Satirical works of Kshemendra (study)

by Arpana Devi | 2017 | 60,954 words

This page relates ‘Kavisamaya or the poetic convention’ part of the study on the Satirical works of Kshemendra: an 11th century poet from Kashmir, who composed three satirical works. Kshemendra himself says that in composing the satirical works his only motive is to reform the mindset of the people.—He exposes all the vices and follies prevailing in the society with the intention to reform it.

2. Kavisamaya or the poetic convention

Kavisamaya or the poetic convention is a most popular literary component used by the Sanskrit poets. Kavisamaya is a technical term which is used to narrate certain objects and ideas in an unnatural form or manner. The Kavisamayas are, in reality, a poet’s inventions which may not be present in the real world. Rājaśekhara, the author of Kāvyamīmāṃsā (Kāvyamīmāṃsā) has discussed this subject in detail in his work. For him, Kavisamaya is unscriptural (aśāstrīya) and non-existent in this world (alaukika), but is traditionally coming down (paramparāyātaṃ).[1] Some scholars consider Kavisamayas as a doṣa as it describes unreal things, however they are treated as guṇa[2] or merit. For Rājaśekhara also poetic conventions favour a poet in their way of describing various subjects and therefore it should not be treated as a doṣa. Daṇḍin also accepts that if a poet with his expert hands delineate these things (Kavisamayas), then thay can be said as guṇas instead of considering them as doṣas.[3] It is to be mentioned that Viśvanātha Kavirāja accepts doṣas like khyātiviruddhatā as guṇas.

Rājaśekhara also focuses upon the origin of the Kavisamayas. He points out that the learned persons of earlier period used to study the Vedas along with all the branches of knowledge roamed in several places and observed phenomena. They recorded all their experiences in their own works. Later on, several changes had occurred but the descriptions were not changed and continued in a traditional way. It is called Kavisamaya. The word Kavisamaya becomes popular among the people due to their ignorance of origin and therefore it is used conventionally.

Rājaśekhara classifies Kavisamaya into three groups-svargya (heavenly), bhauma (earthly) and pātālīya (belonging to the nether world). Again, each of these groups is divided into four sub divisions viz. jāti, dravya, guṇa and kriyā. On the other hand, each of these four categories has three sub-divisions namely asato nivandhanaṃ, sato’pi anibandhanaṃ and niyamataḥ. Rājaśekhara’s treatment of poetic convention is popular for the later rhetoricians. In the seventh chapter of Sāhityadarpaṇa (Sāhityadarpaṇa), Viśvanātha Kavirāja also discusses the Kavisamaya.

Kavirāja says that the following are established by the convention of the poets—

mālinyaṃ vyomni pāpe, yaśasi dhavalatā varṇyate hāsakīrtyo/
raktau ca krodharāgau, saridudadhigataṃ paṅkajendīvarādi/
toyādhāre’khile’pi prasarati ca marālādikaḥ pakṣisaṅgho/
jyotsnā peyā cakorairjaladharasamaye mānasaṃ yānti haṃsāḥ/
pādāghātādaśokaṃ vikasati, vakulaṃ yoṣitāmāsyamadyairyūnāmaṅgeṣu hārāḥ, sphuṭati ca hṛdayaṃ viprayogasya tāpaiḥ/
maurvī rolambamālā dhanuratha viśikhāḥ kausumāḥ puṣpaketorbhinnaṃ syādasya bāṇairyuvajanahṛdayaṃ strīkaṭākṣeṇa tadvat/
ahnyambhojaṃ, niśāyāṃ vikasati kumudaṃ, candrikā śuklapakṣe
, meghdhvāneṣu nṛtyaṃ vhavati ca śikhināṃ, nāpyaśoke phalaṃ syāt/
na syājjātir vasante no ca kusumaphale gandhasāradrūmāṇāmityādyunneyamanyatkavisamayagataṃ satkavīnāṃ prabandhe//

