[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.]
Udbhata and Vamana
The scholars of the early period of Indian Poetics, somehow, seem to come in pairs. It was Bhamaha and Dandin followed by Udbhata and Vamana; and then came Anandavardhana and Abhinavagupta.
Udbhata and Vamana were both said to be in the service of King Jayapida of Kashmir (Ca. 776-807 AD). Udbhata followed Bhamaha ; while Vamana followed Dandin. They developed upon and expounded the distinctive features of Dandin and Bhamaha; as also upon the differences that separate the two.
Udbhata is said to have written a commentary titled Bhamaha-vivarana (also called Kavya-alankara-vivrti ), on Bhamaha’s Kavyalamkara. It is believed that he also wrote a commentary on Bharata’s Natyashastra. Both the works are now not available. He is also credited (by some) with a Kavya: Kumarasambhava. What has come down to us is his Kavya-alamkara-sara- samgraha (a synopsis of the essence of Kavya Alamkara) clarifying the position of Alamkara principles that govern the Kavya.
And, Vamana in his Kavya-alamkara–sutra –Vritti expanded on the concept of Gunas dealt in Dandin’s work; and, at the same time, he underplayed the importance of Alamkaras. Vamana’s work, unlike that of his predecessors, is in the Sutra format interspersed by couplets or aphorisms (Karika). Because of that, his work marks a phase in the history of Sanskrit Poetic literature. The illustrations he provides are chosen from the works of the previous authors. A commentary on Kavya-alamkara–sutra –Vritti titled Kavi-priya is also credited by some sources to Vamana
Though Udbhata and Vamana were contemporaries, and were both employed in same Royal Court, each does not mention the other by name while criticizing the other’s views.
Their predecessors – Bhamaha and Dandin – generally dealt with Alamkara as figurative speech; Udbhata and Vamana, however, treat Alamkara as a poetic principle; and, talk in terms of its theories. Thus, in different ways, Udbhata and Vamana represent the initial efforts to organize the concept of poetic diction under theoretical principles. Both authors, however, continued the major thrust of the Alamkara or Alamkara–oriented tradition of speculation.
Udbhata’s Bhamaha-vivarana, which is an explanation or commentary on Bhamaha’s Kavyalankara is said to have dealt mainly with Alamkara. In his explanations, he generally followed Bhamaha and his definitions of certain Poetic principles. The Alamkaras that Udbhata talks about in his Kavya-alamkara-sara-sangraha are almost the same as those mentioned by Bhamaha in his Kavyalankara. Udbhata’s work gained great fame; almost overshadowing the original work of Bhamaha, perhaps because he remained focused on Alamkara and did not deviate into discussions on Guna / Dosha (grammatical purity) or such other elements of Kavya.
He expanded on the forms of Alamkara mentioned by Bhamaha. For instance; Bhamaha mentioned one kind of Atishayokti (hyperbole) while Udbhata distinguishes four varieties of it. Similarly, in place of Bhamaha’s two forms of Anuprasa (Alliteration), Udbhata describes four. He adds Drastanta (illustration) and Kavya-lingana (poetical reasoning- where the sense of a sentence or of a word is represented as a cause of something of which it becomes an attribute) to the forms of Alamkara-s mentioned by Bhamaha. While dealing with the varieties of Anuprasa, Udbhata recognises three different Vrttis or modes of expression. His classification of Alliterations into three classes was based on the ‘aural-effects’: primary alliterations classed as elegant (upa-nagarika); ordinary (gramya), and harsh (parashu).
Udbhata also brought into his work the element of analysis of the principles involved in the concepts. He explains the grammatical basis for different forms Upama (Similes). Here, he illustrates the forms of resemblance as qualified by different suffixes like – vat, – kyac, – kalpap etc. He also differs from Bhamaha on some minor points.
