[I could not arrange the topics in a sequential order (krama). You may take these as random collection of discussions; and, read it for whatever it is worth. Thank you.]
Classifications of the Kavya
Kavya has been classified into incredible number of different categories.
Agnipurana –kavyadilakshanam– classifies Vanmaya (everything that is expressed in words, i.e. literature) in several ways: Dhvani, Varna, Pada and Vakya (Ag. pu. 336.1); and into Shastra, Itihasa and Kavya (Ag.pu.3336.2).
dhvanir-varṇāḥ padaṃ vākyam ityetadi vāṅmayaṃ mataṃ //AP_336.001cd/
śāstre itihāsa vākyānāṃ trayaṃ yatra samāpyate /AP_336.002ab/
And later, Vanmaya was again classified into Shastra (Veda, Purana and even Epics) and Kavya. And, it was said ; in the Shastra the words (śabda) are important; in the Itihasa (historical narration) the facts (niṣṭhatā) are important; whereas in the Kavya the ability to express the meaning (abhidhā) is more important .
śāstre śabda pradhāna-tvam itihāseṣu niṣṭhatā //AP_336.002cd/
abhidhāyāḥ pradhānatvāt kāvyaṃ tābhyāṃ vibhidyate /AP_336.003ab/
Shastra , in turn , has again been classified into Apaurusheya and Paurusheya.
[The term Shastra commonly refers to a treatise or text on a specific field of knowledge. In early Vedic literature, the word referred to any precept, rule, teaching, ritual instruction or direction. For instance; in the Rig-Veda 8.33.16 the term Sastra means rule or instruction : – nahi ṣastava no mama śāstre anyasya raṇyati.
And, the Ṛigveda-prāti-śākhya (11.36; 14.30) uses the term Shastra to referto its prātiśākhya tradition.
And, in late and post Vedic literature Shastra referred to any treatise, book or instrument of teaching, any manual or compendium on any subject in any field of knowledge, including religious.
Yaska calls Nirukta (etymology) as a Shastra – śabdānām itaretara upadeśaḥ śāstra- Nir.1.2
And, Shastra is often a suffix, added to the subject of the treatise, such as Yoga-Shastra, Nyaya-Shastra, Dharma-Shastra, Koka– or Kama-Shastra, Artha-Shastra, Alamkara-Shastra (rhetoric), Kavya-Shastra (poetics), Sangita-Shastra (music), Natya-Shastra (theatre & dance) ; and such others.
Here, the term Shastra is commonly understood as that which instructs or teaches; it covers the theory of a practice as also the practice of a theory.
Just by the way, let me mention about a totally different kind of interpretation of the term Shastra , which is commonly understood as that which instructs or teaches .
Paramartha (an Indian Buddhist scholar-monk who arrived in China during 546 C E; and went on to the Court of the Emperor Wu, at Liang), in his translation into Chinese of Abhidhammakosa-bhashya, of Vasubandhu, explains the term Shastra by breaking it into two syllables – shas and tra.
According to Paramartha, the first (shas) relates NOT to the root ‘to instruct’; but, to the root shas, ‘to destroy’.
And, the second part (tra) relates to the root ‘trayi’, meaning ‘to to save or to rescue’ (trayate, trati); OR, to the root Tr, related to the meaning ‘to cross over’ (tarati, tarayati).
Accordingly, Paramartha interpreted the term Shastra as that which destroys the impediments (klesha); and, as that which rescues, saves and enables one to cross over the sea of existence (samsara). ]
[ If we take a bird’s-eye view of the Sanskrit literature we may classify them as Epic and Lyric kavyas, the charita kavyas (dealing with the lives of kings and patrons of learning), the prasastis or panegyrical verses, the different types of dramas, lyric kavyas, the century collections or satakas, the stotra literature or adoration hymns, the Campus or works written in prose and verse, the katha, literature, the nlti literature, the didactic verses and stray verses such as are found in the anthologies. The sources of the materials of kavya as held by Rajasekhara, are Sruti, Smrti, Purana, Itihhsa, Pramana-vidya, Samaya-vidya or the sectarian doctrines of the Saivas, Pancaratrins, etc., the Arthashastra, the Natyashastra and the Kamashastra, the local customs and matiners, the different sciences and the literature of other poets
– Prof. S. N. Dasgupta, A History of Sanskrit Literature – Classical Period – vol. I ]
In the Literary traditions
(a) Shravya and Drshya
In the literary traditions, even from the very early period, Kavya was classified in several different ways. The usual means were (a) by language; (b) by whether it was poetry or prose or a mixture of both; and (c) by the literary form.
And, to start with, Kavya was said to be either oral – Shravya (one that is listened to) or Drshya or Prekshya (one that is seen, visual comprehension) . This was the primary differentiation.
[ The classical name of what we call a play or a Drama was Rupaka. It was a generic term that comprised various types of plays. And the best form of such Rupakas is the Nataka. Dhananjaya in his Dasarupaka (ten forms of Drama) while talking about Rupaka explains : it is called a Rupaka or a representation because of the acts put on by the actors (abhinaya) by assuming (rupakam tat samaropad ) the forms of various characters such as gods or kings and men and women . And, it is called a show because of the fact it is seen (rupam drsyatayocyate). Thus, Drama is the reproduction of a situation (Avastha-anikrtir natyam) , in a visible form (rupa), in the person of the actors.
The earlier authors considered Drama as the art of reproduction by imitation (anukriti). But, Abhinavagupta objected to such a banal view, saying that mere imitation of other’s movements would produce the ludicrous; and, the imitation of other’s feelings and emotions is impossible. He held the view that Drama is an artistic production, where music, dancing, acting and the dress, dyeing, and the stage environment etc., all come together in the dramatic performance. According to him, such Dramatic performance becomes an art when recitation in the form of dialogues associated with suitable gestures, postures, movement, dancing, dress and music etc., succeeds in giving expressions to sentiments and passions so as to rouse similar sentiments in the minds of the audience. Thus, Drama is an entirely a new art that aims to enliven the mind of the audience and to produce in them an aesthetic joy; and, it is not an imitation in any ordinary sense of the term. ]
Here, Drshya generally stands for Drama (Nataka) and Dance-drama (Geya-nataka) the visual comprehension of a theatrical performance; and, the Shravya covers the entire range of lyrical and epic poetry in general. And some times, in a narrow sense, the Shravya is itself known as Kavya. That might be because; in the ancient times the Epics were narrated or recited before a gathering of ardent listeners. And, individual poems or their stanzas, in most cases, gained popularity among the common people who enjoyed listening to them. The boundaries between the oral and written poetry was never clear. Yet, the oral traditions seemed to have a strong influence over written versions. And, in fact, even during the medieval times the written texts were corrected with reference to its oral version.
