The backdrop of the Srikanthacarita and the Mankhakosa

by Dhrubajit Sarma | 2015 | 94,519 words

This page relates “Kavisamaya or the poetic convention” as it appears in the case study regarding the Srikanthacarita and the Mankhakosa. The Shrikanthacarita was composed by Mankhaka, sometimes during A.D. 1136-1142. The Mankhakosa or the Anekarthakosa is a kosa text of homonymous words, composed by the same author.

Part 6 - Kavisamaya or the poetic convention

Kavisamaya or the poetic convention is a technical term used to denote certain things and ideas in a certain impractical form or manner, prevalent amongst the Sanskrit poets. These are the famous assumption of the poetic community. It may be mentioned here that, as these conventions are oppose to popular recognized facts, therefore, they should be treated as doṣa[1] or blemish; on the contrary, they are regarded as guṇa[2] or merit. Thus, the poeticians like Bhāmaha, Daṇḍin, Vāmana etc. considered those things, contrary to popular facts and practical experiences, to be poetic flaws or blemishes or kāvyadoṣas. Daṇḍin however, admits that when these things are delineated skilfully, by the gifted poets, in such cases, they can no longer remain as doṣas, instead of that they become guṇas.[3] Subsequently, the poeticians including Viśvanātha consider certain doṣas like khyātiviruddhatā as guṇas. These kavisamayas are actually beautiful and fanciful descriptions of certain things or objects, generally not to be found in our practical experiences. These are found only in the works of great poets. Thus, the kavisamaya is a peculiar, but at the same time important literary component. Probably, Rājaśekhara[4] was the foremost among the poeticians, who incorporated detail discussions regarding the kavisamayas. He has himself declared that the kavisamayas were lying unnoticed in the poetic compositions, which were awakened or come to light by Rājaśekhara.

In three chapters of his Kāvyamīmāṃsā, viz. chapter XIV, XV and XVI, Rājaśekhara discuses it. According to him, the poetic convention is the description of things,which are aśāstrīya (not in conformity to the śāstras) and alaukika, yet adopted by poets, just because they are handed down by tradition.[5] He opines that earlier, the scholars used to learn the Vedas, having thousands of branches and understood the sense inhibited therein by visiting different sites for several times. However, some of them still remained undeciphered. Thus, the kavisamaya refers to statement of such meaning as are part of the tradition of poetic expression, but contradictory to familiar facts and scriptures. The use of the word kavisamaya was made widespread by the people, who failed to understand its origin or basis and therefore, it came to be applied conventionally. In other words, the established form of an object or an idea in poetry, as propounded by celebrated poets of ancient times, after having examined the texts of knowledge or śāstras and having roamed over different places, comes under the epithet of kavisamaya.[6] Rājaśekhara divides the kavisamaya into three groups- svargya, bhauma and pātālīya. These three are again subdivided into four varieties viz. jāti, dravya, guṇa and kriyā. Moreover, these four have their own three-fold divisions such as asato nibandhanaṃ i.e. describing things which are not actually found in a certain place, satopyanibandhanaṃ i.e. not describing things as existing even when they do exist and niyamataśca i.e. artificial restriction on the existence of things. Thus, it has been observed that Rājaśekhara has treated the kavisamayas methodically and his treatment of these poetic conventions attracted later rhetoricians and poets, among them were Hemacandra, Amaracandra, Deveśvara, Jinasena and others.[7]

Viśvanātha Kavirāja[8] also discusses the kavisamaya in his treatise. According to him, the following are established by the convention of the poets that the sky and sin are described as black; fame, laughter and renown as white; anger and love as red. Red and blue lotuses are spoken of as growing even in rivers and seas, and birds such as the duck and others invariably haunt all receptacles of water. The Cātakas drink the moonlight; and in the rainy season, the ducks immigrate to the Mānasa Lake. The Aśoka flowers bloom from the stroke of fair womens’ 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 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.

Maṅkhaka uses kavisamaya in his poem. In the verse śaśiśubhrāḥ kiranbhāso hāso[9] ….., it has been stated that, in the eastern direction, there is located the mountain Kailāsa, the dwelling place of Lord Śiva. The Kailāsa, which is casting light, as white as the moonlight is, as if smiling. From this, it can be inferred that our poet is familiar with the poetic convention that hāsa (smile, laughter) is white. Again, in the verse, śivavāhakhuropajñajātarūpa[10] ….., it is mentioned that at the strike of the hoof of the bull of Lord Śiva, there accrue heaps of gold, likewise the Śailaprajāpati i.e. the Himālaya creates thousands of hills and mountains at a single moment. The sense is that there is to be found plenty of gold there. There is the convention of growing of gold from the stroke of the bull loitering in the Kailāsa.[11] Moreover, in the verse, dhātupāṭalamutkṣepa[12] ….., there is the reference of the face of Hari, which becomes red in anger towards daśakaṅdhara (Rāvaṇa), for his mischief. This conforms to the recognized prescription of the poeticians viz. raktau ca krodharāgau, wherein, anger is fancied to be of red colour. In the verse, niṣpannapuṣpātithibhirdvirephai[13]…….., there is the mention of the term dohada[14], meaning “the desire of plants at budding time, as for instance of the Aśoka to be kicked by young ladies, of the Bakula[15] to be sprinkled by mouthfuls of liquor etc.”

