Alamkaara General – Answers for some Important Questions

Answers for some Important Questions on General Alamkaara (Paper 9 / 10) by Smt. Harini

(more short notes to be included in this post).

Vamana and his Riti Siddhanta

Vamana who lived during the 8thcentury AD, in Kashmir was a contemporary of Udbhata. Vamana was the pioneer of Riti Siddhanta. He accorded the highest place for Riti or the style of composition as the soul of poetry.

The term used to denote that core or fundamental element or the principle which defines the very essence of Kavya is the Atma or the soul. The soul of the kavya is truly the poet’s vision without which its other constituents cannot come together.

Bhamaha defined kavya as shabdaarthasahitaukavyam. Kavya is the combination or the complex of words and their meanings. It also implies blemish-free or nirdosha. He later extended it to include the element of alamkara in the definition. Dandin also went with this view. But the later schools felt that this definition of kavya was centred on the external element or the body of the kavya and not the spirit or the soul of kavya. Thus began the quest for the soul of kavya.

Vamana the author of Kavyalankara sutra vritti declared Ritihaatmakavyasya. Though Vamana advocates Riti, he also states that Alamkara enhances the beauty of kavya. Vamana says Kavya is the union of sound and sense which is free from poetic flaws [nirdosha] and is adorned with excellences [gunas] and alamkaras [ornamentation or figures of speech].  To him Riti is a beautiful collocation endowed with excellences – vishishtaapadarachanaareetihvisheshogunaatmaa.

According to Vamana, Riti represents the particular structure of sounds combined with poetic excellence. Riti is the going or the flowing together of the elements of a poem.

Vamana expanded on the concept of Gunas dealt by Dandin. Kavyalamkarasutravritti is divided into 5 adhikaranas each consisting of 2 or 3 adhyayas.

Though Vamana retained the 10 gunas enumerated by Dandin [Ojas, Prasada, Shlesha, Samata, Samadhi, Madhurya, Sukumarata, Udavarta, Arthavyakti and Kanti], he modified their names and increased the number of gunas to 20. He created 2 sets of the same 10 Gunas under 2 headings namely Shabdaguna and Arthaguna.

He attempts to explain each guna in terms of both Shabda and Artha. For eg, Prasada [clarity] means shaithilya [readability] under shabdaguna while it means Auchitya [propriety] under arthaguna.

He abandoned the approach of Bhamaha and Dandin who treated Rasa as a subsidiary element of the verse.

Although he did not accord rasa an independent status, he treated rasa as an aspect of arthaguna.

Riti, according to Vamana, is a particular mode or organisation of verbal structure that is different from common usage and also has excellence of gunas.

Dandin had named literary styles as Marga and mentioned Vaidarbhi and Gaudiya margas. Vamana not only modified this concept of style, he also renamed Marga as Riti and included Panchali to the above list.

Panchali has Madhurya and Saukumaryagunas while Gaudiya has Ojas and Kanti. It is however Vaidarbhi that has all 10 gunas and is the most preferred style. He terminates the view that the practice of Gaudi and Panchali would help a poet gain experience to adopt Vaidarbhi. The interesting example given by him is:


How can anyone trained in weaving jute cloth ever hope to weave silk cloth?

Vamana treats alamkaras as a subsidiary significance. Guna and kavya have a samavayasambandha while Alamkara and kavya are said to be in samyogasambandha. Guna is related to the soul of the poetry while Alamkara is related to the body of the poetry. He has considered only 2 shabdalankaras namely, Yamaka and Anuprasa. With regard to Arthalankaras, he opines that most of all Alamkaras lies only in comparison. His collective name for all figures is Upamaaprapancha.

Vamana’s conception of rasa corresponds to that of Dandin as far as status allotted to it is concerned. But while Dandin brings Rasa under Alamkaras, Vamana treats it as belonging to Gunas.

Vamana laid the foundation to the theory of Vichchithi which was later developed by Kuntaka. However the Riti school of Vamana did not have followers in the same way as Rasa, Alamkara and Dhvani schools had. The general conception of Riti was severely criticised by Mammata. In spite of all this, Vamana was the ablest writer to formulate a definite theory so as to determine the soul of poetry.


