Bhāravi - 2

This article is part 20 of 29 in the series Poets on Poetics: Literature as Sanskrit Poets See It

Bhāravi further refers to speech in the conversation between Indra and Arjuna:

प्रसादरम्यमोजस्वि गरीयो लाघवान्वितम्।

         साकाङ्क्षमनुपस्कारं विष्वग्गति निराकुलम्॥

न्यायनिर्णीतसारत्वान्निरपेक्षमिवागमे।

         अप्रकम्प्यतयान्येषामाम्नायवचनोपमम्॥

अलङ्घ्यत्वाज्जनैरन्यैः क्षुभितोदन्वदूर्जितम्।

          औदार्यादर्थसम्पत्तेः शान्तं चित्तमृषेरिव॥ (11.38–40)

“Your speech is unambiguous, charming and resplendent. It is concise and yet comprehensive. It does not express everything explicitly but does not supplementation. It is of wide significance, yet not confounding.

“Because it is firmly anchored in logic, it appears to be independent of scripture. Yet, because it is undisprovable, it comes across as a scriptural utterance.

“It is mighty like the turbulent ocean because it cannot be refuted by opponents. Yet it is serene like a sage’s mind owing to its magnanimous content.”

From the time of Bharata, lucidity, sweetness and brilliance (prasāda, mādhurya and ojas) are held to be the primary attributes of poetry. The word ‘ramya’ in the first verse is the same as mādhurya. Thus, we have here the triad of qualities upheld by aestheticians such as Ānandavardhana and Mammaṭa. This verse avers that poetic expression should be imbued with rich content apart from the aforementioned qualities. Seen on the surface, some of the words here seem to contradict each other. When the poet says that speech should be both deep and light, we understand that depth relates to profundity of meaning and lightness relates to succinctness of expression. Likewise, the poet says that poetic expression should not state everything explicitly, yet it should not need any add-ons; it should have a wide implication, yet should not be confounding. Unless these qualities are harmonized, poetry is sure to become baffling. Great poetry that rises beyond the narrow confines of its own space and time typically conveys a complex set of thoughts in a clear fashion. Bhāravi is a great scholar and poet because he has given these insights into poetry, which had escaped even aestheticians.

In the next verse Bhāravi appears to have segued to śāstra from kāvya. The verse speaks of the logical and emotional cohesion required to compose any good work. Śāstra unveils the truth behind facts; kāvya unveils the truth behind emotions. In both these pursuits, adherence to truth assumes a prominent position. Logic aids the truth in śāstra, while beauty aids it in kāvya. Small wonder that these disciplines rooted in truth become the source for ultimate verities, much like the Veda. Consequently, śāstra gives insights into the ultimate verities of the physical world, and kāvya gives insights into those of the psychic world.

In the last verse, Bhāravi likens speech to a turbulent ocean. Turbulence here relates to the multifariousness of meaning, and not to the convolutedness of expression. In other words, it is about suggestion (dhvani) and not oblique expression (vakrokti). Suggestion is the vehicle that leads to serenity. Thus we have here a celebration of śānta-rasa, which all great works of art strive to achieve.

On yet another occasion, Bhāravi gives insights into speech. In the conversation between Kirāta and Arjuna, he says:

स्तुवन्ति गुर्वीमभिधेयसम्पदं

        विशुद्धिमुक्तेरपरे विपश्चितः।

इति स्थितायां प्रतिपूरुषं रुचौ

     सुदुर्लभाः सर्वमनोरमा गिरः॥ (14.5)

“Some scholars extol profound meaning while others uphold clear and flawless expression. Because each person has a different taste, it is rare to find speech that pleases everyone.”

This verse has expressed a long-standing dilemma faced by the literary fraternity. It is not uncommon to find disputes among the connoisseurs on the following question: is the form supreme in poetry, or is it the content? These disputes can be traced back to the doubts that emerge in the poet’s mind. Let us examine this issue.

The form is largely governed by the tools of validation (pramāṇa), whereas the content is governed by the agency that validates (pramātṛ). Owing to this reason, it is somewhat easy to establish the merits and flaws of form but it is difficult to logically establish the ups and downs of content. Doubtless, content is verifiable by experience; but such experience is at the mercy of honest and perceptive connoisseurs. In this way, Bhāravi ha pictured the grey areas that crop up—because of varying tastes—when we set out to analyse the merits and blemishes of poetry.

Bhāraveḥ artha-gauravam – Several scholars have analysed this statement from the viewpoint of Bhāravi’s mastery over Arthaśāstra and his felicity in handling the figure of speech, arthāntara-nyāsa. Artha-gaurava is a quality that makes its presence felt every now and then in his epic poem. We can briefly explain it in the following manner: Arthaśāstra is primarily concerned with resources and their management. Its roots lie in dharma, and its branches spread in the space of kāma. If poetry desires to express subtleties of śāstra, it is bound to turn tepid unless it is enlivened by: (1) the ennobling aspect of dharma, and (2) the satiating aspect of kāma. Therefore, if we were to use the lens of Arthaśāstra alone to examine artha-gaurava as expounded by Bhāravi, it would be ill-fitting to literature. It is clear that Bhāravi uses his knowledge of Arthaśāstra to bolster the conversations and arguments between various characters (as kavi-nibaddha-prauḍhokti). He has never sacrificed rasa in the process.

The figure of sense Arthāntara-nyāsa is strewn throughout the poem. Only a poet who has a mature mind, who has his thumb over the pulse of the world, and is a master of various śāstras, can use this poetic device effectively. Above all, he should be free from the temptation of lapsing into dry didacticism. Arthāntara-nyāsa composed by such a poet will surely express universal truths in an attractive and memorable fashion. If a poetic utterance turns into a maxim, it ceases to be associated with an individual poet, and becomes the property of the society at large. Sadly, none of our aestheticians has given such insights into the creation and handling of Arthāntara-nyāsa.

Bhāravi has demonstrated his extraordinary intellectual and emotional acumen through a single work. He is a veritable lodestar of Sanskrit poetry.

 

Author(s)

About:

Dr. Ganesh is a 'shatavadhani' and one of India’s foremost Sanskrit poets and scholars. He writes and lectures extensively on various subjects pertaining to India and Indian cultural heritage. He is a master of the ancient art of avadhana and is credited with reviving the art in Kannada. He is a recipient of the Badarayana-Vyasa Puraskar from the President of India for his contribution to the Sanskrit language.

Translator(s)

About:

Shashi Kiran B N holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a master's degree in Sanskrit. His interests include Indian aesthetics, Hindu scriptures, Sanskrit and Kannada literature and philosophy.

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