K Krishnamoorthy (Part 5)

This article is part 15 of 15 in the series Exemplars of Indian Wisdom from Karnataka

On Bharata’s repeated use of ‘bhāva’ in words such as vibhāva, anubhāva and vyabhicāri-bhāva:

It should be noted that Bharata has coined all these technical terms retaining the core-term bhāva to emphasize the role of imagination on the part of the spectator. (Indian Literary Theories, p. 146)

Freedom is the hallmark of beauty:

The soul of creativity lies in a victory achieved over the burden of necessity, the burden of life, the burden of logic. Freedom is thus the hallmark of beauty and each alaṅkāra in Sanskrit books is not an ornament superadded, but an eloquent testimony to the boundless freedom the poet has chosen to allow himself. (Some Thoughts on Indian Aesthetics and Literary Criticism, p. 15)

The essence of prasāda-guṇa or perspicuity lies in the lucidity with which the poet can communicate his feeling to the connoisseur:      

Raw emotion in life has no unity or pattern about it; it is spent about in practical action. But the poet’s emotion is without a touch of practicality and gets the serenity and detachment just enough to bring about an organized unity or patterning in his impressions of life, either direct or indirect. This organized experience is the poetic theme, and it naturally explains the patterned rhythms and images in the external form of the poem also. When a sahṛdaya surrenders himself to a poem, he understands intuitively whether the poetic content or rasa is successfully transmitted in the poem or not by the felt ease or difficulty in his sharing the poet’s meaning. That is why perspicuity is a poetic excellence and obscurity a poetic flaw. (Some Thoughts on Indian Aesthetics and Literary Criticism, p. 69)

On the poet’s experience of rasa:

Rasa is nothing more than aesthetic joy; hence the creative poet must perforce be credited with it. ‘If a pot is not full, it cannot overflow’ (yāvat pūrṇo na caitena tāvannaiva vamatyamum) … In this sense, the creative urge or inspiration itself can be regarded as rasa … The poet himself might appreciate his own work at a later stage after creating it. This is also rasa, but in another sense. We might distinguish the two as joy of creation and joy of appreciation; but there is only one word rasa in Sanskrit for both. (Essays in Sanskrit Criticism, p. 15)

Similarity between Pāṇini and medieval Sanskrit poets:

If the grammar arrested the natural growth of the language, it also saved it from ‘linguistic decay’ and helped its preservation in its pristine purity, so that in respect of clarity, after a lapse of even two thousand years, the Sanskrit language remains unique and unparalleled. If Sanskrit poets failed to add new dimensions to their art, they uniquely succeeded in perfecting the poetic technique to its highest watermark in the history of world poetry. (Essays in Sanskrit Criticism, p. 25)

The true meaning of alaṅkāra:

In their sense aspect, [words in poetry] acquire a heightening (atiśaya) or undergo a transfiguration which is the sine qua non of the poetic art. A synonym of alaṅkāra in this wide connotation is vakrokti or ‘oblique expression.’ To poetize is to deviate from the normally accustomed habits of speech and thought; in this sense, every truly poetic line will involve some deviation or turn and it cannot be devoid of alaṅkāra without ceasing to be poetry … Thus understood, the principle of alaṅkāra deserves to be approximated to the modern idea of ‘imagery’ in poetry. (Essays in Sanskrit Criticism, p. 28)

On the correct meaning of śabda and artha as the ‘form’ and ‘content’ of poetry:    

All the elements of the poetic art directed to please the ear came under śabda while artha embraced what we call the poetic theme or subject. The fusion of the two was the poetic process. (Essays in Sanskrit Criticism, p. 58)

Sidelights on dhvani:

That even such an implicit follower of Ānandavardhana as Mammaṭa thought it better to avoid the very mention of dhvani in his definition of poetry is clear enough to show how this controversy [fueled by the opponents of Ānandavardhana] had done considerable damage to the theory of dhvani. (Essays in Sanskrit Criticism, p. 111)

In the whole range of Sanskrit Poetics there is not a second work [after Dhvanyāloka] which exclusively treats of the Dhvani theory. (Essays in Sanskrit Criticism, p. 112)

On decadence in Sanskrit poetry:

