Mudrarakshasa (literary study)

by Antara Chakravarty | 2015 | 58,556 words

This page relates ‘Guna: It’s classification and components’ 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.

1. Guṇa: It’s classification and components

kāvyaśobhāyāḥ kartāro dharmā guṇāḥ//[1]

With these words for the first time Vāmana defined guṇa, denoting, the qualities that generates the beauty of a literary creation.

He differentiated alaṃkāra from guṇa by saying that, alaṃkāras are those objects which only enhance the beauty of a kāvya


He further stated in his vṛtti that these guṇas are eternal qualities of a kāvya, and not the alaṃkāras, without which a kāvya cannot be graceful

pūrve gunā nityāḥ / tairvinā kāvyaśobhānupapatteḥ.[3]

In Agnipurāṇa also guṇa is defined as an element which imparts great charm to poetry.[4] While dealing with alaṃkāra, Agnipurāṇa incorporated a sub-chapter for kāvyaguṇa. Therein, the kāvyalaṃkāras are compared with the ornaments worn by a beautiful lady and the guṇas with the beauty itself. According to it, the necklace is expressively burdensome to women if their bodies are bereft of beauty.[5]

Formerly Vāmana mentioned guṇas as the qualities reliant on śabda and artha.[6] But Ānandavardhana described guṇas as the properties of the soul of kāvya, i.e., rasa.[7] The later writers like Mammaṭa etc. also supported the similar perception. Mammaṭa said that as virtues like heroism are related to the soul of a man, so as the guṇas related to the rasa.

The verbal expressions produce the excellences only as a means; the actual cause is the rasa. Cf.—

ye rasasyāṅgino dharmāḥ śauryādaya ivātmanaḥ/
utkarṣa hetavaste syuracalasthitayo guṇāḥ//

Viśvanātha also anticipated the same idea saying,

rasasyāṅgitvamāptasya dharmāḥ śauryādayo yathā/ gunāḥ…etc[9].

Therefore, it is clear that all the rhetoricians are unanimous in admitting guṇas as poetic excellence.

Now, though Vāmana is accredited as the first person who defined guṇa, the concept has been present from the time of Bharata. In the Nāṭyaśāstra, after the discussions on doṣa, Bharata described guṇas. He characterized guṇas only as the negation of doṣas having sweetness and depth of meaning.[10]

Bharata divided guṇas into ten in number, which, he has enumerated as, Cf.—

śleṣaḥ prasādaḥ samatā samādhir mādhuryaṃ ojoṣ pada-saukumāryaṃ/
arthasya ca vyaktir udāratā ca kāntiśca kāvyasya guṇā daśaite//

This means the ten guṇas according to Bharata are Śleṣaḥ, Prasādaḥ, Samatā, Samādhi, Mādhurya, Oja, Saukumāryaṃ, Arthavyakti, Udāratā and Kānti .

Bharata has given a detailed description of these ten guṇas which are as follows

1. Śleṣaḥ: It is the union of words connected through meanings intended.

2. Prasādaḥ: When an incomprehensible word or sense is comprehended, through the use of easily assumed words and senses, it is an instance of Prasādaḥ.

3. Samatā: When a composition contains too many uncompounded words, and when it is devoid of redundant expressions and words difficult to understand, it is Samatā.

4. Samādhi: A composition possessing some special sense, which a man of genius can find out, is called the Samādhi.

5. Mādhurya: When a sentence though heard or uttered many times, does not tire our digest, it is an instance of Mādhurya.

6. Oja: If a composition consists of varied and many compounded words, noble in sense and agreeable in sound, then it is Oja.

7. Saukumārya: When a composition consists of words, easy to pronounce, euphonically combined, and giving agreeable impression, it is Saukumārya.

8. Arthavyakti: If, there is any subject or action, relating to the events occurring in the world gets expressed by means of well-known predicates, it becomes Arthavyakti. 9. Udāratā: When in a composition superhuman characters are described in connection with the heroic and marvelous sentiments and the various states, it is Udāratā.

10. Kānti: That which in a composition, while describing the sportive movement (līlā) of a character delights the ear and the mind, just as the moon pleases us is nothing but Kānti.[12]

In this context Bhāmaha followed Bharata who however, observes only three guṇas, viz. Mādhurya, Oja and Prasāda as against the ten of Bharata; while Dandin imitated Bharata in this regard considering the same ten guṇas.[13] Dandin enumerated Ślesa, Samatā, Sukumāratā and Oja into the category of Śabdaguṇa; Prasāda, Arthavykti, Udāratā, Kānti and Samādhi into Arthaguṇa and Mādhurya as the Ubhayaguṇa.[14] Vāmana is the first writer to have given a broader classification of the ten guṇas of Bharata splitting them into those of śabda and artha while retaining same names thus doubling the number of guṇas to twenty. Bharata expressed guṇas as mere negation of doṣas, therefore, taking them as abhāva padārthas; but Vāmana laid emphasis on the absence of doṣas as well as convey a positive significance of guṇas making the later one as bhāva padārtha and doṣas as the viparyaya of guṇa.

