By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Alankara-sastra, AlaGkAra-ZAstra, Alankaara-shaastra
The Sanskrit language and Sanskrit literature have become an inalienable part of religion and culture. Even the earliest recorded specimens of Sanskrit literature have manifested the art of graceful speech. Several hymns of the Rgveda are looked upon as genuine specimens of fine poetry. Various rhetorical devices which find an apt expression in natural ways are mentioned below :
- Upamā - simile
- Rupaka - metaphor
- Atiśayokti - hyperbole
The Rāmāyana and the Mahābhārata, apart from being monumental works of wisdom and imagination, are also works exhibiting rare poetical skill.
Alaṅkāraśāstra as a regular, independent, subject could not have existed in more ancient times. The first systematization started perhaps with the Nātya- śāstra of Bharata (200 B.C. - 400 A.D.). This work though primarily a work on drama, marks itself as the conception for the origins of systematization of the poems as a science. Poets who have enriched the literature on poems through their prolific writings of superb quality are :
- Bhāmaha and Daṇḍin (6th cent. A.D.)
- Vāmana and Udbhaṭa (8th cent. A. D.)
- Rudraṭa and Anandavardhana (9th cent. A. D.)
- Abhinavagupta, Kṣemendra and Mammata (11th cent. A.D.)
The subject of alaṅkāra was viewed from different angles by different authors. This gave rise to eight sampradāyas or schools :
- Riti - Rīti is the way of writing. Though three rītis were originally recognized, they ultimately rose to six. The names given to them such as Vaidarbhī, Gauḍī or Māgadhi suggest that they were prevalent in particular regions. Daṇḍin and Vāmana were the forerunners of this school.
- Guṇa - Guṇa or quality may concern either the śabda (word) or the artha (meaning). It is very similar to the Rīti school. Originally enumerated as three, it gradually rose to ten. However this school got merged into the Alaṅkāra school. Vāmana was the chief exponent of this Guṇa school.
- Alaṅkāra - Alaṅkāra is literary embellishment. It may be of śabda (word or sound) or artha (sense). The alaṅkāras rose from 38 in the early period to 200 in later days. Daṇḍin and Bhāmaha were the main propagators of this school.
- Vakrokti - Vakrokti is equivocation. It is a mode of expression such that the listener conceives a different meaning from what is intended by the speaker or writer. Bhāmaha and Kuntaka (11th cent. A. D.) were the chief advocates of this school.
- Rasa - Rasa is mood or sentiment, a generalized resultant emotion in the spectator or reader. Nine rasas, often called ‘navarasas,’ have been advocated by the writers on prosody and dramatics. Bharata was the earliest exponent of the Rasa school followed by Udbhaṭa and others.
- Dhvani - Dhvani is suggestion. The theory of dhvani was introduced by Ananda- vardhana.
- Anumāna - Anumāna refers to a sentiment that has to be inferred and experienced. Sarikula (9th cent A. D.) was the founder of this school.
- Aucitya - Aucitya means propriety. This school was propounded by Kṣemendra.
Some of the standard works of Alaṅkāra-śāstra are :
- Bharata’s Nātyaśāstra
- Bhāmaha’s Kāvyālañkāra
- Daṇḍin’s Kāvyādarśa
- Udbhaṭa’s Kāvyālañkāra-sañgraha
- Rudraṭa’s Kāvyālañkāra
- Anandavardhana’s Dhvanyāloka
- Mammata’s Kāvya-prakāśa
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore