Bhoja’s comments on Adhyeyam–a Guest Post by Satyanarayana Hegde

In the second pariccheda of Sarasvatīkaṇṭhābharaṇālaṅkāra (1025 CE) titled śabdālaṅkāravivecanam, Bhoja defines at 2.138 the śabdālaṅkāra Adhyeyam (Śarmā and Paṇśīkar 1934:304):

yadvidhau ca niṣedhe ca vyutpattereva kāraṇam
tadadhyeyam vidustena lokayātrā pravartate

Bhoja at Sarasvatīkaṇṭhābharaṇālaṅkāra 2.139 divides Adhyeyam into six subtypes-kāvya, śāstra, itihāsa, kāvyaśāstra, kavyetihāsa and śāstretihāsa. He adduces the following exemplum for the kāvya subtype (ibid.):

teṣu kāvyam yathā-
yadi smarāmi tām tanvīm jīvitāśā kuto mama
atha vismṛtya jīvāmi jīvitavyasanena kim
tadidamuktiprādhānyāt kāvyamityucyate

No other poetician or rhetorician mentions a śabdālaṅkāra called Adhyeyam. There’s no autocommentary on this section. The third pariccheda of the Sarasvatīkaṇṭhābharaṇālaṅkāra is commented on by a traditional commentator Rāmsinha and the fourth by Jagaddhara, but the second pariccheda has no commentator. In the tenth pariccheda of the Śṛṅgāraprakāśa (1050 CE), Bhoja repeats Adhyeyam as one of the twenty-four śabdālaṅkāras, defines it as vidhiniṣedhavyutpattiheturadhyeyam (Saini 2001:388) and enumerates the same six sub-types as in the Sarasvatīkaṇṭhābharaṇālaṅkāra. Here too, he adduces the same exemplum (ibid.:389) with the gloss teṣūktipradhānam kāvyam yathā (ibid.:388). This section too lacks autocommentary as well as commentary. There’s thus no premodern commentary on the śabdālaṅkāra Adhyeyam.

Raghavan (1963:369) states (in a tone of exasperation!) that Adhyeya “inaugurates a series of strange Śabdālaṁkāras” and opines that “The idea is not clear, and further his classification and illustration conveys a different idea altogether” (my emphasis). He ends by mentioning (ibid.) “How Bhoja calls this Adhyeya or how these alone are intended for Vyutpatti is not known.” Pollock (2003:49-50) invokes this section and offers some observations on this exemplum while discussing the genre-functions of śāstra, itihāsa and kāvya:

At the same time, the Veda does have meaning, which lies primarily in its commandments of moral action (dharmavidhi). This is in fact its primary signification, one that must not be interpreted away by recourse to secondary language functions associated with kāvya, such as implication. While kāvya, too, can have real-world entailments—from reading Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa one learns to act like the hero Rama, and not like the villain Rāvaṇa—kāvya does not, like the Veda, prompt, let alone command, us to do anything.

Let us see how this textual typology works in critical practice. All kinds of texts—science, narratives of things as they were, and, as just noted, kāvya itself—have the capacity to teach us something by prescribing or prohibiting action, something Bhoja calls the educative function. But they execute this function in very different ways, as the following examples show (note that their formal organization is entirely irrelevant to the discussion; all illustrations are verse). The educative in kāvya is shown in the following verse:

If I call to mind that beautiful girl, what hope have I to stay alive?
If I forget her and live, what point would there be in living?

This is kāvya, we are told, because “the expression itself (ukti) has primacy.” However we might want to characterize the “educative” aspect of the text (perhaps it shows how neither prescription nor prohibition applies to the dilemma of unfulfilled love), it does not expressly enjoin or define appropriate action, nor adduce an actual account of such action from the past as authority. Its specificity resides precisely in the self-sufficiency of the utterance itself. In śāstra, by contrast, where prescriptive, injunctive, and related forms of discourse are found, the particular wording or terminology has primacy….. (50)

This verse is ascribed to one Dīpaka in Vallabhadeva’s Subhāṣitāvali (1500 CE?) and is listed at no. 1251 (Peterson and Durgāprasāda 1886:208) under the rubric virahiṇām pralāpāḥ. The lectio of the first half of the first hemistich is given as yadi smarāmi tanvaṅgīm. This verse may thus be classified under Pūrvānurāga Vipralambhaśṛṅgāra. Bhoja’s stated aim in defining Adhyeyam as “that which brings about knowledge of prescription and proscription” and which functions as a “guide in life’s journey” seems prima facie completely inapplicable to the kāvya exemplum adduced. The problematic is that there’s nothing in this verse either grammatically or semantically to substantiate or justify it being cited as an exemplum of vidhiniṣedhavyutpattihetuḥ, summed up in Pollock’s opinion that “it does not expressly enjoin or define appropriate action, nor adduce an actual account of such action from the past as authority.” Pollock’s comment about this verse that “perhaps it shows how neither prescription nor prohibition applies to the dilemma of unfulfilled love” is however unclear to me. In what manner would it be philologically justified to state that Bhoja seemingly adduces an exemplum that contradicts the very concept that he seeks to elucidate and illustrate? Also, Raghavan’s observation that “How Bhoja calls this Adhyeya or how these alone are intended for Vyutpatti is not known” raises another problematic issue-are all verses expressive of Pūrvānurāga Vipralambhaśṛṅgāra to be postulated as possessing an educative function of bringing about “knowledge of prescription and proscription” that will “guide” the addressee through “life’s journey”?


Peterson, P. and Pt. Durgāprasāda, edd. The Subhāṣitāvali of Vallabhadeva. Bpmbay:BSS, 1886.

Pollock, Sheldon. “Sanskrit Literary Culture from the Inside Out.” In Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia, edited by Sheldon Pollock. University of California Press, 2003:39-130.

Raghavan, V. Bhoja’s Śṛṅgāra Prakāśa. Madras: Punarvasu, 1963.

Saini, R.S., ed., intro. Śṛṅgāraprakāśa. Delhi: Nag Publishers, 2001.

Śarmā, K. and Paṇśīkar, W.L., ed. The Saraswatī Kaṇṭhābharaṇa by Dhāreshvara Bhojadeva. Edited by Panḍit Kedarnath Śarmā and Wāsudev Laxmaṇ Śāstrī Paṇśīkar. Bombay: Nirṇay Sāgar Press, 1934.

About Matthew Dasti

Matthew R. Dasti is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bridgewater State University.

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