[ Please do read the Article Oral Traditions]
[However, as the classical poetry grew more complex and more elaborately structured, it became rather difficult to rely only on the oral rendering. Reading or studying a text gradually replaced listening as the commonest means of enjoying Kavya.]
But, the distinction of – Shravya and Prekshya– is not strictly observed. For instance; Drama (Nataka) is at once a Kavya- prose and poetry- that can be read (Shravya) and that be witnessed (Drshya) on the stage. In fact, some of the finest poetry of the ancient times can be found in Sanskrit Dramas. Thus, the Drama came to be regarded as the most enjoyable of all the forms of Kavya (Kavyeshu naatakam ramyam). Kalidasa endorses both the forms : ‘Drama, verily, is a feast that is greatly enjoyed by a variety of people of different tastes
– Natyam bhinnaruchir janasya bahuda-apekshym samaradhanam
Another is the Chitra-Kavya, where the words of the poetry are woven into figures and diagrams (Chiyrabandha) , that can be seen and read is at once a Shravya and Prekshya.
[For more on Chitrkavya: please check here :
Coming back to Drama, the Drshya Kavya, it again was classified into two classes: Major (Rupaka) and Minor (Upa-Rupaka). Abhinavagupta explains Rupam as that which is seen by the eyes and the works containing such matter is Rupani or Rupaka. Dhanika while commenting on Dhanajyaya’s Dasarupakam explains that the terms Natyam, Rupam and Rupakam can be treated as synonymous.
Sanskrit Dramas are classified according to Subject-matter, Hero, and Rasa (Vastu neta rasas tesam bhedako). The main aspects of the Drama (Rupaka) are the plot, the hero and the Rasa (pradhāna, netà and rasa).
The subject or the story should always be about celebrated and important persons.
The Subject-matter (vastu) can be depicted in two ways (Vastu ca dvidha) – the main theme (adhikarika) among with the subordinate (angam) and the incidental events (prasangika)
– Tatra adhikarikam mukhyam angam prasahgikam viduh.
The plot should be simple, the incidents are consistent; the progression of the events should spring direct from the story.
The hero (Neta) of the Nātaka should be a worthy or exhalted person of virtue.
Prakhyāta-vamso rājarsih-divyo-vā yatra näyakah/ tat prakhyātam vidhātavyam vrttam-atra-adhikārikam//
A Nataka should comprise one rasa-either Srngara or Vira; and in conclusion the Adbhuta becomes prominent
Eko rasa – angi -kartavyo virah srigara eva va / angamanye rasah sarve kuryannivahane -adbhutam
In the presentation of the play one should avoid showing such events as: long travel; murder; war; violent over throw; bloodshed; eating; taking bath; un-dressing; sex act etc.
Dura-dhavanam; vadham; yuddham; rajya-dessadiviplavan/ samrodham; bhojanam; snanam ; suratam; ca-anulepanam/ amvara-grahanadini pratyakshani na nirdiset na-adhikaraivadham kvapi tyajyam – avasyakam na ca //
Viswanatha in his Sâhitya-Darpana described Rupaka (Nataka) as the most logical and perfect theatrical composition. It progresses in a systematic manner and concludes successfully, bringing joy to all. He says, according to the Dasarupaka, the structure of the plot of the Rupaka consists three essential elements: Avastha; Arthaprakrti; and, Samdhi. These structural divisions or sequence of events of the drama correspond with the elements of the plot and the actions associated with the progressive stages in the hero’s attempts to successfully realize his purpose or objects.
(1) According to such a format prescribed for a Sanskrit Drama, the plot is expanded over five elements (Arthaprakrti): The opening sequence (mukha) is the seed (bija) very small at the beginning (arambha) ; and , expands (bindu) in multiple ways as the action proceeds into episodes (pathaka) depicting various events (pathaki) and their resolution (karya). These are said to be the five elements of the plot (arthaprakrti).
Bīja bindu patākākhya prakaro kārya lakṣaṇāḥ / arthaprakṛtayaḥ pañca tā etāḥ parikīrtitāḥ //
(2) These five stages (Avastha) of action that are related to the achievement of the hero’s desired object (phala) are mentioned as: Arambha (the beginning) – mere eagerness for the obtaining of the most important result; Yathna or Prayatna (effort) – exertion attended with great haste; Prapthya (prospect of success) – with means at hand, but also with fear of failure; Niyathapthi (certainty of success) – the confidence of succeeding because of the absence of risk; and Phalagama or phalayoga (successful attainment of the desired objective of the hero).
Avasthah panca karyasya prarabdhasya phalarthibhih / ararmbha-yatna-praptyasa-niyatapti-phalagamah.
(3) And, Samdhi is the third essential element of the narration of the story and in the development or the unfolding of the plot. Such sequence of events (Samdhi) or Junctures which are also five in number, correspond to the five stages (Avastha) associated with the actions or the stages in the hero’s realization of his purpose are : the opening (mukha); the progression (pratimukha); the development (garbha); the pause in which one stops to reflect because of anger or passion or temptation (avamarsa or Vimarsa); and, the successful conclusion (upasamhrti or nirvahana).
Antaraik arthasambandhah samdhir ekanvaye sati / Mukha-pratimukhe- garbhahs avamarsa upasarnhrtih
Arthaprakṛtayaḥ pañca pañcāvastā samanvitāḥ / yathā saṅkhyena jāyante mukhādyāḥ pañca sandhayaḥ
The Nivahana (conclusion or finale) is that Samdhi (juncture) in which the elements of the plot that started with the opening scene (Mukha) and sprouted (Bija) in the subsequent scenes and later systematically and progressively spread over in the later scenes finally concluded with the hero attaining his desired objective.
Bija va anto mukhadyartha viprakirna yathayatham / aikarthyam uparuyante yatra nirvahanam hi tat //
The plot may have all or any of the Samdhis. The Samdhis, in turn, are said to have sixty-four sub-divisions or limbs (Angas). These help to fulfill the purpose of their respective Samadhi. The Samdhis are related to each other and to their limbs (Anga). And, they are also related to the five stages (Avastha) of the action in the play.
