Thursday, March 21, 2024








 “Not writing poetry is no crime; it won’t cause illness or lead to punishment; but writing bad poetry is a living death.”…(  Acharya Bhamaha of Kashmir  in Kaavyaalamkaara)

K S Nagarajan  in his book, “Contribution of Kashmir to  the Sanskrit Literature ” writes this :-

“The credit of presenting a full-fledged picture of the Science of Poetics can be attributed, in a large measure, to Kashmir. Though the fundamentals in Poetics could he traced to works like the Agnipurana and Natya-shastra of Bharata, it is remarkable to note that all aspects of this science are elaborated and discussed in detail by Kashmirian authors. Original theories have been suggested and speculations worked out in such a  manner that one is tempted to say that the Science of Poetics' in its entirety, is visible only in Kashmir. Every topic pertaining to the Science, like Alamkara, Rasa ,Riti or Dhvani was thoroughly discussed by Kashmirian scholars . Even grammatical points which would require attention while discussing the relation between Shabda and Artha were not lost sight of, though they had no direct connection with the subject.”


From the hoary antiquity,  India produced poetical compositions in abundance. Especially, in case of Sanskrit poetical works, India is very much rich. Far ahead is the place of Kashmir in contribution to the Sanskrit literary productions. Not only in quantity and variety, in case of quality also, the land of Kashmir contributed immensely. The Kashmirian Sanskrit scholars  have left practically no facet of life, outside the ambit of their writings. It needs to be known that the major schools of Indian Poetics are: Rasa, Alankara, Riti, Dhvani, Vakroki, and Auchitya.  The rasa-dhvani-auchitya-vakratā quartet applicable  to all arts took appropriate shape in Kashmir . Endless is the list of contributors from Kashmir to the Sanskrit literature , grammar , poetics , rhetoric, religious thought, and  aesthetics  of India . A few scholars in these categories could be named Rishi Vasugupta , Abhinavgupta , Khemraja , Kshemendra , Bilhana, Kalhana,  Somadeva , Sharangadeva,Bhatta Narayana  , Jayanta Bhatta,Rajanka Bhatta ,Ratnakara ,Sivaswamin,Srivara ,Bhallaṭa,Vamana,Jonaraja,Anandavardhana, Udbhata, Kuntala , Mahima Bhatta, Silhana,Abhinanda Bhatta, Panini, Bhatta Sambhu, Charaka, Bhamaha, Gopendra, Jalhana,Namisadhu, Rudrata, Kuntaka, Mammaṭa,Vallavadeva,Dandin,Vasunanda,Kavi Chandaka,Varahamihira , Utpala, Visakhila , Vamanagupta, Manoratha, Padmagupta, Ratnakara, Mukula Bhatta, Kumarila Bhatta, Poetess Vijjika, Sabaraswami, Bhatta Nayaka, Bhatta Tauta, Hemachandra, Vidyadhara,Rajashekhara,Narendra, Ruyyaka, Sri Shankuka, Sambhunatha , Sumatinatha  , Lollata ,Somendra, Cakrapala, Muktakana, Bhogendra, Prakasendra, Rāmayaśas,Jaynayaka, Damodaragupta, Mukula-bhatta, Jayaratha,Shobhakaramitra,Ghantaka, Lollata,Kirtidhara, Harsata, Rajanaka-Tilaka,Rajanaka-Ratankantha.  For this write-up, let me  take up one ,the   unsung Acharya Udbhata .

Acharya Udbhata is a well studied  Kashmirian writer  on Poetics and a great literary theorists. Very little is known about his parentage. Kashmirian tradition identifies him as a  great  scholar who was the President of the Royal Council in the court of King Jayapida of Kashmir. Udbhata and Vamana were in the service of King Jayapida of Kashmir (Ca. 776-807 AD). Udbhata followed Bhamaha ; while Vamana followed Dandin. According to some scholars ,  while Vamana was a minister, Udbhata was the President of the Royal Council and  King Jaypida was reportedly paying him one lakh Dinaras a day as his remuneration.  The most prosperous part of his activity appears to be during the earlier half of King Jayapida’s long reign. He is quoted with great respect by later writers .  Prof Daniel Holmes Ingalls ,  the well known Sanskrit scholar from America writes that Jayapida's court was responsible for birthing the "school of literary criticism in Kashmir “primarily through gems like Udbhata , Vamana , Damodargupta, and many more Sanskrit  scholars .

Many reference surface up in texts of his period that mention that Udbhata has  written a commentary titled Bhamaha-vivarana (also called Kavya-alankara-vivrti ), on Bhamaha’s Kavyalamkara. Like Abhinavgupta , he also wrote a commentary on Bharata’s Natyashastra. Both the works are not available now. He is also credited  with a Kavya: Kumarasambhava written in Mahakavi Kalidasa’s style . 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. 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. 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.

