Alaṅkāra-śāstra’s Debt to Early Indic Resistance Against Islam - 5

This article is part 5 of 5 in the series Alankara-shastra and Islam

Mahmud returned again in 1020–21 CE, to punish Chandella legend Vidyadhara. On the way, Shahi Trilochanapala opposed him on the banks of the Yamuna. He was defeated again and was on his way to join Vidyadhara when he is known to have been killed. Thus, the great Shahi Trilochanapala died in 1021 CE.[1] Although Mahmud advanced to meet Vidyadhara, neither Mahmud nor Vidyadhara seem to have taken the initiative to fight and instead returned to their capitals after a show of strength. Mahmud returned again in 1022 CE to conquer the Chandella kingdom, but was again forced to return from Kalinjar with practically nothing to show for his efforts. Mahmud would never come back to attack Vidyadhara again. Like the Loharas of Kashmir, Vidyadhara would also remain unbeaten against Mahmud.[2]

            In early 1025 CE, Mahmud returned again to attack the famous Hindu holy city of Somnath. He destroyed the highly fortified city and slaughtered fifty thousand Hindus in the temple complex alone, who gave their everything to prevent the barbarian from defiling one of their holiest places. It was not to be, and Mahmud destroyed the temple, broke the Siva Linga to pieces and carried the pieces to Ghazni to be trodden as steps in his Jami mosque.[3] This desecration of Somnath seems to have enraged the Hindu kingdoms and a large army under Paramadeo seems to have decided to engage Mahmud in his retreat. Mahmud did not want to engage with them and is known to have taken a different route through Mansurah and Multan to reach Ghazni by 1026 CE. Scholars debate whether Paramadeo was the Chalukya Bhima-I or Paramara Bhojaraja.[4] Considering the fact that Bhima-I was much younger compared to Paramara Bhoja, and the prior support extended by Paramara Bhojaraja to Anandapala in 1008 CE, as also sheltering Shahi Trilochanapala in 1018 CE, it is reasonable to think that it was Paramara Bhoja whom Mahmud wanted to avoid.

            Paramara Bhojaraja, who ruled between 1000 CE and 1055 CE, was not just a capable ruler, but also a great scholar. He wrote two works on Alaṅkāra-śāstra, Sarasvatī-kaṇṭhābharaṇa and Śṛṅgāra-prakāśa.[5] In Sarasvatī-kaṇṭhābharaṇa, although he relies on Bhāmaha, Daṇḍī, Rudraṭa, and Rājaśekhara among others, he is conspicuously silent about Ānandavardhana and Abhinavagupta. However, in Śṛṅgāra-prakāśa, he seems to accept dhvani and rename it as tātparya. Coming to his contributions, he held that the six rītis are nothing but śabdālaṅkāras (figures of sound). He provided the profound insight that chandas or metre is also śabdālaṅkāra. Apart from these, his works provide plenty of food for thought without providing any genuinely great conclusions. But, both his works are a treasure trove for their innumerable examples of poetry from different sources. And so, his works are indispensable for any serious student of Alaṅkāra-śāstra. Apart from Bhojaraja himself, we find two other aestheticians in the Paramara Court, Dhanañjaya and Dhanika, who were senior contemporaries of Bhojaraja and are known to have been strong opponents of the concept of dhvani.[6]

            By the time Mahmud died in 1030 CE, Kashmir had enjoyed relative peace for about fifteen years, in spite of him. Not many places in Northern and Western India could say that during those years. And so, we return to Alaṅkāra-śāstra, where the revolutionary concept of dhvani had to survive critical examination by a few generations of aestheticians. One of the fiercest and foremost among the critics of dhvani was Mahimabhaṭṭa, who is known to have lived around 1030 CE. He is the author of Vyaktiviveka,[7] a highly complex work with terse logic woven into its many arguments attempting to demolish dhvani. He proposes a new concept called kāvyānumiti instead of dhvani. Although his expertise in logic and grammar are extraordinary, his hyper-logical approach to a metalogical subject like Art ends up in a web of theories not rooted in experience. However, the multitude of questions he raised about dhvani provided a very useful base to future aestheticians like Mammaṭa to establish dhvani beyond all doubt.

            Coming back to the Islamists, Mahmud’s successors are not known to have been able to achieve anything significant. This was primarily due to the strong control over North India exercised by Paramaras, Chahanamas, Tomaras and Kalachuris (who took over from the Chandellas). In fact, by 1043 CE, these rulers seemed to have formed a confederacy and wrested Thanesar, Hansi, and Nagarkot from the Islamists. All in all, the Islamists do not seem to have gained any territory after the death of Mahmud and instead, held on to Punjab rather strenuously.[8] They also had to deal with the Seljuks on their western borders. However, with the passing away of Paramara Bhoja in 1055 and Karna of Kalachuris in 1072, the Islamists seem to renew their invasions. Sultan Ibrahim, who ascended the throne of Ghazni in 1059, bought peace with the Seljuks through matrimonial alliance. His son Mahmud, who was also the governor of Punjab from 1075, seems to have attacked Ujjain and Kalinjar. However, Paramara Lakshmadeva seems to have inflicted a crushing defeat on him.[9] The Islamic chroniclers record no success against Chandella Kirtivarman also. In 1099 CE, after the death of Sultan Ibrahim, his successor Masud III, ascended the throne of Ghazni in 1099 CE.

            So, all in all, the successors of Sultan Mahmud, after his death in 1030 CE, seem to have not made much impact at all on the Indics beyond Punjab. This included Kashmir, which, post Sangramaraja, suffered a string of disastrous rulers like Ananta, Kalasa, Utkarsha and Harsha. By 1099 CE, Kashmir was visited by a devastating famine and Harsha still levied oppressive taxes. At this point, two brothers, Ucchala and Sussala, belonging to a collateral branch of the Lohara dynasty, fled from the capital to revolt against the king.

Twelfth Century CE

            By 1101 CE, Ucchala, with the help of the Damaras, attacked Srinagar and occupied it after the death of both Harsha and his son Bhoja. This marked the beginning of the Second Lohara dynasty, which would continue to rule Kashmir in a rather perilous way. To prevent his ambitious brother Sussala from scheming against him, Ucchala established him as an independent ruler in Lohara.

            While Ucchala was settling onto the throne of Kashmir, the final classic on Alaṅkāra-śāstra was in the works. The entire stream of thought which began with Bhāmaha and Daṇḍī and culminated in Ānandavardhana and Abhinavagupta, was in need of a great mind that could synthesize and harmonize three centuries of creative work into one organic whole. There was also a need to critically address the objections raised by fervent critics of dhvani like Mahimabhaṭṭa, Jayantabhaṭṭa, Bhaṭṭanāyaka  and others. Mammaṭa, a native of Kashmir, achieved all this and more with his classic work Kāvya-prakāśa. To an extent, this has robbed the shine off the works of greats like Ānandavardhana, Kuntaka and Abhinavagupta also. In fact, later-day aestheticians could not afford to ignore this work at all. And hence, this work enjoys about eighty commentaries – one of the highest for any Sanskrit work of any kind. In this classic, Mammaṭa provides a systematic treatment of alaṅkāra, doṣa and the like, in the overarching framework of rasa-dhvani, thereby establishing dhvani beyond all doubt. Although Mammaṭa contributed little by way of originality, he put the different pieces of the puzzle into place by employing as many as 630 examples. And therein lies his singular contribution. In many ways, this work can be considered the culmination of the evolution of Alaṅkāra-śāstra.

            While Alaṅkāra-śāstra was basking in the glory of this final stage of evolution, Kashmir was sinking deeper into chaos. Neither Ucchala, nor his successors, who included Sussala, could provide stable rule in Kashmir. Eventually, it was Sussala’s son, Jayasimha, who brought some measure of peace and economic prosperity to a Kashmir ravaged by intrigue and succession disputes for close to a century. His reign lasted between 1128 CE and 1155 CE. It was during his reign that the last notable name in Kashmir’s Alaṅkāra-śāstra, Ruyyaka, lived.

            Ruyyaka, again a native of Kashmir is known for his erudite commentaries on Mahimabhaṭṭa’s Vyaktiviveka and Mammaṭa’s Kāvya-prakāśa. However, he is best known for his work Alaṅkāra-sarvasva.[10] As comprehensive as Mammaṭa was, he had not accommodated Kuntaka’s best. Ruyyaka’s talent identified the opportunity and he took upon himself the task of harmonizing Kuntaka’s kavi-pratibhā-vyāpāra with Ānandavardhana’s concepts of rasa, dhvani, and aucitya. He classified figures of speech afresh in the light of these path-breaking concepts. In this effort, he excelled his predecessor Rudraṭa, who had first attempted a systematic classification of them. Ruyyaka’s erudite treatment of nearly seventy-five arthālaṅkāras forms the heart of Alaṅkāra-sarvasva. For future generations of aestheticians, this became the last word on alaṅkāras. For everything else, Mammaṭa’s Kāvya-prakāśa would be the last word. And thus, Alaṅkāra-śāstra reached a logical conclusion as far as its evolution would go. Future aestheticians would only regurgitate whatever had evolved thus far in the tradition of Kashmir. One notable mention among such aestheticians would be Hemacandra (1089 CE–1173 CE) from Gujarat. Although he gave no original insights, he has the distinction of fusing the aesthetics of drama (rūpaka-mīmāṃsā) with poetics (kāvya-mīmāṃsā) in his Kāvyānuśāsana, which neither Mammaṭa nor Ruyyaka had done. With that, all things quantitative and qualitative would be complete as far as Alaṅkāra-śāstra was concerned.

            While Alaṅkāra-śāstra was lucky enough to reach its culmination during the middle of this century, the geopolitics of Kashmir continued its downslide. There seem to be no ruler of any great ability after the death of Jayasimha and Kashmir was now in an irreversible decline. Towards the end of the century, the Ghorids under Mohammed Ghori defeated Prithviraj Chauhan and Muslim rule in Delhi would commence with the slave dynasty under Qutb-ud-din-Aibak. From then, it was only a matter of time before Kashmir too would be consumed by Islam.

Post Twelfth Century CE

            The inexplicable attitude of the Indic rulers to uproot the vestiges of Muslim rule in Punjab brought upon disaster to this ancient land. It was identical to how ignoring Sindh would prove costly to the Indics in the earlier centuries. To cut a long story short, Islamic invasion ravaged the beautiful and prosperous Hindu heritage of Central India, her temples and enslaved the Hindus by the millions. Kashmir itself would come under Muslim rule by 1338 CE[11]. By the end of the century, Kashmir would have seen the worst of Muslim rule, in the time of Sultan Sikander Butshikhan.[12] He would raze down the Martand Sun Temple built by emperor Lalitaditya and all the other great temples of Hindu heritage. Kashmir, the land of Sarasvatī, the home of the great Śāradā-pīṭha, the land that produced the most sublime school of Aesthetics would see all form of arts banned.

            This misfortune of Kashmir is adequately reflected in the absence of any aesthetician of any significance after Ruyyaka. Although the rest of India continued to produce aestheticians like Vidyādhara of Utkala (1285–1345 CE), Vidyānātha of Warangal (younger contemporary of Vidyādhara), Viśvanātha of Kalinga (1375 CE), Appayya-Dīkṣita of Tamil Nadu (1520–1592 CE), Jagannātha Paṇḍitarāja (1620 CE) and others, they would largely serve to present established concepts in their own ways.

Epilogue

            In the course of this essay, we have seen the evolution of Alaṅkāra-śāstra in the light of the evolution of the history of north-western India leading up to the establishment of Muslim rule in Central India. The brutal assault of Islam on Kashmir resulted in the destruction of great temples, learning centres and precious manuscripts holding the wisdom of centuries of labour. The scale of destruction can be imagined by the number of unavailable works of authors mentioned in this essay alone. And we are only talking about one subject here – Alaṅkāra-śāstra. Many other schools of knowledge would have suffered the same fate. In fact, the damage suffered by Alaṅkāra-śāstra alone is so great that the manuscripts of Abhinavagupta’s Abhinava-bhāratī and Locana were not found in Kashmir, but instead, in South India in the early part of the twentieth century.[13] Same goes for the manuscripts of Nāṭya-śāstra and Dhvanyāloka.

            As seen already in this essay, the resistance of Indics between the eighth century CE to eleventh century CE was so extraordinary that Kashmir was almost insulated from any threats at all. On the rare occasions when the enemy was at the gates, Kashmir was blessed with a Lalitaditya or an Avantivarma or a Jayapaladeva to hold fort. It is also important to note that from the early part of the tenth century CE, post Avantivarma, Kashmir was almost continuously in chaos and succession disputes. Yet, somehow the evolution of Alaṅkāra-śāstra continued even during those bleak times. In contrast, wherever Islam went, all learning and beauty would be crushed in practically no time at all. If the Indics had crumbled against the first wave of Islam like the kingdoms in Persia, North Africa, and Europe, we would certainly not have the repository of wisdom in Alaṅkāra-śāstra that we have today. And for this reason, every serious student of Alaṅkāra-śāstra should be as grateful to Lalitaditya, Jayapaladeva and Samgramaraja as he would be to Bharata, Ānandavardhana and Abhinavagupta. The Martand Sun Temple might be no more; the Avantiswami temple might be no more; the Śāradā-pīṭha might be no more; but the edifice of Alaṅkāra-śāstra shall forever be the greatest living monument commemorating the valour of generations of Shahis and their counterparts of Kashmir who fought against fearful odds. And it shall forever stand to represent the fruits of the mutually complimentary role played by brāhma (wisdom) and kṣāttra (valour). Kalhaṇa, in his Rājataraṅgiṇī, laments that the Shahis were a forgotten memory by his time. Any culture that forgets such heroes would not produce them anymore. And without their protection, the culture itself would be destroyed eventually, as it happened with Kashmir. However, ironically and poetically enough, dhvani prevailed.

~

References

  1. Alaṅkāra-śāstra (Kannada). Ganesh, R. Bengaluru: Gandhi Centre of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 2002.
  2. Bhāratīya-Kāvyamīmāṃse (Kannada). Srikanthiah, T N. Bengaluru: Department of Kannada and Culture, 2006.
  3. Indian Resistance to Early Muslim Invaders upto 1206 AD. Mishra, Ram Gopal. Meerut: Anu Books, 1983.
  4. Heroic Hindu Resistance to Muslim Invaders (636 AD to 1206 AD). Goel, Sita Ram. New Delhi: Voice of India.
  5. The Classical Age, volume three of the History and Culture of the Indian People. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1970.
  6. The Age of Imperial Kanauj, volume four of the History and Culture of the Indian People. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1964.
  7. The Struggle for Empire, volume five of the History and Culture of the Indian People. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1979.


[1] His son Bhimapala is known to have survived and continued fighting the Islamists with no territory of his own till his death in 1026 CE. With this, the Shahi line, of conspicuous and legendary military renown, was completely extinct.

[2] In these years, Mahmud, despite his extraordinary military genius, was reduced to a mere raider and looter because of the ferocious resistance offered by the Indics, first by the Shahis, and then, the Chandellas and Paramaras among others. Apart from Punjab and the frontier kingdom of the Shahis, the Indics did not cede any other terrirory to Mahmud. But, this in itself meant we did not have a protective buffer anymore between the Gangetic plains and the Islamist hordes.

