Discussions on Artha in Kavya- the Indian Poetics
As said earlier, one of the issues that preoccupied the Grammarians, the philosophers and the poetic-scholars alike was the subtle relation between the linguistic element (Sabda) and its meaning (Artha). There have been elaborate discussions in the Indian Poetics about the shades or the layers of meaning that the word is capable of revealing.
: – The Grammarian Patanjali explained the term Sabda as that which when articulated gives out the meaning or the intent of the speaker.
: – According to Bhamaha and Rudrata: Poetry is the combination of word and meaning.
– Saba- arthau -sahitau Kavyam – (Bhamaha, Kavyalankara 1.6); Nanu Sabda-arthau Kavyam – (Rudrata, Kavyalamkara2.1);
: – Kuntaka says the word (Sabda) and sense (Artha), blended like two friends, creating each other, make Kavya delightful
Sama-sarva gunau santau sahhrudaveva sangathi / parasparasya shobhayai sabdartau bhavato thatha //
Such togetherness of the word and sense creates a captivating state poetic delight in the mind of the reader or the listener. And, this is exactly what the poet desires to achieve.
Sahitya manayo shobha shalitam prati kashyasau / Atyunna na athiriktha manoharinya vasthithihi // V.J.1.17
: – Raja Bhoja (1011–1055) in his Srngaraprakasha says that word and meaning when harmoniously composed (sahitau) constitute Kavya. . Thus Kavya is a composition (unity, sahitya) of word and meaning.
:- King Somesvara III (around 1130) of the Kalyana Chalukya dynasty in his Manasollasa, an encyclopaedic work, says: Words make up the body of a literary text, meaning is its life-breath, tropes (Alamkara) its external form, emotional states and feelings its movements, meter its gait, and the knowledge of language its vital spot. It is in these that the beauty of the deity of literature consists.
: – And, Mandana Misra, the Mimamsaka, in his Sphotasiddhi said: Sabda is the cause that produces the intended meaning.
The position, simply put, is: poetry in any of its forms does need words; and the arrangements of those words, however clever or elegant, do have to convey a sense or meaning. The poetic beauty does not solely dependent on the strict order of words or other conventions. It, in fact, goes beyond regulated regimens. It is only the right or judicious combination of the two – Sabda and Artha- that produces relishing aesthetic expressions and suggestive poetry. The ultimate merit of a Kavya is in its enjoyment (Rasa) by the Sahrudaya the reader endowed with culture and taste. (Rasa)
In fact, the late-tenth-century philosopher and literary theorist Abhinavagupta went a step further. He asserted that that Kavya is not just about meaning, it is something more than that; and , as he put it: “It is not the mere capacity for producing meaning as such that enables a text to be called Kavya. And that is why we never apply that term to everyday discourse or the Veda.”
[ Let me digress here, for a while: About the word and the meaning :
Similar ideas appear in the poetics of the ancient West as also during the Renaissance period. In their ancient treatises – Aristotle (384-322 BCE – Poetics); and, Horace (65-8 BCE Ars Poetica) – talk about the art of poetry. Horace, in particular, in a discussion of poetics, elaborates on the idea of beauty in poetry. He observes that poetry should contain both beauty and meaning. He comes up with the dictum: non satis est pulchra esse poemata (it is not enough for a poem to be beautiful), which became a major theme in Renaissance art theory. And, the Renaissance critics readily accepted the idea of beauty supplementing meaning in art and poetry.
Horace also theorized that the poet’s ability to empathize with his characters; and, express man’s most profound concerns helped build civilization. The Renaissance period also embraced Horace’s idea that the artist should experience an emotion in order to depict it.
Horace writes that poets should apply appropriate styles to their poems based on the subject; and, not force an artificial relationship between subject and style. Horace observes that the poet should use appropriate language relevant to a character’s age, occupation, and personality.
He observes that successful poets know their subjects by observing them, as an artist would observe a live model, and/or experiencing them, as a poet experiences the spoken word.
“Yet you cannot draw except from the living model /and the poet must learn to write from the spoken word.”
He asserted that the poet has a responsibility to know his subject intimately; and, to learn of the ways in which past and contemporary scholars approached similar subjects.
Horace, therefore, emphasizes the importance of studying the techniques of successful poets. While he feels that the poets should not restrict themselves to established form, he supports the idea that one could use the classical structures, styles and techniques of established poets when the subject calls for it. He observed that a successful poet becomes wise by reading the philosophies of “better men”.
Horace also feet that both poets and painters should have the freedom, or poetic license, to create from their imagination. He said; for any artist, either as a musician or a painter or poet, there is an inexhaustible richness and diversity in the world we live in. And, there is also abundant freedom to experience and to express in countless innovative ways. Without such artistic freedom, the human civilization comes to a virtual end.
Further, Horace also believes the arts should promote virtuous characters and ideas, because of their ability to influence humanity. At the same time, he cautions that the poet need not omit beauty in order to do this.
Another interesting feature of the treatises on poetry of Aristotle’s Poetics and Horace’s Ars Poetica is the direct correlations between the sister arts – poetry and painting. From their comparison of these two arts emerged the art theory ut pictura poesis: as is painting so is poetry. Thus, the poet’s ability to paint images of nature in the mind’s eye; and, the painter’s ability to paint the same images on canvas, linked the two arts. The relation between poetry and painting was seen as that between two forms of poetry. And, of course, there is the much quoted saying, attributed to Simonides (556-468 BCE), by Plutarch in his De Gloria Atheniensium: Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is the painting that speaks.
It was said; the painter and the poet have much in common. Conventionally the painter deals with forms, moods and their representations in lines and colours .And, the poet is more immersed in the world of concepts, ideas, doubts and queries often tending to be philosophical. Both symbolize their emotions, sensations and ideas through concrete images and words; each in his own manner.
Renaissance artists, like Alberti and others, also drew a relationship between the formal elements of poetry and painting in that geometry and arithmetic were the theoretical basis for both arts. Further, they pursued similar goals.
It was said; the most relevant relationships between poetry and painting in the Renaissance’s theory of art were the imitation of nature; content and harmony between parts; beauty and meaning; formal elements and scholarship, and expression, action and decorum..
The impact of the dictum: ut pictura poesis during Renaissance was that it contributed, in a large measure, for introducing several layers of symbolisms and the elements of poetic imagery; forging relations with within certain parameters of literary contexts; and, raising painting to the status of a liberal art. Renaissance critics encouraged the painters to study past and contemporary poetry, history, theology, and philosophy. The ideal painting in the Renaissance contained subject matter from classical sources and the imitation of nature.
Source: Horace, Ars Poetica, trans. C. H. Sisson (Great Britain: Carcanet Press, 1975) ]
The primary sense Vakyartha is the natural (Svabhavokti); and, it is the easily comprehended sense of the word. When the perception of the primary sense is obstructed, the word conveys a sense other than the primary sense; but, the two meanings (somehow) seem related. Thus, the secondary sense (lakshana) could even be called an unnatural meaning (Vakrokti) of the word.
For instance; when the word Purusha is uttered, one immediately understands it as a reference to a male member of the human race. It is the primary sense of the word. It might refer to an individual or to a generic attribute. In any case; the word Purusha and its meaning are related. It is a signified–signifier relationship; one pointing towards the other. This relationship is termed Abhida.
However, in the world we live, we do not always use a word only in its primary sense. Many times, the word in its primary sense may not be adequate. Then, we attempt to attribute a sense to the word that is different or distinct from the primary sense. Such process of superimposition (aropita) is called lakshana or indication. This would be secondary sense – lakshanika or lakshyartha – of that word. The relationship between the secondary sense and the word is described as lakshya-lakshya sambandha
In poetry; the obstruction caused due to incompatibility of primary sense; the connection between the primary and the secondary sense; and, the convention (rudi) – are all interrelated. Here, there ought to be some justification for switching over to the un-natural meaning of the word; and, it should be generally acceptable (or should have gained currency in the common usage).
The use of words, their role and the intended effect are context sensitive. The same word could be employed in any number of ways; each performing its role in its own context. Thus, all the shades of meaning are necessary and relevant in poetry; but, each in its own context. Rajasekhara, therefore, says: A sentence is an arrangement of words which embodies the content that the speaker wishes to convey (pada-nama-abidhita-arthagrathanakarah sandarbhah vakyam – Kavyamimamasa (22) of Rajasekhara).