And, in a play it is not necessary to use all the sixty-four Angas; and, even when used, they should be in tune with the dominant Rasa of the play.
Dr. Manjulal Gupta in her very well researched scholarly work A Study of Abhinavabharati on Bharata’s Natyasastra and Avaloka on Dhananjaya’s Dasarupaka enumerates these sixty-four Angas and discusses each; and, in detail, on particularly those Angas on which Bharata and Dhananjaya differed.
An interlude should always be made in between the acts of a Drama; and, performed by one or more characters middling or inferior who connect to the story of the Drama and to the sub-divisions of the plot by briefly explaining to the spectators what has occurred in the intervals of the acts or what is likely to happen later on.
The initial scenes are always auspicious and happy–feeling (adi-mangala); and, as the story unfolds, unbearable miseries are unjustly mounted by the crafty villain on the virtuous hero. In the midst of all the troubles that the hero is facing, near about the mid-point of the story, something good happens to the hero (madhya-mangala). Somewhere in the second-half of the story, the trials and tribulations of the lovers, relieved by the rather clumsy attempts of the usually inept, food and fun loving sidekick, the vidushaka . And, after a hard fought and suspenseful struggle, eventually the good and the Dharma triumphs; and all ends well (antya-mangala).
[ For more on the structure of Sanskrit Drama, please do read a very scholarly article by Ven.Dr.Thero.]
Dhananjaya’s Dasarupakam says the the Dramas are of ten types ; and are based in Rasas ( dasadhaiva rasasrayam ) . It lists the major types of Dramas as :
natakam ca prakaranam bhanah prahasanam dimah vyayoga samavakarau vithy ankeha- Ihāmrga iti
[The ten chief varieties of drama (Rupaka) are: the Nataka; the Prakarana; the Bhana; the Prahasana; the Dima; the Vyayoga; the Samavakara; the Vithi; the Anka (=Utsrstikanka); and , the Ihāmrga ]
Vishvanatha in his Sahityadarpana (6. 7-11 page 118-119) gives the list of ten major Rupakas along with examples of these varieties:
- (1) Nataka (e.g. Abhijnanasakuntalam of Kalidasa);
- (2) Prakarana (e.g. Malathi-Madhava of Bhavabhuti);
- (3) Bhana (e.g. Karpuracharita of Vatsaraja);
- (4) Vyayoga (e.g. Madhyama-Vyayoga of Bhasa);
- (5) Samavakara (e.g. Samudra-manthana of Vatsaraja);
- (6) Dima (Tripuradaha of Vatsaraja);
- (7) Ihamrga ( e.g. Rukminiharana of Vatsaraja);
- (8) Anka or Utsrstikanta (e.g. Sharmistha-Yayati) ;
- (9) Vithi (e.g. Malavika) ,and
- (10) Prahasana (Mattavilasa of Mahendravarman).
Please do read a brief study of the Dasarupaka of Viswanatha , according to his Sahityadarpana – by Dr. Leena Chandra K
As regards the Upa-rupakas, they were considered as a minor class of dramatic works; as distinct form the major works satisfying all the requirements prescribed for a Rupaka or Nataka proper. But, the earlier texts such as Natyashastra do not make a mention of the Upa-rupaka class of plays.
Perhaps, the earliest reference to Uparupaka occurs in is the Kamasutras of Vatsyayana who mentions plays Hallisaka, latyarasaka and Preksanaka of Uparupaka type watched by men and women of taste. Ahhinavagupta’s commentary on the Natyashastra occasionally mentions Upa-rupakas; but, without defining the class. Rajashekara calls his Prakrit play Sattaka as not being a Nataka, but resemling a Natika, excepting that pravesakas, viskambhakas and ankas do not occur.
Thus , it seems that Upa-rupaka was a minor class of dramatic work; not satisfying all the classic, dramatic requirements, even when a full theme was handled.
Vishvanatha in his Sahityadarpana also lists the eighteen minor types (Upa-Rupaka) , with examples :
Minor types of Drama (Upa-Rupaka) :
- (1) Natika (e.g. Ratnavali of Sri Harsha);
- (2) Trotaka (e.g. Vikramorvasiya of Kalidasa);
- (3) Ghosti (e.g. Raivatamadanika);
- (4) Natyarasaka (e.g.Vilasavathi );
- (5) Sattaka (e.g. Rajasekhara’s Karpuramanjari);
- (6) Prasthana (e.g. Srngaratilaka);
- (7)Ullapya ( e.g. Devimahadeva);
- (8) Kavya (e.g. Yadavodaya);
- (9) Prenkhana (e.g. Valivadha);
- (10) Rasaka (e.g. Menakahita);
- (11) Samlapaka (e.g. Mayakapalika);
- (12) Srigadita (e.g. Kridarasatala);
- (13) Silpaka (e.g. Kanakavathi-madhava);
- (14) Vilasika ;
- (15) Durmallika (e.g. Bindumathi);
- (16) Prakaranika;
- (17) Hallisa (e.g. Keliraivataka); and,
- (18) Bhanika (e.g. Kamadatta)
(For a detailed discussion on Uparupakas : please click here)
[Whatever scholastic value these classifications may possess, it is not of much significance in the historical development of the drama, for most of the varieties remain unrepresented in actual practice. The earlier drama does not appear to subscribe fully to the rigidity of the prescribed forms, and it is only in a general way that we can really fit the definitions to the extant specimens.
In the theoretical works, everything is scholastically classified and neatly cataloged ; forms of the drama, types of heroes and heroines, their feelings, qualities, gestures, costumes, make-up, situations, dialects, modes of address and manner of acting. All this perhaps gives the impression of a theater of living marionettes. But in practice, the histrionic talent succeeds in infusing blood into the puppets and translating dry formulas into lively forms of beauty, while poetic genius overcomes learned scholasticism and creates a drama from the conflict of types and circumstances.
– Prof. S. N. Dasgupta, A History of Sanskrit Literature – Classical Period – vol. I ]
(b) Padya – Gadya – Champu
Source : Laws practice Sanskrit drama by Prof. S N Shastri
There is another classification based in the form in which a work is composed: works written in Padas (metrical poetry, padya); Gadya (prose); and Misra or Champu (in various mixed forms, partly in verse and partly in prose)
– gadyaṃ padyañca miśrañca kāvyādi trividhaṃ smṛtam (AP.336.08).
