kuntaka’s evaluation of Sanskrit literature

by Nikitha. M | 2018 | 72,578 words

This page relates ‘Amarushataka 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.

Another śataka cited by Kuntaka is Amaruśataka. There is no certainty about the place and other details about the life of Amaruka. Amaruśataka is written by a king named Amaru or Amaruka. It is a love lyric like Śṛṅgāraśataka of Bhartṛhari. But Bhartṛhari depicts the general aspects of love and women related to life. Unlike this, Amaruka only deals with the relation between lovers and does not sketch the general concepts of love and life. It is a belief that once Śaṅkarācārya was defeated in an argument because of his inability to express his knowledge in kāmaśāstra or science of love. Then for learning kāmaśāstra his soul entered in to the body of dead king Amaru, keeping his own body in a hole of a tree and he had enjoyed with the queens. Recordings of his experience with the queens resulted in the creation of Amaruśataka. śārdūlavikrīḍita metre is largely used in it. Amaruka was perhaps the first person who has given wide popularity to this metre in the field of lyric poetry.

The popularity of this śataka increased as verses from it were cited by Ānandavardhana and Vāmana in their works. Ānandavardhana says in Dhvanyāloka that the stray verses of Amaruka are as good as big compositions due to their emotional appeal. This also helps in calculating the approximate date of Amaruśataka also. The earliest anthology named Subhāṣitaratnakośa of Vidyākara, which belongs to the end of the 10th century C.E, has few verses from Amaruśataka. In some of them their authorship is explicitly stated but some of the verses are anonymously cited. Abhinavagupta, in both of his commentaries namely Locana and Abhinavabhāratī, cites verses anonymously from it.[1] With the support of such external evidences it is believed that the date of Amaruśataka is before 8th century C.E.

This is an excellent work giving importance to erotic sentiment. Each and every verse in it is unique and complete. There are numerous commentaries on it. Some of them suggest that the verses in it have the double sense of erotic and philosophy. So others suggest that it is rhetorical in nature. In most of the lyrics, world of plants and animals is incorporated with artistic beauty. Here the poet gives beautiful descriptions about Red Aśoka, lotus and the birds like Cātaka, Cakora, Cakravāka etc. There is a saying about Amaruśataka that one verse in it is equal to a hundred great poems.[2]

Kuntaka cites one of the beautiful verses of Amaruka as an example of saṅkhyāvakratā or oblique beauty of number, the one of the variety of grammatical figurativeness.

The verse is as follows:-

kapole patrālī karatalanirodhena mṛditā nipīto niśvāsairayamamṛtahṛdyo'dhararasaḥ/
muhuḥ kaṇṭhe lagnastaralayati bhāṣpaḥ stanataṭīm priyo manyurjātastava niranurodhe na tu vayam//

“The paintings on the cheek are faded by the pressure from the palm of your hand. This juice of lips, so sweet as nectar, is quaffed by your sighs. The tear that clasps the neck so often has made the edge of your bosom throb. O hard-hearted one, anger has become your darling, not we.”[4]

These are the words of a lover towards his beloved. Amaruka concludes this verse by saying a very beautiful sentence that now the anger has become your beloved one and not ‘we’. Kuntaka’s keen observation made him select this verse as an example of oblique beauty of number. Here instead of saying the singular ‘not I’or ‘na tvaham’ the poet deliberately uses the plural ‘not we’ or ‘na tu vayam’ for strengthening the strangeness between the lovers at the time of their anger. In saṅkhyāvakratā for creating vaicitrya either the poet uses plural in the place of singular or he uses two different numbers in a same sentence. So obviously Kuntaka’s selection of this particular verse is praiseworthy.

The yet another verse cited from this śataka is given below:-

kṣipto hastāvalagnaḥ prasabhamabhihato'pyādadāno'ṃśukāntam gṛhṇan keśeṣvapāstaścaraṇanipatito nekṣitaḥ sambhrameṇa/
āliṅgan yo'
vadhūtastripurayuvatibhiḥ sāsrunetrotpalābhiḥ kāmīvārdrāparādhaḥ sa dahatu duritam śāmbhavo vaḥ śarāgniḥ//[5]

“Let the fire of Śiva’s shaft burn down our sins, a shaft imitating a lover caught while deceiving his beloved. Though shaken off by the queens of Tripura with tearful eye-lilies, it would cling fast to their hands. Though pushed away, it would hold on to hem of their skirts. Though thrust aside by the hair (also of its feather), It would fall at their feet, but unnoticed in their flurry. Though pushed back, it would hug them verily.”

Here Kuntaka cites the opinion of the famous rhetorician Ānandavardhana that the rasavadalaṅkāra can be defined as wherein the main purport of the verse or sentence (alaṅkārya) is something other than rasa and rasa itself is considered as an alaṅkāra.

pradhānenyatra vākyārthe yatrāṅgam tu rasādayaḥ/
kāvye tasminnalaṅkāro rasādiriti me matiḥ//

In the second udyota of Dhvanyāloka Ānandavardhana says that the rasādiralaṅkāraḥ is divided into two as śuddha and saṅkīrṇa. He cites this verse as an example of saṅkīrṇa type of rasādiralaṅkāraḥ. In the first variety, the subordinate rasa should be one and in the latter type the subordinate rasa can be more than one. This verse gave prominence to the utmost greatness of lord Śiva and it is embellished by the sentiments of pathos by depicting the sad plight of queens of a demon. So undoubtedly this verse is an apt example for saṅkīrṇa type of rasādiralaṅkāraḥ according to Ānandavardhana.

But in the same verse Kuntaka gave prominence to the sentiment pathos, though the victory of the tripuraripu (Lord Śiva) is very relevant and there is no possibility of the existence of subordinate sentiment īrṣyāvipralamba. Thus Kuntaka firmly objects to the opinion of Ānandavardhana. According to Kuntaka, rasa is always alaṅkārya and never an alaṅkāra. The second is one of the most frequently used verses by most of the rhetoricians in their works for rasavadalaṅkāra.

Though Kuntaka had selected only two verses from it, his observation is praiseworthy. It is appreciable that he did not merely followed Ānandavardhana. He had the boldness to object the predecessors and to express his own opinion. This is undoubtedly one of the magnificent features of Kuntaka.

Footnotes and references:


ibid,p.80.—ekasmin śayane parāṅmukhatayā vītottaram tāmyato-ranyonyasya hṛdisthitepyanunaye saṃrakṣatorgauravam/ daṃpatyoḥ śanakairapāṅgavalanāmiśrībhavaccakṣuṣo-rbhagno mānakaliḥ sahāsarabhasavyāvṛttakaṇṭhagraham//


C. Kunhan Raja, Amaruśatakam, p.4.


K. Krishnamoorthy,op.cit,p.117.


ibid,p.403. In this chapter all the translations are taken from K. Krishnamoorthy, Vakroktijīvita of Kuntaka.




K. Krishnamoorthy,op.cit,p.149.

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