For instance; take the word Mother. The word in its primary sense is woman who has given birth to a child. In the specific context when one says ‘Kausalya is the mother of Rama’ you are referring to a specific person. And when one says ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, one is not referring to a physical mother but to suggest the sense of ‘origin’. Here, the primary sense of the term does not work. Similarly, when the Saint Ramaprasad calls out to Devi in anguish as Mother, it suggests the intensity of his devotion and the depth of his longing for her love and protection. Devi is not the physical mother but a projection of the Universal Mother principle or a specific mother deity. The vibrations of the suggested meaning of the word are indeed truly powerful.
Then, there is the most interesting and much debated Vyanjana-artha which is the suggested sense or the essence of the word. This, again, is founded in the principle that the meaning of word is not limited to its literal sense; the word has the power to reach far beyond the obvious. In poetry, the word acquires another power Vyanjana-vritti the suggestive function. It is that power (Shakthi) which activates the potential hidden in the word. And, the word acquires a new glow. Through the suggestive function of the word, a new meaning emerges, transcending the obvious literal sense, far more beautiful and sensitive.
The word which connotes the suggested sense (through the suggestive function Vyanjana –vritti) is named Vyanjaka. The relationship between the suggestive word and the suggested meaning (Vyanjana-artha) is described as vyangya-vyanjaka sambandha. It is this mutual relationship, which, virtually, is the lifeblood of Indian poetics. In fact, this is what that distinguishes poetry from other forms of literature.
The suggested sense Vyanjana-artha, which, though not explicit, becomes the object of awareness, is regarded as the essence of poetry. The Dhvani School put forward by Anandavardhana, brought focus on the potential power of the word in a Kavya. Here, the word (Sabda) together with its literal sense (Vakyartha) is said to form the body of Kavya; it is its cloak. But, the essence of poetry is elsewhere; it is not directly visible; and, that essence is the suggested sense of the word (Vyanjana-artha).
To put it in another way: it is not the direct literal and obvious meaning that is very significant in poetry, but it is the suggested, indirect and emotive meaning that matters. Hence, though the words of a Kavya and the literal sense must be given their due importance, they are but a medium for emotive and indirect meaning to flash forth. In good poetry, this suggested meaning dominates over the words and their literal meaning. As per Anandavardhana: The latter are compared to a woman’s body and the former to her grace and beauty which is a subtler manifestation and a more profound meaning of the womanhood.
The primary meaning can be understood by all. But, the suggested meaning is understood only by those who are gifted with some imagination and a sort of intuition. Here, the mere knowledge of the word alone is not enough to understand and enjoy the poetic import or the essence of the Kavya. It needs intuition or Prathibha. Mammatacharya calls Prathibha as – nava-navaonvesha-shalini prajna – the ever inventive and resourceful intellect. Prathibha is also called, at times, as Vasana. Only those endowed with Prathibha can truly enjoy the essence and beauty of Kavya. That is why, it is remarked; the Grammarians (unlike the goodhearted cultured reader the Sahrudaya) cannot truly appreciate and enjoy the Rasa of good poetry. They are incapable of looking beyond what appears obvious.
The suggested sense of the word designated as Dhvani (resonance or tone or suggestion) is regarded Anandavardhana as the soul of Kavya: Kavyasya Atma Dhvanih.
The concept of Dhvani was said to have been inspired by the ancient doctrine of Sphota. The term Sphota signifies: bursting; opening; expansion; disclosure; the eternal and imperceptible element of sound and words; and, is the real vehicle of the idea which bursts or flashes on the mind when a sound is uttered.
Nagesha Bhatta identifies Vedic Sage Sphotayana, mentioned by Panini in one of his rules, as the originator of Sphota theory. Bhartrhari, however, states that Audumbarayana (mentioned by Yaska) had put forth views similar to the Sphota concept. In any case, the original idea of Sphota seems to go back to the Vedic age when Vak or speech was considered to be a manifestation of the all – pervading Brahman , and Pranava (Aum) was regarded as the primordial speech sound from which all forms of Vak were supposed to have evolved.
It was Bhartrhari (around 485 AD) in his great work Vakyapadiya (all about sentence and word) elaborated and established the Sphota doctrine in the realm of Grammar and in Philosophy.
According to Bhartrhari, the perfect perception is that in which there is identity between the object (namely, the Sphota) and the form of its cognition (namely, words or the letters of sounds) . This special kind of perception is held to be function of mind, rather than of the external senses.
This is a major subject; and deserves to be discussed separately, when we come to the concepts argued out by Bhartrhari.
In the next part, let us start talk of Bhartrhari and his celebrated work Vakyapadiya.
Continued in next Part
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