And, in Drama too the dialogues in prose are interspersed by lyrical songs.
Earlier, from Bhamaha (Ca.7th century) to Rudrata (Ca. 9th century), literature was classified either as poetry or as prose. The poetry was ‘nibaddha-mukta’ (unfettered) and prose as ‘sarga-bandha’ (structured into divisions or Cantos).
Works in Prose, generally, narrated romantic tales, prose romances etc. Such prose Kavya is categorized as (i) Katha, a narration in the form of story, fiction (e.g. Kadambari of Banabhatta; Dasakumara-Charita of Dandin, and Vasvadatta of Subandhu); and as (ii) Akhyayika, almost a non-fiction, historical narrative recounting the deed of Kings and heroes of old (e.g. Harshacharita of Banabhatta).
A distinction between historical and fictional genres (Akhyayika and Katha) was drawn as early as Bhamaha (seventh century), who contrasts Katha (imaginary tales) narratives with Akhyayika “that celebrate the real events of gods and others”. These traditional categories often overlap each other. Historical facts were often treated as malleable material that could be molded in any manner to suit the desired impact of the text. Such supposedly historical narratives generally dealt with the contemporary Kings and their ancestors composed under Royal patronage; and, such Courtly works were meant, mainly, to please the patrons.
Katha is again of two types: complete story (Sakala katha) or a description of an episode (Eka-desa-varnana) called Khanda Katha. Here again, Katha was made into two other classes: those based on invented or fictional themes (Utpadya or Kalpita); and, those based on themes derived from well-known sources such as history (Itihasa) and legends (Purana).
The most well known among the Katha (stories) or fictional narrations themes (Utpadya or Kalpita) are the Brhat-katha of Guṇaḍya originally in Paisachi (a form of Prakrit) retold in Sanskrit by Somadeva (11th century) as Katha-saritsagara; the collection of moral tales or fables Pancha-tantra and Hitopadesa; and, the collection of highly entertaining stories or tales include the Vetala-pancaviṃsatika, Sukasaptati and Siṃhāsana-dvatrim-sātika.
Then there is the Kādambarī of Banabhatta (7th century) which describes the affairs of two sets of lovers through a series of incarnations, in which they are constantly harassed by a cruel fate.
Another fine example of tales is the eminently readable Dasa-kumara-carita by Daṇḍin (6th-7th centuries), in which, within the framework of a boxing story, the picaresque adventures of ten disinherited princes are described in prose.
The third genre Champu, with alternate narrations of prose and verse allows the poet greater ease or felicity of expression. It affords the poet ample opportunities to display not only his erudition but also his command over prose as also over the verse form.
The Champu was usually a full-fledged composition of epic proportions. The Champu used metrical and non-metrical language with more or less equal prominence. The prose too was ornate and almost lyrical.
A narrative mixed in prose and verse has many examples. Sanskrit Drama too was a mixture prose and verse. Among the literary works there are many well known Champu Kavyas; for example: Nalachampu of Trivikrama, and Ramayana Champu, Bhojachampu and Bhagavatachampu by Abhinava Kalidasa. The Prabandha or the prose in ornate style is also interspersed with verses.
The Jain writers used Champu for religious texts, while the Bengal Vaishnava School wrote Champu Kavyas relating to Krishna. The Bhoja-prabandha of Ballalasens (16th century) narrates stories of King Bhoja. The Jain Prabandhas are semi-historical works; a curious mix of legends and anecdotes.
A subject treated in prose romance was also, sometimes, rendered in Champu form. For instance; the Vasavadatta of Subandhu a work in prose was rendered in Champu as Vasavadatta Champu.
The Champu and Prabandhas forms of literature appear to have been popular in South India, even during the later times. The Champu form of narration continued to grow with religious and biographical themes. For instance; the political affairs of contemporary Deccan and Karnataka as well as Anglo-French conflicts form the theme of Anandaranga-champu of Shrinavasa.
And, there was the Devashankara’s Purohit’s Alamkara-manjusha, which praises the achievements of Peshwa Madhav Rao I.
The longer compositions, be it Prose or Verse or the mixed Champu, all share a few common features. They all treat a unified theme and develop it in all its fullness, spread over chapters or junctures (Sandhi) or stages in the development of the theme, following a proper sequence of events. In that sense, they resemble a Drama.
(c) Sanskrit –Prakrit -Misra
At later times, another type of classification was brought in by scholars such as Bhamaha (6th – 7th century) who classified all poetry as (i) Sanskrit; (ii) Prakrit ( local or regional languages commonly spoken) or (iii) Apabramsha (dialects prevalent before the rise of the modern languages) . Dandin (6th -7th century), added one more category: Misra, a work written in a mixture of languages.
In the 8th-9th century, Rajasekhara, in his Kavya-mimamsa, a work devoted to literary theory, notes three important features of Indian literature: (i) It is composed in many languages including dialects and the speech of small communities; (ii) while having a distinct Indian character, it has immense regional variety of forms and themes; and (iii) it is worldly and concerns the travails of ordinary human life.
In his invocation to Lord Shiva, from whom Kavya is believed to have originated, Rajasekhara compares the various aspects of Kavya to the different organs of Shiva (Shivaroopa). Following his interpretation if one compares Shiva to a Kavya Purusha, i.e. to a human form, one could say that
Sabda (words) and Artha (meaning) constitute body (trunk) of the Kavya Purusha .
Of the languages, Sanskrit is his face; Prakrit his arms; Apabhramsa his waist; and, Paisachi his feet. The mixed (Misra) languages are his chest.
Kavya Purusha, just as Shiva, is sweet, graceful; is having composure (Sama) pleasant nature (prasanna), melody (madhura) as also vigor (Ojas) and liberal (Udara) . His voice is noble.
Rasa is his soul (Atma) ; and, Vritha its hair.
His verbal quirks are dialogues (questions and repartee, riddles (Prahelikas) and Samasya (problems).
