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Bhamaha – Luminary In The Field Of Alankara Shastra

One of the luminaries in the field of alankara shastra was Bhamaha (7th to 8th century CE) who defined kavya (poetry) for the first time in the history of poetics. His definition of poetry as sabda (the word) and artha (meaning) characterized by togetherness resulted in developing the term sahitya for literature. Bhamaha heralded the alankara school in his work as Kavyalankara. The alankara shastra shaped into full-fledged discipline owing to his treatise and views.

Bhamaha’s sarcastic remark that ordinary people will be at loss to enjoy such poems that could be understood only with the help of a commentary, is taken by some scholars to be a pointer to Bhatti who boasts of his scholarship in adopting a tense style which only intelligent people would have access to. Bhatti, the author of Ravana-Vadha-Kavya or simply Bhatti Kavya, seems to be an elder contemporary of Bhamaha. Though Bhatti aims at illustrating the rules of Sanskrit Grammar, throughout the twenty-two cantos of his mahakavya, there are three cantos, 10th to 12th, called the ‘Prasanna-kanda’, which have relevance to the growth of alankara shastra. The tenth canto illustrates as many as thirty eight figures of speech, the eleventh deals with guna (the excellences) like madhurya (sweetness), etc., and the twelfth speaks of the figure bhavika as a prabandha-guna. The list of alankaras treated by Bhamaha is the same even in order, at least for the first twenty three figures, as that of Bhatti. Bhamaha defines and illustrates about 32 figures of speech.

The credit for outlining kavya sarira the ‘body of a poem’ goes to Bhamaha. A poem is not just a combination of word and sense, which even a speech in our day-to-day parlance has. According to him, a poem has vakrata (obliquity), the essential quality of alankara. Thus alankara abiding in sabda and artha (word and meaning) constitutes the essential charm of kavya. When Bhamaha voices the views of ‘others’ who opine that figures like metaphor are only external, he indirectly disagrees with them. He holds that alankaras have an intrinsic role to play in imparting the real charm in poetry, which distinguishes it from other forms of expression. The credit for classifying the alankaras as Sabdalankara and artha alankaras, goes to Bhamaha. While the former will include figures such as anuprasa (alliteration) and the like, the latter includes a good number of them like the simile, metaphor, hyperbole, etc. Incidentally, Magha says that a good poet will adopt both the sound and the sense. Though Bhamaha mentions svabhavokti, which is of the nature of describing an object as such, he does not subscribe to its acceptance, for want of wide appeal. For the same reason, he openly rejects figures such as hetu, sukshma and lesha.

Prominent followers of Bhamaha’s alankara school are Udbhata and Rudrata. Udbhata adorned the court of King Jayapida of Kashmir, in the 8th to 9th century CE. He is credited with the authorship of three works – Bhamaha-vivarana, Kumarasambhava-kavya, and Kavyalarikara Sara Sangraha. The first one is not available, while the second is available only in fragments. The third work contains many verses from Udbhata’s Kumarasambhava Kavya, as illustrations. Udbhata deals with three types of auprasa – cekanuprasa, latanuprasa and vrittyanuprasa. He also speaks of four types of atisayokti (hyperbole). The Kavyalankara-Sara-Sangraha has been commented upon by Pratiharenduraja, the disciple of Mukula Bhatta.