All the works written in this age of decadent taste may be said to be coins of the same mould, since we find everywhere the same literary flourishes and consummate conceits. The difference can be discerned only in the theme which serves no better purpose than a peg on which to hang their artificial display … These writers handle their materials as with a gloved hand … They were the victims of a convention (Kavisamaya) that sought in language a gaudy substitute for the thing instead of its close-fitting garment; and in the realm of pure poetry, where we look for lofty thought and vivid imagination, they were denied open vision and free soaring flights. They sang in a cage and not upon a branch. Though they wield language with such astonishing skill, they seldom work the miracles with it that proclaim the divine poet. The most brilliant electric light is not sunshine. (Essays in Sanskrit Criticism, pp. 203–04)  

On Nāṭyaśāstra – need for interdisciplinary study in solving textual problems:

A clear picture can emerge only when specialists in the disciplines of saṅgītaśāstra, abhinaya schools and the ancient Indian stage sit together and sort out things in the light of the vast material available under each head in the different disciplines. This problem, I am afraid, cannot be tackled by Sanskrit scholars alone unassisted by interdisciplinary specialists. (Indian Literary Theories, p. 146)

* * *

At times, Krishnamoorthy gets carried away by ‘academic zeal’ and makes some unsound pronouncements. He offers a high mantle to every scholar on whom he chooses to write, regardless of their intrinsic worth. He tries to prove that ancient aestheticians such as Bhāmaha and Daṇḍī knew the concepts of aesthetic experience and poetic suggestion well. This is manifestly incorrect. One need not deny them a feel for rasa and dhvani; but crediting them with the logical formulation of these theories would be erroneous. Krishnamoorthy also tries to confer upon Udbhaṭa and Vāmana a high status that they do not deserve.

In some places, he makes entirely absurd statements such as this: “The existence of Vidūṣaka or the court-fool in the earliest dramas we know indicates that drama was meant mainly for princely entertainment and a select audience of critics trained in the rules of Bharata. The Sanskrit stage was never popular and we are unaware of any commercial theatre which ever put a Sanskrit drama on the boards.” (Essays in Sanskrit Criticism, p. 249)

His criticism of contemporary scholars such as V Raghavan, N Ranganatha Sharma and T N Sreekanthayya is driven more by personal bias than commitment to truth. 

Above all, some of his views on rasa expressed in his Kannada monograph Rasollāsa and English articles such as “Rasa” as a Canon of Literary Criticism and The Riddle of “Rasa” in Sanskrit Poetics  are extremely unsound. In Rasollāsa, he expresses dissatisfaction with Abhinavagupta’s explanation of rasa (p. 32) but does not propose a meaningful alternative to it. He posits that the rasa of plays is different from the rasa of poems (p. 47) and holds that rasa lies in the protagonist and not connoisseur (p. 55). In The Riddle of Rasa, he tries to arrive at the ‘original intention’ of Bharata regarding rasa, untainted by the views of Ānandavardhana and Abhinavagupta. This is like trying to understand Pāṇini without the aid of Kātyāyana and Patañjali, Vāmana and Jayāditya.

A neophyte would do well to begin the study of Krishnamoorthy’s works from two of his Kannada books: Samṣkṛtakāvya and Bhāratīya Kāvyamīmāṃsè tattva mattu Prayoga. The former presents Sanskrit poetry in all its richness and the latter introduces sound aesthetic principles essential to analyze all kinds of poetry. 

* * *

Krishnamoorthy had a remarkable mastery over Sanskrit, Kannada and English. He read widely in all these languages and never took any of them for granted. Constant study and active usage helped him develop remarkable linguistic felicity. This happy blend of languages is a model for all times. Sanskrit grants access to our hoary past and forms the foundation for all studies related to India; regional languages help one stay rooted and see interconnections between seemingly unrelated subjects; English opens up new vistas of knowledge and offers a much-needed historical perspective.