Kavya Purusha is decorated with alliterations (Anuprāsa) and similes, Upama (sabda, artha, Alamkaras)
– (Rājaśekhara, Kāvyamīmāṁsā, Chapter 3 – kāvyapuruṣotpattiḥ tṛtīyo ‘dhyāyaḥ 3)
śabdārthau te śarīraṃ, saṃskṛtaṃ mukhaṃ, prakṛtaṃ bāhuḥ, jaghanam aparbhraṃśaḥ, paiśācaṃ pādau, uro miśram /
samaḥ prasanno madhura udāra ojasvī cāsi /
ukticaṇaṃ te vaco, rasa ātmā, rāmāṇi chandāṃsi, praśnottara pravahlikā dikaṃ ca vākkeliḥ, anuprās upamādayaśca tvām alaṅkurvanti /
bhaviṣyato ‘rthasyābhidhātrī śrurirapi bhava antamabhistauti-
‘catvāri śṛṅgāstrayo ‘sya pādā śīrṣe saptahastāso ‘sya /
tridhā baddho vṛṣabho roravīti maho devo martyānāviveśa’ /
Rajasekhara also says that a poet has to learn to compose Kavya in Sanskrit as also in Prakrit. His Prakrit composition has to be according to his own outlook, taste and talent. But, he should pay particular attention to the Vachya-Vachaka relation of Sabda and Artha. And, while handling more than one language, assigning meanings (Artha) has to be done with great care; and the poetry that flows from such careful process would stand any test.
Drama, even in its earliest times, had been multi lingual, written in a mixture of languages. Here, the rural and certain other characters spoke not in chaste Sanskrit but in their own Prakrit or Apabhramsa dialects. Among the Kavyas, an early example of the use of Apabramsha is the Vikramorvashiyam of Kalidasa, when Pururavas asks the animals in the forest about his beloved who had disappeared. Compositions in Apabhramsa continued (particularly in the Sindh region-Saindhava) until Vikram Samvat 1700 (about 1643 AD), when Bhagavatidasa wrote Migankaleha Chariu.
Source : Laws practice Sanskrit drama by Prof. S N Shastri
Even much earlier to that, Bharata in Natyashastra (around second century BCE) states, in general, the languages to be used in a play (pathya) as of four types: Atibhasha (to be used by gods and demi-gods); Aryabhasha (for people of princely and higher classes); Jatibhasha (for common folks, including the Mleccha , the foreigners) and, Yonyantari (for the rest , unclassified) . The security guards and doorkeepers were said to speak Dakshinatya (Southern) or Bahliki (Northwest -Bacteria region)
As regards the songs, the Dhruva songs sung by women were generally in Prakrit. Natyashastra also discusses the features of the Dhruva songs composed in regional dialects ; and , in that context mentions seven known dialects (Desha-bhasha) of its time : Māgadhī, Āvantī, Prācyā, Śaurasenī, Ardha-māgadhī, Bāhlikā and Dākṣiṇātyā (NŚ 5.17-48).
Śaurasenī was the language spoken around the region of Surasena (Mathura area). And, in the play the female characters, Vidūṣaka (jester), children, astrologers and others around the Queens’ court spoke in Śaurasenī. It was assigned a comparatively higher position among the Prakrit dialects.
In comparison, Magadhi , the dialect of the Magadha region in the East , was spoken in the play by lesser characters such as servants, washer -men, fishermen, , barbers ,doorkeepers , black-smiths, hunters and by the duṣṭa (wicked). Even otherwise, the people of Magadha as such were not regarded highly and were projected in poor light.
In some versions, there is a mention of Mahārāṣṭrī also. It was a language spoken around the river Godavari; and, according to linguists, it is an older form of Marāṭhī. In some plays, the leading-lady and her friends speak in Śaurasenī; but , sing in Mahārāṣṭrī.
It is said; in the earliest times the Sanskrit as a spoken language had at least three distinct dialects: Udichya (North West); Madhyadesya (Mid region) ; and, Prachya (East). It is believed that the Classical Sanskrit, as refined by Panini, was based primarily in Udichya and Madhyadesya dialects.
The forms of Prakrit such as Magadhi, Ardha Magadhi and Apabhramsa were dominant in the East, up to the beginning of the 4th century AD. Most of the literary works during the early period were in Prakrit. Apabhramsa was of considerable importance till about 150 BCE. The earliest reference to Apabhramsa is found in Mahabhashya of Patanjali. It appears that Apabhramsa was not the name of any particular language but was used to denote all deviations from the normal Sanskrit.
It was only by about the second century AD more and more works, including those of Buddhists and Jains, came to be written in Sanskrit.
Following that period, some regional languages (Desi Bhasha) became vehicles of the living thought and emotions of the people. The literary activities in these languages picked up . And, lyrical poetry was composed in a mixture of languages- Sanskrit and Regional. There were of course number of great Kavyas in regional languages like Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, and Malayalam and others. Here too the Poetic traditions of the Sanskrit language were closely followed.
(d) Literary and the non-literary works
Kavya, the poetic way of expression is employed both by the literary and the non-literary works. The non-literary works though in poetic form are not regarded as Kavya per se. For instance; presentation of Astronomy in Varahamihira’s Brahmasamhita; or of Algebra in Bhakara’s Leelavathi contain many verses, beautiful descriptions of nature and of poetic merit that they almost are Kavya. Similarly, Suryapandita’s work on Astronomy (Bhaskarabhushana) has beautiful verses praying to Sun god. There are also numbers of philosophical works elucidated in poetry.
Sanskrit Poetics endorses the role of Kavya as a vehicle for imparting instructions. While the earlier theoreticians – Bhamaha, Dandin and Vamana- count the renown or fame (Kirti) won the poem and enjoyment (Priti) of the reader among aims of the Kavya, the later poets include instructions (Upadesha) as n additional aim. They also say that unlike scriptures (Prabhu samhita), the Kavya instructs in a gentle and persuasive voice, just as the sweet whispering of the beloved in to ones ears (Kantha-samhita).
At the same time, it would be incorrect to count educational or instructive poetry, religious hymns or narrative literature as Kavya. That is to say, it is not the mere outer form that decides the poetic merit of Kavya.
And, Kavya need not also always have to deal with learned matters. In fact, too much learning will affect the appeal of a poem. It might turn preachy. There are therefore short poems or couplets that in a capsule form impart moral codes (Niti), wisdom and erotic (Sringara). The most well known poems of this genre are Bhartrhari’s sets of stanzas on Sringara and Vairagya.
Kshemendra (11th century) makes a distinction between Kavya and Shastra, that is, between the purely poetic works and the subject oriented works that are in poetic form. And, he also mentions of works that fall in the intermediate zone: Shastra-kavya – poetry that is also technical; and, Kavya-shastra – a technical work that is also poetry.