Here, in the commentary[16] and also in the footnote[17], Jonarāja cites that the Tilaka has dohada for the side-glances of females, which is a poetic convention. There is a similar verse, tilako’grapathasthito’marīṣu[18] ……, wherein also, it has been stated that by the side-glances of beautiful young woman, the flower of the tree Tilaka buds.[19] Besides, in the verse, tanūraśokasya padā ghnatībhiḥ[20] ……., there is the reference of the poetic convention regarding Aśoka flowers. The females out of fun, crush the Aśoka flowers with their feet and apply sindūra on the trunk of the Aśoka trees, which is, as if, the astraśālā (armoury) of Cupid. Herein the verse the Aśoka’s being the arsenal is established by the stroke of feet (of the females).[21] Moreover, in the verse, yannyasyati sma[22] ……, it is mentioned that whenever a lady out of pride of love, places feet on the Aśoka tree, then the tree blooms flowers at the top of the tree. Herein, the kavisamaya, pādāghātādaśokaṃ vikaśati is observed to be used by Maṅkhaka. Some more verses wherein, there is the reference of the kavisamaya regarding Aśoka tree and it’s flower are viśato vibudhījanasya[23] ……., caraṇāhatibhiḥ prasūya[24] …..

In the verse, cirādasamapatriṇo bhujamakāṇḍa[25] ……., there is the reference of kanakaketakī or suvarṇaketakī, which grows in the spring season[26], which is another poetic convention applied by Maṅkhaka. There is the reference of the blossoming of the flower of Kurabaka tree at the embrace of a rāmā (charming young woman)[27], in the verse, nibiḍitakucakuḍmalāstaruṇyo[28] ……... Again, on the verse, śaśikaramṛgatṛṣṇikādhikārād[29] ……., it has been mentioned that the younger ones of the the bird Cakora thought the flower of Vicakila to be the moonlight for their white-colour and began to devour those, but their flavour discouraged them. As a result, they did not taste even the real moonlight which the Cakoras naturally do. Thus, the verse under consideration refers to the convention jyotsnā peyā cakoraiḥ…..These are some of the innumerable kavisamayas used by Maṅkhaka in his Śrīkaṇṭhacarita.

From the discussion, it becomes evident that Maṅkhaka has applied the poetic conventions referred in earlier rhetorical treatises and invariably the apt and proper use of these conventions has enriched his poem and ultimately contributed a lot in establishing his literary genius.

Footnotes and references:


deśakālakalālokanyāyāgamavirodhi ca/
pratijñāhetudṛṣṭāntahīnaṃ duṣṭaṃ ca neṣyate//
Kāvyālaṃkāra (of Bhāmaha)., IV. 2


kavīnāṃ samaye khyāte guṇaḥ khyātaviruddhatā/
Sāhityadarpaṇa., VII. 22


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


so’yaṃ kavīnāṃ samayaḥ kāvye sputa iva sthitaḥ/
sa sāmpratamihāsmābhiryathābuddhi vibodhitaḥ// Kāvyamīmāṃsā., XVI., page 189


aśāstrīyamalaukikaṃ ca paramparāyātaṃ yamarthamupanibadhnanti kavayaḥ sa kavisamayaḥ/
Rai, G. S., Kāvyamīmāṃsā., XIV, page 166


pūrve hi vidvāṃsaḥ sahasraśākhaṃ sāṅgaṃ ca vedamavagāhya, śāstrāṇi cāvabudhya, deśāntarāṇi dvipāntarāṇi ca paribhramya, yānarthānupalabhya praṇītavantasteṣāṃ deśakālāntaravaśena anyathātvepi tathśtvenonibandho yaḥ sa kavisamayaḥ/
Ibid., XIV. page 167