Krishnamoorthy has referred to around twenty Western authorities and fifty Indian aestheticians, both ancient and modern. Though he mainly wrote on poetry and poetics, he drew data from a wide variety of primary sources in Sanskrit such as Vedas, Nirukta, Viṣṇupurāṇa, Bhāgavata, Śābarabhāṣya, Ślokavārttika, Tantravārttika, Ātmatattvaviveka, Nyāyamañjarī, Yogasūtras, Yājñavalkyasmṛti, Vivekacūḍāmaṇi, Mahārthamañjarī, Tantrāloka, Bhagavadgītā, Khaṇḍanakhaṇḍakhādya, Arthaśāstra and Kāmaśāstra. He was extremely thorough in his own subject. He had studied more than fifteen commentaries on the Kāvyaprakāśa alone, authored by scholars such as Bhaṭṭa-gopāla, Śrīvidyācakravartī, Govindaṭhakkura, Śrīdhara, Bhīmasena-dīkṣita, Viśvanātha, Māṇikyacandra, Caṇḍīdāsa and Vamanacharya Jhalkikar. Krishnamoorthy’s writings eloquently attest the fact that a sensitive scholar’s constant contemplation on a subject generates amazing insights. They inspire us to develop a broad perspective on our chosen subject.     

As far as the study of Indian aesthetics is concerned, Krishnamoorthy inspires us to adopt an integrated approach:

The whole procedure of treating Indian poetics under so many schools— alaṅkāra, guṇa-rīti, rasa-dhvani, vakrokti etc.—is a misconception not borne out by facts; and the sooner it is abandoned, it is better for clarity … The mansion of beauty has many halls and all of them together constitute the whole. To dissect each part without reference to the whole is neither good precept nor good criticism. (Indian Literary Theories, pp. 36–37)

