Mudrarakshasa (literary study)

by Antara Chakravarty | 2015 | 58,556 words

This page relates ‘Classification and number of Alamkaras’ of the English study on the Mudrarakshasa: an ancient Sanskrit dramatic play (Nataka) authored by Vishakhadatta which deals with the life of king Chandragupta. This study investigates the Mudra Rakshasa from a literary perspective, such as metrics, themes, rhetorics and other poetical elements. Chandragupta ruled the Mauryan Empire during the 4th century BCE, hence this text can also be studied as a historical textbook of ancient India.

2. Classification and number of Alaṃkāras

Bharata, the earliest considered rhetorician has mentioned only four alaṃkāras in his Nāṭyaśāstra. Those are—

  1. Upamā,
  2. Rūpaka,
  3. Dīpaka and
  4. Yamaka.[1]

But he has not classified them on any basis. In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the writer treats seventeen alaṃkāras.

He defines all the seventeen alaṃkāras but he refrains from illustrating any one of them. Bhāmaha, the first systematic writer on this subject, recognizes two types of alaṃkāras as pertaining to words and sense.


śabdābhidheyālaṃkārabhedādiṣṭaṃ dvayaṃ punaḥ/[2]

In Kāvyālaṃkāra, Bhāmaha treats thirty eight alaṃkāras belonging both to words and senses. Bhāmaha thinks that Vakrokti is the main cause of alaṃkāra. He rejected Sukṣma, Hetu and Leśa as alaṃkāra because he failed to observe Vakrokti in them. Bhāmaha says that as the face of a beautiful damsel cannot exhibit its real beauty without ornaments, a poetic creation devoid of alaṃkāras like Rūpaka etc., also becomes unpleasant.


na kāntamapi nirbhūṣaṃ vibhāti ramaṇīmukhaṃ//[3]

Dandin has considered alaṃkāra in the broader sense, when he states that all the beautifying objects in a kāvya are alaṃkāras. He mentioned four Śabdālaṃkāras and thirty-five Arthālaṃkāras. Dandin also has divided Upamā into thirty-two types and Yamaka into three hundred and fifteen types.

Vāmana recognizes thirty-two alaṃkāras, of which thirty are Arthālaṃkāras and two of them are Śabdālaṃkāras. He invented a new alaṃkāra called Vyajokti and regarded Upamā as the root of all the alaṃkāras.

Rudraṭa in his Kāvyalaṃkāra has mentioned about fifty-seven Arthālaṃkāras (of which thirty–one are newly invented) and five Śabdālaṃkāras. Ānandavardhana identifies alaṃkāra as a type of dvani.[4] Again, Kuntaka considered alaṃkāras are mainly twenty in number, others being subordinates.

Bhojarāja, Mammaṭa and Agnipurāṇa have contributed a new concept in the field of alaṃkāra. They recognize a new class of alaṃkāras, known as Ubhayālaṃkāra or Miśrālaṃkāra. In Bhojarāja’s classification of alaṃkāras, he divided seventy-two alaṃkāras, in the three divisions having twenty-four each. Bhoja again has developed a new conception. He realized that the comparison of alaṃkāra merely with ornaments like kaṭaka, kuṇḍala etc is not sufficient. Because, he considered that these ornaments are detachable. Therefore, he classifies ornaments into three sections, viz. bāhya (external), ābhyantara (internal) and bāhyābhyantara (external-internal). He refers dressing, wearing jewels etc. as external ornaments. They are like Śabdālaṃkāras; cleaning teeth, dressing hair as internal ornaments, can be compared with Arthālaṃkāras and bathing, treating hair with fragment smoke etc. are external-internal alaṃkāras, can be resembled with Śabdārthālaṃkāras.[5]

Mammaṭa has mentioned about six Śabdālaṃkāras, fifty-eight Arthālaṃkāras and two Miśrālaṃkāras.

The Agnipurāṇa deals with twenty-three principal alaṃkāras of which nine are of Śabda, eight of Artha and six of Śabdārtha. Agnipurāṇa defines Arthālaṃkāra as adornment of meaning of śabda which again is conceived as the adornment of Sarasvatī, the goddess of speech herself. It observes that the beauty of words is not charming without the embellishment of sense, and devoid of embellishment of sense, the goddess of speech is like a widow.[6] Again, Śabdārthālaṃkāra is compared with the necklace of a beautiful lady that adorns both her breast and neck.[7]

Rājānaka Ruyyaka in his Alaṃkārasarvasva has counted eighty-two alaṃkāras, six Śabdālaṃkāras, seventy-five Arthālaṃkāras and one Miśrālaṃkāra. His classification of alaṃkāra has reached a new horizon when he classifies them in a very scientific manner.

He has classified alaṃkāras based on the cittavṛtti or mental effort

tadete cittavṛttigatatvenālaṃkāralakṣitaḥ/[8]

His classification has got five divisions—

  1. Sādṛśyamūlaka,[9]
  2. Virodha-varga,[10]
  3. Śṛṅkhalā-varga,[11]
  4. Nyāyamūla-varga[12] and
  5. Guḍhārthapratitī-varga.[13]

Apart from the above, Kāvyalaṃkārasārasaṃgraha counted forty-one alaṃkāras, one hundred and four in Candrāloka and eighty-four in Sāhityadarpaṇa. Therefore, it can be seen that, one cannot determine the exact number of alamkāras, as they are ever increasing.

Regarding this innumerous feature of alaṃkāras, Ānandavardhana says,—

vacyālaṃkāravargaśca rūpakādiryāvānukto vakṣyate ca kaiścit, alaṃkārāṇāmanantatvāt/[14]

Footnotes and references:


upamā dīpakaṃ caiva rūpakaṃ yamakaṃ tathā/ kāvyasyaite hyalaṃkārāścatvāraḥ parikīrtitāḥ// Nāṭyaśāstra, XVI.41


Kāvyālaṃkāra of Bhāmaha


Kāvyālaṃkāra of Bhāmaha, X.13


evaṃ vastvalaṃkārarasabhedena tridhā dhvaniratra śloke’smadgurubhirvyākhyātaḥ/ Dhvanyāloka, p.6


alaṃkāraśca tridhā-bāhyaḥ ābhyantaraḥ bāhyābhyantaraśca/ teṣu bāhyah vastra-malya-bibhusanadyah/ abhyantarahdantaparikrama-nakhaccheda alaka-kalpanadyah/ bahyabhyantarah snana-dhupa-vilepanadayah// Bhoja’s Śṛṅgāraprakāśa,p. 399


arthalaṃkārarahitā vidhaveva sarasvatī // Agnipurāṇa, VIII.1


Ibid., IX.1


Alaṃkārasarvasva, page.214


Ibid., p.25


Ibid., p.121


Ibid., p. 140


Ibid., p. 143,148,164


Ibid., p. 173


Dhvanyāloka, p.201

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: