The Gunturu Seshendra Sharma Memorial Lecture endowed by Rajkumari Smt. Indira Devi Dhanrajgir at the University of Hyderabad (UoH) was delivered by Prof. Navjyoti Singh, Head, Center for Exact Humanities, International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad. The Lecture was organised by the Sanskrit Department of the School of Humanities.
Prof. Navjyoti Singh presented a unique interpretation of Kshemendra, wherein he extended the principles of Alankara Sastra, Poetics, to Painting and Sculpture so that the principles of poetry may be better understood. During the presentation and the post-lecture discussion it emerged that this approach was particularly necessary.
As introduced by Dr. J. S. R. A. Prasad, Head, Department of Sanskrit Studies, at the beginning of the Lecture, Kshemendra was a 11th century polymath from Kashmir who wrote in Sanskrit in various genres. Amongst his thirty odd works, Aucityavicaracarca, deals with Poetics wherein he identifies Aucitya (aptness or appropriateness) as the key element which differentiates great poetry from the rest. In his brief survey, Dr. Prasad showed that writers such as Bharata (in Natyasastra), Bhartrihari (in Vakyapadiyam) and Anandavardhana (in Dhvanyaloka) dealth with Aucitya in some way or the other and that it was Kshemendra who placed it on a high pedestal making it the key ingredient.
India has a rich tradition in Poetics with different writers identifying variously, Rasa, Riti, Guna, Alankara, Dhvani, and Vakrokti as the soul of poetry. Kshemendra is the founder of the Aucitya school. Aucitya, as generally understood, is appropriateness. However as Prof. Singh demonstrated “exactitude” would be nearer to what Kshemendra had in mind. In any piece of Art, not merely poetry, a certain element in a certain place – it could be a pun, a bend of the hand in a sculpture etc. – is what makes that piece of Art complete and great. This point was demonstrated by Prof. Singh by showing numerous sculptures from the “Shahi region” which covers present day Kashmir and parts of Afghanistan. In sculpture after sculpture, he identified the Aucitya, the exactitude which made the sculpture a great one.
Later he introduced Nagnajit’s treatise of Citralakshana which is one of the earliest manuals of painting and showed how this principle of Exactitude applied to painting. A similar extension to dance, as portrayed in Natyasastra could not be demonstrated due to paucity of time but by that time, the audience had a new appreciation of Aucitya and there was not too much opposition to Prof. Singh’s proposition that “for every given work of Art, there exists a particular Aucitya, even if it is not always possible to identify that”.
Moving back to poetry, this definition of Aucitya, makes it very different from, say, what Anandavardhana proposed. For Anandavardhana, poetry should be bereft of anything inappropriate. This extends from Sabdalankaras like alliteration while dealing with delicate Rasas like Karuna, Pathos, to the inappropriateness of Kalidasa describing the love making of Siva and Parvati, who are considered to be the parents of the world. The focus, then, is on avoidance of inappropriateness. With Kshemendra, the situation is reversed: what is required is for certain exactitude to be present in a given work of art. The emphasis is on the presence of Aucitya, not on the absence of Anaucitya. The difference is not merely of emphasis: for Kshmendra Aucitya means much more than Aptness or Appropriateness. For instance, if one were to draw a human body with all limbs and organs in proportion, one could argue that aptness is present. However, that does not make for great Art, the painting will have to have a certain element, a certain exactitude which will make it great.\
To illustrate this “Exactitude” Kshemendra analyses twenty seven types of Aucitya, and shows examples and counterexamples. In examples, he identifies the Aucitya and analyses why the particular poem enthralls the readers. In counter-examples, the flaw in a poem is pointed out, and it is shown that absence of Aucitya is what harms the poem.
There was lively discussion after the lecture, as traditional Pundits in India, like P. V. Kane do not admit Aucitya as a separate school and club it with the Dhvani school. Prof. Navjyoti Singh’s interpretation demonstrated the difference in the meaning of the term in the two schools and showed how Aucitya deserves to be studied as a separate school.
Earlier, welcoming the speaker and the patron, the In-charge Dean, Prof. G. Umamaheshwar Rao remembered the works of Gunturu Seshendra Sharma and his contribution to literature, thanked Rajkumari Smt. Indira Devi Dhanrajagir for her generous support and set the stage for the audience to expect an innovative presentation from Prof. Singh, an alumnus of IIT, Kanpur with interests spanning Mathematics, Science, Logic, Indian Analytical Traditions, Vyakarana etc.
At the end of the lecture, many of the students, research scholars, faculty and interested persons were left appreciating how sculpture sometimes becomes critical in appreciating poetry.