[ As regards the grammatical basis for the concept of Upama (similes), it may be mentioned that a general theory of comparison was in existence even before the time of the Kavyas. The grammarian Panini (Ashtadhyayi 18.104.22.168; 2.3.72; 3.1.10) uses the four elements of comparison: the subject of comparison (upameya or upamita); the thing with which it is compared (upamana); the property of similarity (samanya, or samanadharma); and the grammatical indicator of comparison (samanya-vacana or dyotaka). These were perhaps basic or general concepts; but, not full-blown rhetorical theories of poetics.
upamānāni sāmānya-vacanaiḥ upamitaṃ vyāghra-ādibhiḥ sāmānya-aprayoge || PS_2,1.55-56 ||… tulya-arthair atulā-upamābhyāṃ tṛtīyā ‘nyatarasyām || PS_2,3.72 ||… upamānād ācāre || PS_3,1.10 |
The technical terms used for describing the process involved in bringing out comparisons in a Kavya, also seemed have links with poetics in Yaska’s Nirukta. Yaska (Nirukta 3.13) discusses an idea about upama or simile, which he attributes to Gargya: atha.ata.upamāh/ yad.atat.tat.sadṛśam.iti.gārgya , ‘Not that, but like that’ – the illustration provided merely suggests some aspects of resemblance to properties in the subject; but it is not identical to the subject.
That is to say that similes and allegory do perform useful functions in a Kavya; but, they have their limitations. It is another way of suggesting that an allegory is untidy or incomplete, in that there is always a residue of meaning that cannot be adequately brought out by an allegorical Interpretation.
Yaska and Panini were perhaps concerned with semantic properties of language. Panini used these terms to explain grammatical constructions that create similarities, such as compounds, suffixes, and so on. But, Yaska seemed to be focused on the question whether the subject of comparison (upameya) is greater or less than its compared (upamana).
In both cases, however, there is a sense of commonality (sadharana-dharma) that bridges the subject (Upameya) and the object picked up for comparison (Upama); and, the necessity of balancing both the meanings in the comparison, explicitly or otherwise.
And during the later periods of the Kavya, comparisons were not tied down or limited to mere terms or expression, but were extended and stretched over to sentences and even to chapters; and, presented as allegories ]
Udbhata’s contribution to the theory of Rasa (Rasa-vada) is more significant. He improved upon the elements of Rasa enumerated by in Natyashastra. In his Kavya-alamkara-sara-samgraha while discussing Rasa-vada-alamkara, the principles of Rasa in conjunction with the theories of Alamkara (santaḥ kavaya iti saṃbandhaḥ), he included the Shanta Rasa (tranquility) to the eight Rasa-s mentioned by Bharata. Later, Abhinavagupta elaborated on the theories of Rasa and accepted Shanta, suggested by Udbhata, as the primary or the fundamental Rasa from which all Rasa-s arise into which all Rasa-s subside.
anaucityapravṛttānāṃ kāmakrodhādikāraṇāt / bhāvānāṃ ca rasānāṃ ca bandha ūrjasvi kathyate // UKss_4.5 //
The seeds of the Alankara doctrine as in Bhamaha’s work thus flower in Kavya-alamkara-sara-samgraha of Udbhata. The notion of Rasa is, comparatively, more developed in Udbhata’s work than in that of his predecessor. It was Udbhata who brought out a clear distinction as also the relation between Rasa and Bhava. According to him, Bhava is a particular state of mind or emotion; Anubhava (that which follows Bhava) is the external manifestation or expression of that Bhava; and, Rasa is the aesthetic delight or experience caused by Anubhava.
ratyādikānāṃ bhāvānāmanubhāvādisūcanaiḥ / yatkāvyaṃ badhyate sadbhis tat preyasvadudāhṛtam // UKss_4.2 //rasa bhāva tadābhāsavṛtteḥ pra śamabandhanam /
anyānubhāva niḥśūnyarūpaṃ yattatsamāhitam // UKss_4.7 //
[ Please do read the scholarly Essay ‘Understanding Udbhata’ by YIGAL BRONNER ]
Vamana is held in high esteem among the major scholars in the early Indian Poetics. His Kavyalankara-sutra-vrtti is a very significant work that comes up with original ideas and concepts. It is regarded as the earliest attempt at evolving a philosophy of literary aesthetics.
The Kavyalankara-sutra-vrtti is divided into five Divisions or topics (Adhikarana), each of which consist two or three chapters (adhyaya). There are in all twelve Adhyayas.
