On mammaTa, nyAya and related matters

The Kashmirian efflorescence was a remarkable, even if a brief phase, in the intellectual development of Hindus. Almost simultaneously we witness the emergence of several great savants, even as Kashmir defied the Islamic onslaught of the accursed Mahmud of Ghazna and his successors. It was one of the last blazes of Hindu productivity before it was seized and dented by the savagery of the barbaric Mohammedans. We see many great figures like abhinavagupta, somadeva, kShemendra and mammaTa. The last of these has possibly been more influential in erudite Sanskrit circles than few others. rAjAnanka mammaTa the author of the kAvya-prakAsha (KP) belonged to an scholarly clan: His father jayyaTa was a co-author along with vAmana bhaTTa of the famous grammatical work kAshikA. His first brother kayyaTa wrote a once well-known commentary on the mahAbhAShya of pata~njali. His second brother was the famous uvvaTa, a protégé of rAjA bhojadeva paramAra, who is renowned for his commentary on the shukla yajurveda and its shrauta deployment.

The learned scholar Ganganath Jha brings attention to a statement that used to be prevalent in among brAhmaNa-s whose traditional education required the study of mammaTa’s work:
kAvyaprakAshasya kR^itA gR^ihe gR^ihe TIkA tathApyeSha tathaiva durgamaH |
TIka-s on the kAvyaprakAsha have been composed in every house yet it remains difficult to understand as ever!

Consonant with this statement apparently 49 commentaries are known to exist in different states of survival for the KP. The difficulties aside, mammaTa’s work presents something interesting for every Hindu – after all it was consider an integral part of traditional education. A few points that struck me run closely in parallel with the other great kavi from those regions, kShemendra (we had earlier described his words from the kavikaNThAbharaNa on these pages), especially in terms of the description of the attainment of kavitvam. Another point of note that roused my interest early one while reading Ganganath Jha’s commentary on the work was the respect the KP had among the later nyAyAyika-s like gadAdhara and jagadIsha. This is particularly interesting in light of the fact that jayanta bhaTTa, an earlier Kashmirian vedicist, had expressed the view that the AstIka thought should primarily be modeled after nyAya thought rather than advaita vedAnta. This implied that among the Kashmirian vedicists there was a strand that was primarily affiliated with nyAya, as against vedAnta, which was quite popular among the vedicists of the drAviDa regions. Via the KP we obtain evidence that mammaTa was very much a nyAyAyika in thought.
In the prose expansion on the first kArika in the first chapter (ullAsa) in comparing the real world to the imaginations of the poets mammaTa states:
niyati-shaktyA niyata-rUpA sukha-duHkha-moha-svabhAvA paramANv-AdyupAdAna-karmAdi-sahakAri-kAraNa-paratantrA ShaDrasA na cha hR^idyaiva taiH tAdR^ishI brahmaNo nirmitir-nirmANam
The construction constructed by brahman (the world) is controlled by the natural laws, form governed by laws, has the subjective experiential nature of pleasure, pain and illusion, and its existence is the consequence of matter and its interactions, respectively the atomic particles and forces; it has only 6 tastes (rasas) and these too not always of a pleasant nature.
We find mammaTa expressing a rather deep stream of thought here:
-He is firstly contrasting the unconstrained nature of poetic expression to the real world, which he described as being governed by natural laws. The word he uses is niyati, i.e. niyati shaktyA niyata-rupA, to express the natural laws and the form of the universe developing by natural laws. This word niyati from the brAhmaNa period has been used to describe the natural laws (e.g. in the kauShitaki/shAkhAyana brAhmaNa and the shvetAshvatara upaniShat e.g. “kAlaH svabhAvo niyatir yadR^icchA bhUtAni yoniH puruSheti cintyam |” SU 1.2).
-Then mammaTa goes on to describe the basis for the real world: 1) The substantial cause or matter (upAdAna) is comprised of the evolutes of the fundamental particles i.e. paramANvadi. 2) The causes governing cooperation or interactions (sahakAri-kAraNa) which are the forces i.e. karmAdi.
-Finally he uses a pun to mention that in our sensory sphere we distinguish 6 tastes, in contrast to the 9 rasa-s typical of poetic imagination.
Thus, we see that the naturalistic theory for the basis of the universe governed by natural laws in the form of fundamental particles and their interactions, so succinctly presented by mammaTa, is clearly that of nyAya-vaisheShika thought.

Then mammaTa goes on to describe the essentials for being a kavi:
shaktir-nipuNatA loka-shAstra-kAvyAdyavekShaNAt |
kAvyaj~na-shikShayAbhyAsa iti hetus-tadudbhave || 3

shaktiH kavitvabIjarUpaH saMskAra-visheShaH yAM vinA kAvyaM na prasaret prasR^itaM vA upahasanIyaM syAt | lokasya sthAvara-ja~NgamAtmaka-loka-vR^ittasya | shAstrANAM Chando-vyAkaraNa-abhidhAna-kosha-kalA-chaturvarga-gaja-turaga-khaDgAdi-lakShaNa-granthAnAm | kAvyAnAM cha mahAkavi-saMbandhinAm | AdigrahaNAd-itihAsAnAM cha vimarshanAdvy-utpattiH |
kAvyaM kartuM vichArayituM cha ye jAnanti tad-upadeshena karaNe yojane cha paunaH-punyena pravR^ittir-iti | trayaH samuditAH na chu vyastAs-tasya kAvyasyodbhave nirmANe samullAse cha hetur-na tu hetavaH ||

The kArika first summarizes the essentials:
“Poetic genius, knowledge gained from study of the world, of scholarly works, of poetry, study and practice of the teachings of those well-versed in kAvya; these together compose the basis of poetry.”
Then he goes one to elaborate in prose: “Poetic genius (kavitvaM) is the seed of poetry. This is a peculiar ability, without which there would either be no poetry or, if there were, it would be laughable.”
Like kShemendra, mammaTa describes kavitvaM to be a pre-requisite for kAvya. But apparently unlike the kShemendra he sees this as an innate natural ability that has to be there in the first place – he does not describe any means of mantra-prayoga here to acquire it (unlike the sarasvatI and bAlA mantras recommended by kShemendra). Apparently unlike kShemendra he also does not see kavitvaM as coming from human effort. mammaTa describes that as a distinct pre-requisite.
Then he goes on to elaborate on the study of the world and scholarly works:
“Poetic ability is developed by a study of the world, the organisms and inorganic objects, and the ways of the universe; [also through the study of] shAstra-s, prosody, grammar, thesauri and lexicons, the kalA-s, the matters of the 4 puruShArtha-s, texts dealing with study of animals (e.g. horses, elephants etc.) and weapons (swords etc.); [also by] studying kAvya-s and keeping company of great poets. The word Adi (i.e. its use in the above series) implies the itihAsas and also the [knowledge] emerging from critical examination/discussion of these topics; [also by] frequently practicing writing poetry under the guidance of those capable of writing and discussing it. The above three (i.e. innate genius, study of the world through observation and scholastic endeavor and practice of writing with guidance) conjointly, not singly, comprise the origin, the formation and brilliance of poetry; they are the source, not sources [of poetry].

Agreeing with kShemendra, mammaTa sees the kavi as being a naturalist and scholar who acquires knowledge both through new observation of the world as well as by scholastic study. He stresses that genius, study/observation and practice should combine into a single entity for kAvya to shine. Here, it appears that he envisions these abstract entities as almost combining into a single entity – kAvya, like the atoms of nyAya combining into a single molecule of a substance. Thus, again as in the case of kShemendra we observe that the medieval Hindu kavi maintained continuity in spirit with the kavi-s of the veda, even though the veda was no longer counted along with classical kAvya – they were not mere versifiers but holders of knowledge.

This entry was posted in Heathen thought, History. Bookmark the permalink.