सोऽयं कल्पतरूपमानमहिमा भोग्योऽस्तु भव्यात्मनाम्


1. A. R. Krishna Shastri. Krishnamoorthy, K. Mysore: Institute of Kannada Studies, University of Mysore, 1976
2. Abhinavagupta’s Dhvanyāloka Locana (with an anonymous Sanskrit commentary). Krishnamoorthy, K. New Delhi: Meharchand Lachhmandas Publications, 1988
3.  Aestheticians. New Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broad-casting, Government of India, 2013
4. Alaṅkāraśāstre Kāvyavaividhyavādavimarśaḥ (Sanskrit). Krishnamoorthy, K. Mysore: University of Mysore, 1955
5. Ānandabhāratī. Mysore: Dr. K. Krishnamoorthy Felicitation Committee, 1995
6. Ānandavardhanana Kāvyamīmāṃsè mattu Kannaḍa Dhvanyāloka (Kannada). Krishna-moorthy, K. Bengaluru: Abhinava, 2007
7.  Ancient Indian Literature (Ed. Sharma, T. R. S.; volume two). New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2014
8. Aspects of Poetic Language: An Indian Perspective. Krishnamoorthy, K. Pune: Board of Extra-Mural Studies, University of Poona, 1986
9. Basavaṇṇanavara Vacanamīmāṃsè (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Bangalore: Dr. K. Krishnamoorthy Sanskrit Research Foundation, 2010
10. Bhāratīya Kāvyamīmāṃsè tattva mattu Prayoga (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Ban-galore: Dr. K. Krishnamoorthy Sanskrit Research Foundation, 2011
11. Bhāratīya Kāvyamīmāṃsègè Dr. K. Kṛṣṇamūrtiyavara Koḍugè (Kannada). Shastri, C. H. Dharwad: Kapila Prakashana, 2012
12. Bhāratīya Sāhitya Caritrè (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Mysore: Dr. K. Krishna-moorthy Research Foundation, 2020
13. Bhavabhūti (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Mysore: Dr. K. Krishnamoorthy Re-search Foundation, 2016
14. Dharmaśāstrada Itihāsa (vol. 5, part 1; Kannada). Mysore: Kuvempu Institute of Kan-nada Studies, 2011
15. Dhvanyāloka (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Mysore: Directorate of Distance Edu-cation, University of Mysore
16. Dhvanyāloka of Ānandavardhana (with English translation). Krishnamoorthy, K. Del-hi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1982
17. Essays in Sanskrit Criticism. Krishnamoorthy, K. Dharwar: Karnatak University, 1974
18. Indian Literary Theories: A Reappraisal. Krishnamoorthy, K. New Delhi: Meharchand Lachhmandas Publications, 1985
19. K. Krishnamoorthy. Narayana Prasad, K. G. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2014
20. Kālidāsa. Krishnamoorthy, K. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2017
21. Kannaḍa Dhvanyāloka mattu Locanasāra (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Mysore: Dr. K. Krishnamoorthy Research Foundation, 2013
22. Kannaḍa Kāvyādarśa (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Mysore: Dr. K. Krishnamoor-thy Research Foundation, 2013
23. Kannaḍa Kāvyālaṅkāra (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Bengaluru: Abhinava, 2007
24. Kannaḍa Kāvyālaṅkārasūtravṛtti (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Bangalore: Dr. K. Krishnamoorthy Sanskrit Research Foundation, 2010
25. Kannaḍa Kāvyaprakāśa (2 volumes; Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Mysore: Sharada Mandira, 1956, 1959
26. Kannaḍa Kirātārjunīya (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Mysore: Sharada Mandira, 1955
27. Kannaḍa Mṛcchakaṭika (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Mysore: Dr. K. Krishnamoor-thy Research Foundation, 2017
28. Kannaḍa Pratimānāṭaka (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Mysore: Dr. K. Krishna-moorthy Research Foundation, 2014
29. Kannaḍa Uttararāmacaritè (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Bangalore: Dr. K. Krish-namoorthy Sanskrit Research Foundation, 2012
30. Kannaḍa Yajñaphala (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Mysore: Sharada Mandira, 1958
31. Kannaḍadalli Kāvyatattva (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Bangalore: Dr. K. Krish-namoorthy Sanskrit Research Foundation, 2010
32. Kavikaumudī of Kalya Lakṣmīnṛsiṃha (Edited with English translation). Krishnamoorthy, K. Dharwar: Karnatak University, 1965 
33. Kavirājamārgaṃ (Ed. Krishnamoorthy, K; Kannada). Bengaluru: Kannada Sahitya Parishattu, 2015
34.  New Bearings of Indian Literary Theory and Criticism. Krishnamoorthy, K. Ahmeda-bad: B. J. Institute of Learning and Research, 1982
35. Pāṇini (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Bangalore: Dr. K. Krishnamoorthy Sanskrit Research Foundation, 2010
36. Rājaśekharana Kāvyamīmāṃsè (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Mysore: Dr. K. Krish-namoorthy Research Foundation, 2014
37. Rasollāsa (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Bangalore: Dr. K. Krishnamoorthy San-skrit Research Foundation, 2011
38. Sāhityajīvi (Ed. Sheshagiri Rao, L. S.; Kannada). Bangalore: Prof. G. Venkatasubbiah Felicitation Committee, 1976
39. Saṃpradāna (Ed. Leela Prakash, L; Kannada). Mysore: Dr. K. Krishnamoorthy Re-search Foundation, 2014
40. Saṃskṛta Bhāṣāśāstra mattu Sāhityacaritrè (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K; Ranga-natha Sharma, N; Siddhagangayya, H. K. Bangalore: Department of Textbooks, Government of Karnataka, 1993
41. Saṃskṛtakāvya (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Mysore: Vidyuth Prakashana, 2003
42. Saṃskṛtasāhityadalli Śṛṅgārarasa (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Bangalore: Dr. K. Krishnamoorthy Sanskrit Research Foundation, 2011
43. Sanskrit Learning through the Ages (Ed. Marulasiddhiah, G). Mysore: The Oriental Re-search Institute, 1970
44. Sāyaṇa’s Subhāṣitasudhānidhi (Ed. Krishnamoorthy, K). Dharwar: Karnatak Universi-ty, 1968
45. Some Thoughts on Indian Aesthetics and Literary Criticism. Krishnamoorthy, K. Mysore: Prasaranga, University of Mysore, 1968
46. Śṛjanaśīlatè mattu Pāṇḍitya (Kannada). Krishnamoorthy, K. Bangalore: Dr. K. Krish-namoorthy Sanskrit Research Foundation, 2011
47. Studies in Indian Aesthetics and Criticism. Krishnamoorthy, K. Mysore: D.V.K. Murthy Publishers, 1979
48. The Dhvanyāloka and its Critics. Krishnamoorthy, K. Mysore: Kavyalaya Publishers, 1968
49. The Vakroktijīvita of Kuntaka (with English translation). Krishnamoorthy, K. Dharwar: Karnatak University, 1977
50. Vādirāja’s Yaśodharacarita (with Lakṣmaṇa’s commentary; edited with English trans-lation). Krishnamoorthy, K. Dharwar: Karnatak University, 1963
51. Yugayātrī Bhāratīya Saṃskṛti (vol. 2; Kannada). Mysore: University of Mysore, 1971




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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The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective to every discussion. These essays deal with the philosophy, history, aesthetics, and practice of...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...