Yaśovarmā, Bhavabhūti’s contemporary, is the author of the now-unavailable play, Rāmābhyudaya. Eminent aestheticians such as Ānandavardhana have held this work in high regard and have quoted from it. This tells us that the play was indeed wonderful. Let us examine a verse that probably was a part of its prologue:
औचित्यं वचसां प्रकृत्यनुगतं सर्वत्र पात्रोचिता
पुष्टिः स्वावसरे रसस्य च कथामार्गे न चातिक्रमः।
शुद्धिः प्रस्तुतसंविधानकविधौ प्रौढिश्च शब्दार्थयो-
र्विद्वद्भिः परिभाव्यतामवहितैरेतावदेवास्तु नः॥ (Quoted in Śṛṅgāraprakāśa, 11.178)
Dialogues that befit the characters, an ambience that allows various characters to thrive and shores up rasa at the appropriate occasion, a story that toes the line of the original, a plot that is at once unblemished and unambiguous, and a grand procession of meaningful words – may scholars intently observe these qualities in my composition. I shall be glad with just that.
This magnificent verse presents in a nutshell almost all the major concepts of poetics. Yaśovarmā deserves our praise for focusing on characters and dialogues that are appropriate to characters, because these are aspects that Indian aestheticians have not discussed in detail. An allegation against our literary tradition is that it does not give sufficient thrust to creating new characters and instead, is content with readily available, typified models. Fortunately, some examples such as the present verse have survived to disprove the charge. In saying that the dialogues should suit the characters well, Yaśovarmā has touched upon an important facet of visual aesthetics: by design, the playwright cannot speak directly; he should narrate the story and draw the contours of the characters only through dialogues. In crafting conversations, inept playwrights, taking the easy way out, usually make all characters speak similarly. Little do they realize that this drastically brings down the quality of the composition. To guard against this fall, the author should be endowed with uncommon imagination and scholarship, and should know well the ways of the world.
It is the poet’s bounden duty to develop rasa as per the occasion. Ideally, he has the opportunity to create rasa all through the play. But if he is not judicious in exercising this freedom, he runs the risk of being inappropriate – he might write a love scene when the situation calls for pathos, and so forth. This is why Yaśovarmā has expressly cautioned, ‘svāvasare rasasya puṣṭiḥ’ – an observation that holds good with descriptions as well. It is another story that many respected poets themselves fall short of this standard.
Although Indian poets have typically drawn their themes from Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata, Bṛhatkathā and various purāṇas, they have granted themselves ample freedom to modify the stories, which has led to good and bad consequences in equal measure. Generally speaking, it is advisable to not tweak the stories and characters that have left an indelible imprint on the minds of readers. Yaśovarmā’s word of caution is important for this reason. Ānandavardhana has expressed the same sentiment in his treatise. We have already discussed plot and diction elaborately, so it is unnecessary to get into those again.
It would not be incorrect to observe that propriety came first in Yaśovarmā’s list of poetic virtues. Dr. V Raghavan has made a similar observation in his work, Some Old Lost Rāma Plays (p. 7). Throughout the present verse, we hear echoes of some of the seminal words spoken by Ānandavardhana and Kṣemendra – propriety or aucitya is the elusive essence of poetry; there is no greater blemish than traducing or transgressing it.
 As far as descriptions are concerned, Lollaṭa has made some brutal yet constructive remarks:
सरसमपि नातिबहुलं प्रस्तुतरसानन्वितं रचयेत्॥
यस्तु सरिदद्रिसागरपुरतुरगरथादिवर्णने यत्नः।
कविशक्तिख्यातिफलो विततधियां नो मतः स इह॥ (काव्यमीमांसा, पृ. ४५)
अभिमानमात्रमेतद्गड्डरिकादिप्रवाहो वा॥ (काव्यानुशासनम्, पृ. ३०७)
 सन्ति सिद्धरसप्रख्या ये च रामायणादयः।
कथाश्रया न तैर्योज्या स्वेच्छा रसविरोधिनी॥ (ध्वन्यालोकः, ३.१४ परिकरश्लोकः)
 See: Dhvanyāloka, 3.14 parikaraśloka; Aucityavicāracarcā, 1.5
To be continued.