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Poetics


Poetics (alabkarashastra) Bangla poetics is closely based on sanskrit poetics. It is also called sahityashastra or sahityatattva. The use of rhetorical devices such as similes, metaphors, and imagery dates back to the Rg Veda (2500-950 BC), but it is not known whether poetics formed a branch of study at the time. There is no evidence, for example, that similes were explained in rhetorical terms. In the post-Vedic period, Yask, Panini, Patanjali and Bhartrhari used similes to explain different grammatical matters. However, poetics does not seem to have developed as a separate subject as did chhandashastra (prosody).

History of poetics The oldest known book on Indian poetics is Natyashastra by Bharat. The book, written sometime between the 1st to 3rd AD, is mainly about drama, but Bharat also discusses sentences, arrangements of sentences, their quality, rhetoric, type etc. Important for both drama and dance, Natyasastra analyses eight types of rasa (sentiments), including shrbgara (erotic).

Two outstanding rhetoricians who followed Bharat are Dandi, the writer of Kavyadarsha (6th century) and Bhamaha, writer of Kavyalankara (7th-8th century). Dandi discusses 36 types of rhetorical devices, alongside the quality, character and genres of poetry. According to him, the beauty of a poem rests in its use of rhetorical devices. On the other hand, Bhamaha thinks a happy combination between words and their meanings makes poetry. Following Bhamaha, Acharya Vamana (c 8th century) in Kavyalabkarsutravrtti believed that similes were the most important rhetorical device. He discusses other types of rhetorical devices in connection with the simile. He was the first to mention 'the soul of poetry'.

The next important name is Acharya Udbhata (8th century), writer of Kavyalabkarsarasanggraha. The finest rhetorician of the next era was Anandavardhana (9th century) who wrote Dhvanyaloka. Another famous rhetorician of the 9th century was Rajshekhar. In Kavyamimangsa Rajsekhar describes poetics as Saptam Vedabga, because, according to him, alabkara helps in determining the meaning of the vedas. Another rhetorician of this period was Rudrata (9 to 10th century), writer of Kavyalabkara. Abhinavagupta (10-11th century) became famous for his commentary on Dhvanyaloka in his book, Lochana. He also wrote a commentary on Bharat's theories in Abhinavabharati. Another renowned rhetorician of the 10-11th century is Kuntak, writer of Vakroktijivita. Important works on poetics between the late 11th and the early 12th centuries include Auchityavicharacharcha by Ksemendra, Sarasvatikanthabharana by Bhojraj, Kavyaprakasha by Mammata and Shrbgaratilaka by Rudrata. Vagbhatta (Vagbhattalankara), jaydev, Vidyadhar and Vidyanath were famous rhetoricians of the 13th century. Rhetoricians such as Singhabhupal, Bhanudatta and vishwanath kaviraj belong to the 14th century. In Sahityadarpana Vishwanath Kaviraj discusses six shabdalabkaras (sound rhetoric) and 70 arthalabkaras (sense rhetoric). kavikarnapur and Appayadiksit stand out among the rhetoricians of the 16th century. In the 17th century, Panditraj Jagannath (Rasagabgadhara) established once again the principles of Dandi and Vamana.

Theories of poetry The theory of 'the soul of poetry' as propagated by Vamana turned out to be the most important aspect of poetics. Rhetoricians were divided in their opinions about the soul of poetry and developed six prasthanas or divisions: rasaprasthana, alabkaraprasthana, gunaprasthana, ritiprasthana), dhvaniprasthana, and vakrotijivitaprasthana. Acharya Bharat was the earliest proponent of rasaprasthana. According to him, rasa (sentiment) is the soul or the foundation of poetry, without which poetry is impossible. He believed that the other rhetorical devices were peripheral. Bharat classified rasa into eight types: shrngara (erotic), hasya (comic), karuna (sad), raudra (furious), vira (heroic), bhayanaka (fearful), vibhatsa (repulsive), adbhuta (wonderful). Whenever one of these rasas is produced through words, poetry exists. Vishwanath Kaviraj was also of this view. Some other rhetoricians add a ninth rasa, shanta (peace).

