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Yamaka – Figure Of Speech In Sanskrit

Yamaka is a figure of speech in Sanskrit. Yamaka corresponds to ‘chime’. It has the place of pride for the reason that it is only a figure of speech pertaining to sound, mentioned in the earliest treatise regarding alankara, Natyashastra, of Sage Bharata. Simile is a figure of speech of sense.

Figures of speech are called alankara (ornamentation) in Sanskrit. There are sabda alankaras (like alliteration) and artha-alankaras (like metaphor). Among the sabda variety, yamaka and anuprasha are very popular. Yamaka consists of repetition of words. The same words are repeated but with different meanings. There is a set pattern in repetition, occurring in the beginning of a metrical feat, in the middle or at the end. The first variety is called avyapeta (unseparated), as the following verse from Kavyadarsha (V.48) of Dandin shows

mayamayartionnishaya mayamaya
mayamayamum karunamayamaya’

The chime rhyme maya maya of unseparated variety is made up of independent or euphonically combined sounds which occur at the beginning and end as well of all four parts. The second variety is called vyapeta (separated).

Such poetic compositions are called citrakavya. In literary criticism,  such verbal jargon is not favored; such compositions are considered an inferior formof adhamakavya (composition). Critics point out that ‘sense’ is sacrificed at the altar of ‘sound.’ Anandavardhana, a reputed critic, even says that a poet should strictly avoid yamaka in delineation of sringara (or erotic sentiment), particularly in depicting love in vipralambha (separation).