This distinction, some regard, as useful, because a certain technical work may also provide good poetry while imparting knowledge. But, at the same time, a Kavya might also be sung as a stotra (e.g. Gitagovinda of Jayadeva).
Basically, Shastra is informative in its character and the style is textual; Kavya, on the other hand, is complex in its structure, employing a language of its own, embellished with artistic metaphors, similes and unusual expressions.
In order to allow his text not only to convey information but also to convey it in an artistic manner, the author-poet uses complex structures. But yet, the natural language is the foundation of the poetry. Although the words used in Kavya and in the non-literary Shastra works are the same they do not evoke the same joy or other emotions.
The poetry, on the other hand, creates for itself a language which has a character of its own (Riti, marga). It might depart from the ordinary day-to-day common usage. With that the poem aims at a definite stylistic effect (vishista). The poet arranges his building-bricks in a manner that is different from that of a non-literary work.
The poet assembles his material in a non-standard fashion; and as Vamana points out the creative process involve using a word-order (pada-charana) in peculiar or specialized (Visista) ways that possess certain characteristics (Kavya-alamkara). Vamana puts forth the view that that the special characteristics (Visesha) of a Kavya are mainly derived from the fact that the poet deliberately attempts to create a fresh or ingenious style of depiction with his unique expressions. The poetic language wears a clock or a veil, so to say.
Vamana and others lay much emphasis on the style (Riti or Marga); and, regard it as the most essential virtue of a Kavya. But, such views are not generally accepted, because Riti is but one among the ten traditionally recognized essential elements of a Kavya; and style is not everything that one looks for in a Kavya.
(e) Mahakavya – Laghukavya
The other major division of lyrical poetry was to categorize Kavya into: (i) Mahakavya, long poems structured into chapters, following all the prescribed regulations of classical poetry; and, (ii) Laghu-kavya, shorter poems or poetry of the minor form.
Bhamaha and Vamana describe these forms as Nibaddha (cohesive poetry) and A-nibaddha (non-cohesive poetry). Nibaddha which is equated with Mahakavya includes both the long poems (in verse, prose or a mixture of the two) as also Drama. A-nibaddha equated with Laghu-kavya covers all kinds of short poems say of one or two stanzas.
Mahakavya is the elaborate court epic kavya in classic style narrating a noble story element (kathavastu) of sublime characters spread over several cantos (sarga bandho mahākāvyam ārabdhaṃ saṃskṛtena) adorned with eighteen types of descriptions (asta-dasha-varnana), with well chosen forms (guna) of expression, syntax, and graces of rasa and beauty (alankara) and endowed with eloquent imagination; and , at the same time, satisfying all the norms and principles (kavya-lakshana) prescribed for a Maha-kavya by the Kavya -shastra texts – kāvyaṃ sphuṭad-alaṅkāraṃ guṇavad-doṣa varjitam (AP.336.07) . Apart from these, it must promote and further the cause of the Dharma.
Thus, a Mahakavya composed by a great poet must be complete in all aspects :
sarva vṛtti pravṛttañca sarva bhāva prabhāvitam /sarva arītirasaiḥ puṣṭaṃ / ata eva mahākāvyaṃ tatkartā ca mahākaviḥ //AP.336.31-32//
The Laghu-Kavya comprises within it several: Muktaka – single stanza poem; Yugala – two stanza poem; Sandanitaka (or Vishesaka) = three stanza poem; Kapalaka = Four stanza poem; Kulaka – five to fifteen stanza poem; Samghata = series of stanzas; Kosha (treasure) – collection of stanzas; and Khanda-kavya– short poetic work – ākhyāyikā kathā khaṇḍa-kathā pari-kathā tathā.
mahākāvyaṃ kalāpaś ca paryābandho viśeṣakam //kulakaṃ muktakaṃ koṣa iti padya kuṭumbakam /AP.336.23-24//
According to Bhamaha, a Mahakavya should be composed of Sargas (Cantos- Sargabandha – sargabandho mahakavyam). Its subject matter (Vastu) should be Noble. It may concern the humans or the legends of divine beings (devadicarita). It may be based on a traditional lore or on an imagined story (Utpadya-vastu) rooted in Arts (Kalashraya) or in treaties (Shastras).
Its hero (Nayaka) should be noble; and, should be endowed with all the virtues. Prominence should be given to the hero; describing his noble birth, prowess, training in Shastra etc.
A Kavya, according to Bhamaha, may be in prose (Gadya) or verse (Padya). It may be written in Sanskrit, Prakrit or Apabhramsa.
The story should be narrated in refined language (a-gramya) with graceful and meaningful words adorned with Alankaras (salamkaram).
Manthra (state councils), Doothaprayana (emissaries-relation with other states), battles, victory of the hero, are to narrated in five Samdhis. It should be comprehensible without detailed explanation; but, complete in all aspects.
One predominant sentiment should run through the entire length of the poem. The other Rasas could be brought out separately.
Though it deals with the four-fold Purusharthas, the Artha should be given prominence. Worldly matters should be depicted.
sargabandho mahakavyam mahatamca mahaccayat; a-gramya,, sabdamartham ca salamkaram sadasrayam mantra-dutaprayarajinayakabhyudayaisca yat; panacabhih santibhiryuktam natiyakhyeyamrdhimat; Caturvargabhidhanepi bhuyasarthopadesakrt yuktam lokasvabhavena rasaisca sakalaihiiprthak; nayakam pragupanayasya vamsaviryasrutadibhithi natasyaiva vadham bruyadanyot karsabhidhitaya yadi kavya’ sarirasya na sa vyapitayesyate – Kavyalankara I, 18-23 .
Dandin in his Kavyadarsa gives an elaborate definition of Mahakavya, the summit of Kavya genre – sargabandho mahākavyam ucyate tasya lakṣaṇam :
The composition in Cantos (Sargabandha) begins with a benediction (asis or Mangala), or a salutation (namaskriya) or an indication of the plot (Vastu-nirdesha) – āśīrnamaskriyā vastunirdeśo vāpi tanmukham .
Its story (Katha) is based on a traditional narrative (itivrtta), or on a true event (ithihasa) from one or the other sources – itihāsa kathodbhūtam itarad vā sadāśrayam .
