Kuntaka’s evaluation of Sanskrit literature

by Nikitha. M | 2018 | 72,578 words

This page relates ‘Conclusion to Chapter 6’ 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.

Kunaka has cited many verses from anthologies and śatakas. Moreover he had also selected large number of verses from unknown sources. They are given as appendix. Complete evaluation of a work is impossible through the analysis of stray verses alone. So they have no relevance in analyzing the contextual and compositional figurativeness. Kuntaka used these stray verses to substantiate his first four varieties figurativeness namely phonetic, lexical, grammatical and sentential. Kuntaka takes five verses from Subhāṣitaratnakośa and three from Gāthāsaptaśatī. He also takes single verses from Sūryaśataka and Śṛṅgāraśataka, two and three verses respectively from Amarukaśataka and Bhallaṭaśataka.

Subhāṣitaratnakośa and a Prakrit anthology named Gāthāsaptaśatī were the anthologies compiled before Kuntaka. So the analysis of variant readings is only possible in Subhāṣitaratnakośa and Gāthāsaptaśatī. There are some variant readings in the verses of the original text of Subhāṣitaratnakośa from poetic works. It reveals that it is not only sufficient to consult only some manuscripts while editing the works but comparison of some poetic works will also help to take more plausible decision. May be variant readings are the innovation made by either the editor or the author of that particular text. But it is sure that its comparison with other available evidence will surely help to take much more plausible decision. Whatever it is, beautiful modification made by Kuntaka is highly significant and apt to the particular context.

Kuntaka minutely evaluated the verses found in anthologies and śatakas. This shows that he selects most suitable verses from various sources for illustrating different concepts. This also reveals that he not only followed written texts but also the verses prevalent at that time through oral transmission or by some other means. Ānandavardhana and Kuntaka had taken same verses for discussing rasavadalaṅkāra. Another notable fact is that most of the stray verses were quoted to illustrate different figures of speech mentioned in Vakroktijīvita.

Kuntaka’s observation on few verses taken from śatakas like Sūryaśataka, Śṛṅgāraśataka, Amaruśataka and Bhallaṭaśataka are praiseworthy. He selects most suitable verses for every situation. Ānandavardhana also cites verses from the śatakas like Śṛṅgāraśataka, Amaruśataka and Bhallaṭaśataka in his Dhvanyāloka. Bhallaṭaśataka is not as famous as other three śatakas and it came to be known through the citation of Kuntaka and Ānandavardhana. Here Kuntaka has done both criticism and appreciation of different verses of the same work and this reveals his keen evaluation of each verse. He never criticizes a work from the point of view of just one charmless verse found in it and also does not blindly appreciate a work on seeing a single beautiful verse. He completely goes through a composition and extracts the best for every situation.

The contributions of the authors of these śatakas and the compilers of the anthologies are not negligible. Most of the verses would be in the oblivion if Kuntaka would not have cited them. So the evaluations done by Kuntaka by going through relatively less important works along with the composition of the master poets are really commendable. These evaluations show Kuntaka’s ability to analyse minute aspects of the verses and bring out their literary beauty. Thus these minute observations indicate the critical acumen and literary taste possessed by Kuntaka as a literary critic.

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