:- The first Adhikarana (having three chapters: Prayojana pariksha; Adhikari chinta; and Kavya-kanti) deals with the need or prayojana of Kavya ; characterises the nature of those who are fit for studying Alankaras, and declares that style is the soul of poetry.
:- The second Adhikarana (having two chapters: Pada Dosha and Vakya Dosha) is about the defects of words, sentences, propositions and their meanings.
:- The third Adhikarana (having two chapters : Guna-alamkara- vivechana; and Sabda–Guna nirupana) discusses the aspects of Gunas ;
:- the fourth Adhikarana (having three chapters : Sabda-Alankarika vichara ; Upamani nirupana ; and , Upama prapancha nirupana) deals with Yamaka , Anuprasa, Upama and such other Alamkaras.
:- The fifth Adhikarana (having two chapters: Kavya samaya; and Sabda shodhana) is devoted to poetical conventions, observance of the rules of sandhi, necessity of grammatical purity and the like. The last chapter also deals with the purity of words.
Just as Udbhata followed Bhamaha, Vamana followed Dandin. But, unlike Udbhata, who focused on a single principle for inquiry (Alamkara), Vamana attempted to find a way of covering under a single organized whole the various principles that had been discussed by his predecessor Dandin. He brings into his work an analytic interest to the study of poetry attempting to offer rational explanations of the principles involved in the subject. Further, he introduces fresh concepts and ideas into the theory of Poetics.
[ Please see a detailed note on the influence of Vamana on the later writers of sanskrit poetics.]
Dr. Victor Bartholomew D’avella writes in his remarkably well researched very scholarly Doctoral Thesis : Creating the perfect language : Sanskrit grammarians, poetry, and the exegetical tradition
Although Vāmana neither mentions Bhāmaha by name nor quotes his work in the Kāvyālaṅkāra-sūtra or its auto-commentary, we can conclude for various reasons that Vāmana knew the Kāvyālaṅkāra of Bhāmaha; and, that he was responding to speciﬁc grammatical points put forth by Bhāmaha. The strongest evidence for a direct response is the fact that Vāmana chose not only to write a section titled Sabdaśuddhi at the close of his work just as Bhāmaha ; but even began this section with a direct counter of Bhāmaha’s acceptance of varuṇau , etc
The other two instances, where both authors handle the same sutra, do not oﬀer the same kind of explicit contradiction, but they do demonstrate how Vāmana took up the same topics in a more profound manner so as to engage the KV and other grammatical sources now lost to us.
Vāmana also rejects Bhāmaha’s restriction on derivations (Kāvyālaṅkāra of Bhāmaha – 6.29), namely, that one should not use of jñāpaka , “hints,” or yogavibhāga , “rule splitting,” to achieve a correct form.
Furthermore, though no ta direct response to Bhāmaha per se, Vāmana ensured that his rules were pointed and clearly applicable to existing poetic usage in a manner that Bhāmaha does less often.
Vāmana responded, in all likelihood, directly to Bhāmaha’s work so as to codify how the full range of grammatical devices could be applied to poetic language.
Despite their diﬀerences, both authors evince an often creative and ﬂexible attitude toward grammar and lack much of the rigidity commonly associated with Sanskrit grammarians. In this regard, they still embody much of the accommodating spirit we have seen in the above quoted dialog.
Guna and Alamkara
Though Vamana elaborated upon the ideas put forward by Dandin, he does markedly differ from Dandin on several issues. For instance; Dandin uses the term Alamkara in the sense of embellishment or ornamentation that decorates the body of Kavya. Alamkara in Dandin’s work is not the principle ; but , is Soundaryam, beauty of the expression or figurative speech. Vamana, on the other hand, generalizes Alamkara as a theoretical principle. Further, though Vamana uses some of the older names of Alamkaras, such as, visesokti, rupaka, or aksepa, he gives entirely different meanings. And in all he describes thirty-three Alamkaras.
ekasya guṇasya hāneḥ kalpanāyāṃ śeṣairguṇaissāmyaṃ yattasya dārḍhyaṃ viśeṣoktiḥ / rūpakaṃ cedaṃ prāyeṇeti / // VKal_4,3.23 //upamānasya kṣepaḥ pratiṣedha upamānā akṣepaḥ /// VKal_4,3.27 //
Vamana opens his work with the famous quote pithily catching his view of Kavya: Kaavyam graahyam alankaaraat; Soundaryam alankaarah (VKal_1,1.1-2). A Kavya becomes agreeable on account of Alamkara; and, Alamkara means Beauty. Thereafter, he outlines the notions of merit or Guna and Alamkara; and, links Alamkara with Guna in a Kavya.
Earlier, Bhamaha had said that Kavya is made out of words and meaning (Sabda Artha sahitau Kavyam) . Perhaps, Bhamaha himself was aware of the limitations of his definition; and, therefore he added on to it the element of beauty by way of elegant figures of speech. Vamana, however, differed from Bhamaha; and said that Kavya is an organic whole composed of elements where Guna (quality or poetic excellence) and Alamkara (the principle of beauty) are also vital to it. Thus, Kavya has two dimensions: the substance (Vastu) of which it’s made (words and meaning); and the value of beauty for which it is made (Guna and Alamkara). The merit of Vamana’s theory lies in coordinating this principle with other elements of Kavya.
vastūnāṃ bhāvānāṃ svabhāvasya sphuṭatvaṃ yadasāv arthavyaktiḥ – VKal_3,2.14
Vamana says: the special features that create beauty (shobha) of Kavya are the Gunas (Kavya-shobhayah kartaro dharmah Gunah-VKal_3,1.1). And, those elements that enhance or brighten that beauty are the Alamkaras (Taditasya–hetavastu Alamkarah –VKal_3,1.2). Of the two, the former (Guna) is highly essential (nitya) for a Kavya (Purve niyatah). According to him there can be no luster in the Kavya without Guna (pūrve guṇā nityāḥ tair vina kavya sobha anupapatteh-VKal_3,1.3). Thus, Vamana assigns greater importance to the notion of Guna or stylistic element or poetic excellence; and, Alamkara comes next. In the process, Vamana attempted to clarify the distinction between Guna and Alamkara.
Though Vamana retained the ten Gunas enumerated by Dandin :
1. Ojas: vigour or brilliance of long compounds;
2. Prasada: clarity and lucidity;
3. Shlesha: well knit composition skilfully employing many shades of meanings;
4. Samata: evenness of sound within a line;
5. Samadhi: ambivalence through the use of metaphors;
6. Madhurya: sweetness in the refinement of expression;
7. Sukamarata: soft and delicate;
8. Udaratva: exaltation or liveliness;
9. Arthavyakti: directness avoiding obscure words, pun etc; and,
10. Kanti: glow or luminous elegant turns of phrases or grace,
he modified their names, and also increased the number of Gunas to twenty. He also explained the Gunas in his own manner.
While retaining the ten traditional Gunas, Vamana created two sets of the same ten Gunas under two broad heads: Sabda-Gunas (qualities relating to words) and Artha-gunas (qualities relating to sense or meaning). These two classifications are sometimes referred to as the subtle (Artha Sarira) and gross (Sabda Sarira) bodies of Kavya. That again harks back to the two basic concerns of the Sanskrit Poetics -Sabda and Artha – the word and its meaning; the first is about how the word is treated in the text, and the other is about the shades or the layers of meaning that the word is capable of revealing. Both, Sabda and Artha brighten the beauty (Kavya shobha) and enhance the quality of Kavya – khalu śabdā-arthayor dharmāḥ kāvya śobhāṃ kurvanti te guṇāḥ. And, the distinctions of the two groups as marked by Vamana helped to clear some of the vagueness in the definition of Guna as offered by Bharata and Dandin.
Vamana attempts to explain each Guna in terms of both Sabda and Artha. For example, Prasada (clarity and lucidity) as a Sabda-Guna, according to him, means readability (saithilya) of the text – bandhasya śaithilyaṃ śithikatvaṃ prasādaḥ; and, as Artha-guna it means propriety (auchitya) of sense – samprati artha guṇa vivecanā artha māha .
Generally, Vamana treats Guna-Dosha as relative concepts. Along with excellent Gunas that shine brilliantly, there could be some whose luster has dimmed and do not fit well into the context. At the same time, there could be defects (Dosha) which cannot boast of any redeeming feature; but yet, somehow, turn into merits because the context desperately needs such expressions.
As Dandin says, collyrium (a kind of dark eye shadow) is not a thing of beauty in itself; yet, it endows glamour and luster to the sparkling eyes of a beautiful woman.
Elsewhere, it is mentioned that Nir-doshatva or faultlessness is itself a Guna. Thus Gunas and Doshas are not absolute entities. Their merits or defects are relative; and, each, in its turn, enhances or diminishes the beauty of the composition depending on the context in which it is placed.
As regards Rasa, Vamana accords it a comparatively a higher position than his predecessor did. He abandoned the approach of Bhamaha and Dandin who treated Rasa as a subsidiary element (Rasavat) of the verse. Instead, he treated Rasa as an aspect of Guna which is considered essential to Kavya. And, within the Guna, he assigned Rasa the virtue of of Kanti (glow or brightness) and classified it under Artha Guna. Vamana did not however accord an independent status to Rasa.
The later Schools criticized Vamana for treating ‘unfairly’. They pointed out that Vamana erred in failing to recognize the merit of Rasa which is the ultimate poetic experience. It was argued that Rasa should have been accorded an independent status , if not the prime status.
Riti could , broadly , be taken as the characteristic way of presentation adopted by a poet; and, its synonyms are : Marga, Gati, Pantha and Prasthana. Dandin had earlier highlighted two styles (Marga) of presenting a Kavya: Vaidarbhi and Gaudi, each having its special characteristics. To that, Vamana added Panchali – sā tridhā vaidarbhī gauḍīyā pāñcālī ceti . (And, much later, Rudrata, in his Kavya-alamkara, added Latiya as the fourth Riti; while Raja Bhoja in his Sringara Prakasa added Avantika and Magadhi as other styles.)
All these names perhaps suggest styles that were characteristic to those geographical regions. According to Vamana, only the Vaidarbhi Marga, which he approves, has all the twenty Gunas – sweet as the notes of the lute. According to Vamana, the Gaudiya is marked by Ojas (vigour) and Kanti (grace) , but it lacks Madhurya (sweetness) and Saukumarya (delicacy) plagued by long winding compounds and bombastic words. And, Panchali, he says, while it has Madhurya and Saukumarya, it is devoid of Ojas and Kanti. He remarks that the difference between Vaidarbhi and other modes (Gaudi, Panchali etc) is analogous to differences between silken thread and jute fiber (I.2.11-18).
Gauḍī dambarabaddhā syād vaidarbhī lalitakramā / pāňcālī miśra bhāvena lāṭī tu mṛdubhiḥ padaiḥ //
As said earlier; Dandin had named certain literary styles as Marga-s (say, Vaidarbhi and Gaudiya Marga). Vamana not only modified the concept of style, but also renamed Marga as Riti – style or diction – rītīnāṃ pūrvā vaidarbhī grāhyā , guṇānāṃ sākalyāt . Riti, according to him, is a particular mode or organization of verbal structure that is different from common usage – Visista pada-racana – having the excellences of Gunas. He, in fact, calls this structure or arrangement of words as Viseso Gunatma (1.2.8) – a combination of various Gunas.
Thus, though he inherited the idea of Marga from Dandin, Vamana integrated it with the notion of Guna, the poetic excellences or virtues. And, his idea of Riti brought into its fold other modes of analysis and poetic principles, particularly Alamkara, to create a holistic view of poetry. Vamana is revered as the originator and exponent of the Riti School.
Before going to Vamana (Ca. 776-807 AD) , lets us take a leap in time ; and, reach Kuntaka who perhaps was a younger contemporary of the great Abhinavagupta (Ca. 950 – 1020 AD.
