Thursday, January 1, 2009

Theory of Dhvani


The Problem of method in art and the discovery of dhvani:

Pracina School: The type of poetry recognized by early aesthetic thinkers [Pracina School] is one that has for its content a natural or human situation idealized by the poet for its own sake.

A situation, being external and objective, can be described in words (vacya). So the method by which such a content can be communicated to the reader is the linguistic expression of it (Vacana).

The expression directly conveys the idea of a situation to the reader.

As the expression itself constitutes the method for communicating the intended content, namely the situation, the beauty of a poem in regard to its method consists in the beauty of the expression.

They therefore set themselves to the task of studying the ingredients of beauty in poetic expression.

In regard to the method of poetry the attention of the Pracina School is confined to poetic expression, consisting of words and their explicit meaning.

Expression has two aspects- the word (sabda) and its explicit meaning (vacyartha).

With reference to each of these , three fundamental concepts, guna (excellence), dosa (defect) and alankara or (embellishment) are discussed.

Whatever quality in word and meaning lends charm to the expression is regarded by these writers as an excellence (guna) and whatever mars the beauty of expression, either in word or in meaning, is regarded as a blemish (dosa).

There is difference of opinion among these early writers on the number and nature of these gunas and dosas.

But the presence of guna and the absence of dosa ensure beauty (carutva, sobha) in the expression and thus make it a source of delight.

The presence of guna and the absence of dosa in the word (sabda) make for correction of language, and in the meaning (artha) tends to promote coherence of thought.

On alankara, or embellishment, there are differences of opinion.

Some writers do not make a clear distinction between guna and alankara .

In so far as alankara is distinguished from guna, it is assigned a role subordinate to that of guna- both in word and meaning it lends additional charm to the expression rendered beautiful by the presence of gunas and the absence of dosas.

As regards the number of alankaras also there is no uniformity among writers. In regard to the method of poetry the attention of Pracina school is confined to poetic expression, consisting of words and their explicit meanings.

Navina School:
When we come to the Navina school of aesthetic thinkers beginning with Anandavardhana, we find that the type of poetry which has emotion (bhava) for its theme has won recognition as superior to the other one.

An emotion cannot be described or expressed in words(vacya) .

Hence it cannot be directly communicated to the reader.

What the poet can and does express are only the causes and results of the emotion, that is, the situation in which the emotion is manifested.

Yet, through the description of the situation the reader understands the emotion and derives that exalted delight called rasa. Thus the method by which the content of the poem gets communicated to the reader is indirect.

Language, according to the later aestheticians, has the power of conveying a meaning by suggestion, or indication, apart from the power of communication by overt expression.

The meaning suggested by the words is called vyangyartha; it is different from and beyond the meaning explicitly and directly conveyed by the words (vacyartha).

When the content of a poem is emotion (bhava), the method necessarily consists in suggested meaning, or vyangyartha, which is also called dhvani.

Dhvani is the real core of the poetic method-its atman (kavyasyatma dhvani).

The expression, consisting of words (sabda) and explicit meaning (vacyartha) , constitutes only the seat of dhvani, its vesture, or embodiment- its sarira.

The expression is necessary only as a means to dhvani. The attention of the Pracina School was confined to the expression, the mere ‘body’ of poetry. The Navina School points out that the reader should not stop with the expression if the poetic content is an emotion but go into the meaning that is suggested, or hinted, by it. Thus the evolution of the New School marks a transition from the ‘outer’ element to the ‘inner’ one in respect of method even as it does in respect of content.

In shifting the importance from the expression to the inner meaning, the Navina School puts the value of the expression itself in the right perspective.

According to the Pracina School, beauty (sobha, carutva) is the criterion of the expression. The New School points out that since the expression plays only an indirect, or subordinate role in communicating the content, the value of the expression is not absolute but only relative to its inner meaning.

Henceforth, the question is not whether the expression is beautiful, but whether it is adequate (ucita) to lead the reader to the inner meaning representing the emotion.

The quality of the expression is to be judged only by its adequacy (aucitya) to convey the inner meaning. It is good to the extent that it is adequate for this purpose and bad to the extent that it is not.

From this point of view gunas and dosas acquire a new definition. They do not stand for beauty and ugliness, respectively, of the expression, but for the fitness (aucitya) or otherwise of the expression to suggest a further meaning.