(The sky and sin are described as black; fame, glory and laughter as white; anger and love as red. Red and blue lotuses are spoken of as growing even in rivers and oceans, and birds such as the duck and others invariably haunt all receptacles of water. The Cakoro drinks the moonlight; and in the rainy season the ducks immigrate to the Mānasa Lake. The Aśoka flowers blosom from the stroke of fair women’s feet and so does the Vakula from the wine of their mouths. The necklaces on the breast of youthful lovers along with their hearts burst from the flames of separation. The God of Love bears a flowery bow furnished with flowery shafts and strung with a string of bees. His arrows pierce the heart of the young and so does the glance of a woman. The lotus blooms in the day and the lily during the night; there is always the moonlight in the white fortnight. The peacocks dance at the grumbling of clouds and the Aśoka does not bear fruit. The Jāti blooms not in the spring and fragrant trees neither flower nor fructify, and so forth.)

Kṣemendra depicts a real picture of the society, therefore, conventional poetic description is not much observed in his satirical poems. Therefore, Kavisamayas are also not much employed by the author. However, in some places of the poems, a few examples of Kavisamayas are observed. These are mentioned below-

In the Deśopadeśa, in the verse, devo jayati[5] …………, it has been stated that, the god Gaṇeśa (Heramba) may be victorious with the play of his tusk-lotus, whose white lustre appears to be laughing at the ten regions loudly. In the verse, the author describes hāsa as white. It is a Kavisamaya, accepted by the rhetoric.

In the Kalāvilāsa, in the verse, atha pathika[6] …………., it has been said that, when moonlight slowly comes forth, it awakens the night lilies and also the plight of Cakravākas who are looking for their mates and also it is a flame for traveller’s wives. In the night, the plight of Cakravāka increases because they are separated from each other. Moreover, in the verse, it is also mentioned that lilies bloom in the night, which is also a poetic convention. Likewise, in the verse, mā mā malinaya vimalaṃ[7] …………, it has been mentioned that the lustre of purity of the Bhṛgu family should not be diminished with the dirt of greed, as the cloud of greed is the enemy of the swans (rājahaṃsas), desiring spotless fame. In the verse, there is a poetic convention. The verse indirectly indicates that the swan is white therefore fame is also white. Again in the verse, nṛtyanmugdhamayūrā[8] ………….., it has been stated that the peacock dances there like rows of fountains, as it were an image of the monsoon with hosts of clouds and rainbows. It is a poetic convention that the peacock dances when there is cloud. Likewise, in the verse, dhūrtaḥ samṛddhisacivā[9] ……….., it has been said that the bees leaving the faded blooming lotus, entered happily into the clusters of blooming lilies. In the verse, there is a poetic convention that the lotus blooms in the day and the lily blooms in the night.

Footnotes and references:


aśāstrīyaṃ alaukikaṃ ca paramparāyātaṃ ca arthaṃ upanibandhanti kavayaḥ sa kavisamayaḥ/
Kāvyamīmāṃsā , XIV.p.166


kavīnāṃ samaye khyāte guṇaḥ khyātibiruddhatā/
Sāhityadarpaṇa , VII.22


virodhaḥ sakalo’pyeṣa kadācit kavikauśalāt/
utkramya doṣagaṇanāṃ guṇavīthīṃ vigāhate// Kāvyādarśa , III.179


Sāhityadarpaṇa , VII. 23-25


devo jayati herambaḥ svadantabisakhelanaiḥ/
yasyoccaistatprabhāḥ śubhrā hasantīva diśo daśa// Deśopadeśa , I.1


atha pathikavadhūdahanaḥ śanakairudbhūn niśākarālokaḥ/
kumudprabodhadūto vyasanaguruścakravākīṇāṃ// Kalāvilāsa , I.30


mā mā malinaya vimalaṃ bhṛgukulamamalaṃ malena lobhena/
lobhajalado hi śatrurviśadayaśorājahaṃsānāṃ// ibid., II.65


nṛtyanmugdhamayūrā marakatadhārāgṛhāvalī satataṃ/
sendrāyudhadhananivahā prāvṛṇyamūrteva yatrāste// ibid., I.7


dhūrtāḥ samṛddhisacivā vicchāyāṃ padminīṃ parityajya/
phullāni viviśuralayaḥ sānandāḥ kumudavṛndāni// ibid., I.34

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