Udbhata’s contribution to the theory of Rasa (Rasa-vada) is more significant. He improved upon the elements of Rasa enumerated  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 Rasas subside.

Yigal Bronner , Associate Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, specializing in Sanskrit poetry and poetics , writes this about  Kashmir’s  Udbhata  :-

“Contrary to the prevailing view, it needs to be pointed out that the big breakthrough of Kashmiri poetics took place, or at the very least decisively began, a generation or two before Ananadavardhana This breakthrough was led by Udbhaṭa (c.800) and, to a lesser extent, Vamana, his colleague at the court of Jayāpīḍa (r. 776-807), and Rudraṭa, who must have followed them by no more than a couple of decades. “As we learn from Kalhaṇa’s report, King Jayapida actively recruited intellectuals who belonged to a vast range of disciplines and philosophical schools in a way that may have encouraged an inter-disciplinary approach. Indeed, the court was highly tolerant of these scholars’ denominations, if not actively encouraging diversity in this area. For example, the list of Pandits of this king ends, or culminates, with the rising sun of the Buddhist scholar Dharmottara, who we directly influenced Vamana’s re-thinking of Alamkaras.  It is perhaps not a coincidence that it was here, in this fertile setting that invited thinking across schools and theologies, that the erosion of boundaries between poetics and dramaturgy began, and that models from Mimamsa, Buddhist epistemology, and other disciplines began to be applied to the study of poetry.It was during this important phase that all the building blocks of Ānanda’s theory were introduced and Sanskrit poetics dramatically changed its course, as voices within the tradition testify. The genius of Ānanda’s Dhvanyāloka (Light on Suggestion –Dhvani) was in the perfect combination of his predecessors’ building blocks in a uniquely coherent and hence uniquely powerful – some would say too powerful – package or framework. Having said that; One needs to recognize that Sanskrit poetics underwent its pivotal turning point during Jayāpīḍa’s reign and under Udbhaṭa’s lead. It is this thinker whom Indologists have most misunderstood and neglected, partly, of course, because of the loss of the bulk of his corpus.  But enough has been preserved or quoted to at least begin to understand his true impact.

According to Kalhaṇa’s account, which is unique in its wealth of details, the king appointed numerous poets’ laureate and even assigned some of them to high government posts. Indeed, the two highest offices went to the literary theorists who are the focus of this essay:  Vamana, who was made a minister or ouncilor to the king (mantrin), and Udbhaṭa, who was installed as the chief scholar in his assembly (sabhāpati), the highest academic placement in the kingdom. Kalhaṇa even mentions Udbhaṭa’s astronomical remuneration in the only report in his chronicle of the wages paid to an academic: an  extraordinary sum .

 The credit for  making  Udbhata  known  goes to G. Buhler who undertook , his famous tour in Kashmir in 1875, and brought to light many valuable works on poetry, rhetorics and history. of Kashmir. The credit of laying the plan for a systematic exposition of the Science of Poetics in Sanskrit literature goes (in some measure) primarily  to Udbhata of Kashmir .

(Avtar Mota )


Kashmir has made the largest contribution to poetics or Alamkarasastra (Rhetorics). The majority of famous rhetoricians of India belong to Kashmir. Vamana (7th century A.D.), the founder of the Riti School, wrote Kavyalankaravritti. Udbhatta (8th century A.D.), the expounder of the theory of three Vrittis, wrote Alankarasarasamgraha and Bhamavivarm. Rudratta (9th century), the expounder of the theory of three figures, wrote Kavyalankara. Anandavardhana (9th century), the founder of the School of Doctrine of Dhvani (Suggestion), wrote Dhvanyaloka. Mamatta (11th century), the upholder of the theory of Rasa (Sentiment), wrote Kavyaprakasa. Abhinavagupta (11th century), the expounder of the theory of Rasadhvam, wrote Dhvanyalokalohcana, Mahimbhatta, who held the view that Dhvani could always be reduced to inference, (Anumana), wrote Vyaktiviveka. Ruyyaka (12th century), who asserts Dhvanikara's view and accepts the principle of Vakroktijivita, wrote Alankara Sarvasva and a commentary on Kavyaprakasa. Ksemendra, who was both a poet and a critic, and laid down the theory that propriety is essential to sentiment, wrote Aucityavichara and Kavikanthabharana. All these renowned rhetoricians, besides Kayyatha, Alleta and others, hail from Kashmir. Kashmiri critics built up the twin disciplines of Alankara and Natyashastras- Rudrata, Sankuka, Anandavardhana, Candri Kakora Bhatta Nayaka, Bhatta Tota, Bhattenduraj, Abhinavagupta, Kuntaka, Mahima Bhatta, Kshemendra, Mammatta, Allata, Tilaka, Ruyyaka, Sobhakara, Jayadratha- who evolved original theories about the soul or the essence of the artistic expression and clarified and illuminated the different aspects of appeal in poetry and drama. There were some noteworthy writers in this field outside Kashmir, but the Dhvani and Rasadhvani doctrine expounded by Anandavardhana and Abhinavagupta eclipsed by its brilliance all other theories. According to certain evidences, Patanjali, the commentator of Panini's Astadhyayi (the first treatise on Sanskrit Grammar) was a Kashmiri, so was Pingala, the author of Pingala Sutra (a treatise on Metrics and Prosody). There are so many remarkable writers of Kashmir who have contributed to scientific subjects like Astronomy, Medicine, Agriculture Architecture, and other arts. For instance Charaka, the author of a well-known Medical Treatise, Charaka Samhita, according to some evidences, belonged to Kashmir. A comprehensive Sanskrit treatise on Agricultural Science (Krisi Shastra), namely Kasapa-munikathita-Kasyapiya-Krisi-sukti is ascribed to Kashyapa, a well-known sage of Kashmir.