The chief proponents of alabkarprasthana are Bhamaha, Vamana, Udbhata and Rudrata. According to them, rhetoric is the root of poetry without which poetry is devoid of beauty. The word alankara derives from the Sanskrit word alam, meaning dress and ornamentation. These rhetoricians point out that, just as bracelets and earrings enhance the beauty of the female body, rhetorical devices, such as alliteration, simile, metaphor, add beauty to poetry. Dandi agreed that rhetorical devices gave beauty to poetry. Other rhetoricians suggested that the process of adding beauty was not imposed but intrinsic. Vamana noted, 'saundaryam alankarah' (beauty is rhetoric), and added, 'kavyang grahyam alabkarat' (rhetoric makes poetry acceptable and enjoyable).

Dandi was the chief proponent of gunaprasthana, that is, poetry must have certain qualities or virtues. In Kavyadarsha, Dandi mentioned ten such qualities: shlesa (pun), prasada (favour), samata (sameness), madhurya (beauty), arthavyakti (interpretation), ojah (vigour). According to him, a quality or a combination of qualities makes poetry.

The proponent of ritiprasthana was Vamana. According to him, 'ritiratma kavyasya' (form is poetry's soul). By riti he meant the form of poetical composition. The chief poetic forms are three: Gaudi, Vaidarbhi, and Pavchali. According to Vamana, skill in metrical composition is essential for poetry.

Anandavardhana was the proponent of dhvaniprasthana. According to him, sound is the soul of poetry. Proponents of dhvaniprasthana do not quite dismiss rhetoric. However, they do not consider rhetoric to be a superficial aspect of poetry, but something inseparable from it. They are of the view that rhetoric makes poetry more enjoyable but is not its soul. Basically rasa (taste) and rupa (beauty) are organically related and work together to create poetry. Just as proper ornaments enhance the beauty of a woman, rhetoric enhances poetry. According to this school of rhetoricians, poetic quality does not depend merely on rhetoric. Good poetry depends on something else, beyond rhetoric. Just as a woman's beauty lies in more than her physical shape or ornaments, so too true poetry is something more than just words, meaning, rhetoric and forms of composition. That extra something is dhvani (sound), which brings to the fore the hidden meaning. Dhvani is of three types: vastudhvani, alabkaradhvani and rasadhvani. Of these, rasadhvani is most important because both vastudhvani and alankaradhvani end in rasadhvani. Another rhetorician of this school was Abhinavagupta.

Acharya Kuntak was the proponent of vakroktiprasthana (ambiguity) and termed ambiguity the soul of poetry. Vakrokti means attributing to speech a meaning other than the explicit one. According to Kuntak, poetry originates from such implied meanings of words and gives pleasure to the readers.

Bangla poetry, which may be dated back to the charyapada (10th century) and srikrishnakirtan (14th century), followed the tradition of Sanskrit poetics. However, no Bangla book on poetics dating back to that period has been found. Nevertheless, these early Bangla poems made use of the lyrical devices of sound and sense. The poets of the mangalkavya and Vaishnava poetry were well versed in the art of poetry. But, because of their close association with Sanskrit, they were content to draw upon the Sanskrit tradition. At the same time they also expressed their independent poetic thoughts in their compositions. mukundaram chakravarti, alaol, and Bharatchandra Raigunak are specially known for such efforts. Although the Vaishnava poets are almost blind followers of Sanskrit poetics, they too have at times shown their individuality.

In the early 19th century, mrityunjay vidyalankar, madanmohan tarkalankar and Lalmohan Vidyanidhi also closely followed Sanskrit poetics. Gradually, with exposure to European literature, the domination of oriental poetics lessened. From the mid-19th century, western literary ideals became more popular and dominant. Bengali writers such as iswar chandra vidyasagar, michael madhusudan dutt, bankimchandra chattopadhyay, rabindranath tagore, harAprasad shastri, Sureshchandra Samajpati, dinesh chandra sen, pramatha chowdhury, and buddhadev bose drew upon both Eastern and Western rhetorical traditions. The ideals of present-day Bangla literature are also a synthesis of Eastern and Western literary theories.

Literary terms Rhetoricians point out that two aspects of a text appeal to a reader: dhvani (sound) and artha (sense). Accordingly, based on sound and sense, two kinds of rhetoric come into being. Rhetorical devices involving sound are called sabdalabkara, while those involving meaning are called arthalabkara.