Gogoi-Chutia, L., On the treatment of kavisamaya by Rājaśekhara, Surabhāratī, no. 6, 98-99, pages 42-50


mālinyaṃ vyomni pāpe yaśasi dhavalatā varṇyate hāsakīrtyor/
raktau ca krodharāgau, saridudadhigataṃ paṅkajendīvarādi/
toyādhāre’khile’pi prasarati ca marālādikaḥ pakṣisaṅgho/
jyotsnā peyā cakorairjaladharasanaye mānasaṃ yānti haṃsāḥ/
pādāghātādaśokaṃ vikasati, vakulaṃ yoṣitāmāsyamadyai-ryūnāmaṅgeṣu hārāḥ, sphuṭati ca hṛdayaṃ viprayogasya tāpaiḥ/
maurvī rolambamālā dhanuratha viśikhāḥ kausumāḥ puṣpaketo-rbhinnaṃ syādasya vāṇairyuvajanahṛdayaṃ strīkaṭākṣeṇa tadvat/
ahnyambhojaṃ, niśāyāṃ vikasati kumudaṃ, candrikā śuklapakṣe, meghdhvāneṣu nṛtyaṃ bhavati ca śikhināṃ, nāpyaśoke phalaṃ syāt/
na syājjātī vasante, na ca kusumaphake gandhasāradrūmāṇā-mityādyunneyamanyatkavisamayagataṃ satkavīnāṃ prabandhe//
Sāhityadarpaṇa., VII. 23-25


śaśiśubhrāḥ kiranbhāso hāso dhanapaterdiśaḥ/
girirastīha kailāso nivāso vṛṣalakṣmaṇaḥ//
Śrīkaṇṭhacarita., IV. 1


kṣaṇānmerusahasraṃ yaḥ sūte śailaprajāpatiḥ// Ibid., IV. 15


Jonarāja comments-kailāśe sañcarato haravṛṣasya khurebhyaḥ suvarṇotpattiriti prasiddhiḥ/
Ibid., IV. 15, page 48


yo’dyāpīva mukhaṃ dhatte sakopaṃ daśakaṅdhare// Ibid., IV. 43


eṇīdṛśāṃ dohadadṛṣṭipātairivāñjanenāhitasaṃvibhāgaḥ//
Ibid., VI. 28


Apte, V.S., The Student’s Sanskrit English Dictionary, page 262.


bakulo dvijajātisaṃstuto’pi pramadoccheṣaṇamadyapīta āsīt/
bata gāḍhaniṣevitasvaśākhairapi pātityamathānvabhāvi kundaiḥ// Śrīkaṇṭhacarita., VIII. 25


tilakatarorvaranārīkaṭākṣairdohada iti prasiddhiḥ/ Ibid., VI. 28, page 80


pādāhataḥ pramadayā vikasatyaśokaḥ śokaṃ jahāti bakulo mukhasīdhusiktaḥ/
āliṅgitaḥ kurabakaḥ kurute vikāsamālokitastilaka utkaliko vibhāti//
Ibid., VI. 28, footnote, page 80


Ibid., VIII. 21


rāmāṇāṃ kaṭākṣapātena tilakasya vikasanīyatvāt/
Ibid., VIII. 21, page 113


tanūraśokasya padā ghnatībhiḥ puraṅdhribhiḥ puṣpaśarāstraśālā/
śliṣyannavālaktakapaṅkaṭaṅkātsindūramudrāsaciveva cakre//
Ibid., VI. 30


Jonarāja comments-evaṃ yojanayā kāmāstraśālātvaṃ pādāghāte’pi pratipāditaṃ syāt/
Ibid., VI. 30, page 80


yannyasyati sma smayavatyaśoke padaṃ nadannūpuramutpalākṣī/
svairaṃ sa cakre tata eva mūrdhni padaṃ batāśeṣamahīruhāṇāṃ//
Ibid., VI. 31;

Jonarāja also comments—smayavatī sasmaradarpā strī caraṇamaśokavṛkṣe yannyastavatī tataḥ pādanyāsādeva svairaṃ svātantryeṇa samastavṛkṣāṇāṃ śirasi pādamaśokaścakāra/


Ibid., VIII. 22


Ibid., VIII. 23


cirādasamapatriṇo bhujamakāṇḍakaṇḍūlatāṃ nayanmalayavīrudhāṃ parimalasya vaitālikaḥ/
nideśakṛdanehasaḥ kanakaketakīlakṣmaṇaḥ sa dakṣiṇasamīraṇo muniśamāpamṛtyurvavau// Ibid., VI. 67


vasante suvarṇaketakyo bhavantīti prasiddheḥ……/ Ibid., VI. 67, page 90


rāmāliṅganena kurabakasya vikāsalābhāt/
Ibid., VII. 18, page 96


nibiḍitakucakuḍmalāstaruṇyo vidadhati yasya tarorhaṭhāvagūḍhaṃ/
bhavati vṛtatanuḥ sa puṣpapūrairupanamadadbhutabhṛṅgasādhuvādaḥ//
Ibid., VII. 18


śaśikaramṛgatṛṣṇikādhikārādvicakilareṇuṣu vipralabdhajihvaḥ/
bharamapi paramārthacandrikāyā daśati na paśya ciraṃ cakoraśāvaḥ//
Ibid., VII. 23

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