It deals with the fruits of the four aims of life (chatur-varga phala Purushartha) and four types of heroes – catur udātta-nāyakam . Its hero or the principal character (Nayaka) is well accomplished in all the arts, graceful and noble (Dhirodatta). The Anti-hero (Prati-nayaka) lacks all such virtues; but is powerful , passionate and full of anger.
The sequence of events in the Sarga-bandha should be structured in Samdhis (junctures) providing for a logical progression of the events in the story. Accordingly, a Kavya should begin with an happy opening (Mukha or Adi-mangala) , against which is set the second Samdhi (Prati-mukha) . Following which the third Samdhi , the Garbha (embryo) gradually unfolds the plot. That leads to the fourth Samdhi , the Vimarsa the crisis or the testing-times in the life of the principal character (Nayaka). And, his trails and tribulations are resolved (Nirvahana) in the fifth Samdhi. And , the Kavya is concluded on an auspicious note ( Antya-mangala).
Adorned (Alamkara) with eighteen (ahsta-dasha-varnana) types of descriptions including that of
the cities (nagara); oceans (arnava); mountains (shaila); seasons (vasantadi ritu); the raising of the sun and moon (chandra surya-udaya-asthamana);
– nagarā arṇava śailā rtu candrā arka udaya varṇanaiḥ ;
playing in pleasure-parks (vana vihara), (udyana), and in water (jala krida); drinking parties , first blossoming of love (Purva-raga) and the delights of love-making (madyapana surata); weddings (vivaha); the separation of lovers (viraha) – udyāna salila kṛīḍā madhu pāna aratotsavaiḥ; discussions with the wise (vipralambha), weddings, the birth of a son (putrodaya)
– vipralambha vivāhaiś ca kumāro udaya varṇanaiḥ;
state-craft (raja-mantra); gambling or dispatching messengers (dyuta); wars (yuddha); campaigns (jaitra-yatra); and, accomplishments of the hero (nayaka abyudaya)
– mantra dūta prayāṇāji nāyakā abhyudayair api.
It is not too condensed; but , is pervaded with Rasa (aesthetic mood) and Bhava (basic emotion) – alaṃkṛtam asaṃkṣiptaṃ rasa bhāva nirantaram;
having Cantos (Sarga) that are not overly diffuse; composed in meters that are pleasing to hear, with proper junctures , and ending with different meters (that is, meters different from the main or the carrying meter of the Canto)
– sargair anativistīrṇaiḥ śravyavṛttaiḥ susaṃdhibhiḥ .
Such a Kavya pleasing to the world and well ornamented (Sadalamkriti) will last until the end of creation
– sarvatra bhinna vṛttāntair upetaṃ loka rañjanam ; kāvyaṃ kalpāntara sthāyi jāyate sad alaṃkṛti.
Even if it lacks some of these features, a Kavya does not become bad, if the perfection of the things that are present delights the connoisseurs (Sahrudaya).
– nyūnam apy atra yaiḥ kaiś cid aṅgaiḥ kāvyaṃ na duṣyati, yady upātteṣu saṃpattir ārādhayati tadvidhaḥ ”
sargabandho mahākavyam ucyate tasya lakṣaṇam &
āśīrnamaskriyā vastunirdeśo vāpi tanmukham // DKd_1.14 //
itihāsakathodbhūtam itarad vā sadāśrayam &
caturvargaphalāyattaṃ caturudāttanāyakam // DKd_1.15 //
udyānasalilakṛīḍāmadhupānaratotsavaiḥ // DKd_1.16 //
vipralambhair vivāhaiś ca kumārodayavarṇanaiḥ &
mantradūtaprayāṇājināyakābhyudayair api // DKd_1.17 //
alaṃkṛtam asaṃkṣiptaṃ rasabhāvanirantaram &
sargair anativistīrṇaiḥ śravyavṛttaiḥ susaṃdhibhiḥ // DKd_1.18 //
sarvatra bhinnavṛttāntair upetaṃ lokarañjanam &
kāvyaṃ kalpāntarasthāyi jāyate sad alaṃkṛti // DKd_1.19 //
nyūnam apy atra yaiḥ kaiś cid aṅgaiḥ kāvyaṃ na duṣyati &
yady upātteṣu saṃpattir ārādhayati tadvidhaḥ // DKd_1.20 //
The ultimate test of a classic poet is Mahakavya, presented as a splendid unity of descriptive and narrative delight. Its long narrative has to be structured into Cantos (Sargabandha) rendering the theme in sequential junctures (Samdhi).
The earliest surviving Kavya is Buddhacarita by Ashvaghosa (first century). Some of the renowned Mahakavya-are: Raghuvaṃśa and Kumārasambhava by Kalidasa; Kirātārjunīya by Bharavi; Śiśupāla-vadha by Māgha; Naiśadha-carita by Sri-Harṣa; and, Bhaṭṭikāvya, by Bhaṭṭi.
Unlike the prose narrative (Katha and Akhyayika) and the mixed genre of Champu or Drama (Rupaka) , the Makakavya is a poem composed entirely of quatrain-like Kavya stanzas. The Kavya poet arranges his or her in variety of elaborate meters, usually keeping the single ‘carrying’ meter up to the end of the Canto. The concluding verses are , however, composed in a different meter.
The characteristics of a Mahakavya may generally be treated as falling under two broad heads: essential and non-essential or formal. The essential characteristics are based on three constituents of Kavya: plot (Vastu or Itivrtta), the hero (Netr or Nayaka) and the main emotional content that it aims to portray (Bhava).
The plot must not be entirely fictitious; but must have a base in history or in Purana. The hero must be accomplished person of very high linage, a very noble person (Dhirodatta). The delineations of various sentiments and emotions are the third characteristic.
The non-essential characteristics are many; and, they generally apply to the techniques of narration and descriptions. A list of such characteristics includes that the number of Sarga should not exceed thirty but should not be less than eight. The number of verses should not be less than thirty but should not exceed two hundred. The last two or three verses of a Canto should be composed in a different meter or meters.
These characteristics are not essential. They may or may not be present in a Kavya.(e.g. The Haravijaya has more than fifty Cantos; some Cantos of Naisadhiyacharita contains more than two hundred verses; and the first Canto of the Bhattikavya has only twenty-seven verses).
Among the Laghukavya-s, a comparatively more detailed form is Khanda Kavya, which takes an independent position between Laghukavya and Mahakavya.
