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Dandin – Eminent Sanskrit Poet

Dandin was an eminent Sanskrit poet known for his lucid style. A well-known Sanskrit verse, which compares the literary merits of Kalidasa, Bharavi, Magha and Dandin, mentions the last as excelling in padalalityam (lucidity of expression). But then, Dandin is a puzzle in the history of Sanskrit literature.

It is not clear whether the Dandin who wrote Kavyadarsa on poetics is the same one as the Dandin of Dasakumaracarita (Story of the Ten Princes). Scholars are divided in their opinion as to whether Dandin is the author of both works – the one in verse and other, a novel, in prose. According to one view, Kavyadarsha was written at the beginning of the 8th century and the Dasakumaracharita late in the 6th century (588 CC). Therefore, Dandin the rhetorician lived at least a century later than the novelist. A. Sankaran,  in Some Aspects of Literary Criticism in Sanskrit, holds the view that he lived in the last quarter of the 7th century CE or so. In P.V. Kane’s opinion, Dandin appears to have belonged to the Deccan or to some part of south of Narmada River.

Dandin belongs to the Guna School of poetics which holds that a beautiful collocation of words and ideas form the essence of poetry. ‘Guna’ for him combines lucid expression and grand ideas. He attaches great importance to rasas (emotions). He says in Kavyadarsha, madhurya or cadence/melody is the essence, and the life of poetic language is the delineation of the rasas.