Kuntaka preferred to do away Riti’s association with the obsolete geographical areas ; and, advocated classifying the manners of expression (Riti) in the light of prevailing tendencies among the erudite scholars of Sanskrit literature. He tried to show how each Marga or Riti or style is characterized by the manner of employing Alamkaras and delineating the Rasas.
He said; these Ritis – having synonyms such as Gati, Marga, Pantha and Prasthana etc. ,- are the characteristic ways of a writer. The Ritis are unique to each author, springing from his creative genius and his approach to the subject (Kavi-svabhava) . And, it is rather too simplistic to merely associate a Riti with a geographical area.
Kutaka also objected to the old practice of classifying the Vaidarbhi, Gaudi and Panchali type of Ritis as Uttama , Madhyama and Adhama , receptively. He said; the quality of a Kavya and its presentation cannot be decided merely going by part of the country from which it originated and its customs (Desa-achara) . What truly matters , he said, is the poetic genius, innovative skill and craftsmanship (Prathibha , Shakthi , and Vyutpatti).
Kuntaka mentions that in this context one could perhaps consider three styles (Margas) , the hallmark of each poet (Kavi svabhava); each of which having a charm of its own : Sukumara (graceful); Vichitra (graphic or artistic skill); Madhyama (combination of both). And, it is rather absurd to treat one among them as being superior (Uttama) and the rest as either passable (Madhyama) or bad (Adhama)
He also speaks of certain virtues (Gunas) of each those three Margas .
For instance ; in regard to Sukumara Marga, he mentions Madhurya (sweetness of expressions) that gracefully and lucidly combines Sabda (Pada-nama samatvam) with Artha (Sabda-rtha ramaniyata ya vinyasa vaichitram) . The next is Prasada , the Guna by virtue of which an idea is presented with clarity and ease. The third Guna is Lavanya , the alluring beauty that delights the heart of a responsive reader (Sahrudaya)
The Vichitra Marga of Kuntaka is dominated by the intricately crafted flashy style (Vakrata) .
Though Kuntaka speaks, mainly, of the two Margas and their combinations, he cautions that these are mere illustrations. And, Margas , which spring from poetic genius , are indeed countless in their varieties and in their subtle differences depending upon the skill and the attitude of the poet (Kavi-svabhava).
Thus, Riti is not just a regional mode of arranging words or diction or style; and, it could mean harmony and rhythm in the composition , as well. Just as in the human body the placement and proportion of each organ contributes to the handsome or otherwise appearance of a person, so also the arrangement of the words which aptly bring out the poetic and the dramatic intent of the component are highly important. Riti aims to harmonize Sabda and Artha, the body and the soul.
Prof.SK De (in his Sanskrit Poetics) explains : it should be observed that the term Riti is hardly equivalent to the English word style, by which it is often rendered, but in which there is always a distinct subjective valuation. … Riti is not, like the style, the expression of poetic individuality as is generally understood by western criticism, but it is merely the outward presentation of its beauty called forth by a harmonious combination of more or less fixed ‘literary excellence (Gunas)’.
Riti represents for Vamana the collection of Gunas in harmony with faultless (A-doshau) Alamkara-s , which produce Soundaryam (or Shobha) of Kavya. Paka (maturity) is another term that Vamana introduced to denote Shobha or the natural beauty of the thing described. It is this Paka, the inexplicable delight that the Sahrudaya enjoys.
(udayati hi sa tādṛk kvāpi vaidarbha rītau sahṛdaya hṛdayānāṃ rañjakaḥ ko’pi pākaḥ – VKal_1,2.21.)
The language and its structural form lead us to the inner core of poetry. And, when that language becomes style (Riti), it absorbs into itself all the other constituent elements of poetry. It allows them, as also the poetic vision, to shine through it.
Vamana , therefore, accorded Riti a very high position by designating Riti as the Soul of Kavya – Ritr Atma kavyasya / śarīrasyeveti vākyaśeṣaḥ (I.2.6) – Riti is to the Kavya what Atman is to the Sarira (body). Here, it is explained that in his definition of Riti, Pada-rachana represents the structure or the body while Riti is its inner essence. Through this medium of its unique Visista Pada-rachana the Gunas become manifest and reveal the presence of Riti, the Atman.
As Riti, according to Vamana, is the essence (soul) of Kavya, so the Gunas are the essential elements of the Riti. That is to say; the Gunas, being essential to Riti, are the inseparable property of poetry; whereas, the Alamkaras being only external ornamentation to the body of poetry are not recognised as inseparable property of poetry. In other words:- the Gunas are inherent to poetry (Samavaya-samvandha) ; and, the Alankaras are merely connected with poetry (Samyoga-samyandha).
padānāṃ sandhiḥ padasandhiḥ / sa ca svara samavāyarūpaḥ pratyāsattimātrā rūpo vā / sa virūpo yasminniti vigrahaḥ //2.2. 7/
The explanation offered by Vamana meant that the verbal structure having certain Gunas is the body of Kavya, while its essence, Riti, is the soul of Kavya. Thus, Vamana independently introduced the concept of Atman (soul) into the Kavya composition. The earlier scholars had not discussed or visualized the ‘soul’ (Atman) of Kavya. The later authors followed the lead provided by Vamana and started visualizing Kavya and talking about it in terms of the body (Sarira) and soul (Atman) of poetry.
With the heightened position of Riti as the essence of Kavya, the Alamkara had to take a secondary place. The Alamkara, the decorative ornamentation of the verbal structure or the charm of expressions came to be looked upon as the external features that beautify (saundaryam alankarah) the body of Kavya – kavyam grahyam alankarat. Thus, it is quite feasible for a good Kavya to subsist without Alankaras, which are extraneous elements; but not without Riti its very soul. Thus, a clear distinction emerges between Guna /Riti the poetic excellence which is the soul and the Alamkara the ornamentation which is the body of Kavya.
[The later critics , of course, wondered, how Gunas could be any more ‘inherent – Samavaya-samvandha’ than the Alamkara in a poetic expression, if they are present or absent as required for the differentiation that Vamana made in the styles (Riti) that he highlighted.]
Literally interpreted, this doctrine means: the Alamkara-s are just imposed on the body of Kavya which is already ‘en-souled’ by Guna-s the poetic excellences or qualities. That is; the body and soul are distinct. The soul is not perceptible to the senses or to the onlookers. But, the soul resides in the body; and reveals itself through body and lends the body its life and a purpose to exist.
Whatever be the views adopted / accepted or rejected by the later scholars, it was Vamana who first brought into discussion the concept of soul and tried to make a distinction between the body (structure) and soul (essence) of poetry. He also attempted to define Kavya with reference to specific verbal structures possessing certain specific virtues (such as beauty, Soundaryam or Shobha) that hold within its bosom the essence of Kavya; and that essence, according to Vamana is Riti. As he explains, Riti is the flowing together of all the essential elements of Kavya – :
Rinati gacchati asyam guna iti riyate ksaraty asyam vanmaddhu-dhareti va ritih ( Vamana KSS).
Thus, Vamana is the first Alamkara writer (Alamkarika) to bring a sense of balance into his School. Till his advent, the Alamkara School was engrossed with elegant expressions of poetic beauty; and, they seem to have missed the aspect of the inner essence of Kavya. Vamana brought into discussion the aesthetic effect as something other than an appreciation of alluring word-play. He also makes the process of understanding the purpose or the intentions of the poet himself as central to poetic appreciation. If the poet and the reader, in harmony, commonly share the poetic delight that would be the greatest fulfillment of the Kavya. He thus broadens his inquiry by bringing together the poet and the reader, and also by including the proper effect of poetry seen as a coordinated outcome or flowering of all the elements of poetry. With his concepts of Riti and Guna we move almost close to the essence of poetry.
Vamana’s mode of thought – forging a dualism between the soul and the body of Kavya, between the qualities of the soul and the ornaments of the body – paved way for the advent of a theory in the ninth century, which since then has dominated Sanskrit poetics and literary criticism: the theory of suggestion (Dhvani). The Dhvani School propagated by Anandavardhana retains the distinction between the body and soul of Kavya. But, here the soul is Dhvani, the suggestive power of poetry, and not Riti the diction.