Ānadavardhana opened a new horizon in this field by acknowledging only the three guṇas—

  1. Mādhurya,
  2. Oja and
  3. Prasāda.

Depending on the nature of rasas, viz.—melting (druti), manifesting (dipti) and expanding (prasāra). He associated Mādhurya-guṇa with Vipralambhaśṛṅgāra and Karunarasa; Oja with Raudrarasa;and Prasādaguṇa with all the rasas. These guṇas contribute towards the enrichment of the concerned rasas.[15]

After Ānadavardhana the later writers like dhārānareśa Bhoja, Kuntaka, Jayadeva etc. also followed the same path. Amongst them the name of Mammaṭa is worth mentioning, who not only followed Ānadavardhana in this regard, but also laid emphasis in the point that there are only three guṇas. Because the other guṇas are either merged into these three guṇas or are just doṣābhāvas, or seems like doṣas themselves in some respect.


mādhuryaujaḥ prasādakhyāstrayaste na punardaśa/[16]


kecidantarbhavantyeṣu doṣatyāgātpare śritāḥ/
anye bhajanti doṣatvaṃ kutracinnatato daśa//

In this way the Bharata’s tradition of ten guṇas merged into the above three guṇas in the writings of the later rhetoricians such as Viśvanātha etc. In the following, a description has been put forth of these three guṇas in the lights of the writings of Mammaṭa and Viśvanātha.

i. Mādhuryaguṇa:

The melting nature (ādratā) of the mind is called Mādhurya. Mādhurya guṇa is present in ascending degrees in the Sambhogaśṛṅgāra, Karuṇa, Vipralambhaśṛṅgāra and in Śāntarasa respectively.


cittadravībhāvamayohlādo mādhuryamucyate/
saṃbhoge karuṇe vipralambheśānte’dhikaṃ kramāt//[18]

If in a composition the fifth consonants of a varga (ṅ, ña, ṇa, na, ma) remains conjoined with the sparśa vyañjana, from ka to ma; laghu ra and ṇa varṇa, bereft of ta varga, without samāsa or words having least samāsa are used, all these raises the brilliance of Mādhuryaguṇa.


mūrdhnivargānantyagāḥ sparśā aṭavargā raṇau laghū/
avṛttirmardhavṛttirvā mādhurye ghaṭanā tathā//

ii. Ojaguṇa:

The brilliant expansion of mind is called Oja. This guṇa resides in the ascending degree in the sentiments, viz., Vīra, Bībhatsa and Raudra respectively.


ojaścittasya vistārarūpa dīptatvamukṣyate/
vīra vībhatsaraudreṣu krameṇādhikyamasya tu//

Here, in this guṇa the first and the third letter conjoined with the last one, repha, conjunction of the same letters, use of ṭa varga, letters like śa and ṣa, long compounded words and arrogant expressions are found.


yoga ādyatṛtīyābhyāmantyayo reṇatulyayoḥ/
ṭādiḥ śaṣau vṛttirdairghyaṃ gumpha uddhata ojasi//[21]

iii. Prasādaguṇa:

Prasāda is the quality found in all the rasas, the cause of a quick apprehension of the sense, extending over the mind at once like a stream of water extends over a cloth, or like fire among dry fuel.


śuṣkendhanāgnivat svacchajalavatsahasaiva yaḥ/
vyāpnotyanyatprasādo’sau sarvatra vihitasthitiḥ//

The senses of the padas, vṛttis or varṇas that can be quickly apprehended are the properties of this guṇa.


śrutimātrena śabdāttu yenārthapratyayo bhavet/
sādhāraṇaṃ samagrāṇāṃ sa prasādo guṇo mataḥ//

Therefore, it can be said that guṇas are nothing but the qualities of the soul (rasa) of a kāvya. In the words of Mammaṭa—as the qualities like heroism etc., residing in the soul helps in enhancing the beauty of it, likewise the guṇas residing in the soul, i.e. rasa, augments the beauty of the kāvyaśarīra.


ye rasasyāṅgino dharmāḥ śauryādaya ivātmanaḥ/
utkarṣa hetavaste syuracalasthitayo guṇāḥ//

Footnotes and references:


Kāvyālaṃkārasūtravṛtti, III.1.1


Ibid., III.1.2


Ibid., p. 32


yaḥ kāvye mahatīṃ chāyāmanugṛhnādatyasauguṇaḥ/Agnipurāna, III.343


Ibid., X.2


ye khalu śabdārthayordhamāḥ kāvyaśobhāṃ kurvanti te guṇāḥ/ Kāvyālaṃkārasūtravṛtti, p.31


ye tamarthaṃ rasādilakṣanamaṅginaṃ santamavalambante te guṇāḥ śauryādivat| Dhvanyāloka, II.6 (vṛtti), p. 180


Kāvyaprakāśa, VIII.66


ete doṣā hi kāvyasya yathāsamyak prakīrtitāḥ/ guṇā viparyayādeṣāṃ mādhuryaudāryalakṣaṇāḥ Nāṭyaśāstra, XVII. 95


Nāṭyaśāstra, XVII. 96


Nāṭyaśāstra, XVII. 97-106


śleṣaḥ prasādaḥ samatā mādhuryo sukumāratā/ arthavyaktirudāratvamojaḥ kāṃti samādhayaḥ// Kāvyādarśa, I.41


śleṣaḥ samatā sukumāratā ojaḥ iti catvāraḥ śabda guṇāḥ/ prasādaḥ abhivyakti udāratā kāntiḥ ete pañcārthaguṇāḥ mādhuryatūbhayaguṇa iti daṇḍino mataṃ/ Kāvyādarśa, I.43 (vṛtti)


Dhanyāloka, II.8,9,10


Kāvyaprakāśa, VIII.68


Ibid., VIII.71


Sāhityadarpaṇa, VIII.2


Kāvyaprakāśa, VIII.74


Sāhityadarpaṇa, VIII.4,5


Kāvyaprakāśa, VIII.75


Ibid., VIII.70-71


Ibid., VIII.76


Ibid., VIII.66

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