[3] Every successive Muslim invader would do the same thing to humiliate the Hindus. But it is a tribute to the never-ending creative spring in the Hindus that a grand Somnath temple stands today in the same place, after having been desecrated seventeen times by different Muslim zealots.

[4] This is was the last notable campaign of Mahmud. He returned in 1027 CE to punish the Jats who had troubled him immensely in his return from Somnath. Although he succeeded in that, he does not seem to have tried engaging any other powerful kingdoms like the Paramaras or Chandellas. Mahmud eventually died in 1030 CE.

[5] Śṛṅgāra-prakāśa is the most voluminous work on Alaṅkāra-śāstra in Sanskrit. This work is dedicated to exploring śṛṅgāra-rasa. According to Bhoja, śṛṅgāra is the only rasa, and the work expands on this idea.

[6] Dhanañjaya wrote a work Daśarūpaka based on the Nāṭya-śāstra. Dhanika, his younger brother, wrote an erudite commentary on it called Avaloka. They both opposed vyañjanā-vyāpāra and dhvani, and also supported Bhaṭṭanāyaka’s utpatti-vāda for the realization of rasa.

[7] He is also known to have authored another work called Tattvoktikokośa, which is no longer available.

[8] It is a tragedy that the Indian kings did not make a determined attempt to expel the Islamists from Punjab in these times when they did not have a military genius like Mahmud.

[9] Epigraphia Indica, vol. 2. Ed. Burgess, J A S. Calcutta: Superintendent of Government Printing, 1894. p. 181.

[10] He is also known to have composed other works such as Nāṭaka-mīmāṃsā, Alaṅkārānusāriṇī, Śrīkaṇṭhastava, and Harṣacarita-vārttika; none of them is available today.

[11] At about the same time, 1336 CE, the great Vijayanagara empire was established in the Deccan. If South India did not suffer the same fate, it was largely due to the rise of the Vijayanagara empire, a good 140 years after the establishment of the slave dynasty in Delhi. This would prove to be a great renaissance in the aftermath of the devastating raids of Malik Kafur. Thanks to the Vijayanagara empire, Hindu culture expressed itself again in all its glory for about 250 years before the empire was suddenly extinguished by the surrounding Muslim kingdoms. Despite this setback, the seeds of cultural renaissance sowed by the Vijayanagara empire were so strong that Hindu culture remains prevalent even 450 years after the empire ended. It is only the discriminatory laws and policies of post-1947 India and its particularly virulent strains like the Dravidian movement, which threaten to extinguish it again.

[12] Butshikhan means “destroyer of idols.”

[13] Every student of Alaṅkāra-śāstra should be indebted to the saintly Manavalli Ramakrishna Kavi, who prepared the critical edition of Abhinavabhāratī from the manuscripts. He is also the person who prepared the editions of Nāṭya-śāstra and Gaṅgādevī’s Madhurāvijaya. The latter is a contemporary account of the depravities of Islamists unleashed upon Madurai and its reclamation by the Vijayanagara empire under Kampana. Gaṅgādevī herself was the daughter-in-law of the famous founder of Vijayanagara empire, Bukkaraya. This saintly scholar, Manavalli Ramakrishna Kavi, is known to have spent his last days uncared for in the streets of Tirupati, a thing that should shame every Hindu with any pride in him.

(The author expresses deep gratitude to Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh for his insights into Alaṅkāra-śāstra over the years and for his critical review of this essay. Likewise, the author is also grateful to the young scholar Sri B N Shashi Kiran for his review and editing assistance.)

Concluded.

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Vasuki is an electronics engineer and an IT professional. He is also a Sanskrit poet with a keen interest in Indian classical music and allied arts.

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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...

Bharatilochana

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...

Vagarthavismayasvadah

“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...