To speak in terms of the soul and body, once bhava (or rasa) is regarded as the soul of poetic content, gunas in the expression come to be conceived of in the manner of qualities of the soul, such as bravery or charity, whereas the previous writers thought of gunas in the manner of embellishments of the body.

As regards alankaras, the New School points out that they are nothing but ornaments in the body of poetry dealing with nature and human activities but have little use in emotional poetry.

Thus the New School does not reject the contribution made by the Old School but only puts it in the right perspective. Sabda and Vacyartha are no longer valuable in themselves but only in subordinate relation to vyangyartha or dhvani.

The evolution of dhvani through the centuries: The concept of dhvani arose out of the demand for explaining how the emotional content of a poem is transmitted to a reader so as to produce rasa in him.

We owe this concept to Anandavardhana, the author of the Dhvanyaloka, who lived about the middle of the ninth century A.D. The concept was not entirely unknown to poeticians before Anandavardhana. Traces of the idea are found in their writings. But these writers did not accord any independent status to dhvani. They dealt mainly with poetry with a predominantly imaginative content, to explain which the concept of expression was all-sufficient.
Unlike the early poeticians, the early dramturgists recognized emotion to be the essential content of their art. In face, Bharata (second or first century B.C) was the first to write a treatise, the Natyasastra, which deals extensively with the concept of rasa. He analyzed the constituents of rasa experience. About the time of Anandavardhana this work had been commented upon by Bhatta-lollata (800 to 840 A.D.) and Sri Sankuka( a younger contemporary of Bhatta-lollata). And yet, neither Bharata nor his early commentators had said anything about dhvani as the, method of communicating the emotional content of drama to the spectator. Bharata took the communication of the emotion for granted and discussed only the necessary relation of the content, bhava, to the experience called rasa. Even though Bhatta-lollata and Sri Sankuka turned their attention to the problem of the method by which the emotional content of a drama gets communicated to the spectator, they did not acknowledge that the method involved is dhvani. They had other explanations to office. The credit for formulating the theory of dhvani goes entirely to the author of the Dhvanyaloka. The title means ‘the lusture (aloka ) of suggested meaning (dhvani)

The existence of dhvani in language:
The Navina school of Alankarikas beginning with Anandavardhana recognized that emotion (bhava) is the best theme for poetry. With this recognition they had to explain how the emotional content of a poem gets communicated to the reader. It was in answer to this problem that they discovered the concept of dhvani. Before dhvani was recognized as a type of meaning , three types of meanings were usually ascribed to language, namely the primary (mukhya), the secondary (laksya) and the syntactical (tatparya). The primary and the secondary meanings are ascribed to individual words.

The words of the poem have no doubt their own explicit, or primary meaning, (vacyaratha, mukhyartha). It is the meaning directly conveyed by the words. But the primary meaning does not stand for the emotion because emotion cannot be expressed, or described in words (vacya). It cannot be directly communicated. What the primary meaning stands for is only the situation, consisting of the causes and effects of the emotion, which are partly human. It is from the description of the situation that the reader catches the underlying emotion. On reading the poem, one understands in the first instance its primary meaning, representing the situation. The primary meaning then suggests to the mind of the reader, or indicates, or hints to him the presence of the emotion. Thus the meaning representing the emotion, called vyangyartha or suggested meaning’ (from the verb vyanj which means ‘to suggest’, ‘to indicate’) us arrived at indirectly from the words through the medium of the primary meaning. /The power in language by which vyangyartha is said to be conveyed is called vyanjana-vrtti. The vyangayartha is called dhvani.

Being indirectly conveyed, the suggested meaning (vyangyartha) may vaguely resemble the secondary meaning of words(laksyartha). The secondary meaning also is indirectly conveyed. It is the meaning, which the word implies rather than states. And we resort to it when the primary meaning of one word does not agree with the primary meaning of another word. But the secondary and suggested meanings are arrived at through the primary meaning . And the primary meaning, having led either to the secondary or to the suggested meaning, ceases to apply. This much constitutes the common ground between laksyartha and vyangyartha. But there is a fundamental difference between the two. The secondary meaning of a word is necessarily connected with its primary meaning and operates only in the wake of the primary meaning, without going outside the context set by the primary meaning. We resort ot the secondary meaning only because the primary meaning does not do full justice to the context. For example, in the phrase ‘the hamlet on the Ganga’ the term ‘on the Ganga’ is to be taken in the secondary sense of ‘on the banks of he Ganga.’ The word ‘Ganga’ is common to both the primary and secondary signification.

In contrast to this, there is no necessary relation between the primary meaning of the word used and the meaning suggested by it . In the expression ‘ hamlet on the Ganga’ there is more meaning than is conveyed by the secondary signification. This additional meaning relates to the intention of the speaker. It is evident that the speaker has an intention in using the expression ‘on the Ganga’ He probably desires to convey the idea that the hamlet is cool andholy. We find no connection between this suggested meaning and the primary meaning of the term ‘on the Ganga’ as we find between the secondary and the primary meanings of that term. While the primary meaning (on the river) serves as a passage to the secondary meaning (namely ‘on the bank) , it serves only as a distant hint, or pointer, to the still deeper meaning (cool and holy). While the transition from the primary to the secondary meaning is continuous that from the primary to the suggested is discontinuous. A sense is suggested even when the word used has no correspondence to it. Only sympathetic person insight can make it out.

The origin and the different senses of term dhvani:

The concept of vyangyartha, or dhvani, is an original contribution of the Alankarika to Indian thought. The term dhvani is used in more than one sense inthis context. It is stated that the inspiration for the use of the term dhvani and in different senses in the realm of aesthetics came from the science of grammar (vyankarana). The indebtedness of the Alankarika to the grammarian is only for the term dhvani and the possibility of its being used in more than one sense. The concept of dhvani in the field of aesthetics is the idependent discovery of the Alankarika.

The Indian grammarian (vaiyakarana) used the term dhvani in connection with his theory of sphota and in more than one sense. The concept of sphota arose out of the need to explain how individual letters form a meaningful world. The letters are simply sounds when uttered or symbols of sounds when written. They are themselves meaningless. But, when they are spoken or written in a particular order toform a word, they convey the meaning. The real difficulty in the problem lies in the fact that the letters whether as spoken or written , come one after another, and we have the full meaning only when the last letter has been reached. The only solution to the problem, according to the grammarians, is to assure that there is already a unity behind the letters of a word. This unity is the essence of the word. It underlies the individual letters of the word and functions as the symbol for the meaning of the word. It is called sphota and sabda. It is this hidden symbol, the sphota and not the letters themselves that presents the meaning of the word to the hearer or reader. Thus midway between the letters and the meaning is this unitary essence of the word called sphota.

The process of understanding a word is this. The letters, coming one after another in a definite order manifest the sphota of the word with increasing clarity. Corresponding to each stage in the manifestation of the spota, there is a revelation of the meaning by the sphota , so that when we reach the last letter, the meaning is fully revealed. While the letters are non-eternal, the sphota is the eternal essence of the word. The term sphota comes from the root ‘sphut’, which is used in the sense of manifestation. The eternal essence of the word is called sphota both because it is manifested by the letters and because it manifests the meaning. The sphota is of the nature of sound because the word primarily occurs in speech, writing being a subsequent expression. Hence the sphota is called sabda. The grammarians use the term dhvani in connection with the sphota theory. Dhvani literally means ‘sound’ . But it acquires special sense in connection with the sphota theory.
The first meaning in which the term dhvani comes to be used is ‘that which manifest’ or ‘a means to manifestation’ (vyanjaka). According to this view, sphota is eternal and is only revealed by the letters, which have origin and end. There is a rival view among the grammarians according to which sphota is non-eternal and produced. The process of interpretation is represented like this. The first sound produced by the conjunction and disjunction of the speech organs is called ‘spota. The subsequent sounds, which are the letters of the word, are produced and revealed to the hearer, by the first sound called sphota. This has been compared to a stroke of a bell followed by a prolonged resonance. Thus, according to this view, the letters, otherwise called dhvanis, instead of manifesting sphota, are manifested by sphota. In other words, the term dhvani is used in this view to stand for what is revealed. The term dhvani is primarily applied both to that which reveals and to that which is revealed. The term is secondarily applied to the process of manifestation (vyanjana), which is the passage of thought from the revealer to the revealed. This is the third meaning of the term.

The Alankarikas have adopted the term dhvani from grammar and applied it in the same three senses in poetry namely –(1) that which suggests (vyanjaka),(2) that which is suggested (vyangya) and (3) the process of suggestion (vyanjana). What these stand for in emotional poetry are :- (1) That which suggests (vyanjaka) is the poet’s description (vacana) of a situation. The description consists of words (sabda) and their primary meaning (vyancyartha). (2) That which is suggested (vyanjana) is an emotion (bhava) either permanent (sthayibhava) or transitory (vyabhicaribhava). (3) the process of suggestion (vyanjana) consists in how the words and their primary meaning suggest the emotion. It connects the suggester and the suggested. (4) In addition, the Alankarika has a fourth, namely the whole work, or the poem, which is the confluence of the suggesting means, the suggested sense, and the process of suggestion.

Three types of poetry:
(1) Citra-Kavya: This is poetry where there is no suggestion at all. It relies entirely on description for the communication of its content. Obviously, the content of this poetry is confined to what is describable, namely objective phenomena, which are either aspects of nature or affairs of men taken as ends in themselves. It is called Citra-Kavya because the method involved resembles a picture (citra) for its objectiveness. The object, whether natural or human, may be described in two ways. One way is to treat the object just as it is, as a mere fact (vastu). This is the least poetic. In the other cse, the poet adds his fancy to the fact, idealizes it, and makes the imaginative thought (alankara) so got the content of his composition. The description then becomes ornate, or embellished. It involves the use of figures of speech(alankaras), which beautify the description. There is a difference between the treatment of the object as a vastu (eg. Earth on a moonlit night as ‘bright’) and its treatment as alankaras (e.g., The night ‘as carved out of ivory’)
The term citra-kavya or descriptive poetry, properly applies to poems involving ornate description of the idealized object. Citra-kavya is of two kinds. If the embellishment is mainly of the words (sabda) used, the poem is called sabda-citra. If the embellishment is mainly of the explicit meaning (vacyartha) of the words, it is called artha-citra. The advocates of dhvani regard citra-kavya as of the lowest order (adhama) because it is completely bereft of the method par excellence, namely dhvani. Whatever beauty is in this type of poetry consists merely in the skill of description.
(2) Dhvani-kavya: This is poetry which adopts suggestion (dhvani, vyangyartha) as the principal method. The advocates of dhvani regard this as the most excellent poetry(uttama). The method of dhvani was employed by poets to communicate emotions arising in a situation, the direct method of description being out of the question. Facts and images would be more beautiful when suggested than when described. Thus the scope of dhvani comes to be widened. All poetry that resorts primarily to the method of suggestion, whether its content is an emotion (bhava) or a fact (vastu) or an image (alankaras) , comes to be called suggestive poetry: dhvani-kavya.
Suggestive poetry does not exclude description. In fact, without describing a situation, the poet cannot suggest the content that he wishes to communicate. The suggested meaning (vyangyartha) of words operates only through their primary meaning (vacyartha). Thus description is the means to suggestion, and therefore is subordinate to suggestion. Hence by the term dhvani-kavya what is meant is that the suggestive element predominates over the descriptive element.
(3) Gunibutha-vyangya-kavya: Between dhvani-kavya and citra-kavya in order of importance is a type of poetry which the advocates of dhvani call gunibutha-vyangya. The predominant element in the method of this type is ornate description, which involves figures of speech (alankaras). In this respect it resembles citra-kavya. But, unlike citra-kavya, it is not absolutely devoid of suggestion. The words do have an inner, suggested meaning (vyangyartha), which lends its own charm to the content. Buton this ground it cannot be classed with dhvani-kavya, for , unlike the latter, the suggestive element is not predominant in this case. Whatever suggestion there exists is subordinate to the principal method adopted here, namely embellished description. Since the meaning suggested (vyangya) is made subordinate element (gunibhuta) of expression, this type of poetry is called gunibhuta-vyangya-kavya, or poetry of subordinate suggestion. The beauty of the suggested sense here is not more than the beauty of the expressed sense. Hence from the point of view of dhvani this class of poetry is rated as intermediate (madhayama). In view of its unique attraction even great poets have resorted it to.