With the emergence of later Schools, the concept of Riti came under attack. The theory of Riti suffered a setback , as the proponents of the Dhvani School asserted that the heart of all art-forms – drama, poetry, music or art- is one and the same – the aesthetic experience of the Sahrudaya – the cultured reader or listener.
The Dhvani School argued that although Vamana said that Riti is the soul of poetry, it does not go into the inner depths of Kavya. Riti, at best, is an arrangement of words and meanings characterized by various Gunas. A particular Guna might be appropriate in a specific context. The verbal compositions could be tight knit and high flowing in a given context; but, a simple, lucid narration might be appropriate in another situation. One may admire grandeur in one situation; and simplicity in another. It is the context that decides appropriateness of style. This is an essential aspect of any Kavya. The Riti School, somehow, seemed to have missed this point.
[Although Anandavardhana did not support the theory of Riti, he reduced the ten Gunas stated by Vamana into three; and, equated them to the three Ritis put forward by Vamana. Anandavardhana did not go further in analyzing the Guna doctrine.
Mammata following Anandavardhana, discussed the doctrine of Guna in his Kavyaprakasa; and, remarked that the ten Gunas defined by Dandin and Vamana were nothing but some Alamkaras ; and, some of them could be treated as the reverse of the Doshas.]
It is true, they said, that Alamkara – the figures of speech, and Riti – the distinctive verbal compositions , do lend a charm to Kavya. But, that represents the body of Kavya while its essence or soul is Rasa. And, the essential objective of Kavya is Rasa, the experience of the Sahrudaya – the cultured reader or listener. It is for the delight the Sahrudaya that Kavya is created. They also pointed out that the Riti School seemed to have missed the involvement of the reader in the process of poetic experience. And, that perhaps is the reason, they said, why the advocates of Riti could not assign Rasa its due place in poetics
The Dhvanyaloka of Anandavardhana expanded on the object (phala) of poetry; and, how it is achieved (vyapara). The Rasa, it said, is the ultimate enjoyment by the reader; such enjoyment is the object of poetry. According to Anandavardhana, Rasa is not made; but, it is revealed; and its revelation is best when done through Dhvani, the power of suggestion. And, that is why words and meanings must be transformed to suggestions (Dhvani) of Rasa.
There was however some respite to the Riti School. Despite the overwhelming importance accorded to suggestion and to the suggestion of Rasa, the Dhvani School could not ignore the relevance of expression (Riti). It was pointed out by other critiques that a worthy poet who carefully seeks the suggested sense (Dhvani) has necessarily to rely on apt words in order to covey the suggestion.
It was also pointed out that suggestion (Dhvani) can hardly be evoked by mere mention of a name or a term. It needs a certain environment. The sense of ‘suggestion’ has to arise out of the contextual factors backed by appropriate descriptions. These include the literary meaning as also the suggestive possibilities of the expression such as: the sound echoing the sense, rhythm, imagery and symbols. All these devices are to be used for helping to evoke the right response in the mind and the heart of the reader. Such environment for evoking Dhvani , it was pointed out, is nothing but Riti. Thus , it is only through Riti that the language acquires a limitless suggestive power. Eventually Dhavni, however lauded, which aims to evoke emotional response or enjoyment of the listener or the reader (Rasa) has inevitably to depend on Riti for its manifestation.
As regards Alamkara, they said, it might belong to body of Kavya, but to a gifted poet it comes spontaneously without much effort; and, that does help the suggestion of Rasa. As Vamana said, Kavya springs (Kavya bija) from poets creative genius (pratibha). It is the beautiful mind that gives birth to beautiful expressions; and beautiful expressions bring forth beautiful suggestions. And, all suggestions need not be poetic.
The doctrine of Riti, despite its limitations, is truly a major contribution to the study of literary compositions. During the recent times it attracted much attention as it was recognized that the theory of Riti has close affinities with modern day stylistic studies of literature.
Sources and References
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
The Philosophy of the Grammarians, Volume 5 By Harold G. Coward
A Comparative Study of the Indian Poetics and the Western Poetics by Mohit Kumar Ray
A history of Indian literature. Vol. 5, Scientific and technical …, Volume 5 by Edwin Gerow