Some basic terms in the science of poetics  upon which Kashmirian scholars have worked hard are as under:-    


Alankar is a figure of speech which means ornaments or adornments. Just like the  women use ornaments to enhance their beauty, Alankar is  are used essentially to enhance the beauty of a poem. The Alankara Shastra is the traditional Indian science of aesthetics that deals with the principles and techniques of literary composition and ornamentation. It is an important aspect of Indian literary criticism and aims to enhance the beauty and expressiveness of literary works


A Rasa literally means "juice, essence or taste". It connotes a concept in Indian arts about the aesthetic flavour of any visual, literary or musical work that evokes an emotion or feeling in the reader or audience but cannot be described. The aesthetic  pleasure or bliss  seen in  Indian  poetics is termed as Rasa.  In  English language ,  it is translated  as aesthetic enjoyment, aesthetic bliss, poetic pleasure, poetic relish, poetic delight, poetic delectation etc. Rasa (aesthetic experience) secures for us this unique delight by kindling dispassion. According to Bharata Muni ( author of Natya-shastra ), in art, Rasa can be tasted like food. Any art that does not produce Rasa is not art. Rasa mediates between the creation and the onlooker or the listener .  According to him, the onlooker or the listener   gets a feeling or  Brahm—Anubhuti ( feel of the  Divine ) if the artist abides strictly to Rasa theory in his creative activity. The delight of Brahm-Anubhuti is everlasting bliss for the listener or the onlooker .



The kind of poetry where the word and its meaning giving up their explicit sense and suggest only the said implicit meaning is signified by the name Dhvani or suggestive poetry. Dhvani (poetic suggestion) is the vehicle that leads connoisseurs to Rasa by assisting them in recreating the emotional picture produced by the poet. Dhvani kavya is defined by Anandavardhana as wherein the conventional meaning renders itself secondary or the conventional word renders its meaning secondary and suggests the implied or intended meaning is designated as Dhvani or suggestive poetry.


The concept of Riti was highlighted by Dandin and Vamana in Sanskrit Poetics . Theory of Riti relates to the particular arrangement of sounds combined with poetic excellence. Riti is the going or the flowing together of the elements of a poem. The language and its structural form lead us to the inner core of poetry. During Ritikavya or Ritismagra Kavya period, the erotic element became predominant in the Indian  literature. This era is called Riti (meaning 'procedure') because it was the age when poetic figures and theory were developed to the fullest.


The Auchitya is that proper placing of things in such a manner that is perfect to arouse Rasa and to avoid certain things that are not suitable to provoke Rasa. This is only the essence of poetic / artistic expression which is called Auchitya. It is stated as jivita, the life-breath of Kavya the poetry. Auchitya is defined as harmony and in one aspect it is the proportion between the whole and the parts, between the chief and the subsidiary. This is one of the theories that is commonly accepted by all poets without any argument. This theory is also known as the “Theory of Coordination”. Some scholars consider  poet  Kshemendra of Kashmir  as the father of Auchitya theory in Sanskrit  Literature.’Auchitya-Vichaar –Charcha’ is his famous work.


The word 'Vakrokti' is comprised of two words 'vakra' and 'ukti'. The former component means indirect, crooked or unique and the later component means poetic expression or speech. Thereby the literal meaning of 'Vakrokti' is indirect or crooked speech; arch or evasive speech. As an Alamkara Vakrokti was very inclusive to Bhamaha. He included all types of Alamkara under the term of Vakrokti. According to Bhamaha Vakrokti is the soul of poetry. Vakrokti emphasizes that both the content and form should be equally aesthetic; the emphasis is on their unity. It is the perfect harmony between the expression and the expressed in respect of beauty and promoting aesthetic experience. In ancient Indian poetic tradition Vakrokti (obliquity) is considered one of the most important poetic devices which brings about delight in the heart of competent reader. The theorists of Alamkara tradition included Vakrokti among the various types of Alamkara




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