(1) As suggested sense, or what is suggested (vyangya): When what is suggested is a fact (vastu), whether of nature or of human affairs, it is called vastu-dhvani. When a fact, which has been idealized and transformed into an image (alankaras) is suggested, it is called alankaras-dhvani. An emotion(bhava) can only be suggested and not described. When a transitory emotion (vyabhicaribhava) is suggested, the suggested sense is called bhava-dhvani. When a permanent emotion (sthayibhava) is suggested, the suggested sense is given the name rasa-dhvani because the sthyibhava culminates in rasa.
(2) As the means to suggestion, or the suggesters(vyanjaaka):
(a) The indispensable means to suggestion (vyanjaka) is the primary meaning of words vacyartha). The suggested meaning (vyangyartha) occurs only through the primary meaning. (b) In the laksanamula-dhvani the secondary meaning of words (laksyartha) serves as a means to suggestion. (c) The primary meaning and secondary meaning, if any, reside in a word (sabda, pada). Hence along with the primary meaning the word is also spoken of as a means to suggestion (vyangyartha). (d) In the variety of abidhamula-dhvani called asamlaksyakrama, parts and aspects of a word, such as letters, prefixes, and suffixes, themselves act as suggesters in collaboration with the primary meaning. For example, harsh sounds like ‘rka’, ‘dha’ are suitable for suggesting emotions such as anger and courage but unsuitable for suggesting an emotion like love. (e) Words in combination appear as phrses, clauses and sentences. To these combinations belong syntactical meaning (tatparyartha). The syntactical meaning may alsoserve as a means to a suggested sense. If we extend the above argument, we may treat even the work as a whole as a suggester.
(3) As the Process of suggestion (vyanjana):
The indispensable means to suggestion is the primary meaning of words (vacyartha). There are two ways in which the primary sense leads to the suggested sense. In some cases the primary meaning itself gives rise to the suggested meaning. The process of suggestion is then called abhidhamula-dhvani. In other cases the words have secondary meanings (laksyartha) also. In these cases the primary meaning first leads to the secondary meaning, and this in turn leads to the suggested meaning. Since the immediate means to suggestion here is the laksyartha, the process is called laksanamula-dhvani.

Thus, indhvani kavya, though the essence or soul of the poetic method is the suggested meaning, the primary and secondary meanings have also a place as the means to the suggested meaning. In fact, the suggested meaning cannot be reached except through either the primary meaning itself or the primary and secondary meanings.

The difference between these twio broad types of dhvani indicates the difference in the conditions of consciousness antecedent to the process. In the abhidhamula type the poet intends that the primary meaning should be communicated to the reader since it is the direct means to suggestion . Hence the abhidhamula dhvani is also called vivaksit-anyapara-vacya-dhvani (where the literal is intended but is subordinated to a second meaning). On the contrary, in the laksanamula type the poet does not intend the primary meaning to be commu nicated to the rader since its functuion is only to present the secondary meaning, which becomes the immediate means to suggestion. Hence the laksanamula-dhvani is also called avivaksita-vacya-dhvani,which means the suggestion where the primary meaning (vacya) is not intended to be conveyed (avivaksita)

The abhidhamula, or the vivaksitanyapara-vacya is divided into two sub-varieties- (1) Samlaksyakrama-dhvani(where the sequence is apparent) where the stages of realizing the suggested sense from the expressed sense can be well perceived (2) Asamlaksyakrama-dhvani (where the suggested sense is produced without apparent sequence ) where the stages in the realization of the suggested sense are imperceptible. The latter is more important and is concerned with the suggestion of poetic emotion.
The samlaksyakrama is further divided into three types : (1) where the transition is due to the power of the word (sabda-saktimula-dhvani). Here actual words are vital to suggestion and cannot be substituted by synonyms. (2) where the transition is due to the power of the primary meaning (artha-saktimula-dhvani) and (3) where the transition is due to the power of both (ubhaya-saktimula-dhvani)

In the laksanamula, or avivaksita-vacya, the suggested sense arises from the secondary meaning, and not directly from the primary meaning. The function of the primary meaning is only to arouse the secondary sense. Once this is fulfille, the primary meaning either gets amalgamated wtihthe suggested sense or is discarded completely. The two sub-varieties of avivaksita-vacya are (1) arthanthara-samkramita-vcya-dhvani (where the literal meaning is shifted to another sense) (2) atyantatiraskrita-vacya-dhvani(where the literal is entirely set aside}

It is found that the nature of the process of suggestion suits the sense to be suggested. For suggesting emotions, both basoc and transitory, the asamlaksya-krama-dhvani is said to be the most appropriate.

1 comment:

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