In sabdalankara the sounds of words are important. If the sound of a word is changed, sabdalankara loses its significance. In jibanananda das's line 'chul tar kabekar andhakar bidishar nisha' the repetition of the 'r' sound has a special appeal. Repetition of the same sound in this manner creates sound rhetoric. Sound rhetoric has different classifications including anuprasa (alliterarion), vakrokti (sarcasm), and shlesa (pun).

In arthalankara, the sense of words is of primary importance, while sound is secondary. In this case, words may be changed as long as there is no alteration in meaning. Commonly arthalankara can be divided into five types: sadrshyamulak, virodhmulak, shrbkhalamulak, nyayamulak, and gudharthapratitimulak.

Sadrsyamulak alankara' or simile refers to some kind of similarity between two different subjects or objects. For example, 'The girl is growing day by day like a creeping plant'. Here the girl and the plant are unlike each other but they share the characteristic of growth. Apart from simile, Sadrsyamulak alankara includes metaphor, hyperbole, example, allusion, etc.

Virodhmulak alankara' is a rhetorical category which involves an apparent contradiction between two things, for example, 'To be great, learn first how to be small'. This rhetorical category includes virodhabhasa or oxymoron, a figure of speech in which things apparently contradictory are juxtaposed and vishesakti (paradox).

Shrnkhalamulak alankara 'refers to a rhetorical category which works through, or develops through a series. Example, 'parashe chahani tar, drstite chumvan/ ar chumvane maran' (s/he looks through her/his touch, kisses through her/his look; and dies through her/his kiss). Examples of this type of rhetoric are, karanamala, ekavli, and sara.

Nyayamulak alankara' refers to the rhetoric of argument, for example, 'E jagate hay sei beshi chay achhe yar bhuri bhuri/ Rajar hasta kare samasta kabgaler dhan churi' (He who has the most in this world wants more/ The man who is rich steals the beggar's paddy). In this case, the statement in the first sentence is supported by the statement in the second. The chief of this category are arthantaranyasa, a figure of speech which corroborates the general by the particular or the particular by the general or the cause by the effect or the effect by the cause.

Gudharthapratitimulak alankara' refers to a rhetorical device in which there is another hidden meaning behind a simple statement, for example, 'Ati bada brddha pati, siddhite nipun/ Kona gun nai tar kapale agun'. Although the apparent meaning is character assassination, it actually is in praise of shiva. So this is gudharthapratitimulak alankara. Vyajastuti and aprastutaprashangsa fall under this category.

At present many western rhetorical terms are used in Bangla poetry: epic simile, onomatopoeia, chiasmus, climax, anti-climax or bathos, euphemism, periphrasis, litotes, innuendo, irony, sarcasm, transferred epithet, epanaphora, asyndeton, polysyndeton, metonymy, synecdoche, allusion, zeugma, apostrophe, etc.

A few notable Bangla books on rhetoric are Kavyavichara by surendranath dasgupta, Sahitya-mimangsa by Vishnupada Bhattacharya, Alabkarachandrika by Shyamapada Chakravarty, Kavyaloka by Sudhirkumar Dasgupta, Rasa-samiksa by Ramaranjan Mukhopadhyay, Alankara Anvesa by Naren Biswas. Some Bangla translations of Sanskrit poetics are also widely used, among them, Natyashastra translated by Suresh Chandra Banerjee, Dhvanyaloka O Lochana translated by Subodh Chandra Sengupta and Kalipada Bhattacharya, Kavyamimangsa translated by Nagendranath Chakravarty, Sahityadurpuna translated by Abantikumar Sanyal and Girindra Chattopadhyay. [Aminur Rahman]

Bibliography JS Roy, Bangla Alankara, Modern Book Agency, Kolkata, 1964; Shyamapada Chakravarty, Alankara Chandrika, 2nd ed, Indian Associated Publishing Co, Kolkata, 1967; Atulchandra Gupta, Kavya Jijnasa, 3rd ed, Viswa-Bharati Granthalay, Kolkata, 1973; Naren Biswas, Alankara Anvesa, Punascha, Kolkata, 1996; SK De, History of Sanskrit Poetics, Luzac, London, 1925; PV Kane, History of Sanskrit Poetics, Motilal Banarsidass, 1971.