Kavya consisting one Section (Khanda) is called Khanda Kavya. It is different from a series of stanzas (Samghata). Khanda can employ themes much more freely and it usually narrates a story; or it might sometimes provide a background to the narrative. The classic examples of Khandakavya are: Kalidasa’s Meghadutam having about just over one hundred stanzas and Bilhana’s Chauri-surata-panchasika (fifty stanzas concerning secret enjoyment of love-act).
The other forms of Laghu-kavya generally comprise : Muktaka – single stanza poem; Yugmaka (also called Yugma, Yugala or Yugalaka) – two-stanza poem; Sandanitaka (or Visesaka) – three stanza poem; Kapalaka – four –stanza poem; Kulaka – five to fifteen stanza poem; Samghata – series of stanzas; and, Kosha – collection of stanzas – kulakaṃ muktakaṃ koṣa iti padya kuṭumbakam.
In Yugmaka, the pair, two stanzas are closely linked by both syntax and content. Both the Mukataka and Yugmaka show a clear tendency to be constructed on one sentence –one –stanza principle.
If the number of stanzas exceeds two Sandanitaka (the chain) , Kapalaka (the group) or Kulaka (the multitude) are the terms used , in a narrow sense, are the names given to poems of three , four or four or five to fifteen stanzas respectively.
kalāpo ‘tra pravāsaḥ prāganurāgāhvayo rasaḥ / saviśeṣakañca prāptyādi saṃskṛtenetreṇa ca // ślokair anekaiḥ kulakaṃ syāt sandānitakāni tat/AP_336.036/
Samghata (the junction) is a sort of longer poetry all written in the same meter, dealing with one single theme through the whole series of stanzas: a mountain , a season, a wedding , a battle etc.
The Kosha (treasure) on the other hand is longer and heterogeneous. These perhaps could be called Anthologies; and these form an important category in Sanskrit and Prakrit literature. They are collections of Muktakas selected from various sources, arranged as per a theme or in a random fashion.
The single stray verse (Muktaka) containing a single line of thought, emotion or expression or description or a summary – muktakaṃ śloka ekaikaś camatkāra kṣamaḥ satā ṃ– is very often used in all types of Kavyas. It is either used at commencement of the Kavya either as benediction (Mangala) or to pay homage to the earlier Masters of the tradition or to summarize the theme that is going to be presented or the mood of the Kavya itself . These single stanza poems could be compared to Indian miniatures; both present selected fields of animate and inanimate reality typical of the art in question.
The single unit of two or more stanzas in the same meter or in alternate meter (Paryaya Bandha)
(f) Dhvani – Guna – Chitra
Anandavardhana (Ca. 850 AD) in his Dhvanyaloka chose a different type of classification. He graded the Kavya into three classes :
(a) Dhvani-kavya (the poetry that suggests) as the true Kavya, the best (Uttama), where Dhvani the unspoken suggestive element is dominant;
(b) Gunibhuta-vamgmaya-kavya (well endowed descriptive poetry, as the middle (Madhyama) where Dhvani is secondary to Alamkara, and serves as a decoration for the spoken or expressed meaning; and,
(c) Chitrakavya (poetry that structured into various patterns or drawings) as the least (Adhama) which depends entirely on verbal play for its elegance and elaboration, and where Dhvani the suggestive power of poetry is absent.
Anandavardhana believed that all good poetry has two modes of expression – one that is expressed by words embellished by Alamkara ; and the other that is implied or concealed – what is inferred by the listener or the reader And , in the implied one – the Dhvani – lies the soul of the poetry.
Anandavardhana regarded Dhvani – the suggestive power of the Kavya as its highest virtue. The Alamkara, figurative ornamental language, according to him, came next. In both these types of Kavya, there is a close association between the word and its sound, and between speech (vak) and meaning (artha). The word is that which when articulated gives out meaning; and meaning is what a word gives us to understand. Therefore, in these two types of Kavya there is a unity or composition (sahitya) of word (sabda-lankara) and its meaning (artha-lankara).
Then, Anandavardhana expanded on the object (phala) of poetry and how it is achieved (vyapara). The Rasa, he said, is the ultimate enjoyment by the reader; such enjoyment is the object of poetry. According to him, Rasa is not made; but, it is revealed; and its revelation is best when done through Dhvani. And, that is why words and meanings must be transformed to suggestions (Dhvani) of Rasa.
Anandavardhana’s classification is generally accepted and has come to stay. But, what has changed is the types of discussions around it. The later discussions are more pointed and specific.
Let’s talk about the concepts of Sphota, Dhvani and Rasa in the next segment.
The Next Part
Sources and References
I gratefully acknowledge these and other wonderfully well researched works of great merit
Glimpses of Indian Poetics by Satya Deva Caudharī
Indian Poetics (Bharathiya Kavya Mimamse) by Dr. T N Sreekantaiyya
Sahityashastra, the Indian Poetics by Dr. Ganesh Tryambak Deshpande
History of Indian Literature by Maurice Winternitz, Moriz Winternitz
A History of Classical Poetry: Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit by Siegfried Lienhard
Literary Cultures in History by Sheldon Pollock
ALL Pictures are from Internet
May 24, 2021 at 7:44 am
Thank you so very much for explaining the various elements of Sanskrit Literature so very lucidly.
May 24, 2021 at 12:29 pm
Thank you for the visit; and for the appreciation
In case you are interested in Sanskrit literature
Please read the other articles in this series
and also the one on Artha -the meaning of Meaning
Cheers and Regards
November 15, 2022 at 10:11 pm
Hello Sir, your blogs are filled with the supra mundane delight.. Please let me know how to cite your blogs.. I want to cite your blogs in my thesis.
November 16, 2022 at 12:52 am
Dear Indrani Roy
Thank you for the visit ; and, for the appreciation.
You may quote or reproduce portions of the articles, citing /acknowledging the source.
You are such a versatile scholar in Music , literature and arts
I appreciate your writings
Please go ahead and keep writing
May That Mother Bless you
Cheers and Regards
November 25, 2022 at 5:23 pm
Thank you Sir.. Conveying my Pranam to you.. And thank you for your kind visit to my blogs.. Your encouragements have inspired me a lot.. Thank you once again Sir.. 🙏
November 25, 2022 at 5:47 pm
You have written with much understanding on an aesthetic and an elusive subject . It is erudite and sensitive . It deserves appreciation
God Bless you Maa