Function of Vyanjana

ShabdaVyapara or functions of a word are of 3 kinds namely, Abhidaana – denotation,  Lakshana – indication  and Vyanjana – suggestion.

Vyanjana is that function of the word which unfolds the vyangya or the suggested meaning. The importance of vyanjana in poetry cannot be overstated. Rasa which is the quintessence of poetry can manifest only through vyanjana and it is the suggested sense which makes kavya beautiful and charming.

Vyanjana is understood as 1.based on lakshana and 2.based on abhidaa.

When we say gangayam goshah, the word ganga denotes the stream. This is the abhidaa or denoted meaning. Further since there is an incompatibility between ganga and gosha (hamlet), we adopt the indicated meaning [lakshana] which helps us understand ganga as ganga tata – the bank.  The prayojana or purpose for resorting to the indicated meaning is to highlight that the qualities of ganga [sacredness, coolness, etc.] are present in the hamlet also due to its closeness. Thus Vyanjana is required to realize the prayojana or phala or the intended purpose.

For example in gangayamgoshah, the special qualities which are cognised in the bank ie.,sacredness and so on are grasped through a function which is different from abhidhaa, lakshanaa and tatparyaa. That function is called vyanjanaa, dhvananaa, dyotanaa etc. This is an example of vyanjana based on lakshana.

The next category is Vyanjanaa based on Abhidaa. There are 14 conditions in this category.

  1. Samyoga: Contact.

Eg.Hari carrying shankha and chakra . The meaning is restricted to Vishnu because he is known to have a contact with shankha and chakra.

  1. Viprayoga: Separation.

Eg.Hari without shankha and chakra. Again we understand Hari as Vishnu because he is the only one capable of being separated from them.

  1. Saahacharya: Association.

Eg.Ramalakshmanau. Here meaning of the word Rama is restricted to son of Dasharatha due to his association with Lakshmana.

  1. Virodhita: Enmity.

Eg.Ramarjunagatistayoh. Here Rama is Parashurama and Arjuna is Kartaveeryarjuna. Their known enmity is referred here.

  1. Artha: Purpose.

Eg.Sthanumbhajabhavachchide. Here Sthanu can mean pole or Shiva. Here it refers to Lord Shiva due to the purpose of bhavachedana that can be attributed to him.

  1. Prakarana: Context.

Eg.Sarvamjanatidevah. Here the meaning is based on the context. Devah can mean God or a king. Here it refers to the person addressed to in that context.

  1. Linga: Peculiar feature.

Eg.Kupitahmakaradhwajah. Here makaradhwajah can mean Manmatha or the ocean. Here kopa or anger can be linked to Manmatha only.

  1. Shabdantarasannidhi: Proximity of another word.

Eg.Devasyapuraratheh. Here again deva can have different meanings. But due to the proximity with the word purarathe, we understand Deva as Lord Shiva.

  1. Saamarthyam: Ability.

Eg.Madhunamathahkokilah. The word madhu has various meanings liquor, nectar, honey etc. but the ability to produce intoxication in kokila exists only in vasantaritu. So madhu here refers to the season vasanta.

  1. Auchiti: Propriety.

Eg.Patuvodayitaamukham. Here mukham can mean face, presence, beginning etc. based on propriety here it means presence.

  1. Deshah: Place.

Eg.Bhatyatraparameshwarah.Parameshwara can refer to God and king. The meaning here is king as the sentence is spoken in the capital city of a kingdom.

  1. Kalah: Time.

Eg.Chitrabhanurvibhati.Chitrabhanu means sun and fire. If the sentence is spoken during day, it refers to sun and at night it refers to fire.

  1. Vyaktih: Gender.

Eg.Mitrambhati or mitrahbhati.Mitram neuter gender means friend while mitrah masculine gender means sun.

  1. Svara: Accents used in Vedas, namely Udaatta,Anudaatta and Svarita.

Eg.Based on the accents, Indrashatru can mean 1. One for whom Indra will be the killer and 2. Indra’s killer. The first one is a Bahuvrihi compound and will have Purvapadaprakritiswara or Adyodaatta. While the second is Tatpurusha compound and is Antodaatta.


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